Large number of music venues near campus

Editor’s guide to nightlife


Benjamin Davidson

Matt Land, 25, shoots a game of darts with his group of friends on his birthday weekend. Land enjoys his time at Vinnie’s because of the things that you can do other than just drinking. Land and his group of friends were finishing up a game of “around the world” as he sipped his draft beer.

Benjamin Davidson, Managing editor

If you enjoy live music, you would not have been disappointed this past weekend, as there was no shortage of options in Concord and Martinez.

At first glance, East bay local nightlife looks barren in terms of live music, but for the weekend of Feb. 27 – March 1, there were a couple of local performances that happened relatively close to campus, and for little or no cost to attend. We attended three of the local venues – so without further ado, here are the reviews.

Armando’s – Martinez


An old school feel really embodies this small family owned bar located in downtown Martinez, no more than a 13 minute drive from campus. Found right along the train tracks down near the marina, Armando’s has an intimate and close-to-the-music feel that is complimented by a small wooden stage, and with posters and pictures of music legends past that line its walls and ceiling. We attended on a lower-key night, that was featuring a jazzy type band in that of Mal Sharpe’s, “Big Money” – which made for a rejuvenating experience, beings I have a soft spot for, “N’awlins” type jazz.

Coincidentally, there was a family that happened to be visiting from Louisiana that night, and one of the women got up and sang a soulful rendition of Billy Holiday’s, “God Bless the Child,” to which, the band promptly found the tune and played right along with her, as if she were part of the band.

Reasonably priced beer and wine were the only expenses we noted, aside from the $10 cover at the door, and optional donations to the bands’ hat, which was passed around the tables in front of the stage.

“There absolutely can be a line out the door and halfway up the block,” said Eric Akes, an Armando’s regular.

Hazel Jeans, the owner’s son, voiced his vested interest in the family business, “we’ve been open for a little over eight years now, strictly 21 and over, and absolutely no cover bands.”


Vinnie’s – Concord


Catering to a much younger crowd is Vinnie’s Bar and Grill, one street over from Todos Santos Plaza, and just under a ten minute drive from campus. Unlike Armando’s, Vinnie’s music venues tend to feature local cover bands such as Maria’s Fault, and Crosstown 5 – who played on Friday Feb. 28, with cover songs ranging anything from classic rock to Lady Gaga. Billiards, darts, jukebox and a full bar and menu are what Vinnie’s has to offer aside from the music; the fact that it is downtown makes it pretty convenient as well. Expenses noted were solely for food and drink, as there was no entrance fee, just a few security guys who check to verify that you are of legal age before going in. So bring your identification, some dancing shoes, and maybe even some earplugs, because Vinnie’s can get pretty loud, depending on who is playing.


E.J. Phair Brewing Company, Concord Alehouse – Concord


For those of you that aren’t 21 yet, E.J. Phair is a good place to start. One street over from Vinnie’s is this delightful Irish pub. Unlike Vinnie’s and Armando’s, this venue is more centered on the food and drink, with music as an accompaniment. Both booths and tables are available for families and couples alike, especially catering to those in the mood for traditional Irish food, including reuben sandwiches, jaegerschnitzel, and corned beef hash. Serving breakfast, lunch, and dinner, this pub gladly open it’s arms to anyone who wants good food or a stout ale.

Alison Harris, 25, waitress, shared her thoughts on the live music,

“I really like that it brings in people, it makes a fun environment for me because people love listening to it,” Harris said. “The only negative is that it is a little loud, so it is hard to talk to people sometimes,” but noted the most enjoyable thing about working there was, “the beer, what else could be better!”

The casual, yet cool atmosphere set the stage for the dueling guitars of Matt Neal and Timmy G swept through the open pub and had everyone moving to the beat of cover songs by The Red Hot Chili Peppers and Uncle Kracker – all with a bit of an Irish accent.

Live music is all around us, and it really depends on personal preference when you are choosing a place to go out to for the night, and all three venues sported some talented musicians, with decent food and drink.