Making a scene
One-stop rock space greets local music community with open arms
The logistics of starting a band—especially for people who’ve never done it before—can be so daunting that tomorrow’s aspiring rock stars often don’t even make it into the garage, let alone out of it.
The cost of buying equipment can be prohibitive. And if you do have a few musically inclined friends—a couple who play guitar and/or bass decently, maybe another who screams mostly in key—will you be able to find a drummer with equipment and transportation? Even if you manage to get all the moving parts together and memorize the arrangement of a few chords, you still have to find a place to rehearse where neighbors won’t be annoyed. Plans can easily fizzle out before a fledgling outfit ever gets a chance to lay down a demo track or cut its teeth on stage.
With his new club, Dex, Matt Savage hopes to make all of these things as easy as possible.
“What I’m really shooting for is a one-stop shop,” said Savage, founder of the newly opened band space on Third Street in downtown Chico, in the spot most recently occupied by The Last Stand Comedy Venue.
To this end, Dex is more than your typical venue. As Savage explained, the space and its full complement of top-of-the-line musical equipment is available for bands—even those lacking their own gear—to practice. Savage also attempts to hook up like-minded players looking to jam with others.
And when it comes time to play that first gig, Dex has an arms-wide-open booking policy toward all genres, styles and skill levels. Everyone gets a cut of the door, and for those who want the help, Savage’s brother Forester even does logo and graphic design to help bands establish their identity and to help with fliers and other promotional material.
“It’s been going great since we started last month,” Savage said, saying some of the stand-out shows have included those headlined by local ska-punk youngsters Frankie Doppler’s Nuclear Sunrise and Oroville metal crew A Holy Ghost Revival.
Dex is all-ages and at least partly geared toward younger acts. It is also an extension of Savage’s dual recording/band-production companies—Dex Records/Band Creator— as well as being home to his recording studio. Some bands Savage produces himself include Ashes, a five-piece all-girl band whose members are mostly junior-high age, and DC Radio, composed of pre-teens who make music he likens to Linkin Park.
This is Savage’s third attempt at a venue/music-production center, the first two (called Band Creator) failing to stick not because of lack of interest, said Savage, but because of issues with the physical locations. He said the first incarnation—in Paradise—did well, but zoning and septic issues would’ve required going through an expensive permitting process and 60 days of non-operation, all with no guarantee the club’s issues would be settled. Similar problems affected his second attempt in south Chico. Savage said he believes the downtown Chico spot will work out.
“The zoning is all correct to host live music, and it’s a great spot,” he said.
Savage said the new venue did well in April, its first full month of operation, or at least well enough for him to break even. As the club does consistently better and he hopefully gets some “breathing room,” he plans to increase the cut the bands get of the door.
“I really want to give back to the local community and to stay involved,” said Savage, who has played in local bands (notably Hazmat) himself over the years. “I’m married with kids and responsibilities now, so I figure this is my best way of doing that.”
Dex currently hosts concerts, DJs, comedy and other events Wednesday through Saturday nights and eventually plans to keep the doors open longer. While April mostly saw local bands on Dex’s stage, he has several touring acts slated to appear the next few months (including a four-band screamo/theatrical-rock tour stopping off on June 7, featuring headliners Snow White’s Poison Bite). As part of his effort to extend the club’s hours, Savage said he plans to host Christian bands on Sunday afternoons.
“I want it open and available seven days a week, night and day, and that’s what we’re working toward,” he said.