Yes, Old I still does live music

Who’s at the helm?:
During his first night on the gig, Old Ironsides’ new booker and veteran bartender of a dozen years Mark “Gonzo” Gonzalez hopped onstage and grabbed the mic:

“We’re not going anywhere,” he told the crowd. “We’ve been here a long time, and we ain’t leaving.”

Here’s the back story: During the last week of June, local promoter, music-scene ringleader and now-former Old I booker Jerry Perry posted on Facebook that the bar and venue was no longer doing live shows. SN&R put in a call to Old I owner Sam Kanelos, who quickly denied this. Perry’s post then soon disappeared from Facebook into the recycle bin.

Yet still, the rumor stuck.

It didn’t help that Old Ironsides’ online calendar of shows was thin for July. Or that local sound engineers were saying that Old I didn’t have a sound system—both of which were true. Sort of.

Old I, which had been leasing a PA, mixer and monitors going on two decades, had wanted to renegotiate the terms of its lease, because, as Gonzo explained, “things had dropped off” with live-show attendance, and they weren’t bringing in the cash they used to.

“But for the record, we never were without a system,” Gonzo claimed. They’d rented one for a couple shows in early July and finally purchased a new one—powered speakers, Yamaha board, a couple subs, two monitors, some mics—pretty quickly thereafter. “We need to get a few more things,” Gonzo said, “and we can add on to the system we have now.”

Gonzo, born in Hollywood Park and raised in Sacto, now will have a shot to prove his worth as Old Ironsides’ full-time booker. He got into doing shows, he says, because he saw bands at SN&R’s Sammies local-music awards that he’d never heard of and wanted to get them playing at Old I. He’d also admired former Old I booker and promoter Kim Kanelos—who’s now stepped back from operations at the bar—and came to her to about doing some acts at the venue.

Gonzo’s first show last year was “almost a nightmare.” The headliner’s bus broke down in Los Angeles and bailed on the gig. The other band’s drummer quit and canceled, too. He tried not to get too upset about it.

“The first thing I learned about booking is this: Leave emotion at the door.”

Gonzo eventually corralled Blvd Park to step up; 70 or so folks came in on a Thursday night. “They saved my show.”

August’s calendar boasts a pretty diverse fleet of gigs: Big Iron, Sherman Baker this Friday, August 4, for only three bucks; the new monthly Lipstick dance night is this Saturday, August 6; industrial-’80s dance night Fascination on Second Saturday; Element Brass Band (a Treme-style jazz troupe), Crossing the River (World Beat), and jazzers Chickading and Garage Jazz Architects sprinkled throughout the month. Plus a free live set from Shannon Curtis on August 11.

“I kinda want to give everybody a shot,” Gonzo said. “Perhaps not the too-heavy or too-hardcore stuff. Kind of keep it the same, but expand it just a little bit.

“I won’t be booking Gwar or anything like that.”

If you aim to grace Old I’s neon-caked stage instead of kicking back shots and watching rockers drop it, hit up Gonzo at <script type="text/javascript" language="javascript">{ document.write(String.fromCharCode(60,97,32,104,114,101,102,61,34,109,97,105,108,116,111,58,105,114,111,110,115,105,100,101,115,64,114,99,105,112,46,99,111,109,46,34,62,105,114,111,110,115,105,100,101,115,64,114,99,105,112,46,99,111,109,46,60,47,97,62)) } </script>.

Last week for Sammies nominations:
Thanks to everyone who helped rack up more than 15,000 page views on SN&R’s Sammies home page since the nominations period began on July 18. Seriously—the response has been overwhelming!

Nominations end this week, August 11 at midnight, after which SN&R’s editorial staff will begin tallying vote getters and placing them in one of dozens of categories. The final 20th-anniversary Sammies nominees will be announced in the August 25 issue of SN&R.