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Friday plus Chico equals a night of exploring the possibilities

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Night crawlin’
Pick up the Chico News & Review every Thursday and follow along as we cover the entire local music scene. Turn to the Nightlife section for all the beats, jams, mosh pits and freak shows in town.

The enemy of a rewarding nightlife is routine. While it’s good to establish your favorite spots—familiar sanctuaries where everyone (or at least somebody) knows your name—it can get awfully droll sitting in the same space, sipping the same drink, staring at the same faces while listening to the same old band or songs on the jukebox.

Luckily, Chico is full of opportunities to make any evening unforgettable, or at the very least a break from the ordinary. There really is something for everyone, which I set out to prove on a Friday night the week before finals last spring. My trusty pal and fellow intrepid explorer, Timmy Turtle, and I mounted our bikes and, with a rough course plotted allowing plenty of space to let the night take us where it wanted, set out in search of adventure.

Our first destination was the inaugural Friday Night Concert of the season in the downtown Chico City Plaza. We arrived in time to catch the last song of the Alice Peake Experience’s set, a cover of “Knocking on Heaven’s Door” that had the masses moving.

Whether or not the featured band is suited to one’s particular sensibilities, these Friday-evening events offer a fascinating glimpse of a cross-section of Chico’s denizens. Several families staked their spots on grassy areas, children frolicked in the fountain, and Average Joes joined hippies and homeless folk as they swayed and twirled before the bandstand. The group’s namesake rocked a pan flute, backed by her capable band of middle-aged merrymakers.

As the crowd slowly dispersed, we pedaled on toward our next planned destination.

While en route to Chico’s south side, we ran into a few friends outside the new craft-beer bar, the Winchester Goose, at the corner of Eighth and Broadway. They invited us into the yet-to-be-open bar (scheduled to open in early summer 2013) to check out the inside and introduce us to co-owner Steven Hall. Hall showed us some of the amazing work done on the interior of the space, including a solid black-walnut bar.

Next, we headed farther south, down Park Avenue, to where MANAS Artspace was hosting a reception for one of its open-submission art shows, the LP Cookie Camp Mystery Mixer, in which artists were prompted to create something based on a random vinyl record and a fortune-cookie filling.

The art was great, and the vibe at MANAS is fantastically strange. The art-space’s ringleader, a man called Dragonboy, shared two poems he’d prepared for the occasion (“Potent and rich, with the light-weighted screeching love of a billion seagulls, you are …,” began one poem). The small audience sat or stood enrapt, one man slowly moving his hands above his head like an evangelical in church, another rolling and crawling around on the floor as if emerging from the womb. I snacked on free garlic and almonds, and sipped a $2 glass of wine, thinking I maybe should have ordered whatever those dudes were having.

After that, we headed a couple blocks down the road and popped into the Maltese Bar & Tap Room. On Fridays, the Maltese hosts an LGBTQ Dance Party, Chico’s only regular event tailored toward the gay community. The dance floor was mostly empty, as we were there on the early side of the evening, so we took a breather on the bar’s excellent back patio and enjoyed the lovely weather. The Maltese hosts live music and various events, and has a wonderfully diverse clientele throughout the week.

On our way back downtown, we stopped at a parking lot adjacent to the Senator Theatre where a number of cyclists had gathered for an outdoor showing of Breaking Away (which a friend recently referred to as “The Karate Kid of cycling movies”). The event was hosted by the Butte Bicycle Coalition to celebrate Bike Month. We missed the film, but chatted with attendees who stuck around to help clean up, and with organizer Karen Goodwin, who said it was a great success.

After a quick drink with friends at the Towne Lounge (RIP—closed as of May 31), we took a quick lap around downtown, passing the college-age kids dressed to the nines waiting in line at LaSalles on Broadway while a friend grabbed some re-energizing grub from the Weiner Man’s cart at Second and Broadway. After a bit of replotting and course correction, we decided to hit The Beach.

The Beach is actually three bars in one at the corner of Second and Wall streets—The University Bar in the basement, Panama Bar and Café on Second Street, both interconnecting with The Beach. The main area is Chico’s closest approximation of the club scene you might expect in bigger cities. Two dollars buys entrance to all three and a handful of $1-off drink tickets. Though not my normal scene, The Beach was an interesting break from my usual routine, and The U-Bar offers a respite from the more chaotic upstairs.

We’d planned a few other stops—a punk show at Monstros, 2 a.m. slices of pizza at Franky’s, maybe hit a house party—but never quite made it. More stops for our next adventure.

In closing, I urge everyone to keep an open mind, check out places you might not normally, stay safe and—please—leave the weaponry and the bad attitudes at home.