It’s been so many years since I’ve been to Gabah, the East Hollywood club that used to host underground hip hop nights like the Chocolate Bar and The Root Down. But still, as I drove by this week and saw that scaffolding had gone up around the building, I felt a tug at my heart. Apparently, the place is being torn down to make way for a strip mall. Seeing it all boarded up sent a wave of nostalgia washing over me for the late Los Angeles nights I found bliss there to an old school beat. In the heyday of the Chocolate Bar, I could be found at Gabah literally every Saturday night. I even chose my apartment near the intersection of Melrose and Normandie because it was Gabah adjacent! I found love on Gabah’s dance floor, and in many ways, dancing with an abandon I had never before known, found myself.
Since the Chocolate Bar and Root Down moved on, Gabah has never been the same. It had gone downhill in recent years (in other words, it had become more pop/glam/mainstream), and I suppose its demise was inevitable. Still, there’s no other spot that has even come close to the sense of community and the roster of hip hop/soul/rare groove/dancehall DJs I encountered during Gabah’s best years. I’ve never been one for the Hollywood scene, and Gabah was comfortably off the Hollywood radar–a rare combination of a diverse, hip-but-not-hipster crowd and a sexy yet low-key vibe. The place was real.
In honor of its parting, I’m pulling up one from the vaults: a piece I wrote about the Chocolate Bar at Gabah in 2001.
So, a hearty goodbye to Gabah, and a big thanks for the piece of myself it gave me.