By Daiana Feuer
After 25 years of live music, dance parties and comedic hijinks, Silver Lake’s The Satellite announced on July 17, 2020, that it would cease to exist as an entertainment venue. They’re removing the stage and transitioning into a bar/restaurant space, as it was when the Wolfram family bought it in 1967.
In a press release, owner Jeff Wolfram stated: “We can no longer afford to wait for the day we will be allowed to have shows again. If we do that, we will not have the money to continue and will be forced to close forever.” A casualty of the pandemic shutdown, it’s depressing to realize this is probably not going to be a singular occurrence. Indie venues don’t stand a chance unless we do something.
The news has flooded the Eastside music community with a wave of nostalgia. Free Monday night residencies, late-night tamales, running to the car between bands to avoid a parking ticket, falling in love, smoking cigarettes in the back room and seeing legendary acts before they were big. Boasting every kind of genre, playing the venue was a rite of passage for bands and a haven for music lovers disenchanted with the Sunset Strip.
The club may have ended its tenure under The Satellite moniker, and hosted many a great moment since the changeover in 2010-ish, but the venue’s golden age undoubtedly belongs to Spaceland, a period that ran from the mid-1990s until 2010.
What’s In a Name?
Spaceland wasn’t actually the official name of the bar. It was the name of the club night started by Mitchell Frank and his partners, who would go on to build an Eastside music empire. When Jeff Wolfram took over the family business in the mid-’90s, the venue’s name was Dreams of L.A.
Frank and former partner Nancy Whalen had been booking a night at the venue since 1993 called Pan — the name inspired by Tom Robbins’ “Jitterbug Perfume.” They changed the night’s name to Spaceland in 1995, but the venue was still called Dreams of L.A. and the sign remains to this day.
Longtime talent booker Jennifer Teft explains: “In October 2000 when I started working in the office, one of my duties was handling the LA Weekly ad which still said ‘Spaceland at Dreams of L.A.’ I didn’t like the name ‘Dreams Of L.A.,’ I thought ‘Spaceland’ was cooler. So I just took the Dreams part out of the ad.” It stuck.
Later, when the time came to changing the venue’s legal name, they landed on ‘The Satellite,’ based on an Elliott Smith song. “We had one week to decide on a new name for the club,” says Tefft. “Four people were involved in making this decision and it was the only suggestion that wasn’t hated by at least one person.”
The First Spaceland Show
Now that we have the name game mostly sorted out, it’s time to dive into a massive collection of fond memories, spanning words and photos by bands, fans, photographers and event makers, from the first official Spaceland show in 1995, all the way to March of 2020.
Brandon Jay (Lutefisk, Quazar and the Bamboozled)
My old band Lutefisk played at Dreams of L.A. when it was called Pan a number of times, when the bands played upstairs in what became the smoking lounge and then down on the floor on the opposite side of the room from where the stage is now. We played what was considered the first show as Spaceland on March 10, 1995. It was a benefit for Lutefisk as our rehearsal space got broken into and all our gear was stolen. Beck, Possum Dixon and Lutefisk were what was originally on the bill that Naomi Laguana put together.
But a few days before the show, someone I think from Bill Silva Management asked if Foo Fighters could play first. It was the first time they performed in LA. They built a small stage about a foot off the ground before the show and despite it raining cats and dogs, there was a line down the block. It actually worked out great and raised us a bunch of money cause the show kind of sold out twice as most of the folks that came early to see Dave Grohl’s new band left and made room for all our regular fans to get in and sell it out again. For several years I was there what seems like almost every night we weren’t on tour. So many great shows and memories. From seeing Ween, Pavement, Jon Spencer, to so many amazing Monday night residencies by Wiskey Biscuit, Radar Bros, The Negro Problem, Silversun Pickups, Patrick Park, Green and Yellow TV, Crack and on and on and on.