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Witzend's Musical Wake This Saturday

Patrick O'Heffernan: New Zealand country rocker Jackie Bristow kicks off the musical wake for Saturday’s closing of famed Witzend in Venice.
Jackie Bristow

Jackie Bristow

New Zealand country rocker Jackie Bristow kicks off the musical wake for Saturday’s closing of famed Witzend in Venice.

Venice California's famed WITZEND music showcase club is closing this Saturday night and New Zealand country rocker Jackie Bristow kicked off the four-day musical wake, along with gentle crooner Meghan Andrews and the pop rock duo, Dire Docks. It was the beginning of what will be a nightly celebration of one of LA’s greatest showcase venues by artists whose careers have been launched or boosted by their time n the famed stage. Everyone of the artists Wednesday night told their Witzend story and, as we get closer to the final night, many more will ensuring that the tears will flow as freely as the beer.

WITZEND is more than a club, it is a creative compound with a restaurant, bar, a live music venue, an animation company (Wit Animation), and several live/work rentals where traveling artists could stay while performing. In the 1960s the building was the 4H Club bar and restaurant frequented by Jim Morrison & The Doors and Gregory Hines, who was the lead singer in the house band for several years. In the late 70s the building was repurposed for retail and later remodeled again to became home to Mad Dog Studios and then Stanley Recordings.

Jackie Bristow

In 2005, Jeb Milne purchased the building and made it the headquarters of WIT ANIMATION. In 2009, after two years working with the neighborhood and the city, Jeb got the permits to bring it back to its roots as a restaurant, bar and entertainment venue. In June 2010 a car drove into the building and cracked the south-facing wall and the City required the entire building to be retrofitted (earthquake safe). In June 2011 the retrofit was finally completed and WITZEND opened its doors to the public featuring live entertainment nightly, along with great food and drink (loved the pear salad!).

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Jeb, and later his family when he passed away in 2013, built the WITZEND into one of LA's finest showcase clubs. Artists appreciated the high end sound installation and a multiple camera video system and especially the vibe that encouraged the audience to shut up and listen (which they mostly did). Audiences loved it for the high quality and diversity of the talent, the intimacy (sometimes you were so close in the front row you held the mic stands steady), the good food and really great staff. In 2015, WITZEND brought in Lauri Reimer to book and produce shows and she instituted everything from hip hop dance nights to monthly jazz. Audiences flocked in and there were few nights that did not have standing room crowds.

As of now no reason has been given for the closing but some of the staff has said privately it is to make way for retail/office development. This has not been confirmed. Regardless of the final disposition of the corner, it will leave Westside LA without a high quality, all ages showcase club for live music. Music fans and bands will likely gravitate to the Basement Tavern, the Trip, the Del Monte, Harvelles, and McCabe's for folk and Americana. But without WITZEND there is a hole in the heart and the culture of Los Angeles.

patrick-oheffernan

Patrick O’Heffernan
Host, Music FridayLive!