Saturday afternoon felt like a wake outside of Bedrock.LA in Echo Park.
At noon, a few hundred of the thousands of musicians who recorded, rehearsed and found friends there for 13 years lined up at the byzantine industrial building, just a few blocks north of Echo Park Lake. They picked over a fire sale of Bedrock’s gear, carting off drum sets, amp stacks, pianos and P.A. systems with misty eyes and a quiet nostalgia.
But mostly, they’d gathered for one last look around the space where they’d nurtured dreams of stardom, or just cherished a room of their own to raise hell. That day, Bedrock shut its doors forever.
“Whenever you entered here, you’d just get sucked in talking to people from all walks of life,” said musician Alex Hoffmaster, 36, describing the warren of hallways and chaotic cul-de-sacs that stretched over two floors. “You’d come out after practice and not know it was dark outside.”
“Even before I started playing gigs, I’d end up coming here just to hang out,” said Jonathan Rivera, 29, who played in a rock group called Bloodhounds. “L.A. is such a big city, but this place made it feel small. Playing here was a really special time in my life.”
That was true for just about everyone who passed through Bedrock, from superstars like Thom Yorke and moonlighting celebs like Maya Rudolph and Ryan Gosling (who each rehearsed there), down to recent L.A. transplants with just a guitar and change for the Taco Zone truck down the block.
After 14 months of dragged-out closures for building repairs, the beloved rehearsal and recording complex has ended its run as a scruffy home-away-from-home for local musicians. Staff and tenants blame gentrification and an increasingly inhospitable city for struggling artists; Bedrock’s landlords say the structure was beyond salvaging.
While some of Bedrock’s clientele will find new places to rehearse, for many who had rooms there, losing Bedrock is a dark omen.
“We’re losing the foundations of being able to make art in L.A.,” Hoffmaster said. “To have this place taken from us is just, ugh.“
In 2009, when Kamran V, now 43 (he stylizes his surname as such), and Phil Feinman, 36, opened Bedrock in a former jewelry factory just south of the 2 Freeway offramp, the two (along with partner Cosmo Jones) were trying to split the difference between the free-for-all industrial warehouses downtown and the sleek Hollywood facilities where bands would practice for gigs. Kamran had worked on sound engineering projects for Interscope and Sonos (he’s collaborated with Beck and Nine Inch Nails) while Feinman built and repaired music equipment. If it weren’t for the 2008 real estate crash, they never could have afforded a 40,000-square-foot building in one of the city’s most desirable central neighborhoods.
“When we started this business together, I was 23, we didn’t know what we were doing,” Feinman said. “But now a big chunk of my adult life has been this place.”
“I remember when we first opened, some people were like, ‘Oh, this room is imperfectly soundproofed, and no one’s here to get you coffee,’” said Kamran. “But who gives a f—, because you had all these precious random encounters.”
Sure, the janky conveyor belt leading up the stairs to the second floor might rip your arm off if you weren’t careful. But there was a full-service gear repair service, equipment shop and a receptionist to help you out, free parking and a vending machine with (shhh) cold beer if you knew which button to hit. You just had to dodge Eagles of Death Metal’s Jesse Hughes throwing knives at a wall in the lobby.
Almost immediately, Bedrock became a favorite hub for the local music scene. The street-art collective Cyrcle painted a stylized mural of a serpent eating the building on its exterior, and Bedrock hosted candidate debates for contentious city council races. Even though the waiting list for 24/7 monthly rooms stretched into the thousands, the owners kept rental prices relatively affordable (around $25 an hour), and the location made it easy to shlep to gigs nearby.
“People had these heartfelt stories of how Bedrock affected their lives,” Kamran said. “We had really young kids who literally grew up with this always being here. I had my wedding reception here. Flying Lotus played our holiday party, and Nick Zinner from the Yeah Yeah Yeahs curated our Bedrocktoberfest event. At the end of the day, the staff would close up, then head upstairs to jam, because you just wanted to hang out here.”
Bedrock was kind of an Ellis Island for young musicians finding their way in the city (including, for a time, this writer). “There was all this art everywhere, it was such a cute vibe,” said Danie Espinoza, 29, who had played at Bedrock since she was 19. “It had a huge impact on the community here.”
More boldface names found it inspiring too. The comedy-rock legend “Weird Al” Yankovic recorded his first No. 1 album, 2014’s “Mandatory Fun,” in one of Bedrock’s studios. “I have so many fond memories of Bedrock,” Yankovic wrote in an email. “It was our home away from home. Kamran very generously allowed us to record it there for free, so Bedrock definitely gets to share those bragging rights.”
Weezer guitarist Brian Bell had a room in Bedrock for years, and loved bumping into emerging acts that kept him on his toes. “I was living in Encino at the time,” he said via email, “and driving there gave me not only a place to crank up my amp but a place where I could feel the energy and anxiety of a community of up-and-coming bands before the industry homogenized them.”
Bedrock was such a hive of collaboration that Michael Siciliano, a sociologist at Tulane University, wrote a book, “Creative Control,” about the contemporary arts economy centered, in large part, around the scene at Bedrock.
“What struck me was the degree that people worked really hard to cultivate a sense of place, to make it feel special,” Siciliano said. “L.A. is always about networking opportunities, but here you could have these social connections in a way that wasn’t just transactional.”
Despite some break-ins and flooding, Bedrock survived the pandemic. But after just a few months reopened, the building’s owners told Kamran and Feinman that a broken rooftop AC unit had caused severe structural damage, making repairs all but impossible. Bedrock would have to evict everyone and close forever.
Reached by phone, a representative for the building’s owners, the Standard Oil Investment Group, 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 that if there was an earthquake it could be bad.
“We love the musicians and feel for them,” the representative continued. They said they anticipate tearing down the building and redeveloping it for residential projects.
“I don’t believe that,” Kamran said of their landlord’s reasons for closure. 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 that said the opposite of that, and exactly what it would cost to repair it. The owners were the ones that didn’t maintain it and let it fall into deep disrepair.”
Kamran and Feinman had expected that their beer-sticky utopia probably wouldn’t last forever, but still, “When I had to tell the staff, I couldn’t hold it together,” Kamran said. Many of the dozens of employees who cycled through were touring artists who depended on Bedrock for flexible work. “These types of things are fleeting, of course. But we’re in a moment in Los Angeles where it is really complicated to exist. Art finds a way somehow, but we’re a symptom of a much bigger challenge.”
Feinman has since taken a job with microphone company AKG, and Kamran produces music festivals like North Carolina’s Moogfest. They don’t plan to try to reopen Bedrock in another location.
“The loss of that building means you lose a pathway to culture,” Siciliano added, noting that local clubs like the Echo and Echoplex were recently bought by Live Nation, and others like the Satellite closed during the pandemic. “As the city changes, especially in Echo Park and points east, that seems to be disappearing as big money comes in.”
On Saturday, as musicians toted home mementos of their years there, some wanly noted that Bedrock closing meant the end of a chapter of their lives. They can practice at places like Pirate Studios or ABC nearby, but in a city that can be merciless to young artists, Bedrock was a place to hang, work or even, in a pinch, to live.
“I slept in our rehearsal room here after a bad breakup,” said Rodney Mitchell, 31. He’s not giving up on music, but he admits, “It’s not going to be the same community anywhere else. They’re never going to be able to replace the feeling of this place.”