A week in the (night) life

You’ll need more than a week to take in all the weeknight entertainment Sacramento has to offer

If you think there isn’t enough nightlife in Sacramento, take this challenge: Go out and see every regularly recurring weeknight performance at least once. We’re betting you’ll be setting off your Fourth of July firecrackers before you’ve attended them all.

When we first set out to partake in a week’s worth of nightlife, we thought we’d have a couple of choices every night that we could easily winnow down (live blues trumps country line dancing any day). But to our amazement and frustration, there was just too much going on for us to see it all—if we wanted to make our deadline, that is.

For example, we’d need a month of Sundays, at least, to take in all the reggae, blues and trivia nights in the region. And, we’d have to block off Tuesdays between now and Mardi Gras, 2007, to enjoy the various activities on that night of the week.

So, to whittle down our options, we focused on weeknight events that were all about self expression. Extemporaneous creativity occurs contemporaneously on a daily basis around Sacramento, so it wasn’t too hard to do.

the Downtown Divas

Photo By Jill Wagner

A Sunday night in February, 8 p.m. The streets of midtown are cold and quiet, and many still lament money squandered on holiday gifts and party outfits. But, behind the doors of Faces, what seems like every gay, straight, transgender and transsexual person west of Tahoe is crammed into the video bar, waiting for the Downtown Divas to take the stage. The crowd is still as Kelly Clarkson enters stage left, looking slightly larger but no less enthusiastic than she did when we last saw her crooning that catchy pop anthem “Since U Been Gone.” Cher, Janet Jackson and Diana Ross strut, lip-synch, tease and titillate as all successful divas do. Men and women thrust dollar bills into their garters and cleavage while others sit on the edge of their barstools, waiting for the diva’s touch to befall them. Amid it all, Tina Turner-esque hostess Danielle flaunts her gams and invites patrons to show her their penises, or whatever they’ve got hiding down there. 2000 K Street, (916) 448-7798.

Other Sunday night events:
K-9 Jazz Night Marilyn’s on K; 908 K Street, (916) 446-4361.
Blues Jam The Torch Club; 904 15th Street, (916) 443-2797.

Monday night, 9 p.m. A short list to choose from tonight, but even under the “self-expression” guidelines, it is long enough to leave us scratching our heads. Open mic … or karaoke? What about live blues? Based as it is on loose lyrical narratives and poetic measures, blues seems the most likely to be open to individual interpretation. So, we head for the Torch Club, a pleasant place for a live show with its candlelit tables and open windows, to see the Aaron King Trio, who have played there every Monday night for eight years. In 1999, Aaron King won a Sammies award for best guitarist, and he has been active on the Sacramento blues scene ever since. But, tonight it is drummer Boutté who wows us with his voice that wraps around our heads like a silk scarf, his ballads thick with emotion. King says the band “plays what we want” on Monday nights, which is what makes it so enjoyable. You won’t hear robust renditions of the Grateful Dead or interpretations of your requests. Instead, you’ll hear three talented musicians occasionally ribbing each other, commandeering the bartender or asking the audience to pipe down and listen to the music. 904 15th Street, (916) 443-2797.

the Aaron King Trio

Photo By Jill Wagner

Other Monday night events:
Open Mic, Fox & Goose Public House; 1001 R Street, (916) 443-8825.
Metal Mondays The Golden Bear; 2326 K Street, (916) 441-2242.

Tuesday 7 p.m. Tuesday, one Sacramento scenester told us, is when things really start to heat up. True enough, we have our share of performances to choose from, but we are intrigued by Recess, a self proclaimed experimental/nu-jazz/jam band that began playing at Luna’s Café in late December. Recess isn’t a band per se, but a mix-and-match group of “orbiting” musicians and primary member Rich Kazanjian, who plays bass and baritone guitar, loops, hand percussion, shakers and the didgeridoo (an Australian wind instrument—we looked it up). Rich describes Recess as a “break from work” where “nothing is planned, nothing is sketched out.” Instead, the musicians just choose a tempo and see what happens. After the first few minutes—which basically sounds like four guys tuning their instruments at once—the disparate sounds come together and build up to a crescendo that fills the room but doesn’t overwhelm it. Instead of being fully polished for the audience, the musicians of Recess want you to hear them work out the kinks, to hear the chords as they progress from simple repetition to an intricate conversation; to experience, as they do, the process of music being born. 1414 16th Street, (916) 441-3931.

Other Tuesday night events:
Spoken word and poetry, Stoney Inn. 1320 Del Paso Road, (916) 927-6023.
Open mic, Capitol Garage; 1500 K Street, (916) 444-3633.

Wednesday night, 9 p.m. Hunger sets in.

Mahogany Urban Poetry Series, Sweet Fingers Restaurant

Photo By Jill Wagner

Amid the ethnic eateries on Broadway, Sweet Fingers offers a forum for food and freedom of expression. The Mahogany Urban Poetry Series begins in 30 minutes, giving us plenty of time to feast on spicy and fresh Jamaican stir fry (with great vegetarian choices) before the entertainment starts. This particular Wednesday precedes Valentine’s Day, so the theme of the night is anti-love. Poets speak lyrically and passionately about cheating, political upheaval, racism and blight. We nod our heads in unison at the powerful images their words create for us. It’s serious stuff, but there is plenty of levity. Deejay Rock Bottom and emcee Khiry Malik exchange barbs in the manner of David Letterman and Paul Shaffer. “What would you rather win, ladies,” Malik asks, “five bucks or a date with Rock Bottom?” Patrons trickle in as the night goes on, pay the $5 cover charge and fill up the rows of wooden chairs in front of the stage. One woman appears too shy to enter, but the other patrons coax her in: “Just stay an hour, you’ll love it.” She is still there, engrossed in the words, when we leave shortly before midnight. 1704 Broadway, (916) 492-9336.

Other Wednesday night events:
Urban Jazz Workshop, Fox & Goose Public House; 1001 R Street, (916) 443-8825.
Open Blues Jam, Stoney Inn. 1320 Del Paso Road, (916) 927-6023.

Thursday night, 10 p.m. It could be the end of the week or the beginning of the weekend. Either way, the low sofas and sultry atmosphere at Kasbah Lounge seem to provide the perfect place to finish our research mission. The draw tonight is the Andreas Mario Project, a guitar-percussion-horn ensemble billed as a “cross between Billie Holiday and Tom Waits.” We are skeptical about such a merger, but the trio quickly makes us eat crow—or, in deference to this Middle Eastern-themed lounge, hummus and baba ganoush. A woman plays a small soprano saxophone, filling the room with a jazzy undertone and an occasional Arabian-sounding melody. Andreas Mario’s vocals vacillate between folk and blues, but always remain emotionally charged. At the sound of his plaintive humming, my heart sputters the way it might when saying goodbye to a newfound love. If this is what Billie Holiday and Tom Waits sound like, we hope they stay together forever. 2115 J Street, (916) 442-4388.

Other Thursday night events:
Live Jazz Jam, Blue Room Lounge; 2600 Auburn Boulevard, (916) 487-7600.
Luna’s Unplugged; Luna’s Café, 1414 16th Street, (916) 441-3931.