A Q&A with Caroline McElroy from LA Music Scene – a blog on the latest reviews of live music, gigs and concerts in LA. Caroline McElroy will help you discover the hidden gems of the Los Angeles music scene as well as reviewing some of the biggest names in the music industry.
The unofficial NoHo motto is: “NoHo is only as great as its people.” This winter we are highlighting some of our awesome creative neighbors. In honor of Women’s History Month, we feature Caroline McElroy from LA Music Scene, a NoHo Arts District-based artist and music blogger who reviews live music around Los Angeles and helps us to discover some new music and hidden gems.
Tell us about your great background in art and music.
At the age of two I moved to Troost Ave. in North Hollywood and then moved to Tujunga Ave. where I lived until I was 15 years old. While living here in North Hollywood, so many great and wonderful things happened to me such as meeting and hanging out with Frank Zappa and Vito, was a Go Go dancer at the teen fairs, was in a few movies that were music themed and was offered a cage at the Whiskey A Go Go, but I was too young so my mother said no. When I saw that an artist’s colony was being built in NoHo back in 2012, I seized the moment and turned in my application and my stellar portfolio. I lucked out and was chosen from thousands of applicants for an artist in residence spot. For me, NoHo has been an inspiring place then and now.
Writing about the LA Music Scene is a fun way to communicate what I’m experiencing and share with our readers. It gives my life purpose and is an avenue for my creativity.
Growing up on the Sunset Strip and hanging out with creative people gave me opportunities that I probably would not have had otherwise. Back then I had a stage name of Mona and a street name of Little Sister because Mike Chain from the original Knack kept telling everyone to treat me like their little sister. I was dancing for the Knack when they were known as Mike Chain & The Inmates at the teen fair where they won the battle of the bands and scored a contract with Capitol Records where I answered fan mail for them. Every time they would appear at clubs or on TV, I was there dancing. My very first brush with music came when the man I was babysitting for asked me to come with him and some friends to Indio, CA. The friends turned out to be Frank Zappa and King Carl, Vito and Sue and a few other assorted “Freaks.” I was 13 years old at the time. This is also around the time that I discovered The Beatles and saw them in concert at the Hollywood Bowl. The world of Rock N’ Roll opened up and bade me to enter and I obliged.
How has the LA music scene change since Covid?
Prior to the Covid-19 pandemic there were so many places with the potential to feature live acts. Then a pandemic lockdown happened and the live music industry had to shut down, which has caused a lot of financial hardships to venues as well as musicians. I cannot help thinking that artists selling off their music catalogs is a direct result of Covid-19’s decimating an industry that needs live gigs to make money not only by playing out, but by selling their merchandise. Thanks to Neil Young and his stand against Spotify, more people are now aware that the artists make micro-pennies for 1 million plays while Joe Rogan receives a $100 million contract. Early on I kept telling my friends in the music business to start broadcasting their shows on the internet. Not only could they make money by charging to view the shows, but it was also a way to keep oneself “out there.” Several artists have done that and are actually making money and are doing well. Billy Hinche from Dino, Desi and Billy was doing well with his online show and even won an award. Sadly, he passed away in November 2021. Metal musician Ricky Warwick of Black Star Riders, The Almighty, Thin Lizzy and, most recently, Ricky Warwick & The Fighting Hearts has done very well for themselves. Metal band Saxon has been broadcasting from England and keeping themselves out there and recently held several local live shows around England, thatwere broadcast on Facebook, which rocked. Live gigs are coming back, but not at the rate it used to be. A lot of music fans are sitting this pandemic out and staying home which is why the internet has played such a huge role in keeping the “scene” alive. Some venues such as the Whiskey and the Troubadour had bands play at their venues and would broadcast it on the internet.
Difference between L.A.’s music scene today in in the 60s and 70s?
The music scene in Hollywood during the 60s and the 70s was so much different than it is now. The “scene” was in its infancy and exciting. There wasn’t lip synching or voice modulators or other studio magic like there is today. An act had to stand on their talent and perform in front of a live audience. These days, it seems like talent isn’t getting the attention it deserves while the industry is hunting down good looking people that will do what they are asked to do. Talent wasn’t mentioned as a prerequisite, just that they needed to do what they were told. I don’t know about the rest of you, but I am not going to pay huge sums of money to see someone lip sync while they are dancing. I always walk away wondering if that is as good as it gets for the performer…studio magic that requires lip syncing and not live performances. Back in the day there were so many possibilities as to what could be done with notes. Now, we’ve reached the end of the line so to speak as all of those possible note variations have been used. Artists need to expose themselves to different genres of music and see how they could interpret that into a musical score of note. Artists such as Billy Idol have released some really good music. Idol’s “Bitter Taste” rocks and there are some more like former frontman for Led Zeppelin Robert Plant turned out an inviting Bluegrass album titled “Raise The Roof,” which is very unique and palatable. The Arctic Monkeys had rented a nightclub and recorded a new album. So far, no word on it, very hush hush, but they are slated to go on tour in the spring when their new work is scheduled for release. The Red Hot Chili Peppers’ new work “Unlimited Love” is very introspective and it rocks. Their first release is “Black Summer” with lots of cool riffs and goosebumps.
What keeps you passionate about music and art?
The artists keep me passionate with their eagerness to create music and put it out there. Creativity is inspiring on its own. I teach preschool children when I can, which helps to keep me grounded and not jaded by the “scene.” My tastes in music are varied and I am not rooted into any particular band or genre of music which gives my taste an edge. I am open minded enough to listen to new music. I receive 100’s of links a month in my emails and I just don’t have time to listen and I do not use “Spotify” so that weeds out a lot of potential acts. As for my art, I get inspired by the things around me and things that are going on in my life. I’ll look at an old “Look” magazine at a flea market and think I can make a collage of the Dalai Lama with this. Or I’ll see a magazine with UFO’s on it and think wow, I can get that put up fast. Again, I am not so deeply rooted into my “thing” that I keep my mind closed to new topics of conversation. I’ve often labeled my art “bathroom art” because it gives people something to read and ponder while using the toilet.
If you could bring back one artist/band, who would it be?
If it weren’t for the fact that my most favorite local band from back in the day are still playing out, I would say “LOVE.” After that, it would have to be “The Doors.” I saw them playing all over town; from the Hullabaloo to the Whiskey A Go Go to the Hollywood Bowl to the Woodland Hills theater in the round which is now a Jehovah witness Kingdom Hall. Last summer I wrote a “bit” for them on their new phone app and I have always enjoyed running into Robby Krieger around town at events. The last time I saw Robby was at the “Love Fest” on Laurel Canyon a few years ago when a city council member named a part of the street that Jim Morrison lived on “Love Street” and Robby and John were there.
Who would you like to see touring L.A.?
The “Cruel World” concert is due in a few months and it has a stellar line-up of talent that was worth the price of an expensive ticket. Google it and be amazed. The “Arctic Monkeys” are set to be here later this year, but the price of a ticket was around $400 and I passed on that and so did fellow “Arctic Monkeys”/Alex Turner fan Vicky Hamilton. I am hoping that they book other gigs like the Hollywood Bowl somewhere down the line. In 2018 they played the Hollywood Bowl and I saw both shows and they rocked. I just had trouble dealing with and wrapping my head around Alex Turner’s shaved head. I kept wondering if he was trying to be Gollum from “Lord of The Rings.”
What up and coming artists should be on our radar?
There are several acts that I am following right now and keeping an eye on. Lovely World is getting ready to break, “Dirty Honey” is amazing, “Midland” rates some attention and then there are bands such as “The Darbies and Classless Act/Griffin Tucker” that are very entertaining. I’ve lost a lot of my interest in “Greta Van Fleet”. I’ve also been watching Orville Peck and find his voice and country style a very pleasing blend. There are several guitar players and a few drummers that I watch to see what they are up to. Willem Wolfe is a talent that I’ve recently stumbled upon while curating a Street Art show for the Museum of The San Fernando Valley and will be turning up in the LA Music Scene in April.
To read more about all types of music and things happening in Los Angeles, visit Caroline’s nohoartsdistrict.com blog LA Music Scene>>