Casbah 25

The month-long celebration of the Casbah’s 25th Anniversary wrapped this weekend with the sold out Rocket From The Crypt show. Over the last 31 days, the legendary concert venue has celebrated in Casbah style with shows from some of the best local acts ever to play there, the official declaration of  January 14th as “Casbah Day” by San Diego’s mayor, and a 25 Years of The Casbah show at The Birch North Park Theatre.

Now that the dust has settled, we asked a few of the participants of last month’s celebration to share their memories of the San Diego landmark, The Casbah.

Here’s what we pitched:

1. The first show you saw at The Casbah.

2. Best show you ever saw at The Casbah

3. Best thing about The Casbah

4. Who would you like to see there that you have never seen

5. Favorite Casbah memory

And here are their personal/odd/ unique/ blurry and funny as shit answers…

Al Howard of The Heavy Guilt, Black Sands, and The Midnight Pine

1. It was either Mark Lanegan on the Bubblegum Tour, the Rachel’s, or Robert Walters 20th Congress. Who knows now, but it was a while ago. Wait, it was fucking Bright Eyes, that’s what it was.

2. I saw Hella after they released their Hold Your Horse Is album. I got this friend who’s a monster drummer and he told me to check it out and be prepared to want to step away from music. Zach Hill, now the drummer for Death Grips, played the hardest complicated jaw dropping shit I’ve ever heard. I’m cheaper than an unemployed George Costanza and I bought a cd and a t-shirt.

3. That place has vibe to it. I remember the first time I ever walked in those doors. Walking down that corridor, smoking section, red tinted everything, open sky ceiling, posters, the back drop of the stage, the side mirror, the Atari lounge, I just remember being lost in this new town for more than a minute, an east coast transplant, but thinkin I found my spot on entry, that’s where I’d meet the cats I’d know for more than a moment. You look at the calendar and where else could you see Saul Williams, Sebadoh, Antibalas, AA Bondy, Transfer and Reignwolf?

4. I’d like to see At The Drive In and the Murder City Devils there. I was listening to that shit a ton when I moved to San Diego in 1999; that feels like the right room to sweat and push to.

5. Honestly, I was standing next to this Sequoia of a human being, tall enough to make me feel short. He was talking to his homie and then just stopped, then he fell like someone took an axe to his trunk. He went face first into the hard floor. It was the wildest thing I’ve ever seen in my life. He was unresponsive for a minute and then he just popped the fuck up like nothing happened. It was amazing. If I had the sense to film it, I’d be hanging out with Double Rainbow Guy and Rebecca Black. I think it was at the AA Bondy show, AA Bondy would be a better known artist if he scored the film of that fall.

Mitch Wilson of No Knife

1. Don’t remember but one of the first was seeing John Spencer Blues Explosion and Jesus Lizard through the open front door from outside when I was still not old enough to get in.

2. There are too many to count but if I had to pick I’d choose two for the sake of contrast: My friend Matt Reese worked there and suggested we go down and have a beer or two on a Monday night. I looked and noticed that The Geraldine Fibbers were playing. Someone had left their demo in my car and I played it all the time and really liked it. When I got to the Casbah they were just setting up. There were maybe twenty people in the whole place that night and The Geraldine Fibbers went up there and played as if they were playing a packed house. They were amazing and next time I saw them was after their first album had come out and it was a sold out show. I usually don’t go right up front but that night I did with my next door neighbors and it was one of my favorite Casbah shows.

3. I like the layout and that it has a few different environments that you can choose according to your mood. I also like that they have always treated the bands with respect no matter how big they were. Nothing flashy or fancy, just respectful. That is rare in the US. Club owners are generally out to make a buck and don’t care about touring bands

4. Tom Waits

5. Too many memories of friends and music and drinks. I’d be here all week talking about it.

Dustin Lothspeich of Boy King, Chess Wars, and Old Tiger

1. While I don’t remember the date or who they were playing with, my first show at the Casbah had Kill Me Tomorrow headlining. I had probably gone to less than 10 shows in my life – all at huge arenas or big festivals – at that point and wasn’t prepared for the grittiness of the place. It was awesome. Fell in love with the place, and local music.

2. The National and St. Vincent in 2007. It was a rescheduled show they were supposed to play earlier in the year. Both of them were getting massive at that point so it was probably the smallest place either one of them had played in awhile, and most likely, has played again. So much energy in the room, you could cut it with a knife. The place was as packed as I’ve ever seen a room.

3. Best thing about the Casbah is 1) the history and 2) for me, I like being able to have plenty of places to wander around. I do that at shows. There’s the smoking courtyard, the little hallway behind the sound board, the back bar with that little table, the entrance hallway, the ledge out front of the venue – it’s just fun. You’re not confined to a box.

4. I’d love to see The Growlers, Mastodon (can you even imagine that?), or Divine Fits.

5. My favorite memory of the Casbah is the Old Tiger CD release show in Oct. 2012. We got to play with some of our favorite bands, had so many rad people on that stage with us, finally got to put out an album, and played our hearts out for so many friends and family. It was something I’ll never forget.

Steve Poltz

1. Either The Beatles or The Kinks. I was high on acid so maybe it was on a tv screen in the back but as far as I’m concerned The Beatles and The Kinks were playing on stage together at the original Casbah. Ray Davies and John Lennon had shrunk down to the size of lady bugs and were trying to pitch me on a film idea they came up with called Honey I Shrunk The Kids. I wish I had listened to them but their voices were so tiny and quiet that it was hard to hear. Then the acid wore off and Mojo Nixon was on stage ranting about stuffin Martha’s muffin. The whole thing was transcendent and beautiful and spiritually bereft.

2. That would have to be Barbara Streisand. She had laryngitis but Tim Mays gave her some tea with a bit of whiskey and honey and lemon. She drove her own van and was really gracious and ended up going home with Tim and sleeping with him. I was super jealous and didn’t talk to Tim for a couple of months but then The Rugburns needed a gig so I made amends. My favorite Babs movie was Funny Girl and she actually sang a couple songs from that film. Sigh.

3. The fact that they have a small hotel in a secret room in the back with a full 24 hour waitstaff at your beck and call. Their crepes are to die for. They have an atrium with fresh veggies and a gro-light. Oh my gosh- I’m getting hungry just thinking about the tomatoes. Beefsteak tomatoes and wonderful mozzarella with imported aged balsamic. I always leave there feeling refreshed and ready to tackle the next leg of my never ending road trip.

4. Sean Connery. I think that would make me faint.

5. One time one of the Casbah employees took a really smelly crap in the office bathroom and I went back before I went on stage. I was really drunk on Jäger and had to pee but the smell of the recently released poo made me start gagging and I vomited all over the floor of the sacred office. I had to go on stage so Tim or one of his lackeys cleaned it up for me. Now that’s good service. Unfortunately they couldn’t get the smell of my puke out of the office for a couple months so they had to have it professionally cleaned. Tim made me play a Rugburns gig to pay for it.


Timothy E Pyles of 94.9

1. Good question, probably The Dragons and Uncle Joe’s Big Ol’ Driver.

2. The Vines in 2002. I also interviewed lead singer Craig Nicholls for a radio show I was doing at the time. That kid was something special!

3. When you get to see a band that has a tour bus play the Casbah.

4. Iggy Pop should play the Casbah, although he was once on screen, almost virtually during a Peaches show.

5. The day I realized I could walk in the door for any show I wanted.

Tim Lowman of Blackout Party and Low Volts

1. I don’t recall the first show I saw at the Casbah but I vividly remember the first show I played there. My old band headlined the show the Strokes played on their very first tour. Julian was absolutely wasted after about ten JD shots. Pretty sure he twacked some chick in the head with his microphone stand. ‘Twas a good night!

2. There’s a few over the years. Razorlite ripped it apart years ago. My other band Blackout Party opened for Blue Cheer and that slayed. The Sadies always blow minds. I’ve been to so many shows at Casbah I could never recall all the best!

3. Best thing about the Casbah is the welcoming, comfortable vibe. Kinda like your weird uncle’s basement creeper-lounge pad. Excellent sound system, staff and band booking. Tim Mays is the best thing about Casbah really.

4. Jimi Hendrix, Howlin’ Wolf and led zeppelin.

5. You would have to be there to truly understand.

Will A. Lerner of Shake Before Us

1. Although my memory’s not my strongest point, I believe the first show I saw at Casbah was in 2001… or was it 2002? Tegan and Sara were just getting big, they headlined, local up-and-comers Louis XIV supported, and my then-girlfriend’s band the Kirby Grips from SF were openers. Loved the club from the moment I walked in.

2. Hate to say it, but the best show I’ve seen there might be one we were a part of, playing in the Atari Lounge for King Khan and the Shrines this past October. The energy, the sound, the performances, the crowd, watching that band at that club is one of my favorite rock ‘n’ roll memories. And we held our own in the back room, if I say so myself.

3. Lot of great things about Casbah, but maybe the best is the vibe. It’s just the perfect rock ‘n’ roll club. Everything from the layout, the decor, the sound, the stuff, the management, it just screams raw rock. Is it perfect? Nope. But if it was perfect it wouldn’t be rock ‘n’ roll.

4. I didn’t get tix to see the Rocket from the Crypt on the 31st, but I’d sure like to see them there!

5. Favorite Casbah memory… The first time we played the mainstage, July 2011, coincidentally enough supporting King Khan & Gris Gris. We played the last chord of the last song, the sold-out crowd hooted, hollered and clapped, our old bassist Cuz took a picture from the stage, nothing but heads and raised fists… Lot of great memories there, but that might be my favorite.

Brian Holwerda of Blackout Party

1. Don’t exactly remember, but I think it may have been the Jealous Sound or possibly Postal Service back when I first moved to SD.

2. Jason Isbell from the Drive By Truckers- his band sounded the best I’ve ever heard in that room, and they really blew me away that night and made me a huge fan. His new record Southeastern is really amazing too, everyone go buy it!

3. The family environment, from the staff to the regulars. Mays always says they want to treat the bands right, and I think that makes a huge difference to the whole experience. The staff are just a great cast of characters, as well.

4. I’d like to see Queens of the Stone Age. It’s crazy all the huge famous bands that play Casbah, then the next time through they’re at Sports Arena or something. It really is a great opportunity to see world-class artists 2 feet away in a sweaty bar right before they get mega famous.

5. Meeting lifelong friends. Going to Austin City Limits festival with Mays and Porter. I will always remember that trip as some of the best fun a person can have. It didn’t hurt that we had the vip badges so we were watching every set onstage. Band of Horses at sundown was pretty epic, Fleet Foxes at 10am Sunday morning, swimming in Barton Springs, eating bbq, what a blast!
Thanks Tim for everything you do, and thanks to the whole Casbah staff!!

Casbah logo

Jake Najor of The Styletones, Chess Wars

1. The first show I ever saw at the Casbah was Elgin Park back in 1998.

2. The best show I ever saw had to be prefuse 73 back in 2008.

3. The best thing about the Casbah is it feel likes home to me.

4. I would love to see queens of the Stone Age there.

5. My favorite Casbah memory was playing there when I was underage, that was one of my goals since I started playing music.

Christopher Hoffee of The Truckee Brothers

I have been playing shows since the 80′s…went to the Pink Panther before he moved to the smaller Casbah before where it is now. I have performed and seen so many shows over the years it all becomes one roller coaster ride. It is like asking me how was the ride 1 minute and 46 seconds in… I could not answer. So… My answer to you is… It’s the ride. The whole damn ride…From the early nineties to this new year in 2014 I have been a part of the Casbah. I feel honored to being a part of the 25th Anniversary… Performing at a sold out show there a few weeks ago on the 10th with my band the Truckee Brothers was a high point. Community. History. Love of live music. Leaving everything on the stage. Shooting cannons and laser beams from our hearts and minds. Being in the moment. The now. This is the Casbah. Why it is still here. The ride. The whole damn ride.

  1. Christian R
    February 24, 2014 | 10:46 pm

    Man this place has seen some amazing artists come through. This week a very talented young band by the name of Kodaline will be passing through.. Be sure to check them out 2/25!!

  2. Bill Dyke
    February 4, 2014 | 1:48 am

    1. Old Casbah – hidingmask, soul brothers, and granfaloon bus. under age…sorry Tim
    2. …and you will know us from the trail of dead. my ears rang for month
    3. seeing old friends – making new ones
    4. 25 more years of music so my kids have a place to experience it.
    5. Its Gonna Blow- fundraiser. Rob Crow putting the all star line up was just about as epic as it gets.

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