I looked forward to nothing more than the next time a band I loved passed through the area and played at the local vet’s hall, the after-hours coffee house or some other off-beat, all-ages venue that wasn’t built around selling alcohol. Sometimes these shows would be held at an actual bar, and all us underage kids would be marked with a big X on our hands.
Spending those nights out, gathered with other outcasts and weirdos of a similar age, bonding over our mutual interests and buzzing on an endorphin rush fueled by the live music … it was everything.
It was how I navigated the chaos of adolescence, how I developed my own interest in music and how I met some of the greatest friends I’ll ever have, including my wife. I can’t imagine who I’d be today without that nurturing environment that celebrated individualism as much as it did community-building.
That environment is virtually non-existent in our region today. In this two-part series, I will discuss the scarcity of all-ages venues with local performers, promoters, venue owners and, of course, the youth.
Important for the future of music
“There’s a lack of all-ages venues, and we need them. It’s important for the future of music, especially with the lack of music education in our schools,” notes promoter Christine Lommori of Lommori Productions.
For decades, Lommori has put on countless shows at local venues. She recalls a time when more businesses were open to all-ages shows and how that helped to cultivate much of today’s local music scene.
“I used to do all-ages shows at Lindee’s every Sunday. Bourbon Street too – they regularly had all-ages shows. That’s where I first met Vince Lay and Forrest Day.”
For years, the under 21 crowd was the driving force behind the local music scene thanks to places like Bourbon Street, Concord Depot and Under the Capri providing a safe space for the youth to come together and express themselves. Sadly, these places are no more.
Looking for change
Today, the younger crowd must travel to Berkeley or San Francisco to experience anything reminiscent of what once thrived in our own backyard. One Concord business owner is working to change that.
Jim Settle, owner and CEO of NuWater USA, recently decided to use his commercial space in North Concord to double as an all-ages venue with an emphasis on metal, punk and other heavier genres. The Black Rat has already hosted a number of very successful all-ages shows.
“I believe that kids need to go somewhere where they can find other kids just like them,” says Settle. “That’s what they’re looking for, you know? ‘Hey, you guys are just like me; you’re into the same music, the same weird style …’
“Kids are just trying to fit in, and the school system certainly isn’t helping there,” he adds. “They don’t all fit together. Some kids need to find a place where they can listen to metal, listen to punk and just be themselves, if just for one night.”
Settle is optimistic that places like the Black Rat will help pave the path for a more inclusive music scene that doesn’t alienate youth.
“We are the changers. If we can’t help guide the kids and have a place for them to be themselves, and to hopefully one day be the next changers, we aren’t going to have anything at all.”
Part 2 of this series will appear in the September issue.
Contact Dave Hughes at MrDaveHughes@gmail.com.
Dave Hughes is a local music advocate with an extensive network of independent artists. He produces and hosts a local music program on KVHS called The Beat of Diablo, every Sunday at 7:00 PM on 90.5 FM. Dave also catalogs local music releases at ConcordRockCity.com.