Most nights, the Blue Cafe is a typical beach-side venue. The Long Beach eatery and nightclub books mostly mainstream music, your average blues and rock acts, while serving up ample beer and burgers.
But on Monday nights, the club is transformed into a haven for Long Beach's alternative music scene, with tattooed modern primitives coming from all over to check out local and national bands.
Steeped in the tradition of Bogart's, a legendary, now-closed Long Beach club, promoter Steve Zepeda's New Music Monday is celebrating its fifth anniversary as Long Beach's leading refuge for underground music. Since its inception in 1994, New Music Monday's performers have ranged from local surf heroes the Ziggens to rockers Eve 6 and from such songwriters as Jonathan Richman to Dave Baerwald.
In addition, the cafe offers an ideal setting for summertime concerts, with an inviting outdoor patio for an entryway and an easy-access location on the bustling Promenade.
Zepeda, who also has brought in such L.A. artists as Flea, the Negro Problem and Sissy Bar for New Music Monday, has had a fair amount of practice at figuring out how to build a scene. In the '80s, he took Bogart's from an ailing '70s disco to the local hot spot to check out new and exciting music. He did such a thorough job that people from Hollywood made the trek to Bogart's regularly to see acts they couldn't see elsewhere.
When Bogart's closed in '93, he worked some more magic over at the Foothill, a well-worn Signal Hill nightclub on the outskirts of Long Beach with historic roots in country music. Zepeda started bringing in hot punk and rockabilly acts ranging from the Supersuckers to Reverend Horton Heat, making the joint jump again and giving young locals a cool place to call their own.
In recent years, Long Beach's music profile has been raised with the success of such LBC artists as Snoop Dogg and Sublime, but the club scene hasn't followed as fervently. In many respects, Zepeda, who was the first notable promoter to begin showcasing Sublime, has functioned like a lone ranger, always on the lookout for good music to bring home.
New Music Monday epitomizes his dedication to the alternative music market. For 5 bucks on any given Monday, you get a chance to check out upcoming Long Beach and Orange County area punk bands or veteran performers such as Geza X and Tony Gilkyson.
A recent show by the Ziggens, a veteran, quirky surf guitar outfit on the Skunk label (the record label founded by the late Brad Nowell of Sublime and producer Miguel Happoldt), had the feel of a local house party. Everyone seemed to know everyone, and the Ziggens proved there's a whole lot of life and heart left in the music coming out of Long Beach. The band eased its way through a set that included "Big Salty Tears," a song popularized by Nowell on an acoustic album released by MCA last year. It was a bittersweet moment for Sublime fans in the room, many of whom are still mourning Nowell's death.
Opening for the Ziggens was Corn Doggy Dogg, a raucous punk band led by Todd Zalkins, who proved you can cover songs by Black Flag and John Cougar Mellencamp in the same set and live to tell about it.
Blue Cafe, 210 The Promenade North, Long Beach, (562) 983-7111 or (562) 984-8349. 21 and older. $5 cover.