Celebrating Music 2015

by Alyssa Thomas

Intro by 94/9’s BY HILARY CHAMBERS
hilary-chambersChoosing a favorite music venue in San Diego is a tall order, like choosing your favorite local beer. (BP’s Indra Kunindra? Stone Smoked Porter? Lost Abbey Devotion? See what I mean?) It’s an embarrassment of riches, really. I have so many great memories from venues all over town, which I think makes this choice that much more difficult; I associate memories of great shows with each venue and I love so many of them for so many different reasons. Peaches danced on the bar at ‘Canes, Kings of Leon were unreal at the House of Blues, Basement Jaxx blew the roof off the Casbah, Buena Vista Social Club brought me to tears at Humphrey’s, Green Day killed it at the old Soma—how on earth do you choose a favorite? Thanks to the lovelies here at 4L Magazine, though, I have a deadline and just had to go for it, and I picked the Belly Up. I’ve always loved the Belly Up—the sound is great, the drinks are strong and the venue itself is warm and unique and just the right size. But ever since I moved to North County, having a world-class venue that’s a $5 Uber ride away feels like I won the lottery. And the shows! Afghan Whigs, Jason Isbell, Matisyahu, Vaud and the Villains, Donavon Frankenreiter, I could bore us all with a list that doesn’t end, but I won’t. My pal Meryl works there, so I asked her for her favorite things about the BUT and she said, “The diverse crowds and artists like Willie Nelson, Steel Pulse, and The Bangles … the wonderful local owners, Phil and Steve, and the fact that it has been here since 1974.” So many shows at the Belly Up have left me breathless and so, so grateful, and I’m stoked for great shows to come like Shakey Graves and Preservation Hall Jazz Band. Thank you, Belly Up, for being so awesome.

Belly Up | 143 S Cedros Ave.  |  Solana Beach

The Casbah | 2501 Kettner Blvd.

Walking into The Casbah, you know damn well this place has some history. The original venue opened its doors in 1989 with acts such as Nirvana and Smashing Pumpkins gracing the stage and making a name for the joint. With a capacity of merely 75 people, the club was forced to move just a few blocks down to Kettner Boulevard in 1994. The new spot is well equipped with a larger stage, state-of-the-art sound system, an enclosed back patio/smoking area and more room to dance and party for the neighborhood music junkies. Now known as the gritty, laid-back venue for big-name and up-and-coming artists, The Casbah features live music six out of seven nights a week.

House of Blues | 1055 5th Ave.  |  Gaslamp

Located in heart of the Gaslamp District downtown, House of Blues allows music goers to feel up close and personal with their favorite musicians. The two-story venue has space directly in front of the stage along with balconies upstairs lining the room with more space to explore. Though the San Diego location opened its doors in 2005, Isaac Tigrett opened the original venue in Cambridge, Mass., in 1992. Now one of 13 nationwide, House of Blues San Diego stands true containing a metal box filled with Mississippi Mud under the stage where artists perform, ensuring that each artist has the roots and the spirit of the South planted beneath their feet. The walls are covered in diverse collections of posters, artwork and murals tying together the signature feel of the club. Included in the venue is the restaurant Crossroads, which serves a combination of American and international cuisine with a contemporary twist until 11 p.m.

Humphreys | 2241 Shelter Island Drive  |  Point Loma

What better way to enjoy live music than right next to the beautiful bay of San Diego? For more than 20 years, Humphreys has gained a reputation for all-star blues, rock and folk musicians performing for audiences as large as 1,400 people. With a past lineup of artists such as B.B. King and Whitney Houston, the venue has gained notice for stellar shows under the stars. Known for their live musical events, Humphreys also features stand-up comedians and bookings for private events. Typically running from May to October, Humphreys Concerts by the Bay kicks off the 2015 season with Interpol and Steely Dan. This is a spot tourists and locals alike have come to love, located directly between Humphreys Restaurant and Humphreys Half Moon Inn & Suites.

Soda Bar | 3615 El Cajon Blvd.  |  North Park

North Park has become one of the most hip and upcoming spots in all of San Diego. One reason is Soda Bar! Located on El Cajon Boulevard, the club brings a righteous music scene where it’s been needed most. This venue, being a little rough around the edges, brings the underground music culture to the surface. Featuring up and coming local artists and must-see musicians in an intimate setting with a full bar, cheap drinks and swanky-style booths surrounding the room, Soda Bar is for those late nights when you feel like taking a break from the dance floor. The dialed sound quality stands out, giving you a chance to truly enjoy the music and atmosphere with your crew.

Winstons | 1921 Bacon St.  |  Ocean Beach

Not only does Winstons provide us with killer sound quality, a top notch friendly staff and keen choices in live music, but it is located in one of my personal favorite spots in all of San Diego: Ocean Beach! Since 1986, this 21+ club has been bringing live entertainment to the musically inclined area with artists such as Steel Pulse, Melvin Seals & Jerry Garcia Band and Karl Denson’s Tiny Universe. Winstons has sizable space for dancing, along with the bar seating in front of open windows to the streets of downtown OB. For more than 15 years, Winstons has hosted the popular Grateful Dead tribute act Electric Waste Band every Monday night, ensuring some quality time with friends, old and new. The intimate venue really allows you to absorb the cool atmosphere from any spot in the room. Next time you are in Ocean Beach, drop by for a few drinks and some good tunes.

The Observatory North Park | 2891 University Ave. | North Park

Formerly known as North Park Theatre, The Observatory North Park is now known for their immaculate stage and range of entertainment. The theater that was originally built in 1938 has been restored to accommodate acts of today with a state-of-the-art sound system and light inventory. With more than 200 instruments accommodating light features, The Observatory is well equipped for shows of all sizes. The standing room capacity is 1,100 and includes two rehearsal halls! Big names such as Mos Def and The Decemberists grace the stage this upcoming month with even bigger shows coming through the summer.

The Irenic | 3090 Polk Ave.  |  North Park

What makes this venue just east of downtown San Diego so unique? A historical church originally built in 1945, the venue was renovated in 2011 and today hosts shows for all ages and is completely nonprofit! All proceeds go directly to benefit the Street Angels, an organization that provides the homeless youths of San Diego with basic necessities such as food, water and clothing. The possibility to see live music while supporting a good cause? Who could say no to that?

Bar Pink | 3829 30th St. |  North Park

Bubbles, neon lights, pink elephants and billiards. Walking into Bar Pink, you will find yourself smiling from ear to ear, feeling the good vibes this spot holds. Behind the bar there are old films playing, tying together the rad, vintage feel. The walls are lined with leather booths to lounge in with your friends while sipping on the crafty, yet reasonably priced, cocktails. Featuring different entertainment every night of the week, the intimate stage gives you the up close and personal feel that music lovers crave. This shimmering lounge has made a name for itself in the North Park area and is absolutely here to stay.