Indie Rockers, 90210
THE teenagers streamed in by the dozen past the electric gate, the 12-foot-high manicured hedges and the gleaming Lexus sedans in the driveway. They made their way to the backyard, where a makeshift performance space had been set up between the tennis court and the rose garden.
Hugging one another and milling around in skinny jeans and Converse high-tops, they took drags from their cigarettes.
It was a clear evening on a recent Friday. Behind a sprawling home in Encino, a grassy Los Angeles neighborhood on the edge of the San Fernando Valley, the gathering of nearly 300 teenagers included students from many of the area’s elite private schools — Buckley, Oakwood, Marlborough, Crossroads, Wildwood, Campbell Hall — and more than a few were Hollywood offspring.
The well-heeled children of Los Angeles are often derided as a lacquered tribe consumed with shopping and status, a stereotype sustained by the likes of the recently revived “Beverly Hills, 90210” franchise. But a different scene has been thriving here lately, composed of kids in thrift-store threads churning out homespun indie music and flocking to shows often held in one another’s backyards and living rooms.
“It certainly seems to be a phenomenon over the last three or four years,” said Linda Lichter, an entertainment lawyer whose two musician sons graduated from Crossroads. “I have a whole bunch of friends and clients whose kids are out there playing in bands. Kids aren’t responding to TV or movies anymore. Music is what’s cool.”
IN the summer, the scene coalesces at house shows like the one in Encino, a pastoral setting that made the event resemble a junior version of the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival. Attendees chipped in $2 to watch a half-dozen acts, including a solo electric bassoonist and an experimental folk-punk band, Slaying Chickens.
Tallulah Willis, the youngest daughter of Bruce Willis and Demi Moore, staked out a prime space close to the stage. Keely Dowd, the daughter of Jeff Dowd, a producer on whom the Coen brothers based the main character of “The Big Lebowski,” ambled past the pool with a friend.
Emma Tolkin and Taylor Thompson, both 18 and with an entertainment industry pedigree, stood in front of the crowd in cute gauzy dresses with a guitar and bass slung around their respective necks.
“This song is called ‘Shootin’ With Rasputin,’ and my grandfather wrote it,” Ms. Tolkin announced. They launched into a catchy tune with honey-voiced harmonies, recasting lyrics that had been written by Ms. Tolkin’s late grandfather, Mel Tolkin, the head writer on Sid Caesar’s “Your Show of Shows.”
Indie music has a long and storied history in Southern California, dating back to the punk scene that flourished in Orange County in the late 1970s, and continuing today at popular all-age sites like the Smell in downtown Los Angeles and Pehrspace near Echo Park.
But to veterans of this scene and the latest crop of show-going kids, elements of the city’s music landscape have lately been skewing even younger and emanating from tonier enclaves, like Santa Monica, Pacific Palisades, Brentwood and Hancock Park.
And unlike other parents who may caution against pursuing rock ‘n’ roll careers, especially as the record industry crumbles, parents here can be encouraging and even aggressive about guiding and promoting their children’s bands. Ringing up their professional contacts and ferrying gear to gigs, they engage in helicopter parenting for the future rock-star set.
Hudson Franzoni, 17, started drumming five years ago. To encourage his development, his parents built him a studio at their home in the Malibu hills.
His father, David Franzoni, a screenwriter whose credits include “Amistad” and “Gladiator,” has invited agents to watch Hudson’s bands play in the family’s backyard, with its panoramic view of the Pacific Ocean. He and his wife, Nancy, have also arranged for their son to continue his drumming lessons during their summers in Italy and while on location for movie shoots.
“I don’t want Hudson to wake up someday and say, ‘What happened to that thing I dreamed about when I was a kid?’ “ Mr. Franzoni said.