News, music, movies & restaurants from the editors of the Silicon Valley's #1 weekly newspaper.
Serving San Jose, Palo Alto, Los Gatos, Campbell, Sunnyvale, Mountain View, Fremont & nearby cities.

January 3-9, 2007

home | metro silicon valley index | music & nightlife | essay

Downtown San Jose's live music scene

Photograph by Felipe Buitrago
That's the stuff: As the guy in the glasses can surely attest, sometimes live music just hits the spot.

In With the New

Looking forward to a livelier live music scene

By Ryan Osterbeck

THIS PAST YEAR in downtown San Jose saw a marked change in the kind of entertainment that nightlife venues employ and patrons thrive on. As far as the local live music scene is concerned, '06 has seen a near Lazarus-like reincarnation of live music in downtown San Jose.

Sure, one can argue that the local live music scene never really went away in the first place, that music stalwarts like the Blank, ever vigilant in its quest for the best in noise pollution, have kept it on life support. Our venerable live music venue the Blank Club has continued to book big name acts and worldwide rock stars—a singular fact that all noise junkies, boozers, punks, sots and rockers should commend and congratulate.

Let's face it, the Bay Area—and in particular San Jose—has a lot of talented musicians making a lot of sick music. Here's to the places that are keeping the amps cranked, the drinks flowing and the eardrums rattling for all of us hopelessly addicted to the sonic assault.

The Veteran: Well-deserved accolades should be given to the Blank Club for keeping the live music torch lit in San Jose, for bringing in national and international touring bands to their silver stage, for pouring the booze fast and strong and for never wavering from their mission to host live music. Sometimes, late at night, I often think what the nightlife scene in San Jose would look like without the Blank and, in a confused state, start making plans to move.

The Little Guys: Congrats, kudos or whatever you call 'em these days go out to Johnny V's and the Caravan for dedicating themselves to bringing in loud, fast local bands even though they together equal the capacity of one overpriced San Jose apartment. Further prestige should be awarded to these hole-in-the-wall boozers for the everyman attitude they continually employ, for keeping the drinks cheap and for maintaining the credo that, even though it's just a gritty, beer-stained corner of the bar snaked with wires, a stage is where you make it and what you do with it.

The Perfect Venue: When the VooDoo Lounge started the better part of a decade ago, it appeared that it might develop into one of the best live music clubs this town has ever seen. Yet, as tastes and drinking winds change, the cancerous manifestation of ultralounge crept into its consummate rock club frame. It's dark and has a raised stage, an upstairs for seating and a lava-lamp-lit bar that pours drinks furiously—all that's really missing is some strung-out rock stars cutting lines backstage while downing fifths of Jack. During '06, the VooDoo has embraced its almost predestined role and may, in '07, be a rock force to be reckoned with.

The No-Brainer: When Smoke Tiki Lounge opened a year ago, we all had aspirations for San Jo's newest watering hole. When the back patio was finally finished at 152 Post St., some of our dreams were realized. For anyone who hit up Smoke on a Thursday or Friday this past summer, you know exactly what I'm talking about. Seriously, was there anything better than catching local bands on the sun-drenched stage while downing beers and barbecue like it was the best backyard party of the year on a weekly basis? Nope.

To sum up, in '06 San Jose saw a resurgence in its live music scene, witnessed its effects on the public and had venues embrace it. So, to '07, I say the stage is set, the groundwork has been laid, the instruments have been tuned, the amps are cranked and the lighting is perfect. In the immortal words of AC/DC, "for those about to rock, we salute you."

Send a letter to the editor about this story.