Jabberjaw Revisited

Written by

(Editor’s Note: A book on LA’s famed coffeehouse art gallery/ punk venue called “It All Dies Anyway: L.A., Jabberjaw, and the End of an Era” will be out this April and our own EJL shares his personal reflections on the venue in anticipation of the release.

From KCRW DJ Eric J Lawrence:

When Mia Doi Todd spoke of the 90s-era Los Angeles club Jabberjaw as an influence on her own musical career during her 2011 Morning Becomes Eclectic appearance, it brought back my own fond memories of the club, which served as a forbearer to more recent venues like Spaceland/the Satellite, the Echo and the Smell.

During the late 80s & early 90s, I attended UCLA, where I spent most of my spare-time (and even some time when I should have been in class) at KLA, UCLA’s student-run radio station (now morphed into www.uclaradio.com).

This was at the height of the Alternative Rock revolution, when bands like Nirvana, Jane’s Addiction, the Smashing Pumpkins, and the Pixies were ubiquitous on college radio airwaves and making inroads on commercial radio as well.  And for some of these artists and their even-more alternative brethren, the venue they would play in town was this cinderblock, all-ages coffeehouse called Jabberjaw, located on Pico Blvd near Crenshaw Boulevard.

At the time, this was a pretty sketchy part of town – there were many visibly burned buildings nearby after the 1992 LA Riots and I would hear of somebody getting their car stereo stolen after nearly every show I attended (although never myself, luckily).

But it was always worth a visit, as you could count on seeing some pretty intense shows.

Although I didn’t make it to such legendary Jabberjaw performances by Nirvana, Jon Spenser Blues Explosion or Urge Overkill, I did see some great shows from Railroad Jerk, Smog, Smack Dab, Ween and Guided By Voices (whose excellent show made me as sweaty from frenetic pogoing as I think I’ve ever been).

The club closed in 1997 due to a myriad of pressures, but its legend lives on.

A pair of benefit CDs, featuring a slew of Jabberjaw regulars like Beck, Jawbreaker, Slug, Unwound, Further, and that dog, were released in the mid-90s on the equally late-lamented label, Mammoth Records.

It was an important moment in the local music scene and it was nice to hear that others, such as Mia Doi Todd, remember it fondly as well.