500 Guerrero Street (Guerrero @ 17th) [Map]
Total Spent: $8+
This is always the place to go at 1:23 a.m. when you need one more glass of booze to quench the grinding loneliness, and you've slept with most of the bartenders so they have to serve you. A right fine place to stagger around in hoping that this time, you're gonna find 'The One' and not some alcoholic grease-ape who will leave you with nothing but a a taste of salt in your mouth and a sore asshole. Not that I speak from personal experience or anything. Be sure to lick the tables for a cheap cocaine high.
I've spent many a 1:23am in the 500 Club in just such a state. One evening in particular found a friend and I sitting at the booth equidistant from the door and jukebox. We'd already had far too much to drink—I can't remember if we had been at some random scenester hell indie show or at a baseball game. I do remember that after a few beers at the Five Hunny on top of our lethal doses of Maker's Mark, we were drumming and singing along to Guns & Roses, talking to a homeless man as if his life story was the most fascinating thing we'd ever heard. As I professed my love for Axl Rose, we put enough money in the 500 Club’s jukebox to play Appetite for Destruction several times.
Appetite for Destruction is no longer in the jukebox at the 500 Club. I doubt that we were solely responsible for its removal, but I like to think we were. It’s a loss for sure, but not a tragic one, as the scope of the selection in the box more than makes up for the absence of Slash and Axl. The selection is so good, in fact, that last week a few friends and I found ourselves arguing over the best use of our collective cash. It became quite a conversation piece, and not just because of the Fernet shots an eager friend forced us to throw down our gullets (we had just finished a huge meal and were all in need of a digestif).
A small sign below this one boasts a 6am opening time but (sadly) it's not true.
The content of the jukebox ranges from metal to jazz with indie, soul, country, and punk in between. It is an eclectic mix befitting the blend of patrons who tumble into the curved, black leather booths seeking a bar atmosphere reminiscent of the trailer park’s local dive (complete with a working fireplace, pool table, and a photobooth that refused to take any of our dollar bills). Among the Ramones, Black Sabbath, and the Circle Jerks, you’ll find jazz legends Getz, Mingus, and Sinatra; black American pioneers Lee Dorsey, James Brown, and Toots & the Maytal; music snob rock darlings Dinosaur Jr., the Replacements, and Alkaline Trio; and, tucked in among the beautiful gems, a very out of place Bloc Party. Even Hank Williams Jr., Sr., and the Third all make an appearance in the 500 Club juke. You get the feeling that everything in that jukebox has been carefully selected to minimize annoyance and maximize enjoyment. Like MP3 jukeboxes, there is something for everyone. Unlike MP3 jukeboxes, the offerings to everyone clearly define the staff and regular clientele—random Marina folk who have sojourned off the beaten Valencia path excluded.
It is hard to find highlights in a jukebox this good, but I’d have to say that the Repo Man soundtrack something I’ve not noticed elsewhere. Best of all, though, is a 22-track unlabeled CD that dares you to press your luck and choose a random track. I can’t remember if we tried it and if we did we were certainly in no condition to play a guessing game. So my challenge to you, readers, is to go to the 500 Club and figure out what the hell that album is. Is it a carefully selected mix or is it a single album? Could it perhaps be my precious Appetite for Destruction? Your guesses are welcome.
All in all, the 500 Club jukebox definitely ranks as the best so far. Of course, there are so many left to go…