Musicians mourn as local rehearsal complex Bedrock.LA closes

It was like a wake up Saturday afternoon outside of Bedrock.LA in Echo Park.

At noon, a few hundred of the thousands of musicians who had been recording, rehearsing, and finding friends for 13 years in the Byzantine industrial building just a few blocks north of Echo Park Lake lined up. They opted for a fire sale of Bedrock’s rig, taking away drum kits, amp stacks, pianos, and PA systems with misty eyes and quiet nostalgia.

But mostly they had gathered to take one last look at the space where they cherished their dreams of stardom or cherished a room of their own to raise hell. That day Bedrock closed its doors forever.

“Every time you walk in, you’re immersed in conversations with people from all walks of life,” said 36-year-old musician Alex Hoffmaster, describing the two-story corridors and chaotic dead-end streets. “You go outside after practice and you don’t know it’s dark outside.”

“Even before we even started gigs, I used to come here just to hang out,” said Jonathan Rivera, 29, who plays in a rock band called the Bloodhounds. “LA is such a big city but it made her feel small here. Playing here was a really special time in my life.”

That’s been true for pretty much anyone who’s ever walked through Bedrock, from superstars like Thom Yorke to sideline celebrities like Maya Rudolph and Ryan Gosling (who each rehearsed there). block

After 14 months of prolonged closures due to building repairs, the beloved rehearsal and recording complex has put an end to its operation as a messy home away from home for local musicians. Staff and tenants blame gentrification and an increasingly uninhabitable city for struggling artists; Bedrock’s homeowners say the structure is beyond salvage.

While some of Bedrock’s clients will find new places to rehearse, losing Bedrock is a bad omen for many who have a room there.

“We’re losing the foundations of being able to make art in Los Angeles,” said Hoffmaster. “It’s just that this place is taken away from us, ugh.”

Musicians attend the closing sale at Bedrock.LA on December 17.

(Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times)

In 2009, the two (along with partner Cosmo Jones) were trying it out when Kamran V, now 43, (styling his last name that way) and Phil Feinman, 36, opened Bedrock in a former jewelry factory just south of 2 Freeway offframp. dividing the difference between the industrial warehouses open to the public in the city center and the ostentatious Hollywood facilities where bands practice for concerts. Kamran worked on sound engineering projects for Interscope and Sonos (collaborating with Beck and Nine Inch Nails), while Feinman built and repaired musical equipment. Without the 2008 real estate crisis, they would never have been able to afford a 40,000-square-foot building in one of the city’s most desirable central neighborhoods.

“I was 23 when we started this business together, we didn’t know what we were doing,” Feinman said. “But now this has been a large part of my adult life.”

“I remember when we first opened it, some people said, ‘Oh, this room has bad soundproofing and there’s no one here to bring you coffee,'” Kamran said. “But who e-, because you have all these precious random encounters.”

Of course, the jerky conveyor belt up the stairs to the second floor can rip your arm off if you’re not careful. But there was a full-service gear repair service, equipment shop and a receptionist to assist you, free parking and a cold beer vending machine if you know which button to press (shhh). You had to dodge Eagles of Death Metal’s Jesse Hughes throwing a knife at a wall in the lobby.

Bedrock almost instantly became the favorite center of the local music scene. Street art community Cyrcle has painted a stylized mural of a snake eating the building’s exterior, and Bedrock has hosted candidate debates for the contentious city council races. While the waiting list for the 24/7 monthly rooms was in the thousands, the hosts kept the rental prices relatively affordable (around $25 an hour) and the location made it easy to get to concerts nearby.

“People had these heartfelt stories about how Bedrock had impacted their lives,” Kamran said. “We literally had really little kids growing up being here all the time. I had my wedding reception here. The Flying Lotus played at our holiday party, and Nick Zinner of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs curated our Bedrocktoberfest event. At the end of the day, the staff would close and go upstairs to listen to music because you just wanted to hang out here.”

Three men and a dog pose for a photo in the parking lot.

Bedrock.LA co-founders Cosmo Jones, left, Phil Feinman and Kamran V.

(Andy House)

Bedrock was a sort of Ellis Island for young musicians finding their way around the city (including this writer for a time). “There was all this art everywhere, it was such a cute vibe,” said Danie Espinoza, 29, who has played Bedrock since she was 19. “It’s had a huge impact on the community here.”

Bolder names also found it inspiring. Comedy-rock legend “Weird Al” Yankovic recorded his first #1 album of 2014, “Mandatory Fun” at one of Bedrock’s studios. “I have many good memories of Bedrock,” Yankovic wrote in an email. “It was our home away from home. Kamran very generously let us record it there for free, so Bedrock definitely shares the bragging rights.

Weezer guitarist Brian Bell had a room at Bedrock for years and loved hitting up emerging acts that kept him on the alert. “I was living in Encino at the time,” he said via email, “and driving there gave me not only a place to run my amp, but a place where I could feel the energy and anxiety of a community of groups that came before the industry homogenized them.

Bedrock was such a hive of collaboration that Michael Siciliano, a sociologist at Tulane University, wrote a book called “Creative Control” about the contemporary art economy centered largely around the stage at Bedrock.

“What struck me was that people worked really hard to develop a sense of place and make it feel special,” Siciliano said. “LA is always about networking opportunities, but here you can only have those social connections in a non-transactional way.”

Bedrock survived the pandemic despite some intrusions and flooding. But a few months after it reopened, the owners of the building told Kamran and Feinman that the rooftop air conditioning unit had caused severe structural damage, making repairs nearly impossible. Bedrock had to evacuate everyone and shut them down forever.

The standard Oil Investment Group representative, contacted by phone, said, “Unfortunately, when we opened the ceiling tiles, there was a ton of cracking, the building was falling apart. We brought in a structural engineer who said it could be bad if there was an earthquake.

“We love and feel for musicians,” the representative continued. They said they expect to demolish the building and redevelop it for housing projects.

“I don’t believe it,” Kamran said of the homeowners’ reasons for the shutdown. The Standard Oil group owns a number of high-end commercial and residential properties in Beverly Hills and West Hollywood. “We got an estimate from (building development firm) CBRE saying the opposite and exactly how much it would cost to fix it. The owners were the ones who didn’t maintain it and let it fall into deep disrepair.”

Kamran and Feinman had hoped that their beer-sticky utopia probably wouldn’t last forever, but still, “When I had to tell the staff, I couldn’t help myself,” Feinman said. Most of the dozens of employees who made the transition were touring artists who relied on Bedrock for flexible work. Kamran said, “Such things come and go, of course. But we are at a time when being in Los Angeles is really complicated. Art somehow finds its way, but we are a symptom of a much greater challenge.”

Musicians line up in an aisle buying musical equipment

A scene from the all must-go sale at Bedrock.

(Genaro Molina/Los Angeles Times)

Feinman has since taken a job at microphone company AKG and hosts music festivals such as Moogfest in Kamran, North Carolina. They are not considering reopening Bedrock elsewhere.

“Loss of this building means you’ve lost the way to culture,” he said, noting that local clubs such as Siciliano, Echo and Echoplex were recently acquired by Live Nation, and others, such as Satellite, were closed during the pandemic. “As the city changes, especially in Echo Park and pointing east, that seems to disappear as the big money comes in.”

On Saturday, the musicians carried home memories of their years there, while some noted that Bedrock’s closure meant the end of a chapter of their lives. They could practice at places like the nearby Pirate Studios or ABC, but in a city that can be brutal to young artists, Bedrock was a place to hang out, work, and even live when needed.

“I slept in our rehearsal room here after a bad breakup,” said Rodney Mitchell, 31. He doesn’t give up on music, but he also admits: “There won’t be the same ensemble anywhere else. They will never change the feel of this place.”

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