Tuesday, March 9, 2010

East Bay All-Ages Venue Reopens, Caters to Young Indie Bands

By Kathleen Richards
Tue, Mar 9, 2010 at 2:29 PM

An all-ages venue in San Lorenzo is reopening on Friday, Mar. 12. But if you’ve never heard of Ashland Hall (located at 16490 Kent Ave.) in the first place, that’s because the 250-capacity rental hall only hosted about a half-dozen shows last year, according to Andrew Kutsenda of PinUp Productions, which is collaborating with other local music promoters to book the shows.

As Kutsenda explained, even though the venue booked a handful of shows between summer and winter of 2009, most of the events sold out or almost sold out. “Kids just latched onto it,” he said. While his production company books most of its shows in the South Bay, many of the bands that play are from the East Bay or the Peninsula.

So why are so many East Bay bands going down south to play? Kutsenda says it’s because the East Bay club scene doesn’t allow certain kinds of bands to perform. “I love the music coming out of there, but there’s also been a strong backlash against it in the underground scene,” he said. “If you don’t play an acoustic guitar or have a keyboard, you can’t make it in the East Bay scene. A lot of bands that have a breakdown or more poppy anthems can’t make it. We gave a lot of those kids a place to play. … We just hit a market that a lot of people hadn’t really touched on.”

Some of the bands that Kutsenda says draw the largest crowds are Fighting the Villain (Fremont), Picture Me Broken (Redwood City), the Dialed (San Lorenzo), 5606 (San Jose), Dance My Heart (Dublin), and Hope for A.M. (SF). Admittedly, most of those bands are quite young and play a style of music that befits the Warped Tour — so East Bay venues that rely on alcohol sales, are 21+, and start shows around 9 p.m. may find that booking such bands doesn’t make a lot of financial sense.

And since the young bands (some with members in high school) attract a similarly young crowd, Kutsenda says that the promoters (also including PinkSlip Productions, A Burning Hollywood Romance Clothing, and Arsenic Productions) purposefully create a “safe place” for kids to go. All the shows are all-ages, substance-free, and, said Kutsenda, mostly profanity-free. “That’s what we’ve been pushing since day one.” Accordingly, the shows start as early as 5 p.m.

The venue’s re-opening show on Friday will feature Goodbye Gadget, Bring It Home, The Dialed, Heavy Lies the Crown, Worthwhile, and Quiet Game Starting Now. 6 p.m., $7, $10. For other shows at Ashland Hall and other all-ages venues in the Bay Area, go here.

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