Corey O'Brien is the genius behind the thriving San Jose alternative music scene and he and his friends have the hottest venue in the South Bay to host some rad shows. Corey is a South San Jose native who went to Gunderson High in the early 80's, who was a was a regular and worked at the F/X nightclub, one of the many previous clubs before The Ritz. Corey and his crew have an appetite for the blood, sweat and guts-type of music that leaves an impression. Good stories about shows you can brag about to your friends. Corey's 12 year run owning the popular Blank Club is where he got this reputation. Seeing such great shows including Agent Orange, The Donnas, The Inciters, Fishbone, Guttermouth, Reverend Horton Heat, The Swingin' Utters, The Untouchables, The Chop Tops, Koffin Kats, just to name a few, in a small tiny bar was epic! But everyone except the fans were not that thrilled with the dinky 188 capacity of the Blank. There was no backstage, bands had to shuffle their equipment from the sidewalk to the stage in between acts. No parking for the bands either. They were loosing money and the bands were not happy. It was obvious Corey needed to expand to complete his vision.
San Salvador and South First street has been an epicenter for underground alternative music for decades. (Politics has plagued the progress for the local and choice music scene.) The Cactus Club (1988 - 2002) was a local staple for many years catering to local and some major traveling acts, now the notable Back Bar occupies that area, and the Agenda Lounge is still a great place to dance.
On the other corner was F/X (1989-1995) then it was the Usual, then Spy, Pete Escovedo's Latin Jazz Club and then Angels. The Space was vacant for 7 years prior before The Ritz when it opened in April 2015. (F/X and the Usual had some good shows.) The Ritz is a spacious 8,000 sq. ft. of darkness with red accented lighting, the way a classic music club should be. Holding 537 fans it's equivalent to Slim's or the Independent in SF. The sound system has been fully upgraded from the Blank, including an on stage mixing board, custom sub woofer and monitors. With professional lighting and special effects, the huge stage is a warm welcome to any band. There's two green rooms backstage, a private bathroom, a shower and even a washer and dryer.
The Ritz has two full bars, the front bar near the lobby seems to be the most popular, when the bands are not playing. The bartenders are always quick and professional, and with 3 to 4 bartenders in the main bar, you never have to wait long for a drink. The PBR is $4, Lauganita's IPA and Sierra Nevada was $7. A stiff Jack n' Coke was $9. (Always Tip Your Bartender.) Not horrible prices when seeing a killer show. There's a VIP section at the back of the main room, private and secluded but a little distant from the stage.
The ticket prices are reasonable too, on average about $10 to $20 and you really don't loose that much intimacy that the Blank provided, the band is right there. Bands like The Faction, The Adolescents, Fu Manchu, The Adicts, Dusted Angel, The Mevins, The English Beat and Sir-Mix-A-Lot. Eclectic and electric, just like the Blank was. Also they have a weekly dance party, with a dj spinning new wave, punk and alternative tracks.
The bathrooms are clean, they separated the sinks from the toilet/urinals so nobody pee's or pukes in the sinks. (I'm sure the ladies have their own sinks.) There's also a small smoking area in front of the venue, you can usually enter and exit with a stamp if you need more space. Parking is not that big of a problem in that area, but public transportation is always an option.
Experience a show at the Ritz, the show you don't want to miss.
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