January 24-30, 2007

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Smoke Tiki Lounge

Photograph by Felipe Buitrago
Get Your Tiki On: Sexy back? It's already been brought'en.

Marching Orders

Taste a live music club sampler

By Ryan Osterbeck

HERE IN San Jose, we've got particular drinking establishments that cater to particular musical tastes. On Friday night (Jan. 26) three local watering holes—ranging from the new and shiny to the downright dirty—are all showcasing bands that are the near perfect sonic representations of each bar's atmosphere, all within a block of each other for easy stumbling. So don't settle for just one scene tonight; do some drinking and musical exploring on a block whose most recognizable landmark is a bus depot.

Starting out right after the workday ends, hit the smooth island confines of Smoke Tiki Lounge (152 Post St). By now, everyone has cruised by Smoke at least once, so spouting clichéd euphemisms about the deep tropical vibe is a bit superfluous if you've hit the back patio during their free happy hour live music sets. So kick back, eat some of their fantastic barbecue, grab a fruity tropical drink and relax with Connected playing surf rock out of Santa Cruz. Smoke will probably have some DJ action later and the place will be packed, but this night's about live music, so head down the block toward the Greyhound station and hit the Blank Club (44 S. Almaden Ave.).

The Blank once held the distinction of being the only game in town for live shows. As more and more bars hop on the live music wagon, the Blank may have to step up its game, but that's not going to be a problem for these vets of the downtown scene. Tonight, the venerable rock club is again showing us how they've survived. Three killer bands—Crucial Unicorn, Commercial Static and Whiskey Sunday—are playing Friday, throwing down hard and fast on the red-lit stage that's hosted national touring bands, but has always relied on the local outfits to keep things going. Crucial Unicorn (formerly Static Revolution) out of Santa Cruz spits out fast punk licks in the three-chord vein with a definite hardcore bent. If there is any justice in the often tumultuous and trendy music biz, Commercial Static will hit big. This intense and irreverent five-piece hails from good ol' San Jose, snagging its sound from a blended mash of '60s pop and '70s rock, all washed through the pop and punk of the '80s. If you're still on your feet and elect to stay at the Blank, grab another beer and get ready for the throwback anarchy punk of Whiskey Sunday.

Now it's time to hit a drink and music bender at San Jo's best dive bar. The Caravan (98 S. Almaden Ave) fills a special little niche in the downtown scene. Besides being a haven for San Jose's pierced and inked set, the 'Van has thrown its bunker-style doors wide for all local outfits to set up and rip out loud-as-hell rock in a small corner underneath the California Lotto video display. Not the most glamorous of settings, but it's the Caravan's everyman attitude and the crowd that's up to hear anything that should appeal to aspiring rockers wanting to make the leap out of the garage. And there's never a cover charge here, so even if the band sucks, you really haven't lost anything. But one of the hardest-rocking outfits to ever crank an amp is ripping it up at the Caravan tonight. The fast guitar riffs, driving bass and menacing vocal screams of Otto aren't for everyone, but these local guys are so freakin' good, they'll make hard rock believers out of anyone.

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