Back to Archives

Lakewood comes alive

Lakewood music scene revives after a long hiatus

Email Article Print Article Share on Facebook Share on Reddit Share on StumbleUpon

A few years ago I looked around and said, “There is no live music in Lakewood!” It was strictly a DJ, karaoke and jukebox town (unless you count the mariachi band that frequently appears at Mazatlan restaurant), which is sad given the thriving music scene that existed in the late ’80s and early ‘90s when the Back 40, Leslie’s and the Red Roof Pub were packed for live shows. Now I look around and see an emerging music scene, and I’m so happy about it. It’s not easy running a business in Lakewood, let alone a music venue because code enforcement is such serious business. Maggie O’Toole’s, Oh! Gallagher’s, Oaktree, Mocha Moo, and Great American Casino each deserve a little Weekly Volcano love for their outstanding efforts to consistently bring music to the masses. 

Maggie O’Toole’s attracts long-haired boys and short-haired girls. Similar to a Hell’s Kitchen crowd, there’s no shortage of sweet tats, gages and piercings.

It has live music Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays. The music is typically original rock bands with the occasional cover band thrown in. The bands are of the loud and high-energy rawk variety. The club purchased the best sound system it could find in order to produce concert quality sound and hired the professional Audio Justice team to man the board. As of last month, there are underage shows (for 18+) on Wednesdays and Saturdays booked by XiL Records.

Maggie O’Toole’s general manager, Billy, who says I can quote him only by his first name, says they have seen a significant decrease in problems since they switched from R&B to live rock a few years ago. 

“One thing I like is that it’s a more polite crowd, less dramatic, no guns or anything like that, and we haven’t had a single incident in the parking lot since we made the change. The last time we had to call the police was about six months ago when someone backed into an employee’s car,” he says.

Meanwhile, nearby Oh! Gallagher’s recently followed suit and changed its format from R&B/hip-hop to rock because of crowd control issues. I stopped by and felt very safe near the five or six large security staffers standing around the place. Oh! Gallagher’s has a large, brand-new dance floor, a great sound system, a dazzling light show, and original rock and cover bands on Thursdays and Fridays. There’s also faster service now because a second well has been added behind the bar.

A sleepy little neighborhood bar called Oaktree has a fairly new open blues jam with Tim Hall on Monday nights. You might have heard about Hall’s other blues jam Sunday nights in Tacoma at Dawson’s. What I love about the blues jam phenomenon is something called the nod. Have you ever noticed the nod? The band starts into a number, and once they get into the groove, they go into solo mode where everyone gets a chance to freestyle a little and strut their stuff. When it’s someone’s turn to shine, he gets the nod, and then he goes like gangbusters. If his skills impress, the crowd spontaneously erupts into applause mid-song even as the next person starts his turn. It’s fun to watch and even more fun to play. I stopped by the Oaktree and noted that every table was occupied, and several people were forced to stand. That’s a pretty amazing accomplishment on a Monday night. 

Mocha Moo has a terrific acoustic open mic every Friday evening. Recently, due to increasing crowds, the feature performer portion of the show has been canceled and it’s been strictly open mic for the whole show. In lieu of that, beginning in February, there will be music on Saturday nights too. Yeah! The first Saturday of the month will be a songwriters-in-the-round type dinner show similar to the acoustic dinner parties the owners used to have in their home prior to opening the café. All other Saturdays will have featured performers and bands for special events (open to the public) such as CD release parties, benefit shows, band reunions, etc. In January, Mocha Moo will begin serving specialty beer and wine.

Fan Club (a sports bar housed inside a former McDonald’s restaurant) occasionally has live bands but not on a regular basis. Check live music listings to see when there will be shows.

Great American Casino, on the other hand, is like clockwork with its live music. Every Friday and Saturday it has cover bands and no cover charge. The dance floor is usually packed. The lineup seems to be a steady cycle of the following bands: Stir Crazy, Nitecrew, Notorious 253, Idol Eyez, Raeann’s Groove, 4 More, The Boinkers, and New Jack City.

[Maggie O’Tooles, 6006 100th St. S.W., Lakewood, 253.584.3278]

[Oh! Gallagher’s, 7304 Lakewood Dr. W., Lakewood, 253.476.8787]

[Oaktree, 8011 Steilacoom Blvd. S.W., Lakewood, 253.582.2220]

[Mocha Moo, 3810 Steilacoom Blvd. S.W., Lakewood, 253.584.1565]

[Fan Club, 8315 83rd Ave. S.W., Lakewood, 253.584.1290]

[Great American Casino, 10117 S. Tacoma Way, Lakewood, 253.396.0500]

My name is Angie and I’m just a shot away — If you can’t rock me, somebody will.

comments powered by Disqus