Arts DEVO: Feeling blue

Stay funky, Blue Room; Crack rock live!

Matt Hammons as Hedwig at the Blue Room in 2004. (CN&R file photo by Tom Angel)
Jason Cassidy

Arts DEVO is super impressed with the new First Street Theatre performance space in downtown Chico. The folks from Chico’s California Regional Theatre put in a lot of work and money and have completely remodeled the inside of the one-time Masonic Hall to create a stunning new space (see “Feed me theater”).

Before the COVID-19 pandemic forced its doors to close, the Blue Room Theatre had been operating Chico’s favorite black-box theater in the same spot for 26 years. (The Blue Room is technically alive, but it still has no home and its future remains undetermined.) Always on a tight budget, the local cultural institution had to get very creative to make the funky space work to its advantage as it produced daring art that set the tone for our local scene.

As someone who has been paid to watch that scene for some time now and who has followed the venue since its inception—witnessing much of the fake blood and real sweat spilled on those wood floors—I can say with conviction and some authority that the Blue Room was the most important arts entity in Chico over the last two decades. From its aggressively avant-garde Butcher Shop beginnings (bless you, Latimer family) to the countless courageous performances by our best actors in challenging and/or fun modern and contemporary works (Matt Hammons as Hedwig in Hedwig and the Angry Inch; Jerry Miller as Roy Cohn in Angels in America; Samantha Shaner (née Perry) as Nancy in Sid and Nancy; Joe Hilsee as anyone in any-freakin’-thing), the Blue Room always attempted to show us the beauty and the pain of life in fresh and new ways. For me, that’s art, and that’s what gets me out of the house.

I’m happy that Chico has a state-of-the-art and accessible public performance space downtown (which will be available for productions by more than just the host theater by the way), but I am sad that the old haunt is no more. I miss the funk. I know many of you do as well.

So, as I raise one congratulatory glass to First Street, I pour another out in honor of the Blue Room for bringing us two-and-a-half decades of wild fun.

Crack rock!

And like that, the music scene is back! This weekend marks the release of the long-awaited Cracks in the Concrete album, a compilation of originals by 14 local bands put together by man-of-many-musical-hats Jake Sprecher under the umbrella of Valley Fever, his rock-show/music-fest production company.

To accompany the dropping of the vinyl(!) and digital download versions on Friday, Nov. 5, Sprecher has also compiled a mini-fest—featuring 12 of the artists, a who’s-who roster of local punk/goth/indie/psych/garage-rock/disco crews—including the first-ever live show on the stage of the new Naked Lounge!

• Friday, Nov. 5, 7 p.m., Argus Bar + Patio: Surrogate, XDS, Greyloom

• Friday, Nov. 5, 9:30 p.m., Duffy’s Tavern: Severance Package, Empty Gate, Similar Alien, Sleepwalker

• Saturday, Nov. 6, 7 p.m., Naked Lounge: Solar Estates, Astronaut Ice Cream, Desperate Hell, Beehive, Sunny Acres

Order/download Cracks in the Concrete at valleyfeverchico.bandcamp.com

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