Every final Thursday of the month, La Luz de Jesus becomes a throbbing scene. Music, comedy and performance art resounds in the gallery as the crowd spills out into the back patio and onto the street, takes in the art, or browses through the huge collection of books, toys, and unusual items in the retail section at the front. And this Thursday, September 27, the eighth monthly Billy’s Thursday Night Fish Fry and Community Social brings another eclectic night of belly dancing, sock puppetry, spoken word, and more, including a set from T.S.O.L’s Joe Wood. Past Fish Frys have featured musical acts like Deborah Iyall, The Purple Gang, Bob Forrest, The Groovy Rednecks, Dick & Jane Family Orchestra,The Skip Heller Trio, and Grant Lee Phillips, along with a colorful array of sideshows including films, comics, poets, book signings and live painting. Part salon, part nightclub, this full on multi-act, multi-media, in-the-round night has quickly become the monthly must-go-to event.
Billy’s Fish Fry is brain child of Johnny Indovina and Seth Miller, who had used the gallery space for Indovina’s record release two years ago and always thought the gallery would make a great event location, Says Miller:
Last summer we had begun to discuss doing another one with the idea that we would like to do something on a regular and that La Luz de Jesus was the perfect place. Our conversations began to turn from his band to the idea of creating a free, monthly community social for everyone to enjoy. Just an excuse for folks to hang out once a month and have a great night for it’s own sake. We knew that we wanted it to be a non stop variety show and that we wanted to shine a light on as many great artists/comedians/musicians & ‘other’ as possible. Sort of a Playboy After Dark or Hullaballoo for the La Luz set.
Their first hurdle was getting La Luz de Jesus/Soap Plant owner, the visionary but notoriously, at times, curmudgeonly, yet always lovable Billy Shire to agree. Miller says:
I was initially concerned that he would not want to do something on a regular basis. We must have caught him on a good day, because he loved the idea. He has been great to work with from the outset.
Miller and Indovina initially booked three months of Billy’s Fish Fry, but after the second month, discovered they had enough interest and acts to stay booked through December. Their booking strategy is simple:
We try to do our best to piece together nights with as many odd pairings as possible. We also like the idea that an artist might be doing something different at the gallery than they would do at a ‘normal’ show. We try to piece together nights with performances that ‘feel’ right together thought they don’t seem as though they would.
We will book someone in advance. Sometimes months. Sometimes we will have to scramble for a ‘right’ act as artists fall out. We have been very fortunate in that most of the folks that we have approached have said yes right away.
The Fish Fry draws a huge crowd of locals and even folks from as far away as Palms, Santa Monica and San Pedro not just because it’s free and all ages. The acts and the sense of community–people run in old friends, make new ones, while enjoying an eclectic night–that are the draw:
Billy’s Thursday Night Fish Fry & Community Social
We are trying to present a fun show that will hold an audiences attention for two hours & at the same time present a number of artists that we have a real reverence for. We have been lucky though. Mostly it has been a lot of fun for everyone involved.
We hope that we can grow this thing into a a cool night where folks know that they may find something special, see a few great artists close up in a way that they don’t get to anywhere else. La Luz de Jesus is a special place. Probably my favorite place in Los Angeles.
Thursday September 27, and the last Thursday of every month
La Luz de Jesus/Soap Plant
4633 Hollywood Blvd
Los Angeles, 90027
(Be adventurous! Take the Metro to Sunset and Vermont, walk up to Hollywood and turn east. The gallery is between Vermont and Hillhurst.)
Photos: Lee Joseph and Lisa Derrick