Largo is a nightclub and cabaret in Los Angeles, CA, known informally as Café Largo or Club Largo, known for its retinue of musical and comedic performers and for the Friday night "residency" of singer-songwriter Jon Brion.
Cafe Largo was founded by Jean-Pierre Boccara in 1989. Boccara had previously run the Lhasa Club in Hollywood from 1982 to 1988. The location of Cafe Largo was formerly known as Budapest, a Hungarian restaurant. Boccara chose the name Largo for its musical, expansive and adventurous connotation. While changing the menu to a more contemporary Italo-French fare and strongly supported by the local arts community Boccara turned the place into a focal point for live music (Peter Himmelman, Victoria Williams, Suzanne Vega, Syd Straw, The Love Jones, Julie Christensen, Hugo Largo, Grant Lee Buffalo...), cabaret (Philip Littell, Stephanie Vlahos, Lypsinka, Barry Yourgrau...), vaudeville (Les Stevens), comedy (Nora Dunn, Beth Lapides..) and spoken word (Tommy Cody, Eve Brandstein and Michael Lally's "Poetry in Motion" notorious series).
The LA Weekly named Cafe Largo "LA's Best Supper Club" in 1990. The New York Times ran a substantive review " A Place for Poetry in Land of Pictures" on July 12, 1989. The 1989 Reader review was titled "Cafe Largo mixes food and music-memorably". More critical acclaim and reviews was received in Newsweek, LA Style, LA Times, Los Angeles, Buzz, Exposure, Movieline, The Edge, Details, Village View, Vogue, Interview, Playboy, and US Magazine. In March 1992 Boccara sold the place to Mark Flanagan who shortened the name to Largo, and his name to simply "Flanagan." Boccara went on to open LunaPark on Robertson Blvd in West Hollywood and operated it from Halloween '93 to Halloween 2000.
Flanagan began operating Largo in April 1992. (In the 1960s, the Largo, owned by Chuck Landis, was a strip club on Sunset Blvd.) The club had a moment of notoriety in 1992 when the Jewish Defense League, threatened "trouble" if a planned concert on behalf of Palestinian causes was not canceled; for the safety of patrons, Flanagan reluctantly complied. In 1996, Flanagan re-established Largo as an intimate cabaret with live music mainly in the piano bar tradition. Largo's original location on Fairfax Avenue had 100 seats with a maximum full capacity of 130, and regularly sold out, with frequent sightings of celebrity musicians and actors in the audience. The club had a strict no talking or cellphone use policy during performances, but surprisingly allows audience members to live blog on their laptops.
Flanagan persuaded Jon Brion to take a regular Friday-night residence at Largo. Brion's extensive friendships brought more talented singer-songwriters to perform at the club, notably including Aimee Mann, Michael Penn, Fiona Apple (who included a song expressing her love for the club, 'Largo', on her fourth album), and Elliott Smith. Over the years, the list of semi-regular performers at the club has included Neil Finn, Mr. E of the Eels, Robyn Hitchcock, John Doe, Ben Folds, Grant-Lee Phillips, Rickie Lee Jones, Rufus Wainwright, Jakob Dylan, Teddy Thompson, t.A.T.u., Brad Mehldau and Colin Hay.
The typical Largo show involves a mix of music and stand-up comedy. Mann and Penn developed a road show called Acoustic Vaudeville on the Largo format, which they have taken to Chicago and New York. Seinfeld co-creator Larry David is seen performing stand-up comedy at Largo in his 1999 HBO special "Larry David: Curb Your Enthusiasm". Brion names the genre celebrated by Largo as "unpopular pop", and underlines the emphasis on lyrics with "We're all song sluts here." Many of the Largo regulars have had infamous histories of albums their labels won't release. Though generally tied together by this common esthetic, performers come from many traditions including country, rock, and cabaret.
Brad Mehldau released a jazz album produced by Jon Brion entitled Largo. Toad the Wet Sprocket singer/songwriter Glen Phillips performs regularly and has recorded a live album Live at Largo at the club. Andy Prieboy developed his musical White Trash Wins Lotto at the club. Condoleezza Rice rehearsed her famous duet with Yo-Yo Ma at Largo in 2001. The band Tenacious D largely got their start at Largo, which in turn launched the career of actor/comedian Jack Black. Dan Finnerty started The Dan Band at Largo, doing monthly shows there before his stints in Old School and Starsky & Hutch. The band Wild Colonials largely got their start at Largo with a successful Tuesday night residency that lasted nine months during 1992/1993. In 1993 at the height of the Los Angeles spoken word scene of that decade, Largo hosted several events featuring L.A. writers Viggo Mortensen, Scott Wannberg, Ellyn Maybe, S.A. Griffin, Tequila Mockingbird and Linda Ravenswood. A five track CD of Elliott Smith playing solo at Largo was released in October 2007, accompanying Autumn de Wilde's book, Elliott Smith.
Sarah Silverman taped her HBO stand-up special at the Largo before an audience of 39.
On June 2, 2008, Flanagan closed the club and moved to the Coronet Theatre on La Cienega Blvd, renaming it Largo at the Coronet. Jon Brion continues his residency on a monthly basis, performing on Friday usually near the end of each month. He has also begun to incorporate video samples of musicians into his musical performances.