Just don’t skin your knees
When I first moved here, an employer who was interviewing me for an early morning dildo-manufacturing shift warned me about the hard-partying Chico nightlife.
“Some people can’t handle it,” she said, giving me a cautionary look. “This place can get to be too much, so be careful!”
At the time, I shrugged off her warning as the type of banter aimed at college-aged students with the potential of taking their low-paying dildo jobs for granted. Little did I know there was gold in them thar words.
If there’s one thing that goes on regularly around here, for better or worse, it’s drinking, partying and howling at the moon. For those students who aren’t already ensconced in the frat lifestyle, there are plenty of bars and clubs to choose from in the epicenter of party central downtown; plenty of drink specials and dance parties every night of the week to help jiggify your soul.
Unfortunately, it’s been pointed out by more than one music lover that downtown Chico has a rather weak track record on attendance at the variety of live-music clubs downtown.
Local armchair pundits proffer numerous reasons: The bands are too obscure. The shows start too late. College students are always broke. College students here have a taste for mainstream musical acts that rarely ever play a “C” market like Chico.
Whatever the reason, most of the shows are small scale, with a few exceptions (usually big-budget affairs at the university or one of the nearby casinos). This means that, although many show-goers can experience the magic of outstanding intimate performances in small clubs, others may hit lackluster performances thanks to weak turnouts—those times when crickets rub their legs together for encore applause and a promoter stands in the corner with a nervous grin and six dollar bills to offer a touring band of eight musicians.
Here’s a quick rundown of the most commonly frequented live-music club venues to choose from, with some typical acts and facts for the particular venue to help “you"—the new nightlifer in Chico.
Just don’t forget to bring your ID. Oh, and remember the words of my former employer and don’t wind up on a liver transplant list or in a police line-up, OK? I know you can handle yourself better than those cookie-cut jarheads pissing on a flowerbed over there.
The Brick Works (191 East Second St.)
Perhaps the best venue downtown for sound quality. Features a professional sound-mixing board, top-notch speakers, a large, finely finished dance floor and a great variety of up-and-coming acts. Over the years, we’ve seen numerous stars come and go: from Kid Rock to Ron Jeremy, as well as great reggae (Burning Spear, The Wailers) and rock (Motorhead, The Hives, Mike Watt) shows. The events that always seem to turn up the biggest crowds are the all-ages shows for a band with a MTV buzz clip, or whatever they call it now.
Thanks to certain idiots, a lot of shows no longer feature alcohol inside the club (you have to go into the adjoining U-Bar or Panama’s for a drink).
Oh yeah, I should mention that Floater plays here like, every other month. Or they used to.
The Senator Theater (517 Main St.)
A nonprofit organization run by local music impresario DNA, the old Senator movie theater has a strong community presence and definite atmosphere about it that seems to be continually evolving with ongoing renovations of the large, hollow interior. Although there have been some sound kinks to work out, the do-it-yourself-style theater has come on over the last year with a number of interesting shows to choose from: from Bay Area hip-hop stars like E40 performing karaoke, to acts like Will Oldham, former Stones guitarist Mick Taylor, Taj Mahal and Andrew Tosh—an always eclectic variety of incoming talent.
The venue, which serves water, candy and art in the plush lobby, is also home to a number of community events like plays, art openings, film showings and more. It needs your support to continue.
Mr. Lucky (319 Main St.)
Hardcore, dude. This big ole warehouse of a bar with adjoining tattoo shop has become popular over the last couple years as a loud, crowded dance club on the weekends. There is a diverse crowd offered here that ranges from low-rider dudes that appear to have just gotten out of prison to drag queens, rockabilly heroes, low-rent strippers and lots of college students. Good place to get your groove on to strong drinks and slamming DJ tunes from DJ PJ—just leave the shiv at home, homey.
Crazy Horse Saloon (303 Main St.)
Oh lord, the Crazy Horse, home to all the cowboys. This is a unique place that hosts big-name country artists every once in a while and has a built-in audience of tight-jeaned, spur-sportin', cowboy-hat-wearin’ dudes who like their American beer cold and their American women hot with big hair and lotsa ketchup. Oops, I mean makeup.
I kinda like this place just because it’s different and sincere plus there’s a big dance floor, lots of colored lights and a small balcony where you can get away from it all.
Don’t get me wrong, this is not all country music. A lot of young cowboys listen to MTV artists these days too and like to dance the bump and grind to the hippity hop—way more scintillating than a line dance.
So check your local listing for their ever-popular dance nights and grab your guy or gal for the dosey-do.
Tidbit: They also have a mechanical bull and a shot chair. Chico suba-cultcha, Western style. Fun fun fun.
Duffy’s Tavern (337 Main St.)
Home to perhaps the most eclectic bar crowd in Chico, Duffy’s is a locals kind of bar that has live shows once in a blue moon these days. But when they do, it can be hella fun, as the kids say.
The big ongoing musical event here is the Friday happy hour tradition, when friends and family of the great local Irish music group the Pub Scouts kick back and let off some steam in a warm, crowded atmosphere of love and music. The majority of you students don’t need to worry about this—it’s already too crowded.
Tidbit: Legendary crooner Jonathan Richman (yeah, that guy from There’s Something About Mary) usually plays here at least once a year.
Stormy’s Off Broadway (132 West Second St.)
Need a miracle? This is your Jerry Garcia shrine that doubles as a cozy little bar for friendly folk. A small room with a window stage for intimate folk, rock and country performances, this has been a standby for years and offers local mic nights as well as a wall of framed local caricatures of people in the arts community. One love, baby.
Tidbit: I hear the Stormy’s chef can make whip up a mean gumbo.
LaSalles (228 Broadway)
This place has one of the coolest layouts of any club in town. You have a large stage up front with a good sound system, a big dance floor, a large area of seats and the piece de resistance: a large back patio with palm trees, heaters in the winter and misters in the summer. Good score on the comfort factor.
The venue has been staging more shows over the last year, everything from ska/funk legends Fishbone to popular ‘80s cover bands like Tainted Love, Atomic Punks (Van Halen tribute) and Quiet Riot—oh wait, that was the real band.
Good, spacious place to see a show when the crowd is with it.
Tidbit: There are two human go-go cages above the bars just begging for you to strip down and dance in.
Madison Bear Garden (316 West Second St.)
One of the older college bars in town, this big brick building practically adjoins the English Department on Chico State campus and would (ironically) probably drive most would-be poets to hang themselves.
While it functions as a popular restaurant during the days, at night it becomes party central for some serious groin heat between ravenous frat boys and women who take three hours to get ready before they step outside.
Needless to say, many walks of shame originate from this venue.
With drinks and food downstairs and the fascinating natural-selection process upstairs, the place is usually packed.
Tidbit: The Bear just celebrated its 25th anniversary.
Chico Women’s Club (592 East Third St.)
Not really a club like these other drinking establishments, this is a warm, community venue for mostly folk shows. Good people, good times—safe, friendly, family-styled environment for concerts, plays, community events.
Tidbit: I saw a great local production of The Vagina Monologues here once.
Moxie’s Café And Gallery (128 Broadway)
Again, not really a club, but this is usually for the people who want to enjoy a nice intimate show in a cool little coffee house. Books a good variety of acts, including some high-energy affairs like the African drum sessions that can turn this place into a dance hall frenzy.
Well, that’s admittedly a brief rundown—sorry to those we couldn’t fit in. There are lots of other venues, from casinos such as Feather Falls and Gold Country that book big-name to small coffee shops, restaurants and bars spread out all over the place that also have live music and dance nights. Just check out our wonderful Chico News & Review music calendar for more details.
Happy trails wherever your pleasure takes you, people.
Next: Think thrifty