Chico definitely has a reputation for both its nightlife and its music, but to get the most out of what this active town offers, don’t stick to just one hangout. Each bar, café, theater, hall and promoter has something different planned, so open up a little and go out a lot!
Offering easy-listening folk and jazz music on weekends in an attractive, relaxed setting where professionals and serious students socialize or study, away from downtown. 664 E. First Ave., 899-1500.
Has Beans Internet Café and Galleria
A small coffee shop and bakery that often doubles as an artist/downtownie hangout. On most nights you can catch an open-mic night, a spoken-word session or poetry slam or even see a touring musician or two. The place has everything you’d need in a café—a couple of computers with Internet access, a monthly rotation of art shows on the walls and, of course, a well-used chessboard. And they make one killer cup of hot chocolate. 501 Main, 894-3033.
Moxie’s Café and Gallery
One of the bigger cafés in town, and when the sun goes down the quiet daytime setting gives way to the noise of touring American roots, indie, emo and other rock bands. Moxie’s’ walls are always festooned with paintings and other artwork from local artists, either for sale or simply there for your viewing pleasure. 128 Broadway, 345-0601.
The Naked Lounge
The trendy place to chill—either on its funky, comfortable couches inside or out front with the kids smoking at the sidewalk tables. It is located downtown and offers a quick escape from the Chico State campus. The Naked Lounge is a hip joint that attracts a diverse crowd and plays a variety of music. 118 W. Second St., 895-0676.
Crazy Horse Saloon
The large bar specializing in country music. There’s occasional live music and even a mechanical bull to ride (after you sign some legal paperwork). Dancing every night of the week. 303 Main St. (upstairs), 342-7299.
Reminiscent of the great, grungy Mission dives in S.F., with 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. Local faves the Pub Scouts play Celtic music for the Friday afternoon happy hour. 337 Main, 343-7718
The cozy bar across from the Annie’s Glen section of Bidwell Park with pub grub menu and occasional free, live music on its cool, shady patio. 392 Vallombrosa Ave, 895-9922.
A small hole in the wall in the heart of Chico’s party district. Wood chips on the floor provide atmosphere, and a jukebox provides the soundtrack. Joe’s usually attracts the overflow from other downtown bars. There are small seating areas both in and outside the bar. 749 W. 5th St., 894-3612.
Featuring two stages, one next to the dance floor in the main area of the bar and one on the outside patio, under the trees. This is a decidedly college-focused club, with dance music coming from the main stage via cover bands, touring rock bands and local metal favorites such as Red With Envy, who play regularly. Also featured are regular D.J. dance nights. 229 Broadway, 893-1891.
Madison Bear Garden
A Chico classic with an outrageous decor, the Bear 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.
Formerly the Past Time Pub, this remodeled watering hole has the look of a classic neighborhood bar, with its stainless steel and wood décor. When live jazz and blues bands aren’t performing, satellite music takes over for eclectic tastes. The bar dedicates itself to the high-end martini, scotch-and-cigar crowd and has a patio and pub cuisine with a barbecue out back. There’s also bar gaming in the form of a pool table and a shuffle board. 1600 Park Ave., 343-4915.
Monk’s Wine Lounge and Bistro
Bringing a touch of sophistication to Downtown, Monk’s offers an extensive wine list and smaller dishes including, of course, cheese plates. The food menu changes frequently and the wine list is updated occasionally as well. There are also bottled imported beers and Sierra Nevada and Guinness on tap. 128 2nd St., 343-3408.
Smack in the middle of a strip of downtown bars, features live local rock and cover bands a few nights a week with a clientele that roughly matches the rough-looking crowd streaming in and out of the tattoo shop next door. 319 Main, 893-0930.
Located at the former location of Bullshooters (for you really old-timers, Wild Hare Saloon) and under new ownership. The live music is mostly original rock, punk, rap and metal. Pub grub-type snacks are available on the weekends. 1414 Park, 342-5202.
On the Rocks Lounge
This is the recently remodeled and renamed 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 and monthly open blues jam. Karaoke is a must. 685 Manzanita Court, 345-2491.
Restaurant/bar on The Esplanade with consistent crowd of regulars on the weekends and live mellow jazz or blues every Friday. 1717 The Esplanade, 896-1147.
Normal Street Bar
The quintessential college bar, with all the drink specials and packed-in party crowd you’d expect and a jukebox chock-full of punk and metal cranked to 11. 221 Normal, 342-3542.
One of Chico’s most popular college student bars with an emphasis on the Greek crowd. Thursday through Saturday nights the place is over-packed, with a line out the door. Known for its “power hour” every Thursday night, from 9 to 10, where drinks start at a quarter and progressively increase by a quarter every 15 minutes, the bar also serves as a restaurant during the day. 5th and Ivy, 343-7459.
By the railroad tracks near the Chico State campus. Hosts both students and neighborhood regulars. There are daily drink specials, pub grub, shuffleboard, pool and Ping-Pong. 1007 West First St., 343-4305.
A bar of regulars, far from downtown, with a nice dance floor and a mostly above-college-age crowd. There’s a live D.J. on Fridays and Saturdays and there’s always sports on the TV. 968 East Ave. 895-3825.
Stormy’s Off-Broadway Bar and Grill
Small, dark and mellow, populated primarily by locals, and the bands that play there Tuesdays through Saturdays tend to be of the hippie/jam/folk genres. 132 W. 2nd St., 891-5065.
Other performance venues
Chico State venues
The campus offers several places to catch a band, or even a symphony, to liven up your evening. The Bell Memorial Union Auditorium frequently hosts touring bands, as well as comedy acts and other events, thanks to the student-run A.S. Presents, which also takes to the Rose Garden and Free Speech area for free outdoor punk, rock, reggae and hip-hop shows. Laxson Auditorium hosts the excellent North State Symphony and other community events, as well as world-class musical and theatrical acts from around the globe, thanks to the most prestigious promoter in town, Chico Performances. And two venues in the Performing Arts Center, the Ruth Rowland-Taylor Recital Hall and the Harlen Adams Theatre, feature the best in performances generated by the School of the Arts.
Concerts in the Park
Occurring regularly during the spring and summer months, when warmer weather brings people outside and into the shade of Children’s Park. Friday-night fare is generally for families, while Tuesday-night performances put on by the Downtown Music Revolution offer louder rock, punk, jam and reggae concerts for the young and young-at-heart. Located at the intersection of the Esplanade and W. First Street in downtown Chico.
Wondering where all the hip kids have gone? Head up Broadway to the tiny record shop that hosts all the newest and hottest touring underground hip-hop, indie and punk acts as well as all the local kid crews. Great mix of locals and students. All-ages and always cheap. 530 Broadway. 342-8290.
Scotty’s Boat Landing
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 rock, reggae or blues 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, from Tommy Emmanuel to Southern Culture on the Skids, two to three times a month in the state-of-the-art, 350-seat Big Room special-event center upstairs. 1075 E. 20th St., 345-2739 www.sierranevadabrewery.com.
The Chico theater scene is vibrant and extends beyond the university, with several companies bringing different styles to the stage. The recently formed Alliance of Chico-area Theatres is a testament to the wide variety of quality choices for theater in this area. Check the Calendar section of the Chico News & Review, and keep an eye out for posters advertising productions and running dates.
Birdcage Theatre (Oroville)
Community run productions of the classics in an intimate setting. 1740 Bird St., Oroville, 533-BIRD (2473).
Blue Room Theatre
This veteran outfit brings community theater to a professional level, with well-produced cutting-edge and classic dramas and comedies featuring talented local actors. Shows range from locally written to award-winning scripts. 139 W. First St. (upstairs), 895-3749 www.blueroomtheatre.com.
Butte College Department of Performing Arts
The community college has been presenting one drama or musical each semester since the 1970s, ranging from classical to contemporary productions. The actors also take to the classroom with the annual Shakespeare in the Schools touring production. 895-2994.
Chico Cabaret Theatre
Chico Cabaret is located in the Almond Orchard shopping center and focuses on lively musicals, comedy and adult drama. Tables are set, dinner-theater style, and live music often accompanies productions. The Cabaret’s companion organization is Theatre on the Inside Out, which invites young people and families to participate in theater events. In addition to entertainment, the theater’s goal is to increase tolerance in the community and provide a sense of belonging. 2201 Pillsbury Road, in the Almond Orchard Center. 895-0245. www.chicocabaret.com.
Chico Theater Company
The newest theater group in town, the year-old Chico Theater Company was started by locals Marc Edson and Brian Holderman with the goal of showcasing Broadway musicals. Housed in the former home of the Eaton Road Opera House, CTC plans eight shows a year, with premieres on Wednesdays and shows Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays. For fun, theatergoers are asked to dress up and get into the red-carpet mood on premiere night. 166 Eaton Road. 894-2CTC. www.chicotheatercompany.com.
CSU, Chico Department of Theater Arts
Throughout the academic year, the department presents plays in two spaces (the Harlen Adams Theatre and the intimate Wismer Theatre) in the Performing Arts Center on campus. It also produces an annual musical production in Laxson Auditorium every spring and holds forth with the Court Theatre program during the summers. Call University Public Events at 898-5791 or University Box Office at 898-6333 for listings. www.csuchico.edu/hfa/chicoarts/0405artsmastercal.html.
Ensemble Theatre of Chico
ETC spends most of the year hibernating, emerging every summer for its annual Shakespeare in the Park festival. Two or three productions are put on outdoors in the Cedar Grove area of Bidwell Park, with one selection selected from the canon of Shakespeare classics.
Theatre on the Ridge (Paradise)
The oldest community theater in the area, TOTR puts on an eclectic schedule of plays from contemporary to classic. 3735 Neal Rd., Paradise, 877-5760, www.totr.tierranet.com.
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 has a detailed listing of all showings each week, as well as a selection of reviews for most films.
Presenting art-house films in a casual atmosphere. Get there early for the couches in the front row, and don’t miss out on Cheapskate Mondays, all seats just $2.50. 351 East Sixth St., 343-0663. www.pageantchico.com.
Chico’s largest theater, with 14 screens showing first-run films presented by Cinemark. 801 East Ave. (North Valley Plaza). 879-9612. www.cinemark.com.