Audie's Olympic Tavern is the kind of dark, dive bar that's loved by locals and craved by touring acts looking to fill in dates. The beer is cheap, the crowds are friendly and the owner is as much a music fan as anyone who walks through the door.
"Keeping local music alive, that's our motto," says Audie Pardon, who took over the venue seven years ago, back when it was known as Club Fred. The Tower District is a hub for local bands (both the veterans and those just started). It's also the place to see national touring acts before they hit it big — Cage the Elephant played the club in 2008.
Audiepalooza, an annual mini-music fest that Pardon curates to coincide with his birthday, is a way for him to show his appreciation for the bands and fans that keep the place in business.
This year's event spans three days and kicks off tonight with local bands Richfield, Dirty Limbs and Lance Canales and the Flood. Los Angeles psychedelic Spaghetti Western band Spindrift headlines the night with pre-show happy-hour entertainment by Roger Perry and Mike Smith.
Saturday is rock and punk night with Handlebarz (it's the band's first show in six months or more), Death Alley Motor Cult, Planets Live In House, Meatpackers (featuring ex-member of Stone Foxes) and Mantis Watch.
Wednesday is Pardon's birthday proper, and he's booked some of his favorites, including comedic emcee Gentle Jamie, stoner-rock jazz band The Jules Winnfield and the duo Tony and Andy doing a tribute to Hall and Oates.
Pardon is still amazed at what the venue has become, and some of the bands he's been able to bring in over the years — guys like reggae legend Barrington Levi and the metal band Helmet.
"It doesn't necessarily mean I've won," he says. There's been plenty of touring acts that have played to crowds much smaller than they deserved, he says. Some, like outlaw-country act Bob Wayne, keep coming back and have — after years — built a solid following.
Spindrift is another band that makes sure the club is always on its tour schedule. But they are coming up for this show because Pardon asked. That's the kind of relationship he has with the musicians who play there. It's something he works hard to cultivate.
"I want them to remember this place," he says. "I want them to say, let's play the Olympic Tavern."
Audiepalooza 2014 kicks off Friday night and continues Saturday and Wednesday. Shows start at 8 p.m. $5-$10. (559) 233-3733, www.audiesolympic.com
This reporter can be reached at (559) 441-6479, email@example.com or @joshuatehee on Twitter and Instagram. Read his blog at Fresnobeehive.com