The Smell

Concert Venue / Live Music Venue
The Smell An all-ages, alcohol-free nightspot run by volunteers, The Smell is a cavernous, two-chambered live music venue that showcases indie, punk rock, experimental, and even unsigned garage bands. Los Angeles United States 34.050143 -118.2453289
3.48 10
The Smell - Concert Venue | Live Music Venue in Los Angeles.
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Lucas
Adriana
Jonah
Emma

Party Earth Review An all-ages, alcohol-free nightspot run by volunteers, The Smell is a cavernous, two-chambered live music venue that showcases indie, punk rock, experimental, and even unsigned garage bands. Originally dubbed “The Smell... ... read full review

  • Metro:

    Red Line: Pershing Square; Purple Line: Pershing Square

  • Links:

  • Hours:

    Th–Sa 9pm–1am

  • Recommended as:

    • Night Spot

Party Earth The Smell Review

The Scene

An all-ages, alcohol-free nightspot run by volunteers, The Smell is a cavernous, two-chambered live music venue that showcases indie, punk rock, experimental, and even unsigned garage bands.

An all-ages, alcohol-free nightspot run by volunteers, The Smell is a cavernous, two-chambered live music venue that showcases indie, punk rock, experimental, and even unsigned garage bands.

Originally dubbed “The Smell” in mockery of a snooty nearby coffee shop – and not for the dumpster that marks the alleyway entrance – the venue has become a secret club for goth girls, postmodern punks, and high-school hipsters who sprawl on the random assortment of mismatched sofas in the smaller graffiti-adorned front room to listen to their favorite bands.

More popular or well-known acts tend to take the stage in the larger back room, where retro theater seats nailed to brick walls offer the only comfort in the otherwise sparse space.

Although the audience for these amateur rockers and up-and-comers is usually comprised of friends, family, and classmates of the band members – which makes for a slightly cliquish vibe that might put off the over-twenty set – The Smell has nonetheless created an affordable nightlife venue where young misfits and weirdos can groove out and where the focus is not so much on drinking or flirting, but on the music itself.

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Tip from Jonah:

The Smell is a pretty small venue that doesn’t sell tickets in advance – you just have to show up and wait for a ticket outside. The more popular bands sell out by 9pm, so get there by 8pm for the best shot of getting in.

  • Crowd

    Musicians, artists, high school students, punks, goths, nerds, and music lovers, teens to mid-20s.

  • Entertainment / Music

    On average, three live shows a night with a range of styles including punk rock, indie, experimental, noise, electronic, and metal. Books available to peruse on the premises only.

  • Food / Miscellaneous

    100% vegan-friendly snacks include candy, cookies, pretzels, and Clif Bars.

  • Prices

    Cover charge $5. Candy $1, cookies $1, pretzels $1, Clif Bars $2. Water/tea/coffee $1. No alcohol.

  • What to Wear / Dress Code

    Dark colors, skinny jeans, Vans, neon hair, black lipstick, flannel shirts, Doc Martens, vintage band shirts.

  • Hot Nights / When to Go

    Fridays and Saturdays for the most well-known bands. The headliners play the last set of each night around 11:30 pm.

  • Close By

    Bar 107 (107 4th St) is good for a drink beforehand, while Pete’s Cafe and Bar (400 South Main Street) has a full dinner menu.

The Smell User Reviews

Average rating:
The Smell does everything but
Michael L. Sep 5, 2013
The Smell, entrance undetectable to GPS and smooshed between an open parking lot and an unlikely Crossfit Gym, feels like a long lost cousin to Black Rock City's yearly Burning Man event. Things can get pretty hot, but you'll never want to take your eyes off of the consistently-evolving scene inside the music warehouse. Wandering alongside the line outside, you'll find an eclectic mix of hip hop artists and house goth punks alike. Wait out the first show of the evening and the crowd grows in both size and diversity. Performers in one evening's lineup can range from the severely under-appreciated Xiu Xiu to the remarkable drums-only Foot Village. Don't let the fact that The Smell is a alcohol-free warehouse deter you from coming; it's the epitome of what happens when mixing class and crass in a small, rectangular brick box. Both artistically and socially, It's a one-of-a-kind joint, and for Los Angeles, that's a rare and beautiful thing.
Don't Rule It Out until you Sniffed It
Gerard Nash G. Jun 3, 2013
Despite the name, this place is definitely a decent place to enjoy a good show. The price of the food is not that bad, and I do love the lack of alcohol since everyone who attends is often more stable and friendly. It's a bit sweaty on the inside and the shows are usually a "hit and miss", but more often then not, you get a lot of the "hit" shows that are really incredible. It does get a bit crowded and the people who come by are a little crazy, but it's definitely worth it if you want to enjoy some good punk rock. Would recommend to those who enjoy a good show, and don't might cleanliness in order to enjoy it.
The Smell of Teen Spirit
Joe N. May 6, 2013
For being a venue largely populated with teenagers, The Smell is arguably and ironically one of LA's most mature music destinations. As a not-for-profit, all-ages, alcohol-free venue run entirely by volunteers, this downtown show-space is firmly committed to being all-inclusive while giving voice to the community it represents and maintaining a D.I.Y. ethos. The music running through its veins does not come from bands that have been booked based on how many tickets they can sell or how much alcohol promoters think they can push that night; in fact, bands do not get booked by promoters at all. Rather, bands hoping to play the venue must get in contact with another band that has already played the venue, and it is only through their help that a band can be booked. It's clear that the result is a community of bands, artists, and volunteers who are all on the same plain, communicating and working together to create a space that truly represents the community. On a typical night, noise or electronic music is just as likely to be heard as folk or punk rock. Not just that, but your best friend's little brother could be playing there one night, and legendary Sonic Youth guitarist Thurston Moore could be playing there the next. In addition to the eclectic variety of music acts, the walls inside are littered with art done by the community - both hung up and directly slathered as if the walls were a giant canvass. In the first chamber of the venue, you can grab a vegan snack, read a book on something along the lines of how to build your own bike, or just hang out on the couches. Sometimes, it's where a show may spring up that happens to have a smaller turn-out, making the performance more intimate and personal. Otherwise, the second chamber is where things gets heated and bodies start surfing. Out in the alley you'll most likely find Daniel the "security" telling stories of his karate-fighting against the government, or perhaps a batch of hot dogs getting cooked-up LA style. Whether you appreciate the venue's commitment to community and inclusiveness, or just appreciate the variety and rawness of the music, The Smell is definitely a place to visit - if not for the music and art, then at least for the experience.
BEWARE: It Gets Sweaty In Here
Angelica A. Nov 13, 2012
If you're looking to go to a punk or hardcore show, this is the right venue to draw the kind of crowd you're looking for. As an all-ages venue in downtown, the smell routinely attracts those east-side punk kids you most need to mosh with. It will get all kinds of hot and sticky in this place, as ventilation isn't their strong suit, but the Smell is the best little sauna in LA. The venue is known for hosting shows in all genres but as a smaller venue it does draw the biggest of names, which doesn't really bother you if you're loyal to this establishment. This small space is known for putting on both the most raucous and intimate of shows, with artists usually playing among the crowd rather than on the stage. They also have yummy vegan and health snacks for sale at the front, and sell tickets on the door for real cheap. This is a substance free venue as far as I know, so no bar or drinks for sale, though you are allowed to smoke outside.
For the Super Indie Music in You.
Juan R. Nov 1, 2012
This community-operated music space is an alcohol-free, all-ages venue that has become synonymous with independent music. A typical line-up at The Smell might include a hip-hop act, an experimental DJ, a punk band and it usually wont cost you more than five dollars. The Smell has become one of Los Angele’s “must-stop” venues for up-and-coming Indie acts; usually occupied with young hipsters, music enthusiasts and the occasional big name artist in support of a friend’s band. As you walk through the venue’s alleyway-entrance located directly behind the listed address you’ll be greeted by a small graffiti decorated room and a couch. Smaller shows take place in the first room, nights with larger turnouts are moved to the larger brick-exposed space in the back. The venue does a good job of updating their calendar but don’t be surprise if your new favorite indie band Tweets an upcoming show with only a day or two notice. They usually don’t offer pre-sale tickets so grab a friend head to the venue and get your $5 entrance stamp. This is the type place where “music-heads” form nostalgic memories of bands, before they made it big.
All ages, all the time
Nikki L. Aug 30, 2012
The Smell feels like a huge empty warehouse. There's pretty much nothing between the stage and the crowd, and the layout is simply one big box. They serve concessions and coffee in the back (which suck, fyi), and shows are nearly always $5. The entrance is actually located in the alley BEHIND the address listed. It's across from a parking lot and has a security guard, so you'll notice it. For some reason, the door out front is the backstage entrance. Usually the same guys play here all the time, just in different combinations. You'll notice on their site that most of the acts are listed as "former members of..." The regulars (besides the bands) are usually on the younger side. Teenages. It's great for that because it's always all ages, and they don't serve alcohol. I guess a lot of them hang out there, and I'm sure all the graffiti and the back alley entrance are cool for them. But once I hit 21 and could go to ANY other bar/club/venue, I never wanted to go back here again.
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