Sacramento Proud

Another Sacramento Music Venue in Danger of Closing…

There are a lot of things that have been changing in Sacramento in recent years — some good, some bad.

With an influx of Bay Area residents coming in and buying properties (what up skyrocketing rent prices?), a concerted investment into the arts and culture sector by the powers-that-be in Sacramento (yay finally!), and a beautification (gentrification?) of classic neighborhoods such as Oak Park — I leave you to decide which parts are beneficial.

For myself, as a music lover, a music blogger, and someone who actually throws shows in the city we speak of — there are few things that grind my gears more than seeing some of our most hallowed (and local-music friendly) venues forced into closure because of a combination of outlying factors, some of which may be listed above.

Do not get me wrong, I understand that with growth, comes change. I actually have no problem with change, and can even find myself embracing it from time to time. There have been so many strides that our city has made in regards to the support of the culture of our scene — but it feels like music is almost falling by the wayside. When it comes to venues in Sacramento, however, none have my heart quite like The Blue Lamp.

The Blue Lamp has been open since 1967 (though long ago in a galaxy far away it was actually a strip club), residing smack on the border between East Sac and Midtown. With its pitch black brick walls, high windows that seem almost useless since the place is never open during the day, and back drop of the Motel 6 behind it, it is almost EXACTLY what I used to dream a proper music venue was like.

I read stories of CBGB’s when I was a kid (I was obsessed with the scene, even then) and then visited it as an adult before it closed. When you walked into those hallowed doors you felt history slap you in the face. You could smell the sweat and blood from over hyped mosh pits. You could see the hundreds of slaps left behind by the hundreds of artists that had passed down those halls. The drinks were strong, the bouncers were stronger, and it was exactly what I had hoped after all those years. CBGB was like a distilled version of all the dreams I had once had of NYC. It felt like home.

The minute I moved back from NYC and started re-introducing myself to the city I had left behind all those years ago, Blue Lamp was like.. methadone for me. It was grimey enough to remind me of NYC but California enough to kick me of my East Coast habits. It let me know that I had been missing some shit. It let me know that Sacramento wasn’t going to be so bad this time around.

It’s home.
So when I saw recently a flyer that said to “Keep Midtown Blue” my heart dropped. On Feb 10th (tomorrow) there is going to be a benefit show thrown by First Unit Inc. with all proceeds being donated to the Blue Lamp, to help assist with some unexpected expenses that can truly effect whether the venue continues to function. Featuring a melding of hip hop and rock sharing the stage equally, along with hundreds of dollars in raffle prizes (including some from myself) this show’s proceeds will all go towards helping a mainstay ACTUALLY stay in Sacramento.


I sat down with Gabriell Garcia, co-owner (along with her husband) of the Blue Lamp since 2013. I wanted to find out more about what was happening, and why there seemed to be such a sudden change.
Resident Stoner: So I know the whole situation is pretty crazy right now. I appreciate you taking the time out to talk to me. First off, let’s talk about something good. Tell me about the show happening on the 10th? Who put it together and what is it for?

Gabi Garcia: Ricky from First Unit Ent put it together, we are trying to raise funds to pay for some unexpected expenses that have come up. Repairs, bringing the building up to code as well as some building improvements that needed to happen.

RS: It seems to be a growing trend lately that a lot of our local venues have been going through similar things lately, though perhaps in different ways. In my most recent memory I can think of Red Museum having to raise funds for repairs and other various things to bring the building up to snuff, and the Colony also had a couple of different benefits with proceeds going to the venue. I know you can’t speak for other venues, but in your view, what is going on? Why do you think so many venues, including mainstays in the Sacramento landscape like Blue Lamp and The Colony, are struggling?

GG: Sacramento can be a fickle market, it’s a tough business. Sacramento is growing really fast & I think the city may be trying to catch up. Also the Ghostship fire in Oakland has brought attention to how important it is to make sure venues are safe. As far as struggling, it might just be growing pains. I don’t think we’ve ever not struggled 🙂

RS: Sacramento seems to be going through some different shifts and growing pains, but it seems like the Blue Lamp has been going through a very… specific set of changes recently, especially when it comes to police and the city enfrocement. When did the major scrutiny start in your opinion?

GG: We’ve always been scrutinized, I feel mostly due to hosting rap/hip hop shows. We always have and ALWAYS WILL (or for as long as they let us anyway). We are also close to East Sac, a more affluent neighborhood. We’ve thought about possibly moving the venue to a more urban area. We run a tight ship & have earned the respect of many artists/performers in the area. We have had very few incidents over the 5 years we’ve been here considering how many shows we’ve thrown. When I talk to other venue owners/employees it does not seem they are under such scrutiny.

RS: Talk to me about Dec 30th, 2017. Blue Lamp was hosting a show with the proceeds going to BLM? Or the family of Joseph Mann? I just wanted to make sure I was clear on that part.

GG: Dec 30th, BLM (Black Lives Matter) hosted a rap fest featuring artists of their choosing (Charlies Muscle, M’ster Lewis, among others). It was a fundraiser for them. I was talking about the Anti-Sammies funds going to the Mann family but have been informed the Mann’s won a significant lawsuit and are doing ok financially. BLM has a fund to help those still struggling from police violence and we are comfortable letting them disburse the funds as they see fit to those families.

RS: What happened that night?

GG: The Sacramento Police did come by that night, Sacramento has a division of the PD thats sole focus is policing those with entertainment permits & Sacramento night life. It was not a full compliance check, just coming by to introduce the new Lieutenant. Two officers came in the building to check it out & were asked to leave by the President of BLM, which they did. It’s hard to talk about because we are still waiting for our permit to be renewed & do not want more scrutiny from the city. But we do feel profiled.

RS: I have been around Blue Lamp quite a bit since you actually took ownership in 2013, and I often have gotten the opportunity to see the police circling the block or parking across the street from the bar. What shows tend to bring the most police presence?

GG: Definitely the Hip Hop/Rap shows. We’ve even had neighbors notice & mention it. Why? I’m not sure. I know Sacramento has had some issues surrounding rap shows in the past but we are just trying to do our best to provide a solid safe place for hip hop, especially local hip hop, in Sacramento. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not JUST for this genre but all genres. There’s nothing more important to us than being a safe space for artists of all kinds to express themselves and share their gifts.

**For the record I cannot tell you how many times I have walked to Blue Lamp when I am out in midtown PRECISELY because I needed to feel safe. If I was walking and someone started to follow, or in one instance when a guy refused to take no for answer and was following me in his car — I knew if I could make it to Blue Lamp I would be okay. It’s always been a beacon to me because these guys actually CARE about the scene they are supporting**

RS: Talk to me about all of the issues that you have been going through, in terms of renewing licenses and things of that nature, especially things that occurred after Dec 30th.

GG: Well it’s been nothing SPECIFIC since the 30th, just different things to bring the building up to code, per se. It’s an on going issue. It’s just odd that the bar has been there since 1964, we are fixing things over the past 5 years that have been like this for over 20. I mean, we understand that there will be things here or there, as I have been in this business for over 20 years. But sometimes it feels like they are making us jump through hoops that others aren’t encountering.. when I have gone and talked to others and they say they haven’t had a compliance check in years.

RS: In Mid-March, Blue Lamp is hosting a show called “The Anti-Sammies” — for anyone reading this who may not be aware. Tell us what the Sammies are, and tell me why the Blue Lamp is hosting the anti-version.


GG: The Sammies are a local music awards show (Sammies/Grammys, get it?) where artist/bands vie for votes to win a plaque. It is important locally to feel appreciated by the community & your peers so this awards show has become really important to some local artists… Others not so much, they could give a shit. We were impressed by the artists decisions to withdraw their nominations, and refuse to show up or perform & we commend them for doing so. Ultimately a lot of these artists are also ones who perform at and patronize our establishment. Blue Lamp wanted to show them support, as well as support Black Lives Matter Sacramento. They are the ones fighting on the front lines.

RS: Who is playing that show?

GG: Actually there was so much interest we made it a 2 night event. This 2 night event was created as a response to SN&R’s lack of inclusivity in recognizing the black community. Their cover story on Joseph Mann’s murderer was unacceptable and their response to the outcry from the Black Community was dismissive and caused further harm. BlackArtsMatter & BlackLivesMatter are joining together to create space for those artists ignored by SN&R and those who have denounced their SAMMIES nominations


The 1st night Wed Mar 14th is full of performances featuring:
Sparks Across Darkness
Ani Maul
Jonah Matranga
Tunes by DJ BLAQLight
& more TBA

The 2nd night Thur Mar 15th will be more of a full on celebration:
We will have food (bring a dish to share if you can).
We will have music. We will have dancing. We will have performances. We will be lifting Black art in all of its forms.

RS: What are the proceeds of that show being delegated to?

GG: Black Lives Matter Sacramento’S fund for helping the multiple families of victims of police violence here in Sacramento.

RS: Talk to me about the future. What are your plans? What needs to happen in order to make sure that the Blue Lamp is still able to survive, and thrive?

GG: We take it one day at a time & do all we can to secure a venue for underground music of all genres in Sacramento. We need the support of the community #getoffyourcouch

RS: What kind of effect have these “hoops” that you are jumping through had on you?

GG: It’s exhausting, lol but I’m a fighter so it lights my fire

RS: Is there anything else you want the readers to know?

GG: Mostly that we appreciate all the support we DO get, all the LOVE we do get. Every cover paid, every drink bought, every event shared means the world to us. We’re not giving up, and we are definitely not done yet.
I don’t think this will be the last piece you see from me on this issue, but I definitely am glad that this is my first. I hope to see everyone out on Feb 10th, March 14th, March 15th, and any other day that you can support.


And if you aren’t going to? If you can’t be bothered? Don’t be that asshole that posts on FB after a venue closes, bitching about how there are no more places to see local music in Sac. Don’t be that artist that bitches there is no where to host local shows in Sac. Cuz you had it.. and you couldn’t be bothered.

Olivia Monahan



Olivia Monahan

February 9th, 2018

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