Sound Advice: Venues, rumors and cold, hard facts

Rest in peace: Feelings were mixed at Marilyn’s on K last Saturday afternoon. Musicians wanted to give the venue a fun and energetic send-off. Regulars already seemed to be mourning. Group photos were taken outside. Then they walked in, high-fived friends and sat with their heads down, quite possibly for hours.

I assume later at night, with sets by the Diva Kings with Cuesta Drive, City of Trees Brass Band and Children of the Grave, the underground club felt far less somber.

I did catch a stellar and surprising set around 4 p.m. Surprising because I had expected a full day—1 p.m. until last call—of local bands who wanted to play Marilyn’s one last time. With no cover at the door, everyone played for tips.

Instead, we were treated to Orion Walsh, a troubadour from Nebraska. He switched off between acoustic guitar and banjo, with harmonica and tambourine always within reach, while Blake Abbey of Musical Charis accompanied on bass and percussion. Together, they called themselves the Rambling Hearts. They asked brave volunteers to play washboard and kazoo on stage—actually a somewhat painful begging process—to their bluesy Americana. On top of a slew of original work, Walsh sold Johnny Cash’s “Folsom State Prison” and descended offstage for an all-acoustic, singalong to Willie Guthrie’s “This Land is Your Land.”

Of course, musicians took time to thank the venue. It’s been around in some capacity for 16 years, supporting both local and touring acts as well as tribute bands, live karaoke and other performance art. I’ve got my own fond memories at the place. This past summer’s Radiohead tribute show, with a bunch of local musicians rotating in and out and playing excellent adaptations all night, was one of the city’s most memorable events all year.

The Denver J Band’s frontman Denver Saunders noted that one of his first-ever gigs was at Marilyn’s. But I think Abbey’s thank-you comments were more entertaining: “I’ve played music here a bunch of times, been blackout drunk here a bunch of times. It’s cool to have a bar where you can go off the deep end.

“Anyway, I’m sure I’m not the only one who’s been drunk here.”

More venue news: Assembly Music Hall may soon have more in common with Marilyn’s on K—both live music venues, both on K Street, both potentially shuttered. Eric Rushing and Bret Bair, the owners of Ace of Spades and major players in local entertainment, are walking away from Assembly Music Hall at the end of November. The pair has been managing the venue, including booking its talent, since its opening in 2013.

“We just weren’t making money,” Bair said. “We weren’t building equity because we don’t own it.”

Unlike some of their other ventures—namely Ace of Spades and Goldfield Trading Post—Rushing and Bair don’t hold the lease to Assembly. That belongs to Paragary Restaurant Group. Callista Wengler, Paragary’s marketing director, said the owners can’t comment on the venue’s fate yet.

At 9,000 square feet, Assembly Music Hall has brought plenty of big names to Sacramento, including recent stops by the Black Lips, Bombay Bicycle Club, OK Go, ZZ Ward and Turquoise Jeep. Its final month is packed and varied: metal- core band Finch with indie rockers Maps & Atlases (Nov. 6), rock band Relient K (Nov. 9), English electronic dance producer Gareth Emery (Nov. 21) local soul powerhouse James Cavern & the Council (Nov. 26), rapper Kreayshawn (Nov. 28), reggae and hip-hop group the Holdup (Nov. 30). Plus the Sizzling Sirens burlesque troupe’s final show at the venue (Nov. 15) and a stand-up comedy night with Tig Notaro (Nov. 17). Bair said this October and November have been some of the most profitable months yet, but he and Rushing want to build a business elsewhere.

Where might elsewhere be? Rumors are circulating that Bair and Rushing might purchase Witch Room. Bair confirmed that there have been discussions, but nothing has been decided just yet. He expects to know about Witch Room—or a different space they find—in the next month or so.

“With losing Assembly, we have definitely been looking for a smaller venue to complement Ace of Spades,” he said.