BlackBook Exclusive: Holy Wars’ Kat Leon’s Hip Guide to Highland Park, Los Angeles


That Kat Leon chose the nom de guerre Holy Wars could be interpreted in a number of ways. Especially considering her auspicious 2017 emergence at the height of the evangelical hypocrisy of Trump support, and just as the #MeToo movement was charging into a whole other, but not entirely unrelated battle.

But in fact, the title of the LA duo’s inaugural EP Mother Father (Nicholas Perez is her musical partner) tells the story more succinctly: the fiery singer / bassist Leon lost both of her parents in a matter of six months in 2015. And so the songs could surely be taken as some cross section of requiem and catharsis. Indeed, Huffington Post described their music as “incredibly moving.”

This past October, they released a striking new single, “Born Dark,” (produced by AFI’s Hunter Burgan), with haunted, Depeche Mode style synths, thundering drums, and eerie but grandiose atmospherics. Leon chillingly relates the story lyrically, “First breath of life / Three o’clock in the morning.”

The accompanying video, directed by cinematographer Mel Hummel, is an unsettling story of bloodlust, told through, of all things, several fittingly attired Barbie dolls.



Leon explains, “Growing up, little girls were given fashion dolls to play with, as an expectation of what ‘women’ were supposed to look like and act like. There were no gothic or or gender bending dolls or anything other than what that skinny, blonde, bubbly doll represented…the subtle brainwashing of our society.”

“Playing on the dark nature of the song,” she continues, “we decided to go with an overall moody, vintage vibe for the video. The audience is left to question what is real, and who is the true ‘character’ in this thriller. Is the doll a figment of our imagination, or the other way around?”

Hoping to get a peek into her happier places, we followed Leon around her fave LA neighborhood, the decidedly hipsterfied but historic Highland Park, from toy shops to vegan ramen to the area’s most exalted music venue. 

“It’s one of my favorite places to hang out,” she enthuses, “and most spots I like to go to are on York Boulevard. It was just called LA’s coolest street by Los Angeles Magazine, and I agree. Here’s why…”




Kat Leon’s Favorite Places in Highland Park, LA

Town Pizza

Being a Northeast girl now living on the West Coast, it is really difficult for me to find a pizza joint I love – but I really do enjoy Town. You can smell it from the street, which always makes me want to go in. I love their creations, crust, and sauce. My favorite is the Zetta’s Pesto, but I’ve honestly had almost every kind there. I really recommend it!

Vroom Vroom Bitsy Boo

I pretty much buy all my “kid” gifts from here. Whenever there is a baby shower, I go to Bitsy Boo to grab rock tee shirts or onesies from my favorite bands. Some of my purchases have been baby tees with Debbie Harry, Nirvana, The Misfits… This place is definitely for the hip parent. They also have great toys and really affordable prices.



Donut Friend

Vegan Donuts! This place is popular amongst vegans and non vegans, great for kids and adults.  Their donuts are addicting and their flavors are super creative, with names like S’Morrissey, Green Tegan & Sara, Youth Brûlée, and you can even make your own. I rarely pass by and not go in; plus, I always see a box of these in the green room at the Hi Hat, since they are right by each other, and a favorite of the musicians who play there.

House of Intuition

A metaphysical shop I go to often. If you need candles, crystals, tarot cards…this is your place. The staff are really friendly, helpful and knowledgeable, it’s very inviting,  and when you are inside the shop, it’s clean and has a really great vibe. Prices vary but I always frequent the shop for sage and “magic” candles. I love everything about it, even their logo and store bag.



Ramen of York

Originally from Silver Lake, this place is so popular, they opened another in Highland Park. They named this location Ramen of York, but everyone just calls it Silver Lake Ramen. They don’t take reservations, so I suggest you get there early, because the lines can be long and for good reason: the food is fantastic! I always over order and leave completely stuffed. Their most popular dish is The Blaze (spicy tonkotsu with chicken, pork belly or tofu), but I like the vegan ramen too.

Highland Park Bowl

A must see even if you don’t bowl. Established in 1927, the building has such an interesting history: it was a prohibition era doctor’s office that filled prescriptions downstairs for legal whiskey upstairs. They refurbished everything, brought it back to its original beauty, and now it feels like you’re in a museum. It is a bit pricey to bowl there, so I suggest going with a group or maybe for a special event. Sometimes I go just to hang at the bar with friends, where they have delicious drinks and food and also a fantastic burlesque show. 



The York Bar

This bar has been around for quite awhile, now a staple of York Blvd. I have been there for after show drinks, hangs with friends or even production meetings for my music videos. It’s got a really cool industrial vibe, with decent prices and good cocktails – though lately I have been enjoying their wine selection.  

The Hi Hat

This is a really popular music venue, run by Britt Witt, a good friend of mine. Their sound is top notch, the space (holding 350 people) is really interesting, and even has a few pool tables. It’s also home to Gai Thai Fried Chicken, where people can walk up and order from the sidewalk, or come inside and eat. I have played there several times, we even did our “Mother” release show there, which was a special night I’ll always remember. So many notable local musicians have played here, Rivers Cuomo, Billie Joel Armstrong and Kate Nash to name a few. Billie Ellish played her first show and record release party there, as well. You won’t be disappointed.


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