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Beat Street

By Todd S. Inoue

Looking Ahead on the Club Scene:
Chris Esparza speaks, finally

The man on the line is Chris Esparza, ex-impresario of downtown San Jose's Ajax Lounge. Tight-lipped for months, he wants to unglue his labials long enough to spill a few stray thoughts about the current downtown club scene and his upcoming projects, of which there are many. Due to what he says are lingering legal issues, the topic of his split from the Ajax is off limits. To pay bills, Esparza has been doing time at Willow Street Pizza, working as a manager. Does the clientele ever recognize him from his Ajax days? "Honestly, I get that like 15 times a night," he says. "I get self-conscious about it sometimes, but when someone recognizes you for something you're proud of, and gives you back something positive, that's great."

On a recent trip through downtown's SoFA District, Esparza didn't dig what he saw: "I was on four corners at South First and San Salvador; Agenda [due to open Dec. 7] was boarded up, the Studio Theater was boarded up, F/X is closed [the club is set to reopen in late December as The Usual], and there was an empty burned-out space." Add to that the recent bust at Phoenix Jazz Club, and you've got a street begging for something fresh. "For the hub of San Jose nightlife, it wasn't outstanding."

Though the landscape will change considerably when Agenda opens (see local clubs story), Esparaza believes that the SoFA District is still missing a nightspot with the kind of distinctive urban flavor he prefers. Esparza says that he is very close to signing a lease for such a club, and that it will be in the downtown area, though not on South First. He perceives it as a combination of two eclectic Bay Area clubs--the Elbo Room and Nicky's Bar-B-Que--mixing various styles of music, live and DJ.

Besides getting a new space up and running, Esparza has other projects. He has taken over a downtown warehouse and opened it up to City Revolt, 819 Records and a couple of filmmakers. It's a communal space, much like the Factory in Manchester, he explains. "It'll be a co-op of young turks in town, working to get things done." He is also wheeling and dealing a special New Year's show for The Usual, which he hopes will attract the Solsonics, the Mo'Fessionals and Brooklyn Funk Essentials. Last week, Esparza and his compatriots took over Hochburg Von Germania for a pre-Thanksgiving party. "I get a lot of people," Esparza finishes, "who call me and say, 'Chris, since you left, I get up early, work out, and I've saved over $1,000. I'm sick of it; when are you going to open up a space? I'm tired of getting up early, I want to go out!' "

Riot Boy

So the Dec. 16 KOME Almost Acoustic Christmas Concert is sold out. That's great for the charities, I'm sure. But isn't it lame that San Jose bands were again snubbed from the event? According to program director Ron Nenni, "It's a national touring-act bill. Jawbreaker is a Bay Area band who, I think, represents the area very well. People can see local bands at local venues [on] any given day. For the Christmas Concert, we try to get a bunch of bands you can't see that often." Uh-huh, and that's why a weak band like Fretblanket was added. The only "added special guest" I want to hear announced is a band without a major-label deal and that has played Cactus in the past month.

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From the Nov. 30-Dec. 6, 1995 issue of Metro

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