Comes marching in
Local band Bazooka Zoo's Groovy Good Time Bash is a monthly event at Reno's newest music venue
The St. James family of bars has grown greatly over the last few years. The Brasserie SF opened recently in the Mission District of San Francisco. And the latest installment opened the doors to its new Midtown Reno location at the end of last month. The Saint, 761 S. Virginia St., bills itself as a taproom, barrelhouse and music hall.
The bar itself is replete with a rotating 24-handle tap selection, which features many of the Brasserie’s own award-winning styles, as well as other local fares from breweries like Imbib, Pigeon Head, Great Basin and Under the Rose. Owner Art Farley and brewmasters the Watterson brothers were named the 2014 Great American Beer Festival’s midsize brewers and midsize brewpub of the year.
“It’s a cultural hub for beer drinkers and enthusiasts to come … and get a really good feel about what Reno has to offer,” said Georgette Crush, booking and PR manager for the Saint. “We’re expanding nationally—our beer. We’re about to be in New York City and Colorado, so it’s exciting because our beer is really taking hold.”
With a barrel aging room that will hold around 300 barrels and plans to establish an in-house distillery in future years, The Saint and its staff make no apologies that their focus is on the booze. But The Saint’s self-proclaimed utility as a music hall, with its spacious corner stage, dedicated sound system, and floor space for 200 occupants, has many of Reno’s musicians taking notice.
“Every band wants to play here right now,” said Crush. “Every band is hitting me up. I’m so excited. Honestly, that’s great because I need to know my local scene, [but] can [they] fill a 200-person venue? There’s only two residencies that I’m focusing on right now with my local scene, and that is honky tonk, and Bazooka Zoo.”Zootopia
Bazooka Zoo is a local band that has been playing Reno’s venues, house parties and club rooms since 2010. For the past seven months, they have been residents of the St. James Infirmary, hosting the Groovy Good Time Bash on the last Thursday of every month.
“We are the space rock collective, and what that means is that we are a club of experimental musicians working around town to integrate the musical community,” said Zac Haley, frontman and founding member of Bazooka Zoo. “The Groovy Good Time Bash has been an excellent way to bring together musicians to have an awesome time with our friends. It’s been a wild night of creative music every month.”
On May 27, Bazooka Zoo will begin its residency at The Saint, and have high hopes for what the venue’s specialty niche occupancy could do for Reno bands attempting to reach a bigger audience.
Bazooka Zoo’s relationship with St. James Infirmary has been more congenial than with other venues in the past, the band said. “We have played every single venue in town, and we haven’t stopped for five years, until we got the residency,” said Haley. “St. James definitely does [respect their musicians],” added Mac Esposito, bassist for the band. “They offer what they absolutely can, and they don’t try to cover it up like, ’oh well you can drink all you want,’ and offer us drinks in form of payment. In my personal opinion, that’s a form of disrespect to any artist.”
Being paid for shows is one aspect of playing for St. James Infirmary that members of Bazooka Zoo say they haven’t always had with other venues, like the now closed Knitting Factory, which, according to Domenico Lacala, guitarist for Bazooka Zoo and front man of affiliate band Nico’s Mystery, would not pay local bands to open for touring acts. Practices like these, the band says, have stunted the development of local acts in the past.
“Largely it comes from they’re just not paying musicians enough too,” said Haley. “There’s not a lot of incentive to do five hours of promotion, or practice that extra two rehearsals if you’re only getting paid 20 bucks each. We think a lot of groups in Reno have all the talent that it takes, but they don’t have the business sensibility to make it viable for a business to utilize them.”
A lack of business sensibility, according to Haley and Crush, is a major obstacle preventing many of Reno’s developing acts from playing mid-size venues like The Saint. And in the era of DIY production when being a band means doing most production, promotion and marketing in-house, Crush says creating a strong online following is the first step.
“I can’t book bands that don’t have followings,” said Crush. “Do I want to help my local scene here? Yes, absolutely, so that’s why I’m using the Infirmary. I’m letting in all kinds of bands now that maybe weren’t always the ones that could play before.”
A strong showing at St. James Infirmary, says Crush, could open doors for bands looking to graduate to playing the bigger room. With The Saint’s aspirations for attracting national touring acts, both Crush and Haley agree that bands that pay their dues could find themselves in position to take their show on the road.
“Say it’s a good pairing,” said Crush. “The opening band—the local scene—meets this national touring act, and they say, ’Oh, my god, you guys are so good; you’re amazing. Why don’t you come on tour with us?’ Boom!”
Touring, agrees Haley, should be the aspiration of acts that not only want to bolster their own reputations for consistency when it comes to drawing crowds on the home front, but also those who wish to act as ambassadors of the burgeoning musical community incubated in Reno over the last decade.
“You’re not just going to sit in Reno forever, you need to cross-pollinate, and you need to experience other music scenes and absorb their creativity through osmosis to create the most successful musical vehicle you can,” said Haley. “We will be bringing touring bands through [for the Bash] when the right opportunities arrive, and we will be hitting the road a lot more in 2017 and bringing back our favorite acts to Reno.”
Creating avenues to and from Reno is crucial for Reno’s cultural development as a whole, says Crush. “To help build our music scene better, we need artists to see what our local scene is. Because they’re out there spreading the word wherever they’re traveling. They travel all over the world. But when they come in and say, ’Oh, this band from Reno!’ I want them to say thing[s] like how people talk about our beer.”
Bazooka Zoo’s Groovy Good Time Bash will take the stage of The Saint on the last Friday of every month starting May 27. This month’s guest act will feature local jazz fusion band Nico’s Mystery. More information as well as a full calendar of The Saint’s upcoming events can be found on its and Bazooka Zoo’s Facebook pages.