Inside School Night, The Weekly Series That Staged Dua Lipa’s First L.A. Show

Martin Lambert
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In her first Los Angeles concert and third U.S. gig ever, Dua Lipa headlines the weekly School Night series at L.A. club Bardot.

Dua Lipa was always bound for success. Even so, she made an auspicious Los Angeles debut, headlining School Night, a weekly series held Mondays at the 350-capacity club Bardot, for her third U.S. show on May 9, 2016.

“We had probably close to a thousand RSVPs,” says Nassir Nassirzadeh, who was booking the series at the time. “Even though it was her first show in L.A., there were a lot of people that were paying attention to her and were very excited.”

School Night was founded by longtime KCRW DJ and “Morning Becomes Eclectic” host Chris Douridas and MFG Productions’ Matt Goldman in April 2010. Douridas was impressed by the Hollywood venue, tucked above the larger, 1,500-capacity Avalon, after attending a party there, and discussed putting on a show there. The inaugural edition, scheduled on a Monday night because Bardot was dark, hosted a co-bill of Dawes and The Like.

The following week, the event featured Chrissie Hynde and Brett Dennen – and a line four blocks long to get in.

“The night blew up after that,” says Douridas, noting that just three months into School Night’s existence, Paper magazine named it America’s Best Party.

In short order, School Night expanded with a New York iteration, hosted at venues including The Bowery Hotel and Brooklyn Bowl, and its flagship L.A. series became a coveted play for rising artists and bigger names interested in buzzy underplays.

“We became a place that was on the rollout plans for all new artists,” Douridas says. “When they would come through L.A., they wanted to play School Night.”

Douridas, whose deep roots in the L.A. music business also include music supervising for film and TV and working in A&R for DreamWorks and Geffen, designed the event to attract key figures who worked in the industry.

“We wanted decision-makers in the room,” he says. “We wanted supervisors in the room, we wanted music producers in the room, and labels and publishers and lawyers and artists themselves.”

The mutually beneficial arrangement – artists get exposure, executives find their next big clients, all enjoy an outstanding night of music at an intimate venue – yielded a bevy of impressive bookings, including Alt-J, Hozier, James Bay, Wolf Alice, AJR and Two Door Cinema Club, who like Lipa all made their L.A. debuts at School Night.

The series also has hosted scores of marquee artists early in their careers, including Billie Eilish (2016), Lizzo (2013), The Head and The Heart (2010), Father John Misty (2012), Rüfüs Du Sol (2014) and ODESZA (2013). Plus, several major artists have played to small, lucky crowds through School Night, such Lucinda Williams (2011), Moby (2011 and 2018) and Stevie Nicks (as a surprise guest with Vanessa Carlton, 2011).

And the role of Bardot itself can’t be understated.

“Part of the charm and part of the reason why the show is special is the atypical setup,” Goldman says. “It’s a really wide, shallow room, and everybody that is in the area where the band is, for the most part, is pretty close to the artist.”

Rooms on the periphery allow guests space “if they want to go flirt with somebody or have an industry conversation,” Douridas adds, touting the “fluidity to the space.”

While School Night has a staggering roster of alumni, its team also emphasizes the deeper role the series has played for the L.A. music scene, with artists finding new writing partners or landing syncs in movies and shows.

“It’s amazing to have these artists early in their career and to say you were there,” Nassirzadeh says. “But also, just for those other artists that maybe didn’t have the same trajectory, for them to feel like they had that special moment in that venue and they felt seen and heard by everyone and appreciated.”