Sacramento’s Music Scene, Take Three
Local scenesters tell SN&R their favorite places to dance, catch live music and sing karaoke
There are at least three ways to enjoy music in Sacramento: dance to it, sing it or watch it live. Whether you like to perform karaoke, dance until your toes ache or keep up with the current local talent, you’ll find plenty of places to do so once you read what our veteran scenesters have to say.
A Sacramento idol speaks of karaoke’s comeback
When the music of Carole King or Blondie starts to play, it’s hard for Lynnette Schoorl to keep quiet. A high-school media teacher by day, Schoorl spends a couple of nights each week singing her way through Sacramento’s burgeoning karaoke circuit. “You can easily find a place to sing karaoke every night of the week in Sacramento,” she says.
Schoorl believes that the popular television show American Idol is responsible for karaoke’s increased popularity. “American Idol allowed people the freedom not to care what other people think,” she says.
Schoorl certainly doesn’t care what other people think so long as she’s having fun. “Singing and dancing are two things that make me feel good,” she says. She sang in high-school bands and church choir and describes her singing skills as good, but not great. But she says talent doesn’t necessarily drive one to sing karaoke. “You can meet other people. There is a certain camaraderie and acceptance,” she says. “Basically, people who sing karaoke are nice people.”
Almost every karaoke bar will have a mixture of young and old, people just having fun and serious singers, she explains. And with that comes a mix of musical tastes. The Doobie Brothers, Carole King, Elvis and Sinatra are some of the most popular, although younger karaoke singers mix things up by covering more current performers. Schoorl says there are a few songs you are almost guaranteed to hear every night: Jimmy Buffet’s “Margaritaville,” Patsy Cline’s “Crazy,” the B-52s’ “Love Shack,” for example.
So, what should you look for in a karaoke bar? Schoorl says a high-quality sound system is a top priority. “You want to be able to hear yourself well so you know you are on key.” Also, look for a good host who maintains the pace, finds slots for everyone and knows how to control the music to accommodate each singer.
This karaoke diva recommends:
Moon River Inn at Freeport
This little venue about 10 minutes south of Sacramento offers one of the best karaoke audiences in town on Saturday nights. “People dance to every song,” Schoorl explains. “It makes you feel like you are really singing to someone.” 8201 Freeport Boulevard, (916) 665-6550.
Zigatos Bar and Grille
Zigatos has a whole room just for karaoke, complete with a dance floor, a flat-screen TV for song lyrics that descends from the ceiling and a great sound system. Schoorl herself is the host some Saturday nights. 1910 Canterbury Road, (916) 641-8283.
Elk Grove Sports Bar and Grill
Hostess Nina Kuhl runs a smooth operation every Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday night. 9661 Elk Grove-Florin Road, (916) 685-6103.
A dancing enthusiast tells of big-city experiences in little old Sacramento
As the operator of Sacvibe.com, a Web site that catalogs Sacramento’s nightlife options, Che Perez is up to speed on the hottest places to go dancing in Sacramento.
Bars are taking more risks, Perez says, in part because people are moving to Sacramento from larger cities like San Francisco and expect robust clubs that offer dancing to diverse music styles, especially house. The fact that more clubs are branching out to offer house, techno and drum-and-bass has given Sacramentans with rhythm even more reason to venture out.
“People who have money to spend and want to feel special don’t feel special when every club is playing the same music,” he says.
Perez says Sacramento has at least three or four clubs that equal the nightclub experience of any big city. He believes that people in Sacramento have a lot of choices—clubs that cater to 20-somethings, some that are mainstays for the 40-50-ish crowd, and others where people of all ages mix comfortably. And that, Perez says, is the point: It’s not about what you’re wearing or how old you are, just that you are having fun. “My pet peeve about clubs is when people don’t dance,” he says. “Please no walking through the dance floor or just standing on it.” The dance floor, he says, is for dancing.
Perez even has some simple fashion advice for the beginning male clubber. “It doesn’t have to be expensive but it has to be ironed,” he says. “Polish your shoes and press your shirt. You don’t have to have brand names. The best looks are always classic.” He suggests visiting stores like Cheap Thrills to get shirts with unique prints and a vintage pair of slacks. “The ladies will notice that you’re a guy who has clothes that nobody else has,” he says.
This dancing authority recommends:
“It’s small and swanky, and the deejay on Friday night, Jake Esparza, is a favorite,” Perez says. “He does a great job of blending tribal beats with jazzy house music.” 2708 J Street, (916) 441-4693.
The Park Lounge
“If you were from out of town and wanted to impress your friends, the Park Lounge is a must see,” Perez says. “It’s got a nice dance floor, good music that is more hip-hop and top 40, but people love to dance to it and it works.” Tight security means you won’t be harassed by drunks and obnoxious frat boys. 1116 15th Street, (916) 442-7222.
“Anytime I’m invited to Faces I always go. If you’re willing to be your own man and have fun, it’s a great place to dance. There is absolutely no attitude there.” Plus, Perez adds, there’s a lighted dance floor, a la Saturday Night Fever. 2000 K Street, (916) 448-7798.
Punk rockers and singer-songwriters find what they are looking for in Sacramento
Personal taste in music varies so much it’s hard to find someone who listens to jazz and punk with equal amounts of enthusiasm. (Easy, we’re sure you’re out there, but we haven’t met you yet.) So, we turned to two music buffs with dissimilar tastes to illustrate Sacramento’s varied and rich live music scene.
Jimmy Calanchini has navigated Sacramento’s punk scene for the last decade. He plays in his own band, the Whiskey Rebels, and also arranges all-ages shows for other bands. While he toils primarily in the rebellious, underground music circles that bring him to VFW halls and out-of-the-way basements more often than nightclubs and bars, he knows that all genres are alive and well in Sacramento’s music scene. “There are so many bands in Sacramento making noise on a national level, whether emo, hard rock, punk and hardcore,” he says. “There is no lack of talent in this town.”
Calanchini names a few local bands that excite him, like Pressure Point and Madhouse Disciples, who perform a working-class style of punk known as oi!, the Christian punk band the Hanover Saints, and the bluegrass oriented Alkali Flats. If you want to get into Sacramento’s musical subculture, Calanchini suggests searching the Internet and reading concert fliers posted at record stores and coffee shops.
Calanchini says these live music venues are doing things right:
The Boardwalk is the area’s best spot for hard rock and heavy metal. Be prepared for anything, from the loud and blistering sounds of local hardcore band Killing the Dream or the off-beat melodies of indie rock whiz kids Death Cab for Cutie. Calanchini commends the Boardwalk for striking a healthy balance between bringing in national acts and accommodating local bands. 9426 Greenback Lane, (916) 988-9247.
The latest undertaking by former Capitol Garage mastermind Charles Twilling creates a much-needed venue for music lovers of all ages. Twilling, Calanchini says, is a good promoter who is poised to bring diverse bands and a welcoming atmosphere to this large, renovated space downtown. 718 K Street, www.myspace.com/juntalive.
“The Distillery is the best place in town for the over-21 crowd to hear hard rock, punk and metal. Their calendar is always full—normally with local bands—but they occasionally bring in bigger out-of-town bands.” 2107 L Street, (916) 443-8815.
“The Blue Lamp brings a good mix of rock an blues, and they spice it up with reggae or rockabilly sometimes, too.” 1440 Alhambra Boulevard, (916) 455-6547.
Ramzi Khoury’s one-time band is now disbanded, so until the singer-guitarist finds another group to play with, he’ll keep taking in Sacramento’s live music scene. Khoury is open to all musical styles, a trait that brings him to places like Harlow’s, Marilyn’s on K, Old Ironsides and the Powerhouse Pub to hear some of Sacramento’s most popular bands. A native of the Bay Area, Khoury says Sacramento has good nightlife for a small city. “Any given night of the week you can go to a bar and hear live music,” he says. “It always feels like you have a choice.” The musician in Khoury enjoys giving an audience to live music so he can “see people do their thing and hear what their ideas are when they are putting their hearts out there for you.”
On any given night you’ll find this musician-in-waiting at:
Khoury says the variety is good, the audience is always enthusiastic and the front bar provides an escape when your ears are overworked or you actually want to have a conversation. 1901 10th Street, (916) 443-9751.
Marilyn’s on K
Now in new digs further west on K Street, this inviting club has a cozy and unpretentious atmosphere, the kind of place where you might walk in with an unironed (gasp!) shirt and feel completely at home. 908 K Street, (916) 446-4361.
“You’re not going to get any up-and-coming bands here but it’s fun,” Khoury says. “It’s totally high energy and because they usually have popular local bands, everybody gets into it.” 2708 J Street, (916) 441-4693.