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The Smell is an all-ages, alcohol and drug-free, punk rock/noise/experimental venue in Downtown Los Angeles, California. The Smell, notable for its DIY ethic, is home to many of the area's avant-garde performers and artists. The venue is maintained by Jim Smith, one of the four original organizers of the club, and a number of volunteers.
The Smell continues in the tradition of Los-Angeles-based underground clubs such as The Masque and The Jabberjaw. Aside from its primary function as a live music and performance art space, The Smell hosts a library, a vegan snack bar and a gallery space. The venue predates the conception of the Gallery Row district in which it is located. The Smell and the relatively new Gallery Row both border Skid Row.
The Smell was founded by Ara Shirinyan, Jarrett Silberman, and Jim Smith as one of the few all-ages art/performance spaces in Los Angeles, after the demise of two local venues, The Jabberjaw and The Impala Cafe, during the same week in late 1997. The Smell opened just a short time later, on January 8, 1998. It was originally located by the intersection of Magnolia and Lankershim in North Hollywood, but when the cost of rent rose during the NoHo Arts District boom in 1999, the venue relocated to cheaper Downtown Los Angeles. Shirinyan gave up his ownership before the venue's move, so Silberman, Smith, and Mac Mann constructed the new space.
The first show open to the public was on February 25, 2000 and included The Icarus Line. The first 214 attendees received a free 7-inch single from the band. The stage had still not been constructed, so the bands performed on the floor. The entire show was filmed with multiple cameras, and some of the footage appears in The Icarus Line's music video for "Feed A Cat To Your Cobra".
Silberman left in late 2000, leaving only Smith to carry on with its maintenance. The venue continued to thrive, serving as a community hub for punk, experimental, noise and weirder electronic music fans, underage and otherwise. However, fire-code violations forced the club's closure in February 2003. Instead of shutting down for good, Smith, now its sole owner and its only full-time employee, used his own money and worked with volunteers to renovate the venue. Since reopening in September 2003, benefit shows help keep the space open and up to code.
The building along with Jim Smith, Kyle Mabson, and Imagymnist, were all featured in the video for Connection, a song by Hawnay Troof. The video went on to become the number 2 indie video of 2008 on MTV2, number 1 on MTVU, and was featured on VH1 and IFC.
In 2009 a DVD Live at the Smell was released, featuring live performances in the Smell by the bands No Age, Foot Village, Pre, The Mae Shi, Ponytail, Abe Vigoda, High Places, Gowns, BARR, Health and Captain Ahab.
Some artists who are (or have been known) as Smell "regulars" include Abe Vigoda, Ancestors, BARR, Carla Bozulich, Captain Ahab, David Scott Stone, Hawnay Troof, Health, Lavender Diamond, Laco$te, Lucky Dragons, The Mae Shi, Mika Miko, No Age, Pocahaunted, Silver Daggers, Thrones, Upsilon Acrux and XBXRX.
Some of these bands are gathering a devout following world wide and have reached high levels of critical acclaim, including Smell "graduates" No Age.
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- Official website
- The Smell on Myspace
- LAWeekly.com 2
- Flaunt Magazine Smell feature 2007
- "Punk Is What We Make It: The Smell" (Overt Magazine)