The Moroccan Lounge: A look (and a listen) at the revamped L.A. venue

The music room at the Moroccan Lounge (Photo by Kevin Bronson)
The music room at the Moroccan Lounge (Photo by Kevin Bronson)

The Moroccan Lounge formally opens next Tuesday when Canadian punk-rockers PUP visit, but with concerts by Grizzly Bear, BØRNS and Geographer and album-release shows by locals Kan Wakan and Warbly Jets already on its calendar, the downtown L.A. venue is creating buzz.

The room is the brainchild of the owners of the Teragram Ballroom on 7th Street and the latest incarnation of the building at 901 E. 1st St. (at Vignes), said to hold one of the oldest liquor licenses in L.A. history.

At the 250-capacity venue’s soft opening Tuesday night, three topics dominated the conversation: The room’s overall New York vibe (unsurprising, since one of the principals Michael Swier had connections to the Bowery Ballroom); the sound quality in the Moroccan’s music room; and whether the place is cursed.

The latter issue was brought up in jest, of course, but the fact is that over the past two decades the room has been known as Little Pedro’s, Little Pedro’s Blue Bongo, Bordello, One-Eyed Gypsy and Osso. Whether there’s any truth to the lore that the place indeed was once a bordello is anybody’s guess.

The new owners have given the place a tasteful but not ostentatious makeover, retaining touches like the brick and swathes of vintage wallpaper. The most notable change was shortening the bar, and partitioning the lounge area from the music area. The venue’s previous L-shaped layout meant the sound from the stage bled into the bar area. In this new configuration, the Moroccan has a feature shared by the impressive new Zebulon Café in Frogtown — the small lounge, which is appointed with three booths and a handful of bar tables, is accessible without having to venture into the music room.

The venue’s menu ranges from sandwiches to skewers to salads to Moroccan poutine.

While ambiance and sustenance are fine and everything, music fans are likely to talk most about the sound quality. The work of Jeff DelBello of db Sound Design and acoustical consultant Jim Falconer, the intimate room, with its acoustic padding and speakers surrounding the north and south walls, feel like a sound cocoon. The description “full-bodied” comes to mind. At Tuesday’s soft opening, only the Moroccan’s air conditioning came up short. The night featured performances by two artists at both ends of the aural spectrum: shoegaze trio Tennis System, sounding typically loud but less harsh than any time we’ve ever seen them, and electro balladeer Jaws of Love (Kelcey Ayer of Local Natives), whose glossy, beat-addled love songs also translated well.

Future nights at the Moroccan are liable to get crowded, but your ears might thank you.