Criddlers, loogies and dust bowls

Singer-songwriter Devin Farren performs at the Sacramento Bicycle Kitchen in Midtown this past Second Saturday.

Singer-songwriter Devin Farren performs at the Sacramento Bicycle Kitchen in Midtown this past Second Saturday.


Ace of Spades in the hole:
You might have mistaken Rob Zombie for roadkill. He appeared onstage last Thursday after J.S. Bach’s Toccata and Fugue in D minor overture blasted out the speakers at Ace of Spades, Midtown’s newest all-ages venue, donning a cowboy hat, tattered jeans and what appeared to be some kind of Revolutionary War jacket, looking like the homeless version of Coldplay’s Chris Martin, circa Viva La Vida. His bandmates—guitarist, bassist, drummer—wore face paint and horror-themed jackets with chicken bones sewn onto the sleeves, like Heath Ledger’s goons in The Dark Knight. And when the 45-year-old rocker screamed “All hail Jesus Frankenstein,” the chorus to the night’s opening song, and commenced headbanging, a dust cloud emanated from his corpse, like Peanuts’ Pig Pen.

The sold-out, capacity crowd of approximately 900 at Ace of Spades approved wholeheartedly. Men hoisted devil horns in the air. Some moshed—but by any standard the Zombie moshing was timid at best. In fact, it was the women in the crowd—dreadlocked, 20-something criddlers doing their best to incite a pit, elbowing otherwise innocent bystanders in the arm while yelling Zombie lyrics—who were the hell-raisers of the bunch.

Anyway, it was all very exciting, this inaugural show at Ace of Spades, the latest incarnation of the former Empire Events Center, and short-lived Venue. Ace of Spades promises to be different than its predecessors, thankfully, who after years of never really trying, never really got off the ground as a live-music venue.

The new Ace of Spades is booked and operated by Eric Rushing, who for years single-handedly sustained the suburban rock scene at The Boardwalk in Orangevale, in addition to managing and promoting bands as part of his company, The Artery Foundation. A visit to the Spades’ website,, offers a taste of what’s to come: live music most days of the week, mostly rock, including nights of local-only bands booked by SacShows in addition to some big-time acts, including two nights of Papa Roach later this month (February 25 and 26). There will be no Top 40 dance nights, thank you very much.

Inside, Ace of Spades hasn’t changed much from its Empire/Venue days, but it feels markedly improved. The stage-lighting ante was upped significantly. The sound system, I’m told, was tweaked and polished. And there’s an adjacent bar area, called the 2AM Club, which will open soon, once management secures proper permitting, that’s quite promising.

So, basically, the place feels great. And having a legitimate, midsized, all-ages venue in the heart of the central city will be a game changer for local music. Spades will diversify the types of bands who play its stage—more indie, more electronic—but ultimately the new club is the best thing that could happen to Sacramento’s live music scene.

Rob Zombie broke in the new venue correct, sauntering across the stage and even scaling the PA, hauling his bony vegetarian body atop the speakers like an octogenarian trying to pull himself out of a swimming pool. But then, when finally at the apex overlooking the crowd, he just sat there, ostensibly exhausted, while singing his biggest hit, “More Human Than Human”—which he admitted to no longer knowing the lyrics to.

Perhaps middle age is taking its toll on the musician/filmmaker? During a break in the action, Zombie congratulated Ace of Spades for it’s premiere evening and joked that the freshly painted stage floor was too slippery. The commercials are imminent: “Hi, this is Rob Zombie. I’ve fallen and I can’t get up.”

Anyway, even after many anthems—at one point Zombie had the crowd chanting “rock motherfucker”—and welcome but sparse industrial-metal flourishes, complete with jokey-horror larking, one image from the night stands out: Zombie’s guitarist, sporting a flash of bleached-blond hair, stopped in the middle of the stage, hawked a loogie a few feet into the air and then caught the same ball of spit in his own mouth.

Gross, sure, but quite impressive. Something Tiger Woods might add to his golf arsenal, eh?
(Nick Miller)