CONCORD, CA (Jan. 19, 2023) — Any conversation about upcoming local shows or open mic nights is likely to include Vinnie’s Bar & Grill, especially considering this 20-year-old business is now Concord’s only venue for local music.
Dalton Parker opened the downtown staple in March 2002. From 1981 until then, the bar was Hobie’s Roadhouse, a well-known biker establishment. In an effort to make it his own – and shake off some of the unsavory stigma that comes with a biker bar’s reputation – he named the bar after his son, Vincent “Vinnie” Marcuso Parker.
In 2017, Vinnie took over the lease and immediately began working toward his own goal of expanding the indoor space and erecting a new stage with premiere lighting and sound.
“This was the plan from day one,” the younger Parker says, gesturing to the newly expanded area. “Even before I bought this place, when I first started getting involved in management, I was like ‘Dad, why don’t you expand this, go into the place next door, knock this wall out and open this up?’ ”
The expansion, which was mostly constructed in 2021, has more than doubled the maximum occupancy from 299 to 704. With additional outdoor space allowing for up to another 285 patrons, Vinnie’s Bar & Grill can now host a crowd of nearly 1,000.
That means Vinnie’s can compete with similarly sized music venues in the Bay Area for larger shows. Last year, Vinnie’s saw huge turnouts for performances by Afroman – the hip hop artist behind the 2000 hit “Because I Got High” – and more recently, Mac Sabbath, the Los Angeles-based McDonald’s-themed Black Sabbath tribute/parody act.
“Why go to The City and deal with all that traffic, the parking, maybe getting your car broken into, when you can see a great show a few blocks from BART in a quaint downtown area like Todos Santos?” asks Parker.
Traveling acts may be incentivized to take advantage of this new blip on the map. Agents of mid-sized touring acts may be attracted to the idea of lodging in the burbs instead of paying metro rates. The potential is undeniable.
Still, Vinnie’s remains realistic in understanding the uphill nature of routinely booking bigger shows.
“One thing we’re battling is the (local) stigma. It’s like ‘Why would you want to pay those prices just to go to Vinnie’s,’ ya know?” laments Parker, referring to an era when many locals assumed live music at Vinnie’s meant heavy metal or abrasive hard rock, with an audience made up mostly of regulars.
“I never thought of us as a metal venue,” shares Jeanne Marcuso, Parker’s mother who helps with business management. “Hard rock for a time, maybe, but it reinvents itself. Latinos might think we’re a Latin bar because of how big our Thursdays are.”
On Thursdays, Vinnie’s hosts a very successful “Latin Night” featuring salsa, bachata and reggaeton. The final Thursday of 2022 saw more than 500 patrons.
Vinnie’s is taking full advantage of the new space, stage and sound equipment by offering something different every night after 8 p.m. On Mondays, their well-known Open Mic night – hosted by Vince Lay and Joey Nuñez of Sabertooth Unicorn – draws in artists from all over the East Bay. On Tuesday evenings, a faithful group of country music enthusiasts show up for line dancing. Karaoke occurs every Wednesday night and, of course, the house is packed for Latin Night on Thursday. Friday and Saturday nights are mostly reserved for live music. Occasionally, Sunday nights will feature a free performance by an indie rock band in a new concept dubbed “Vinnie’s Indie Sundays.”
A full calendar of events can be found at https://www.vinniesbar.com/live-shows.
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.