Punk and panache
Monstros Pizza and Café Coda serve up music from opposite spectrums
Two decades ago Monstros Pizza co-existed in a West Sacramento Avenue nook beside Scuzzy McScuzzmat’s Laundry Hellhole, whose filthy environs begged the question: Why would anyone do laundry where dirt, chewed gum, shredded newspapers, and sometimes broken glass littered the floor?
One has to believe that sometimes good really does triumph over evil, as the laundromat was taken over by Monstros some years back. Flash forward to 2007, and Monstros Pizza now looks to be a musical venue worthy of the legacy of Fulcrum Records, The Blue Room and Juanita’s—a place where people show up before the first band starts and stay until the final one finishes.
And on the other end of town, on a strip occupied by auto mechanics and a modest skate park, a wide range of local artists including Aubrey Debauchery, The Secret Stolen and Machinegreen are finding the cozy confines of the newly opened Café Coda to be another reliable venue that serves as a perfect sidekick to Monstros’ punk rock-and-pizza approach.
Needless to say, both venues are bringing in an interesting assortment of music.
In December, a Monstros show with S.F.'s Calling All Monsters, Seve vs. Evan, West By Swan and The Makai not only saw a wide variety of genres (indie rock, emo pop, dark metal, space rock), but also an enthusiastic crowd of all ages that seemed to find something from each act to embrace.
You could argue that it’s the people behind the scenes responsible for the overwhelmingly positive vibe behind the show, and you’d be right. Comparing notes with others, this evening’s mood was also not an anomaly.
Working with Monstros owner Greg Danielewicz, Brent Blacklisted and Gruk’s Rachel Loveless began booking shows last summer. The decision to do so was almost out of the two’s hands, as circumstance and coincidence combined to put them in the position of leading the charge in making Monstros Pizza one of the premier venues for all ages in Chico.
Blacklisted worked for Union Graphics, whose clients included Monstros Pizza. Meanwhile, long-standing Chico punk band the P.A.W.N.S., close friends of Blacklisted and Loveless, had been investigating the possibility of playing there.
“Rachel and I would always get pizza there,” says Blacklisted, remembering his epiphany: “Hey! Rachel and I can definitely book shows here.”
Monstros Pizza is a unique place to host shows, replete with vintage pinball machines (moved to make room for the bands by the bands) and a sawdust-strewn floor. It is also a unique notion to offer admission based on donations rather than a set price. Many without the means can come and enjoy the music, and those who have the money should feel the conscience tug at the wallet or purse to contribute to the bands.
“It was a practical matter” says Blacklisted. “It’s hard to charge a set price when people are wandering in to buy a slice.”
The idea is not to hurt the business that serves as the umbrella for all the great work put forth by Blacklisted and Loveless. Some come for the pizza and stick around, while others find a Marshall stack to their ear less than pleasing and can take the pizza home on those rare nights Monstros hosts shows (they’re trying to keep it at two shows per month).
When asked what Monstros offers audiences and bands that other local venues might not, Blacklisted replies, “We offer more of a community or collective experience.”
The communal feel will take another great leap forward when Blacklisted and Loveless put a great concept into practice.
“Bands will all sit down and eat together at 6, before the show,” Blacklisted says, citing a custom that Chico punks the P.A.W.N.S. encountered while playing squats in Europe.
Blacklisted adds, “Our friends help us out a lot,” citing band members from Gruk, Zabaleen, The Makai and P.A.W.N.S. as considerate and valuable resources.
And Café Coda, under the ownership of former Fenix Down keyboardist Eric Danielli, has opened its doors as a notable new eatery and music venue in the Humboldt Studios building on Humboldt Avenue.
Paul Valladon, who manages the music and art at Café Coda, says the goal is to strike a balance between all-ages shows and shows for the 21-and-over crowd. Valladon says they are looking forward to bringing in some national touring bands as well as using the Humboldt Studio facilities to do some recording.
And with shows far ranging as the New Wave punk of Machinegreen and the scat-jazz of Holly Taylor and Eric Peter, Valladon says things seem to be off on the right foot.
“It’s working so far.”
Mark Lore contributed to this story.