That’s The Spirit!

New Oroville concert venue aims to be creative space for local musicians

Spirited leaders (from left): Nathan Teboul and Andrew Bernard.

Spirited leaders (from left): Nathan Teboul and Andrew Bernard.

Next show:
Smokey the Groove and Similar Alien and The Lizard Brains play Saturday, July 21, 7 p.m.
Cost: $6
The Spirit2360 Oro Quincy Highway

It was only his second show as a venue manager and Nathan Teboul found himself whisked into a mosh pit, mop in hand. The co-founder of The Spirit, Oroville’s new all-ages concert venue, had jumped on cleaning up a spill near an electrical cable when he was dragged in by the enthusiastic crowd.

The energy generated by the lineup that night (June 15)—including Wisconson punk-rockers Republicans on Welfare, Public Trash out of Yolo County and Grass Valley’s Slutzville—was explosive, Teboul said.

“By the end of the show, we were all just completely exhausted,” said co-founder Andrew Bernard, who was doing sound. “Everyone’s like, ‘Man this is weird, the sound dude’s, like, running around the building.’ There was just a lot of energy.”

The Spirit is just outside of downtown Oroville in a modest 1970s-era building with a metal roof and tin-sided walls: it’s had a mix of uses, from a grocery to a carpet store to the now-defunct KRBS radio station. Teboul called the journey thus far “manifest destiny,” considering the affordable rent, the size of the building (about 2,000 square feet—the venue holds a little more than 200), and the fact that their use matches the current zoning for the building.

Just inside The Spirit’s entryway during a recent interview, the partners shared memories of growing up in Oroville, playing gigs together—Teboul is a rapper, Bernard a banjo player—after meeting in their sophomore year of high school.

They recalled an experimental show at Butte College during which Bernard played trombone and Teboul recited a poem comparing the world to the circus while clad in a denim jumpsuit.

“We’ve always just been super goofy-ass people,” Bernard said.

Though running a venue could be considered a dream for many young artists, they’re driven not just by their own fulfillment but also by a strong desire to fill a creative void in Oroville. Bernard sees The Spirit as a hub for a variety of artists: underground acts, people just starting out and experienced professionals, plus the enthusiasts who want to hear a variety of sounds.

“Places like this are sometimes the savior in some kinds of people’s lives,” Bernard said. “They come here and end up having an experience that I think can change…the trajectory of what they want to do.”

The Spirit just started putting on shows in June, so there are still many items on the to-do list: finish the stage, paint the floor (a psychedelic mural is planned) and walls, and upgrade the PA and lighting system. So far, they’ve been impressed with how many people have come out to shows, especially for a venue with no alcohol and minimal advertising. Feedback they’ve received so far is that The Spirit has a professional “house-party vibe.”

The pair said that they want to make sure punk has a home at The Spirit, but they also want to welcome metal, rap and “weird music that doesn’t have an outlet,” Bernard said. The goal is to expose Oroville to music that many there might not have had a chance to experience live.

While he acknowledged that there are financial expectations and that they want to bring in big crowds, Bernard said that they also are “open to lots of trial by fire.”

“Let’s get you in here and see what you can do,” Teboul added.

The Spirit’s genesis is great timing, says Teboul, pointing to other places in Oroville—such as the The Exchange tapas bar and Gattaca Bar & Grill—that have started hosting live music more regularly.

“It’s really cool it’s becoming more accessible,” he said, “we have a chance to [have a hand] in the re-creation of the music scene in Oroville.”