It's Friday night in Hermosa Beach and Joie Koender has the blues.
She used to travel to West Los Angeles, even as far as Hollywood to hear the sultry sounds that somehow make everything seem OK. But tonight, Koender walked around the block and into Cafe Boogaloo to sample the soulful music at this new blues bar.
"Hermosa has been dying for this kind of place," Koender said. "I'm tired of trekking someplace else to hear good music."
Cafe Boogaloo is the latest addition to the beach city night life scene where beach-goers and city slickers head for good food and music before taking a stroll to the pier. The cozy venue in downtown Hermosa holds only 100 patrons. That and the fact that Cafe Boogaloo is the first blues club in town has kept the line long and the place packed.
The ragin' Cajun club features the smoke-filled sounds of New Orleans, Texas, Mississippi and Chicago-style blues nightly. There's also the taste of New Orleans. Jambalaya, crawfish dip and baked crawfish cakes are already menu favorites and are sampled by patrons along with the music.
The building was built as the local post office in 1916, and the club makes use of the original architecture with its exposed gray-brick walls, high ceilings and stone-gray Art Deco facade. Wooden chairs and tables add somewhat of a modern touch, as do the stained glass lamps that hang over each table.
The club also makes use of local talent. An eclectic collection of art hangs from the walls, including an alligator made of copper wire and carved wood paintings. Owner Steve Roberts said that the artworks, which range in price from $200 to $800, are for sale by the artists and that the exhibit is changed monthly.
The club features local microbreweries instead of serving the standard domestic beers. About 30 brews, including Sierra Nevada, Rogue Brewing and Gordon Biersch, are served in Pilsner glasses by waiters who wear the traditional Mardi Gras beads as part of their simple black pants and white shirt uniforms.
Patrons are also simply dressed. Jeans and T-shirts are standard attire, and that's how the club wants to remain: laid back.
But ambience aside, it's really the music that draws people. On a recent night Tanya Scarlett and the Give a Damn Band belted out the blues as patrons gathered around the stage and swayed. As the melody in Scarlett's deep voice reverberated off the brick walls, band member Jimmy Z, who used to play with Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, joined in for a harmonica solo. As the beat stepped up, even those who don't dance began moving to the music.
"This is the kind of place I wanted to create," said Roberts, tapping his foot to the rhythm. "The blues are a way of life, a spiritual experience."
First-time patron David Signor of Hermosa Beach said he's been waiting for weeks for Cafe Boogaloo to open and could see himself making the club a regular hangout.
"This place has something different to offer," Signor said. "It's bringing younger blood into Hermosa Beach, and the city needs that."
Where: Cafe Boogaloo, 1238 Hermosa Ave., Hermosa Beach. (310) 318-2324.
When: Every night, 6 p.m.-1:30 a.m.
Cost: Cover $5-$15, depending on the band. Baked catfish cakes, $6.95; 10-ounce beer, $2.75; 22 ounces, $5.50; Woolly Boolly (Stoli, Malibu, pineapple, grenadine), $5.