Venues of Choice

Posted September 10, 2009 in Feature Story

While no one will deny that legendary rock clubs like the Whisky and the Viper Room (Dude, River Phoenix, like, OD’d here!) have earned a beer-soaked place on the SoCal map, just aim your guidebook at your own backyard if you’re looking for a history, nay, a legacy of underground, indie music venues chock full of legendary and bleary-eyed performances.


The Barn, located on the UC Riverside campus, was one such hallowed venue for IE music fans. Originally built in 1917—and even used as an actual barn—it became a rock club in the ’60s, where hundreds of shows took place there, including performances by Bob Dylan and Ike and Tina Turner. More recently (’80s and ’90s), everyone from Blink-182 and the Offspring, from Social Distortion to Agent Orange notched a gig here. Platinum-selling KROQ fodder like Incubus,  Rage Against the Machine, No Doubt and Radiohead played sets here. But after administrators wanted to rid the school of a party vibe in the late ’90s, the Barn was converted into a (yawn) restaurant. Starting in ’07, live shows kicked up again, but it was never the same. As if it ever could.


Back in the day, Spanky’s Café, formerly located along Main Street in downtown Riverside, served two functions: During the day, it was a place to get a hot meal; at night it was the premiere spot to catch sweaty, grubby punk and hardcore shows and maybe a low-grade injury or three.


Throughout the late ’80s and early ’90s, acts like Insted, Judge and Shelter played at Spanky’s, and you can find a bunch of footage from these old-school shows at your friendly neighborhood YouTube. The venue also hosted other acts like Strife, Chain of Strength and Bauhaus before it shuttered for good. Another defunct IE spot that built a reputation as a go-to club for punk, metal and other genres was the all-ages Showcase Theater, formerly of Corona.


Over the course of a 15-year tenure, the venue provided a stage for the likes of Face to Face, Circle Jerks and The Exploited. Metal and alt-rock fans ate this place up with shows by Snot, Hatebreed, Coal Chamber, Machinehead and System of a Down, as well as At the Gates, Napalm Death and Carcass.


Due to complaints from neighbors and other issues with the city, Showcase finally put out the going-out-of-business sign last year.


Nostalgia’s a bitch, ain’t it.


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