The Trees preform at the downtown Naked Lounge. (Photo by Maxwell Shukuya)

Downtown hipster hideouts welcome eclectic bands

 I walked into the Naked Lounge (1111 H St.), expecting to enter a smoke-filled, shabby motel lobby. However, I couldn’t have been more wrong.

Instead, I was greeted with a spacious cafe fitted with furniture that looked as if I’d stumbled into Ikea.

The unusual atmosphere and decor add to the Lounge’s overall appeal to the hipster subculture that it tends to attract.

Although it was a school night, the audience consisted of high-school students and only a  few adults.

A whopping 20 people filled the lounge.

The typical garb included leopard print shirts, trendy white blazers, beanies and trench coats.

There’s no lack of abstract art either. Strange multi-colored paintings are scattered around the walls in odd configurations.

One piece included a white fishlike figure placed on a pastel yellow backdrop.

As I took it in, I began to hear fragments of a sound check.

A few hastily strummed chords and a high-pitched voice reverberated throughout the rooms.

Past the cafe, the multi-colored couches and the Buddha statue, I found the source of the music.

A dimly lit room with a plywood ceiling features a small stage. Portions of the walls are knocked out revealing fake bricks.

In other venues, such a small space would indicate that I’m in for an auditory assault. Somehow the Naked Lounge avoided this common problem.

Almost every other night, live music attracts these teens to this strange cafe.

Selections of music range from “Jazz Sessions with the Naked Lounge Quintet” to local high-school rock bands.

The set of the night included The Trees, along with a few other tolerable bands.

The Sacramento-based Trees are a trio—a guitar, a bass and drums. Together this simple combination made for some excellent music.

The band appeared to be going for a creepy feel with lyrics like, “blood in the streets, and your hands are stained.”

Lead singer Elijah Egbert’s haunting vocals accompanied driving guitar riffs reminiscent of Radiohead.

Alone, Egbert isn’t a great singer. However, his voice has an eerie quality that works well with the band as a whole.

The audience tended to agree, as the Trees’ creepy alternative rock sound inspired enthusiastic cheers and shouts.

Another trio, The Wheels, played jazzy rock with a lot of great instrumentation.

The guitar and bass impressed me the most with their complicated-sounding jazz riffs.

However, the vocals fell a bit short and didn’t really connect as well as the Trees did.

Fletcher Gallawa, a current Rio Americano high school senior, is the vocalist of the Wheels.

The former Country Day student, stood almost motionless throughout the performance with an excellent poker face.

But I felt as if the lyrics had no meaning due to his overall lack of expression.

The dwindling audience followed in Gallawa’s footsteps, with a few detached cheers here and there.

It’s a shame, though.  They were the best instrumentalists of the night, and their creative riffs were memorable.

The final act, Buffalo! Buffalo!, was the least impressive.

Buffalo! Buffalo! features an acoustic guitarist, a bassist and a drummer who doubles as an accordion player.

The highlight of their performance was the accordion solo.

The accordion player’s fingers glided across the ivory white keys, similar to that of a concert pianist.

But the singer, Josiah Gathing,  was the band’s downfall.

He seemed to enjoy screaming and wailing at times.  And his unrefined “style” grated on my ears.

All three bands can often be found at other venues such as Luigi’s Pizza, Bows and Arrows and The Refuge.

Primarily, the bands announce shows and events on their Facebook pages. The H Street location (not to be confused with the Q Street Lounge) of the Naked Lounge also has a corresponding event calendar.

Anyone into the independent rock scene should definitely head to the Lounge.

It’s well worth paying a slim $5 fee and sitting through a couple mediocre bands to see The Trees. Oh, and if you enjoy tacky avant-garde art, then you’ll dig it too.

­­—Maxwell Shukuya


I have many fond memories of Luigi’s, whether it was eating a post-Little League lunch (free pizza if you showed up in uniform!) or buying a soda after picking up a magazine at The Newsbeat.

But lately I haven’t been going there for the pizza. I’ve been going for the music.

They host live music in an adjacent room, dubiously named the “Fungarden”—extra eating space by day, concert venue by night.

I love going to concerts at Luigi’s; it’s just a quick walk from my house to 20th and J at the Marrs building.

However, when I first started attending, the venue was a little rough.

It was basically a stage in the middle of a large hallway: concrete floors, plaster walls. With nothing to absorb the sound, it was pretty much guaranteed that even medium-sized bands would blow your ears out.

Quite recently Luigi’s decided to give their venue a facelift. New art, tiles on the walls and the removal of an eating table made the audience area smaller and much more personal, at least more so than the mess-hall-esque area it was previously.

The evening began well. The first group up was The Trees, a local favorite of mine. They’re a small group, a trio in fact, so there were no sound issues. Lead singer Elijah Egbert’s eerily pitchy voice made for a sublime lo-fi experience.

Then came Heavy Glow, a bluesy heavy rock trio. Here it became apparent that the volume issue had not been resolved, despite the other improvements.

I’m not one to shy away from a concert just because of the noise, but after the set my friend and I both left with our ears ringing, snapping our fingers by our heads to gauge the damage.

I’m actually a little disappointed.

Heavy Glow was good- quite good in fact. Their speakers were just turned up too loud.

By the third band, things really did start to fall apart. It was a group named Darling Chemicalia, and this time, it was a sextet: three guitars, a keyboard, a bass and a drumset.

Their first song was a tough one to get through. The guitarists went at their parts with gusto, burying not only their vocals but their quieter bandmates as well. I distinctly remembered their keyboardist vainly tapping away, a disappointed and slightly vexed expression on her face.

I recognize the fact that it was a Thursday, and I’m willing to cut them some slack. Maybe their usual sound guy wasn’t there. But the fact remains: this was the worst I’ve seen Luigi’s since their remodel.

Nonetheless,  I wholly recommend Luigi’s. It’s a great place to eat dinner and listen to live music with friends. You’ll just need to make an appointment with your Audiologist the next morning.

­­—Grant Miner






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