The closings of three Orange County concert clubs so far in 1986 has left only two outlets for local and national touring acts--Safari Sam’s in Huntington Beach and the Coach House in San Juan Capistrano.
But despite the losses of the Golden Bear in Huntington Beach, Radio City in Anaheim and Spatz in Huntington Harbour, there are signs that public demand within the county for local original music may be on the upswing.
Earlier this year, longtime Top 40 bar Joshua’s Parlour in Westminster began periodically offering concerts. Now Garfield’s in Huntington Beach, a disco-video music club since it opened in 1984, is turning to live concerts to counter sagging mid-week attendance.
“I think the ball is moving the other way,” said Donna Lipp, who shares management of Garfield’s with Marc Trimble. “About two years ago everybody went to video, but lately a lot of people have been requesting live, new music again. I think a lot of people feel that they can stay home and watch Top 40 videos on MTV.”
Initially, the 350-seat club planned to feature concerts five nights a week. But Lipp said the disco-video format will be retained on Fridays and Saturdays until the concert format is established.
For now, she said, concerts will be limited to Tuesday through Thursday nights. Ticket prices will range from $3 for a Tuesday “new-wave showcase” nights to $10.50 for big-name performers.
Local groups such as the Beat Farmers, El Grupo Sexo, White Boy, Marshes of Glenny and 10-Inch Men have already performed since the concert format started on April 3.
Among the headline acts scheduled at Garfield’s in coming weeks are Etta James (Wednesday ), Fishbone (Thursday), Tower of Power (April 23), Freddie Cannon (April 24) and Bo Diddley (April 29).
Not coincidentally, several of those performers previously had frequented the Golden Bear in Huntington Beach, which closed in February.
“We’ve been a video-disco for two years, but there are so many clubs opening in the same area with the same idea,” Lipp said. “We decided to try to take over the Golden Bear’s clientele.”
Although the operators of the Golden Bear have said they hope to reopen the club in a new location, Lipp said, “We’ve heard that too, but we are not concerning ourselves with it. Personally, I think it will take a while if they do it.” (The Golden Bear’s operators still have not announced when or where they plan to reopen the club.)
Last week’s opening concert--a free show with El Grupo Sexo-drew a capacity crowd that was a mixture of generally upscale, conservatively dressed Garfield’s regulars as well as El Grupo Sexo’s more flamboyantly attired fans.
Lipp said the combination was exactly what the club’s owners--Cabaret Management of Santa Ana--wanted to attract.
“We want to have a concert hall that everybody will appreciate coming to,” she said. “That’s why we’re having everything from Etta James to new wave.”
Lipp said the club has undergone some minor remodeling, such as extra sound proofing, to accommodate concert activity. She also said that additional security guards will be stationed in the parking lot on concert nights to head off any complaints from neighbors that have plagued other original music clubs.
“Since we opened, we’ve complied with everything the city has wanted us to do,” she said. “I don’t anticipate any problems.”
10,000 MANIACS/SAFARI SAM’S: Natalie Merchant, the whirling dervish, entranced Gypsy lead singer of 10,000 Maniacs, actually broke into a laughing fit at one point in the sextet’s return performance at Safari Sam’s in Huntington Beach on Wednesday.
That wouldn’t be considered unusual from most rock performers, but coming from the hypnotically intense Merchant, it indicated that she has relaxed--if only a little--since the western New York band first played the Southland last December.
At that time, despite widespread critical acclaim for the group’s debut album “The Wishing Chair,” audiences were divided over whether Merchant’s brooding, closed-eyed stage manner was compelling or simply calculated.
Except for Merchant’s limited outbursts, though, the group’s 75-minute performance before a capacity crowd in the 100-seat club differed little from its previous local shows. The only problem Wednesday was a poor sound mix that frequently buried Merchant’s unconventional vocal delivery of her complex poetic lyrics.
Nevertheless, the Maniacs, whose exquisitely crafted music fuses elements of traditional and contemporary American rock and Celtic folk music, again brought even more power to their songs than the record captured.
Lead guitarist Rob Buck, in particular, turned in virtuoso backing and solos throughout the show, at times supplying uncluttered lead lines similar to Dire Straits’ Mark Knopfler, and in other spots turning to Robert Fripp-like exotic runs, overtones and harmonics. Far from being merely a rock anomaly as some skeptics suggested a few months ago, 10,000 Maniacs cemented its place among the freshest arrivals on the pop scene in years.
IN SEARCH OF BEATLES: An Anaheim record store owner is organizing a summer tour that will take about 50 local Beatles fans to England and Hamburg, Germany, in August. The 12-day tour will include stops in Liverpool, London and Hamburg to visit the important clubs and sites during various stages of the Beatles’ career. For more information, call Mike Lefevbre, owner of Pepperland Records, at (714) 530-3584.
LIVE ACTION: X is scheduled to play the Coach House in San Juan Capistrano on April 20. Ex-Byrds members Chris Hillman and Roger McGuinn will be at the Coach House on April 25. . . . The Marshall Tucker Band will play the Crazy Horse Steak House in Santa Ana on May 5. Ray Charles returns to the Crazy Horse on June 2-3. Kris Kristofferson’s previously announced dates at the Crazy Horse have been postponed until October.