Putting the ‘where’ in warehouse: New venue 1720 debuts in gritty DTLA

Bar area at 1720
Bar area at 1720

Owned by three musicians, the new warehouse venue 1720 has an underground feel but with modern appeal. And there’s nary a hip coffeehouse anywhere nearby.

By Kevin Bronson and Daiana Feuer

Deep in the bowels of gritty, industrial Los Angeles, prog-metal outfit Animals As Leaders are filling a room with hard, biting riffs and complex rhythms as their faithful fans, out in force on a weeknight, are buffeted by shards of sound and piercing strobe lights. Less than a football field north from the building’s front door, traffic on the elevated I-10 Freeway roars past, oblivious to the mostly faceless structures below.

In that latticework of brick buildings and fortresses protected by barbed-wire fences lies a new music venue that won’t be a secret for long. It’s called, simply, 1720, after its address, 1720 E. 16th St. And if you know the neighborhood, you know this is the part of the Warehouse District so far untouched by the encroachment of coffeehouses, galleries and boutiques.

“The pre-gentrified war zone of the Warehouse District,” says one of the owners, Brett Powell. “We wear that on our sleeves.”

The space, in a former garment factory, is the brainchild of principals Alex Alereza, Powell and Travis Richter. L.A.’s premier party-throwers, the Brownies and Lemonade crew, christened the venue late last year, and now 1720’s calendar is quickly filling up with a variety of genres from the underground to the mainstream.

Sleekly designed (by Brant Ritter) but still keeping a warehouse feel, the 700-capacity venue comes with niceties that belie its neighborhood: There’s a state-of-the-art L’Acoustics sound system, a triptych by artist Nick Knudson on the wall and au courant bar (Matthew Blackburn) and kitchen (Felix Barron) menus.

The space and its location reflect the experiences of the ownership triumvirate — thirtysomething musicians who have plied their trade in metal bands such as the Human Abstract, From First to Last and Nekrogoblikon. Richter explains that the idea of a venue first arose when the trio started throwing parties (including one for Skrillex) in an office space occupied by Nekrogoblikon’s record label. “From there,” he says, “we went on a mission to build a fully fleshed-out music venue in a warehouse.

“We looked around at a lot of warehouses and found this one towards the end of the search. … It was meant to be. We’ve set up two bars, a live room bar and a main room bar. We have some good beers on tap. We really wanted to have a fitting bar for the area. … And we have a full kitchen. Our concept is sliders, tacos, kale salad, French fries, snacks. Kind of light eating but very tasty.”

1720 was no overnight project. Rehabbing the warehouse took well over a year, with the trio slowly clearing the predictable hurdles of “construction and permitting [and] making sure everything was really legit,” Richter says. “We all grew up with parents who owned businesses, so we had shoulders to lean on and ask questions. But we’ve been to so many events and thrown concerts and done headline tours, so the rigmarole of running a venue is second nature to us. But learning about construction and code compliance was all new. And you have to really stay on it and the codes are constantly updating, so it’s a lot of work for the operational side.”

Unlike many traditional music venues, 1720 can change personalities according to whether it is being used for a party or for live music.

We want to see bands play a fun, kinda-dangerous venue with the lights and sound that you would find in a club or for electronic music acts.

“We wanted it to feel like a warehouse. There’s pipes and steel and you can see the bones of the warehouse,” Richter says. “Our stage can be torn down and moved around according to what we need. It’s very modular inside. On top of the production, we made sure the sound and lights were top-notch. … Though it is geared toward parties, being a warehouse in DTLA, we’re fully set up for bands. We want to see bands play a fun, kinda-dangerous venue with the lights and sound that you would find in a club or for electronic music acts. We want to share that with other genres. Sometimes in those other genres, you go out there and there’s a lot less going on in production, so we thought it would be cool for any kind of band, any style, to have this sort of production.”

The venue’s fast-filling calendar offers both dance, hip-hop and rock fare — from next weekend’s Simian Mobile Disco-headlined party, to Valentine’s Day hip-hop with Battlecat, Jairus Mozee and Tiffany Gouche, to the two-day Burger A Go-Go and a March visit from the post-hardcore band Slaves.

Richter believes that certain kinds of music will gravitate toward 1720. “It sort of depends on what’s trending now, or what’s coming back, in relation to warehouse spaces,” he says. “The underground rap scene that’s coming up really hard right now will have a lot of events there. Techno is making a crazy comeback, not that it went anywhere. We have had a few metal shows and have a bunch booked. We have some punk bands coming in. Burger Records is doing a two-day all-girl showcase. There’s a lot of underground feeling stuff on the books right now, but our goal is to have any and all genres.”