News Column

BET Experience 2013: Making L.A. Live come alive

June 29, 2013

YellowBrix

June 29--For all the early-day snafus of the inaugural BET Experience at L.A. Live (long lines, confusing ticket pickup, insufficient altar space outside the Beyonce show to lay alms at the feet of Blue Ivy), there was one big-picture thing it got very right. It re-imagined what L.A. live is capable of as a music complex.

As a resident downtowner edginess-snob, we usually only venture into those Olympic/Figueroa ESPNZone badlands on assignment, or to get a mojito at Hotel Figueroa. But ever since its 2007 opening, there's been at least three pop major music venues and a giant outdoor pavilion right on downtown L.A.'s major arteries.

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Usually, they never act in sync -- a big pop show at Staples Center one night, an indie band at Club Nokia the next. But BET's totalized takeover of the L.A. Live music spaces has set an intriguing template for how all the venues can be a walkable pop music village.

Beyonce, Snoop and Kendrick Lamar hold court at Staples as the BET Awards gets ritzy at Nokia Theatre and the Roots can play ten hours of covers at Club Nokia.These events, while all under the BET Fest umbrella, are separately ticketed. But perhaps they don't have to be.

What if BET Fest has set up a way to have a kind of pop music Coachella in downtown? It's easy to imagine CMT or MTV -- or BET again -- using a marquee event like an awards show to host a full weekend, all-access slate of concerts there.

It'd be great for hotels, bars and restaurants in the neighborhood, and would give mainstream music fans who might not have considered themselves festivalgoers a chance to have the romp-around experience of one, whle going home to their own beds at night.

The BET Experience is an experiment in giving all varieties African-American music a worthy, singular showcase in the heart of L.A., an idea long overdue since Wattstax. But it's also setting an interesting precedent for how to use L.A. Live as more than just an atomized entertainment complex. That's something that could really re-make the pop music live experience in L.A.

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