Carry the Torch

Music is the main attraction at the historic Midtown blues and jazz club

Visit the Torch Club enough and Marina Texeira will know 
your usual.

Visit the Torch Club enough and Marina Texeira will know your usual.

Torch Fest 2012 goes down Sunday, May 27, at—where else?—the Torch Club, 904 15th Street; 1 to 11 p.m.; $15; 21 and over. Artists include the Golden Cadillacs, Walking Spanish, the Keri Carr Band, Island of Black and White and more.

“Hi, Marina.”

Quincy Brown, wearing a navy blazer—a warm choice for the day’s temperature—walks up to a worn barstool inside the Torch Club. Smiling, the corners of his eyes slowly wrinkle as he sits and is immediately greeted by Marina Texeira: a petite brunette who owns the bar and venue and knows exactly what will quench his thirst.

“You want your usual?” she asks while reaching for an empty glass.

Brown, guitarist for rock ’n’ roll cover band the Q-balls and longtime Torch regular since 1979, knew Texeira’s father, Ronald, who inherited the bar from her grandfather, Frank.

The Torch once resided downtown, but today, the nearly 80-year-old blues and jazz venue and bar can be found on 15th Street across from the Memorial Auditorium.

“It still looks the same, and it’s still the Torch,” says Brown, giving the place a once-over. “I still love to see some of the old guys. The people who come to the Torch take care of each other.”

Brown remembers seeing Gov. Jerry Brown at the Torch’s second incarnation, on Eighth and L streets, years ago and claims everyone in the Torch was respected, whether politician or barfly.

Today, Texeira is in charge and committed to keeping the place under the family name. She’s also determined to introduce a younger audience to her old-timey bar through a new festival.

Known as a hub for live blues and jazz and remembered as a frequent watering hole for politicians, lawyers and news anchors, Torch Club lives on as one of Sacramento’s more historic bars since opening its doors in 1934. Texeira says regular live music, loyal customers and keeping true to the bar’s old charm are the keys to success.

And this Memorial Day weekend, Texeira is introducing the first ever Torch Fest—an all-day event featuring more than 10 bands of varying genres, including Americana, folk and, of course, blues.

“I just didn’t want to be the one to let it slide away. I wanted to keep that history,” she says of her decision to take over the bar in 2000 and put on this year’s inaugural festival. “When cities are growing, I feel you have to keep a piece of the history. Don’t knock down all the old houses and build new—you have to hold on.”

A loud “ding” chimes from the Torch’s vintage-style register as change is made. The slightly curved bar’s wood lining is weathered but smooth to the touch. To its right, a small stage is dimly lit and, while empty this afternoon, awaits the night’s live gig.

“Musicians love playing here because of the room and the way it’s shaped and the sounds and the feel; it’s comfortable,” says Texeira. “When people come here, they can take a deep breath and they can relax. They don’t feel any pressure; they’re just trying to be.”

The Golden Cadillacs bassist and vocalist Adam Wade agrees. He says the guys have all played at the Torch as part of various bands for over a decade, and they’ll be performing at this year’s Torch Fest, too. Wade’s memories of the place include learning how to play bass by participating at the bar’s weekly happy-hour slot.

He reminds that, unlike other venues in town, Torch Club is about the tunes. “The venue is a no-frills joint where people come to actually listen to the music,” Wade explains. “The music itself is the main attraction.”