@Scripps Arts & Media

Songs of the City: Core 3 Explores the History of the Los Angeles Rock ‘n’ Roll Scene

Juliette Des Rosiers ’26
Copy Editor

The City of Angels. La La Land. Los Angeles is known by many names and by many people, but beyond the lights, camera, action of Hollywood Boulevard sits the sex, drugs, and rock ‘n’ roll of the Sunset Strip.

LA has birthed some of the best bands of any decade, but the popular limelight is, unfortunately, shared by too few. In light of this selective popularity of rock artists, the Core 3 LA Rock ‘n’ Roll class designed the exhibit titled “Listening to LA – Rock ‘n’ Roll Realities.” The exhibit, curated by Scripps students, displayed vinyl LPs, books, photographs, and merchandise from influential genres and artists of the LA rock ‘n’ roll scene dating back to the 1950s. Many of the artists were those who were overlooked by the mainstream at the time because they were people of color or simply spoke too loudly against that very mainstream.

Nicole Kerschner ’26, a student in the Core 3 class, commented on the importance of learning about LA music. “I feel like I’ve learned so much about the diversity and culture within LA through learning about the music,” she said. “In Claremont, we live so close to LA, but sometimes it feels like it’s a world apart. By studying a lot of the history and culture from this area, I feel more connected to the place I’m going to school.”

The exhibit opened on Oct. 5 with a welcome reception attended by students and professors alike. Guests were welcomed by a soft background of classic rock as they filtered into the Humanities Museum. Refreshments of taquitos, chips and salsa, and agua frescas were available while attendees chatted and strolled around the room to view the displays. The 5C student band Fischli’s Animals, born from a project for this very same Core 3 class, performed a set with music ranging from hippie to punk rock in order to showcase the broad range of music celebrated in the exhibition.

As for the exhibit itself, the museum was split up into five areas, each spotlighting a unique artist or genre, with artifacts pulled from the stores of Professor Hao Huang, the Honnold-Mudd Library, and purchased from eBay.

One section titled “Chicanx Rock and Roll: Sound of Cultural Fusion” explored how Latin American immigrants and Latines used music to celebrate their cultural identity and raise awareness for resistance to U.S. immigration politics. The exhibit highlights influential names like Los Lobos, Los Ilegales, and Ritchie Valens, who is considered “the forefather of the Chicano rock movement.”

“Quetzal has a really interesting connection to Scripps since a Scripps professor is part of that band,” said Kerschner. “We were really happy that we were able to pull a bunch of things together from many of the most influential voices in Chicanx rock.”

The object captions below photographs and vinyls of the bands detailed how the music was a fusion of cultural sounds and was founded from both American and Latin American music. However, the exhibit also highlighted how these artists used their fusion of sound to draw attention to the Chicanx experience in Los Angeles, citing “La Bamba” by The Plugs as an example of an anticapitalist message and the band La Ley as those who raised awareness for the deportation and mistreatment of immigrants.

The next section, “Songstresses and Social Change in the 60s and 70s”, focused on the powerful women performers of Laurel Canyon, an iconic neighborhood near the Hollywood Hills that was home to many influential musicians in rock ‘n’ roll history. The section displayed vinyl LPs and the cases of Jackie DeShannon, Carly Simon, Carole King, and Joni Mitchell, referring to her album “Blue” as one of the most iconic albums of all time. The captions and artifacts celebrated the influence of women in rock ‘n’ roll who built the foundation for other successful names in music. The exhibit referenced the importance of the 1960s peace and love movement that flourished amidst these rockers’ homes but also alluded to the darker history of the area that involved drugs, violence, cults, and militarization.

In a similar celebration of women in music, a corner of the museum was dedicated to “Alice Bag: The Violent Girl.” The exhibit displayed many pictures and posters from Alice Bag shows and magazine cameos, with the object captions describing how her music was seen as outrageous at the time, but these documents are now valuable primary sources for a revolutionary movement of the vibrant LA rock scene. This section also had a projection of a filmed performance, commenting on her stage presence and how her shows being open to all ages exemplified the acceptance and widespread influence of the Riot Grrrl movement.

Another section, entitled “Foundations of LA Punk: Grime and Glam in the City of Angels,” spotlights the raucous voices of the LA punk scene. The section highlights iconic punk bands like Black Flag, The Masque, and The Germs. The gig posters on display demonstrate the in-your-face resistance manifested in the punk rock movement and the captions discuss how the violent sound of the bands alienated them from mainstream music and labels, nurturing the rise of indie for-artists-by-artists labels in the 1980s. The exhibit also showed punk rock history bibles, such as Punk is Dead, Punk is Everything, in cases for visitors to observe.

Kerschner also had positive comments on the diversity in the type of objects on display in the exhibit. “I also loved the giant collages of posters that the LA Punk group put together, as well as the mason jar of songs from the Alice Bag group,” she said. “I really appreciated seeing the creativity of everyone in the class.”

The most modern section of the museum was “Empowering Voices: Women Leading the Beat in LA Music,” which focused on recent women in music from Los Angeles such as Mitski, No Doubt, and HAIM. It displayed merch from H.E.R., referencing her incorporation of activism in her music, and Olivia Rodrigo, one of the promising young voices in pop. Additionally, it highlighted artists such as The Linda Linda’s, at the forefront of new wave punk, and Jhene Aiko, an underrated singer promoting spirituality and self-love through her work.

The exhibit was an informative look into the diverse musical history of Los Angeles, emphasis on diverse. It showcased artists that many students may have previously not listened to and promoted exploring LA rock ’n’ roll through an inclusive lens that mirrors the multicultural music scene of the city.

Image Source: Juliette Des Rosiers ’26