Fulton 55 was looking to fill a void when it opened its doors on the northwest corner of Fulton Street and Divisadero Avenue in January 2011.
“It was exciting,” says Patrick Contreras, the local rock violinist who played the venue’s opening night. “I always felt we needed a mid-sized venue.”
At 7,500 square feet, Fulton 55 was just that. It was bigger than most clubs in town. It was dedicated to live music and in a part of the city that was becoming known for its vibrant cultural life. With a capacity of 500, it was perfect for local acts looking to prove their drawing power and for the mid-level acts that make up the majority of touring bands.
“It was a step Fresno needed to take,” says Contreras, who helps the venue celebrate its four-year anniversary, which kicks off Friday, Jan. 23 with the 10-piece Prince tribute The Purple Ones. Contreras plays Saturday, Jan. 24 with the Atascadero neo-soul band The Monroe.
Over the years, Fulton 55 has hosted hundreds of shows with both local heavy hitters (like the indie-band Fierce Creatures, which played a sold-out tour kickoff show in 2011) and national touring acts like the Latin rocker Malo, punk band Face to Face and blues guitarist Tab Benoit. In December, ’90s alt rockers Bush played an intimate acoustic set to a sold-out crowd. Online tickets were gone in minutes.
Not that Fresno fans showed up for every show, Contreras says. Punk icon Greg Ginn played to an almost empty house when he came through in 2012.
But the success of individual shows aside, the venue took chances on shows and became a home for genres that had, to that point, been overlooked, Contreras says. That includes hip-hop and EDM (electronic dance music).
While the venue continues to evolve (it recently lost it long-time general manager) and is in the midst of revamping (passersby may have noticed the new signage outside), it continues to provide the kind of musical entertainment it’s known for. Its upcoming calendar includes dates for local rockers Where Sea Meets Sky, Bitter Buffalo and Kara Harris (Jan. 30); touring ska bands Mad Caddies and the Aggrolites (Jan. 31); the Los Angeles glam metal band Bang Tango (Feb. 8) and the Geometry Electric Dance Party (March 27).
For Contreras, being part of the anniversary serves as homage to the venue and support for its continued growth.
“Fulton 55 is basically a baby still,” he says.
The show is also a homecoming for the violinist and an opportunity to reintroduce himself (and his new band) to local audiences.
“I feel like I’ve done a lot in four years and I’ve grown,” he says.