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The Underground Guide: Los Angeles with the Airborne Toxic Event


Mikel Jollett, singer-guitarist for the Airborne Toxic Event, was born and bred in California and now resides in Silver Lake, the Los Angeles neighborhood that’s become a haven for hipsters, artists, and indie rockers. The band, who got their start playing around the city, recently released their sophomore album, All at Once (Island). “It’s a really supportive community,” Jollett says of the local music scene. “The bands look out for each other, we’re aware of each other, and we take pride in one another’s success.” That camaraderie, he says, has nothing to do with their sound. “We all have very different ideas about music. But that’s sort of like L.A., right? All these different cultures and different people with different ideas coexisting.”

  • Breakfast spot
    Millie’s Café

    3524 W. Sunset Blvd. 323-664-0404

    A go-to spot in Silver Lake, Millie’s boasts a slew of popular breakfast items, including one dish called the Devil’s Mess. “It’s one of those hash-browns-eggs-peppers-sausage things,” Jollett says. “And everything comes with corn bread, no matter what you order. You can just sit out there and watch the day go by while drinking coffee.”

  • Dinner Spot

    2943 W. Sunset Blvd. 323-662-4740

    “It’s all locally sourced food, if you’re one of those local types,” Jollett says of this Silver Lake eatery. “You can get a pork chop or you can get various types of tempeh. They’ve got things for everyone.” Plus, you can order off the menu from the bar next door, a joint called the Thirsty Crow.

  • Classy joint
    Little Dom’s

    2128 Hillhurst Ave. 323-661-0055

    This Los Feliz Italian restaurant boasts a large selection of whiskey and a popular brunch menu, which features a breakfast pizza. “You can totally wear a hat there,” Jollett says. “It’s one of those joints where if you just showed up in a fedora, nobody would bat an eye.”

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  • Late-night hang
    El Gran Burrito

    4716 Santa Monica Blvd. 323-665-8720

    The restaurant, essentially a taco stand, attracts a strange array of customers, particularly as it gets late. “Fights break out,” Jollett says. “You’re sitting there eating your tacos, watching it all go down. Motorcycle gangs show up. This is real L.A., the other 14 million people, who are mostly working class and Mexican.”

  • Hangover-cure meal
    El Gran Burrito

    4716 Santa Monica Blvd. 323-665-8720

    Jollett’s favorite late-night spot also doubles as his morning-after cure. “Hash browns, cheese, bacon, eggs, salsa, fried up right in front of you, wrapped in a big tortilla,” he says of the breakfast burrito. “You go have a breakfast burrito and arroz con leche and you feel no pain.”

  • Dive bar
    Hop Louie

    950 Mei Ling Way 213-628-4244

    This dank Chinatown bar has Bruce Springsteen on the jukebox and Budweisers for two bucks. The best part? “Behind the bar, there’s all these sketches on napkins of the bartender,” Jollett says. “He’s this very stoic guy who gives you your beers. They’re really good.”

  • Music venue
    The El Rey Theatre

    5515 Wilshire Blvd. 323-936-6400

    Located on the Miracle Mile, the El Rey is one of the city’s best mid-size venues. “I’ve never seen a bad show there,” Jollett says. “For a smaller theater, it has the feel of a much larger place.” Another plus: “It’s elegant. It’s one of the few places in L.A. that actually has class.”

  • First local venue we played
    The Echo

    1822 W. Sunset Blvd. 213-413-8200

    The Echo is an intimate room where up-and-coming acts often perform. “We had to beg for the slot,” Jollett says. “We asked Spaceland and they said no, so we literally said, ‘Can we please have a show?’ The Echo gave us a night, and we played ten of our first 12 shows there.”

  • Record store
    Amoeba Music

    6400 W. Sunset Blvd. 323-245-6400

    “You’re just kidding yourself if you think there’s a better record store,” Jollett says. “It’s like the Lakers of record stores.” The enormous space in the heart of Hollywood offers rows and rows of new and used CDs, cassettes, vinyl, and even screen-printed concert posters.

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  • Bookstore
    Skylight Books

    1818 N. Vermont Ave. 323-660-1175

    One of the last standing independent bookstores in L.A., Skylight features an impressive schedule of book readings and panel discussions, as well as an sizable alternative-literature section. “It reminds me of City Lights bookstore in San Francisco, where I used to go when I was in college,” Jollett says. “I used to peruse the fiction aisles and dream of being in them one day.”

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  • Music landmark
    Elliott Smith Wall

    Sunset Blvd. at Santa Monica Blvd.

    Made famous as the cover of Elliott Smith’s 2000 album Figure 8, this swirling red-and-white painted wall now represents a memorial to the deceased musician. “After he died, it became an impromptu thing where everyone started writing on the wall,” Jollett says. “That was one of those defining moments that brought everyone closer together.”

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  • Movie theater
    Vintage Cinemas Vista Theatre

    4473 Sunset Blvd. 323-660-6639

    The single-screen Vista is one of L.A.’s most historic bijous. “You just feel like everyone there is watching the movie together,” Jollett says. “Even though it’s this huge, beautiful theater, it always feels a little bit more intimate, like you’re in someone’s living room.”

  • Shop
    Glory Sales & Service

    4659 Hollywood Blvd. 323-644-5679

    Glory, a motorcycle-themed clothing and accessories shop in Los Feliz, is notable for the limited-edition bike that graces the front window. Jollett scored his motorcycle from the store, among other items. “It’s got all these café jackets and cool goggles and old helmets,” he says. “I think we wore Glory T-shirts in one of our videos.”

  • Museum/gallery
    The Museum of Jurassic Technology

    9341 Venice Blvd. 310-836-6131

    “It’s just weird-part farce and part academic exercise,” Jollett says of this small space in Culver City with wide-ranging exhibitions. “It’s kind of like a museum, but it has exhibits like miniaturized mobile-home dioramas or superstitious remedies or letters to the Mount Wilson Observatory from people in the 1920s who wanted to communicate with the astronomers there.”

  • Thing to do on a day out
    Ride the Angeles Crest Highway

    “I like to take my motorcycle up to the Angeles Crest Highway,” Jollett says. “It’s this highway behind La Cañada, above Interstate 210, where there’s this huge winding road that just goes on and on back into the mountains. L.A. doesn’t get credit for having nature, but it’s right there.”

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The Underground Guide