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Tuesday, Jan 21, 2014

The void left by The Void

Lamenting the loss of a rare experimental-music venue in San Diego

By Jeff Terich
smoking1 Dirty Beaches is one of the strange bands to have played at The Void.

Last month, The Void—the latest in a long series of rock-club casualties at 3519 El Cajon Blvd.—closed after less than a year.

To read the Facebook reactions to the venue's shuttering, you'd think its demise was inevitable. After all, if Zombie Lounge, Radio Room and Eleven didn't last, why would The Void—the least commercial and, by all accounts, weirdest bar to occupy the space yet? Not that Facebook reactions are the best way to gauge anything, but almost nobody was surprised to see it end, and that includes me.

Don't get me wrong—I didn't want The Void to close. During its brief existence, it started to build a reputation for being the venue for more adventurous, experimental bands, and it presented a bold alternative to the more middle-of-the-road rock clubs in San Diego. It's atmosphere was stark, like a black-painted garage with beer taps and a couple of booths, but the dark, simple look fit the styles of the acts on its stage, from noise artists like Boyd Rice and Pharmakon to more buzz-heavy indie-rock bands like Dirty Beaches and metal bands like Deafheaven. 

The gamble of booking less commercial acts is that you run the risk of not filling the venue or making a profit, and there were a few times when I was one of 10 to 12 people in the room. It's not realistic to expect a venue to keep going when the demand isn't always there, even if the occasional show like Deafheaven sells out.

I'm concerned that fewer clubs will be willing to take on the noisy, arty weirdoes that made The Void interesting. San Diego has a history of incredible innovations in underground music, so it would be a shame if what we see in the future is a continued effort to err on the side of conservatism. I'm hopeful that people like Art Fag Recordings founder and booking agent Mario Orduno and venues like Soda Bar will continue to bring some eccentricity to San Diego, but with the glut of new Americana and blues-rock bands in town right now, you'll forgive me if I'm feeling apprehensive. 

The Void gave a glimmer of hope about San Diego's weird future, but it could stand to get a lot weirder.

Email jefft@sdcitybeat.com or follow him at @1000TimesJeff




 
 
 
 
 
 
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