Sunday Night Nostalgia at Corbin Bowl

Corbin Bowl neon sign on Ventura Blvd. in Tarzana California
Corbin Bowl on Ventura Blvd. in Tarzana

Nostalgia drives culture in such bizarre, consumerist ways. Buy this limited edition throwback to an era you hardly remember. Spend your rent money on tickets to this reunion show. Watch this reboot of a show that sucked the first time around. Click on this story, like this Instagram post and, maybe for a moment, you’ll forget that the 21st century is trash. 

I can’t get down with all that. Part of it is because I’m not particularly nostalgic for pop culture. I don’t think music was better in some other time. There’s a lot more available now, which increases your chances of stumbling upon something awful. And the mainstream has always been filled with garbage, it was just easier to avoid when mega-media corporations and tech behemoths didn’t have a stranglehold on what’s produced and how we consume it

Really, if I’m nostalgic for anything, it’s for moments that don’t translate well on social media. I like photographs of spaces that weren’t designed for Instagram and references so specific that they are incomprehensible to most. That’s why, when I have written about nostalgia, it’s about how you can learn from it and my flashback stories are about extremely niche, L.A. moments, like the days of Request Video and MARS FM or when JDC Records in San Pedro was a disco label and distributor. 

I’m inclined to think that I’m not the only person who is wistful in that way because, on Sunday night, Corbin Bowl was packed. 

Corbin Bowl is a completely ordinary bowling alley on Ventura Blvd. Its neon signs do not boast inspirational sayings that you can post to your main. They are there to remind you that this is a place where you can bowl and drink beer. The brown, patterned carpet looks as if it’s older than I am. The bar is dimly lit and the lanes are all too bright. It is exactly how a bowling alley should be, plus there are frequent shows here.

Pu$$y Cow punk band live at Corbin Bowl in Tarzana California
Pu$$y Cow live at Corbin Bowl.

On Sunday night, we went to see Pu$$y Cow, a band whose name is hysterical only to those who existed in Los Angeles during the heyday of Cal Worthington commercials. I’d explain the joke, but if you weren’t a kid glued to the TV set whenever the Swedish Pippi Longstocking movies played on Channel 5’s Family Film Festival with Tom Hatten, you probably aren’t going to get it. 

Pu$$y Cow played early, kicking off a three-band bill with a $5 cover. (Yes, it is still possible to see live music and afford groceries in L.A. Support your local scene.) The tiny bar was crowded and there were a lot of tall dudes in the room, so, unless you were right in front of the band, you weren’t going to get a good photo. It didn’t matter.  

Really, shows are about energy, a thing that can’t be captured in photo or video. It’s about feeling the streamers thrown into the crowd as they land on your head. It’s about hearing the band close with the Cal Worthington jingle and knowing that damn song will haunt you for the rest of the night. It’s about the realization that, by the time the second band hits the stage, the room smelled like a gym at 6 p.m.

Outside the bar, Corbin Bowl was bustling too. When we got there, all the lanes appeared full and probably more than half were still occupied by the time we left, which was close to 10 p.m. In fact, there were still families with kids entering the bowling alley and a crowd of young teens in the arcade when we had to split, which leaves me hopeful that the future generation won’t live their adult years as shut-ins. 

Rubik's cube prize at Corbin Bowl arcade
Hey, we won a very small Rubik’s cube at the Corbin Bowl.

Bonus round: Carlos, my husband, and I slipped into the arcade between bands. We usually play pinball, but the only one there was Guardians of the Galaxy and Marvel movies bore the shit out of me, so I couldn’t bring myself to play it. Instead we went for skee-ball and some press-your-like type of games. We were five tickets shy of a slimy toy and ended up with a tiny Rubik’s cube as a memento of the night.

Catch Los Angeles-based DJ Liz O. at one of her upcoming gigs.