by Patrick O’Heffernan
Dennis Quaid has a rock band, The Sharks. Quaid, who has acted in many movies and TV shows and stars in the upcoming film A Dog’s Journey, is the lead singer and rhythm guitarist of a very solid band that tours widely. He performs original songs and classic hits. Quaid and The Sharks were booked to play The Mint near our studio this past Saturday and I was stoked to go. Except that I never got around to buying tickets and they were sold out by the time I thought of it, which left me uncharacteristically with a free Saturday night. What to do?
My wife mentioned that she saw a post on a friend’s Facebook page that there was a popular dance band playing at The Moose in Santa Monica, so since it is close by, why don’t we do that.
The Moose? Of the 342 music venues I cataloged last year in LA I had never seen one called The Moose, especially one near our radio studio. So I checked it out. “The Moose” is The Loyal Order of the Moose Lodge 702 and it rocks music every week. Who knew? Apparently, a lot of people knew because when we got there just after it opened the dance floor was packed, the tables crowded and the bar was humming.
My dad was an antler club member, either Moose or Elk, I can’t remember which. It was an all-male “lodge” with animal heads on the walls, lots of cigarette smoke, card tables, and mysterious activities that neither I nor my mom was quite sure about. And there was a lot of volunteering and helping out hospitals and neighborhood institutions. All in all, a good organization, founded in 1888 and steeped in the customs of its time.
The women onstage were part of the Tom Nolan Band, a ten-piece rock and soul dance band with a core membership and some rotating people, special guests who play in other top bands in LA and sit in with Nolan. Nolan knows his crowd and exactly what they want – dance music, rock and roll, Motown, covers, classics and a few originals. As long as you can dance to the music and shout and wave your arms and shake your body it works. Since Nolan does a monthly Motown at The Moose – which I happily stumbled into Saturday – the people waving their arms and shaking their bodies on the dance floor can attend every month. They are regulars who have gotten to know Tom and the band members (what we now call “a fan base”). So it is not only great fun but its personal – its family. It was a kind of family party when singer Caitlin T announced it that was her birthday and we should all sing and celebrate. We all did.
The Moose 702 has kept to its roots. Lumberyard-paneled walls, plastic tables, folding chairs, a cork bulletin board with pictures of past events and current flyers. Pretty much like my dad’s lodge a few miles away. I think there actually is an animal head in the Lodge, although I wasn’t looking for it. But the stage is first class and big enough for Nolan’s full band. It features a well- equipped and sophisticated lighting system and an excellent sound package that covered the room but did not destroy eardrums, rumble the bass or screech the female vocals. I have heard sound systems in high-end Hollywood clubs that are not as good.
The crowd was pretty diverse. I was especially impressed with the age range; there were a lot of older grey heads, but plenty of young magenta heads, or purple or blue or tattooed heads. Virtually every able-bodied person in the room danced at some point during the night, and many never stopped. Nolan knew exactly how to push their “move” buttons.
In looking over the posters on The Moose ’s walls, I noted that Noland was only of several bands that do regular gigs there. Other acts come through on a one- night basis and other bands have regular monthly slots, just like the downtown clubs. And there are also comedy nights, touring bands, salsa parties, Day of the Dead celebrations, and hot DJ’s. You can get dinner of your choice of tacos, cruise the reasonably-priced well-stocked and staffed bar, and hang out between dances at big round tables for families and friends.
The emphasis Saturday night was on dancing. As the original Grateful Dead groupie, Wavy Gravy once said, “You don’t stop dancing because you get old, you get old because you stop dancing.” Lodge 702 is doing its best to see to it that the west side of LA is staying young and dancing. It wasn’t Dennis Quaid, but maybe it was better. In any case, I love the Tom Noland Band, I love The Moose and I love the fact that nationwide the Loyal Order of the Moose is alive and kicking — and dancing.
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