Another roundup at the Cattle Club
Nirvana, Tool, Alice in Chains—remembering Sacramento’s ’90s alt-rock incubator
On the night of May 11, 1989, Sacramento’s music scene felt a seismic shift.
For the 200 locals inside a janky club on Folsom Boulevard—where a random pole blocked the best view of the stage—it was just an evening to get your ears blasted on Go, Dog. Go!’s rock ’n’ roll.
Thirty years later, we now know better. That night birthed the Cattle Club, which nurtured Sacramento bands such as Deftones and Cake. The all-ages venue doubled as Sacramento’s incubator for the 1990s alt-rock revolution, hosting Green Day, No Doubt, Primus, Smashing Pumpkins and Hole before they became stars.
“It was the right toilet at the right time,” says Brian McKenna, a Cattle Club co-founder with promoter Jerry Perry. “Sacramento needed a place like that. It was the right size for all these upcoming bands. It just had the right vibe.”
You can rekindle the vibes Saturday at Harlow’s Restaurant & Nightclub—a celebration exactly 30 years since the Cattle Club’s first show. The event features local bands from the venue’s salad days, including Phallucy, FMK, 58 Fury and others. Dennis “The Master Bastard” Yudt, the Cattle Club’s DJ, will be mixing music and heckling like it was 1991.
After all these years, which shows stick out in the memory of McKenna, who witnessed hundreds of Cattle Club gigs?
“Any Kai Kln show,” McKenna says. “Any fIREHOSE show … The Jesus Lizard … Lush and Ride … NoMeansNo and Victims Family.”
It’s kind of an unfair question, given the Cattle Club’s epic yet fairly brief run, which ended in the mid-1990s. Here are a few shows that go down as McKenna’s personal favorites. Each bill is a mix of locals paired with touring acts, which in some cases became rock royalty.
Phallucy / Far / Tool (March 7, 1991): “Tool kind of came in and sucked all the oxygen out of room,” McKenna says. “They just had a lot of power. I dunno if anyone in the room knew who they were before they played, but they sure did before they were done. I alternately felt bad for Far and Phallucy, but I also felt proud of my booking.”
Nirvana / Tad / Thornucopia ( Feb. 12, 1990): “[Nirvana] was hanging out during the day, and I was hearing them do radio interviews in our office. They were funny. I liked Tad a lot, too. So many people over the years say they were there, but only about 60 people were at the show. You could definitely hear Nirvana had songs that were going to take them further along.”
Wood Is Good/ Fungo Mungo / Alter Natives (Nov. 18, 1989): “Fungo Mungo were compared to Red Hot Chili Peppers, but in a lot of ways, I liked Fungo Mungo better. They just delivered the goods every time. It didn’t matter who we put them with. Any Fungo Mungo show was a highlight for me.”
Alice In Chains / Mookie Blaylock (aka Pearl Jam) / Burn Baby Burn (Feb. 16, 1991): “I went to all these radio stations to get them involved in the show, but they were like, ’We don’t hear any singles on this [Alice In Chains] record.’ Mookie Blaylock was just growing, but you could tell they definitely had something. In a perfect world, you knew they’d be huge. Three years later, Eddie Vedder was the biggest rock singer in the world.”