Chico’s nightlife: when you want to mellow out or rock out


FUNKY FUN <br>Local masters of dancefloor mayhem Brutilicus Maximus turn the beat upside-down at downtown’s Riff Raff Rock Bar.

Local masters of dancefloor mayhem Brutilicus Maximus turn the beat upside-down at downtown’s Riff Raff Rock Bar.

Photo By Tom Angel

After spending the day frolicking with the bees and the bunnies in Bidwell Park or any other of Chico’s diversion spots, it’s nice to come inside, sit back with a friend and a drink (if you’re legal) and listen to music for an hour or so. So why not continue the explorative Chico experience and enjoy some live music at one of Chico’s many live venues? There are many places you can go, including downtown coffee shops and bars, outdoor sites and even the Chico State University campus, that provide places where the public can get a taste of the local music scene. For a small town, this one is littered with musicians. Here are some of the better-known places. Check out the Calendar in the latest issue of the Chico News & Review for an up-to-date listing of events:

Coffee Shops

Has Beans Internet Café and Galleria is a small coffee shop and bakery that often doubles as an artist/hippie hangout. On some nights you can catch an open-mic night, a spoken-word session or poetry slam, or even see a touring musician or two. A couple of computers give the place technology, decorative artwork gives it an atmosphere, and a chessboard and other thinking games give it an intellectual feel. And they make one killer cup of hot chocolate. 501 Main, 894-3033

Moxie’s Café and Gallery may be a small, quiet setting, but it is also a locally renowned place to hear a variety of local musicians and musical styles. You can hear anything from acoustic folk to punk and indie rock. Or, if you happen to be there on a night when music is not offered, Moxie’s walls are always festooned with paintings and other artwork either up for sale or simply there for your viewing pleasure. 128 Broadway, 345-0601

Café Max features coffeehouse folk as announced. First and Salem, 345-6655

Humboldt Café and Studio has live music some nights. 265 Humboldt Ave., 893-1979

Bars (21+)

Bullshooters Saloon is exactly what it sounds like—a wood-walled, dimly lit country-boy hangout filled with the sounds of clicking pool balls, loud conversation and laughter, and live country music every Thursday through Saturday night. On Wednesday nights you can even catch a band practicing or just messing around for whoever is listening. 1414 Park, 342-5202

Duffy’s Tavern is a little like a rec-room/basement with its dim overhead lighting, old jukebox music and its odd medley of wall decorations, which include long-forgotten movie posters, strange Oriental paintings and at least one depiction of the Last Supper. Live bands, which take over the slightly elevated stage area in one corner, usually attract audience members of all styles and ages over 21. The atmosphere is mellow and casual, and the music usually is, too. 337 Main, 343-7718

FREE WILLIE <br>There are four Indian casinos within an hour’s drive of Chico. Willie Nelson recently played at Feather Falls Casino near Oroville.

Photo By Tom Angel

La Salles has two stages, one next to the dance floor in the main area of the bar, and one on the outside patio, under the trees. The musical atmosphere seldom gets as raucous as punk rock, but usually stays more contemporary and upbeat than folk and country. The establishment has seen touring acts of different genres, as well as many of the slightly-more-together local bands. Also featured are regular dance nights and DJs. 229 Broadway, 893-1891

The Riff Raff Rock Bar, the newest addition to Chico’s music scene, deserves a place on everyone’s itinerary, even if just to check out the metal-plated bar and blood-red walls. This particular establishment never ceases to rock, featuring loud, live music almost every night of the week by local and touring rock bands. When there are not bands there are DJs, and there is always an obnoxiously punk-rock jukebox for whenever your eardrums experience a break in the sound waves. This place is strictly rock, so bring a dollar if you want to buy earplugs. 126 W. 2nd St., 345-RAFF

Stormy’s off Broadway Bar and Grill is small, dark and mellow, and the bands that play there Tuesdays through Saturdays tend to fit in with the atmosphere. The venue offers bluesy, folky and sometimes jazzy local and touring musicians, and sometimes you can even find a DJ spinning his mix, though they tend to appear out of place in the old-fashioned establishment. It also contrasts well with the Riff Raff Rock Bar, just two doors over. 132 W. 2nd St., 891-5065

The Brick Works, at Second and Wall streets downtown, is Chico’s only real nightclub, and though smaller than big-city clubs, it usually hosts the biggest touring acts, the most ambitious local acts and the largest crowds. Past performances have included big names like Motorhead, Papa Roach and Jerry Cantrell, as well as many up-and-coming rock, punk and hip-hop groups. And if you get bored, there’s a full bar upstairs for those over 21. Friday is officially known as 18-and-over night. 191 E. 2nd St, 898-9898 or 895-7700

Crazy Horse Saloon is a large bar specializing in country music. Many big acts have played here, and, yes, there’s a mechanical bull to ride—after you sign some legal paperwork. Dancing every night of the week. 303 Main St. (upstairs), 342-7299.

Madison Bear Garden, a Chico classic with an outrageous decor, is popular with families by day and college students by night. There’s disco upstairs, where you can also gear up for the famous drunken trike races. Bear Burgers and a full grill complement the bar. 316 W. Second St., 891-1639

Mr. Lucky, smack in the middle of a strip of downtown bars, features live local rock and cover bands several nights a week. 319 Main, 893-0930.

Molly Gunn’s is the club inside the Holiday Inn. It draws an older set than the downtown bars and is next door to a restaurant. There’s a live D.J. Fridays and Saturdays, but the joint is closed Sundays. 685 Manzanita Court, 345-2491

MANDOLIN MAGIC <br>Chico Performances hosts concerts of many types at Laxson Auditorium on the Chico State University campus, including this one by mandolinists Chris Thile and Mike Marshall.

Photo By Tom Angel

Nash’s, a restaurant bar, is on The Esplanade and features live music every Friday. There are a lot of “regulars” who hang out there, most of them over college age. 1717 The Esplanade, 896-1147

Normal Street Bar is the quintessential college bar, with all the drink specials and rowdy fun you’d expect. 221 Normal, 342-3542

The Oasis is in a college neighborhood but hosts both students and neighborhood regulars. There are daily drink specials, pub grub, shuffleboard, pool and Ping-Pong. 1007 West First St., 343-4305

Quackers is a bar with many regulars, mostly above college age. There’s a live D.J. on Fridays and Saturdays. 968 East Ave. 895-3825

Other performance venues

Scotty’s Boat Landing is where local river rats go to drink a cold one and munch on something from the grill. The deck overlooks the Sacramento River, and live bands occasionally perform there. River Road, 893-2020

Sierra Nevada Brewing Co., the world-famous brewery, is also a concert venue. Watch for live blues and folk-rock in the Taproom and Restaurant, and an eclectic mix of world-renowned musical talent is presented two to three times a month in the “Big Room” special-event center upstairs, which seats 350. 1075 E. 20th St., 345-2739

Senator Theater. This historic art deco movie theater has been converted to the Chico Community Performing Arts Center, a nonprofit hosting local and nationally known acts as well as theatrical and educational events. 517 Main St., 894-8621,

The Epicenter more or less consists of a room with a stage and little or no furniture. It occasionally hosts events such as ballroom dance nights and DJ dances, but it is better known as a rock, punk and hardcore venue where people go to listen to loud music without having to worry about chairs, food or fragile decorative items. Its shows are all ages since it has no bar, and there are no employees or patrons to get in the way. Located upstairs from the corner of Sixth Street and Broadway. 894-2696

LIFE IS A CABARET <br>Chico Cabaret is also home to a children’s theater troupe, A Theatre on the Inside Out, which earlier this year put on a production of <i>The Hobbit</i>.

Photo By Tom Angel

Concerts in the Park occur sporadically during the spring and summer months, when warmer weather brings people outside and into the sun shining over Chico’s Downtown Park Plaza. The gazebo in the center circle hosts various jazz, reggae, country and folk groups, providing a daytime distraction for downtown sidewalk-wanderers of any age. Located between Fourth and Fifth streets along Broadway and Main.

The Chico State campus offers several places to catch a band, or even a symphony, to liven up your evening. The new Bell Memorial Union Auditorium frequently hosts touring bands, as well as comedy acts and other events. Laxson Auditorium brings in symphonies, bands and performers from around the world, as well as from the immediate northern California neighborhood. When warmer weather comes along, the Rose Garden starts hosting outdoor punk, rock, reggae and hip-hop shows, and the Free Speech Area becomes home to daytime concerts featuring local and other small-time college bands.


The Chico theater scene is vibrant, and extends beyond the university, with several companies offering widely bringing different styles to the stage. Check the Calendar section of the Chico News & Review, and keep a sharp eye out for posters advertising productions and running dates.

Blue Room Theatre
This veteran outfit brings community theater to a professional level, with well-produced shows by talented local actors. Shows range from the locally written to award-winning scripts performed in New York. 139 W. 1st St. (upstairs), 895-3749

Chico State University

Department of Theater Arts
Throughout the academic year, the department presents a season of plays in two spaces (the Harlen Adams Theater and the intimate Wismer Theater) in the Performing Arts Center on campus. It also produces an annual musical-comedy production in Laxson Auditorium every spring. Call University Public Events at 898-5791 for listings.

Butte College Department of Performing Arts
The community college has been presenting dramas and musicals in the Chico area since the 1970s, ranging from classical to contemporary theater. The actors also take to the classroom with the annual Shakespeare in the Schools touring production. 895-2994

Chico Cabaret and A Theatre on the Inside Out
Chico Cabaret is the newest venue here, with its performance place located in the Almond Orchard at 2201 Pillsbury Road. Musicals, comedy and adult drama fill the stage as actors and even city leaders join in the fun. Tables are set, dinner-theater style, and music, dancing, improvisational comedy and more is often on tap. The cabaret’s companion organization is the nonprofit Theatre on the Inside Out, which invites young people and families to participate in theater events. The goal, besides entertainment, is to increase tolerance in the community and provide a sense of belonging. 895-0245


Chico is big enough now that most of the blockbuster feature films quickly make it to screens here, and the locally owned Pageant Theatre fills the void for art film lovers. The News & Review each week contains a listing of most selections and show times, along with a section devoted to critical appraisals of the works.

El Rey Theatre
230 West Second St. A large, classic single-screen theater. 342-2727.

801 East Ave. (North Valley Plaza mall). Chico’s newest, largest theater with 14 screens showing first-run films presented by Cinemark. 879-9612.

Pageant Theatre
351 East Sixth St. Presenting art-house films in a casual atmosphere. Look for the couches in the front row. 343-0663.