Westside Revival is organizing concerts to reactivate the local live music scene

By Christina Campodonico

The Gitas’ raw energy is part of a movement to nourish live music on the Westside

It’s been a rough few years for the live music scene west of the 405. Mar Vista’s The Good Hurt shuttered in late 2014. Bohemian hangout The Talking Stick, first in Santa Monica and then Venice, went quiet in January 2015. The Witzend on Lincoln Boulevard met its demise later that year.

But musician and screenwriter Aaron Mendoza believes the Westside live music scene is far from dead. He thinks it’s ready for a rebirth — particularly in Venice, where he spent many years before moving to Playa del Rey.

“If we were to make some kind of a movement on the Westside for music, this is the perfect spot. It just makes too much sense,” says Mendoza as we step onto the Venice Boardwalk, where rock and hip-hop blare from store speakers and busker boomboxes. “I want to capture what Venice is. You know what I mean? You walk down and you can hear Zeppelin or The Doors and then you can hear a hip-hop artist, or pop music, or whatever.”

Mendoza’s passing out fliers for Westside Revival, a monthly music show he curates at The Del Monte Speakeasy that brings together bands from across L.A. for a night of indie music in Venice — far from the Eastside’s hotbed of live music venues like Silverlake Lounge, The Echo, Echoplex and Satellite.

So while some might see a comparative music desert in Venice’s sandy dunes, Mendoza — the son of Thin Lizzy bass player Marco Mendoza — sees a landscape ripe for musical growth.

“Here we’re looking at the beautiful sunset. We’re at the Venice Sign,” he says. “Who wouldn’t want to go to the beach, hang out during the day and then go see a show at night?”

The idea for Westside Revival germinated in Mendoza’s mind after seeing local live music venues shut down and spending countless hours driving to Eastside gigs during rush hour with his former band.

Vocalist and guitarist Sasha Chemerov leads The Gitas’ upcoming gig at the Del Monte

“You’re sitting in traffic. You got to leave three or four 4 hours before your show to get there for sound check, and then you’re not leaving the venue ’til 3 in the morning. So that’s a really, really, really long evening. … What if there was something over here?” he thought. “I know a shit-ton of musicians out here who are in great bands that would play locally if they could.”

Mendoza also wants to bust the common L.A. myth that the Westside live music scene “sucks.”

“I was like, well, if that’s true you gotta start something,” says Mendoza. “I don’t like the fact that the Westside doesn’t get any love in the indie music scene.”

Westside Revival had its first show at the Del Monte in November and switches to Thursday nights starting March 8.

The lineup includes folk rock band Rosechild’s side project One Way Ticket at 9 p.m., guitarist Highwaves from the electro-pop-dance band Piel at 9:45 p.m., New Zealand rock duo Cairo Knife Fight at 10:30 p.m., psychedelic rock band The Gitas at 11:15 p.m. and local Venice band Stonefeather at midnight.

Through shows like this, Mendoza hopes to not only cultivate a thriving local music scene but also attract audiences to the Westside for live music, as well as encourage cross-pollination between Westside and Eastside bands.

“Honest to God, this whole thing started with my love of the Westside,” says Mendoza. “Everybody’s excited to play over here, too. Everybody loves Venice, you know.”

Westside Revival III starts at 9 p.m. Thursday (March 8) at the Del Monte Speakeasy, 52 Windward Ave., Venice. No cover. Follow @wsrvvl on Instagram for updates.