On Monday the Blue Spark – after 14 years in business – became the third downtown nightspot to close in as many weeks.
July started with the closure of The Marquee. Sitting pretty much in between the now-dark Marquee and Blue Spark buildings is the Red Room Lounge, at 521 W. Sprague Ave. – right next door another famously vacant building, The Ridpath Hotel.
An increase of streets kids and homeless people huddling around the Ridpath was blamed for the Spark’s drop in business. The sidewalk around the block is often littered with trash, vomit, feces and used condoms.
Craig Larsen, Red Room’s owner, said he knows the conditions on the block are problematic, but he is committed to doing his part to create a healthy downtown after dark.
“It saddens me when I’m looking at the Marquee and the Spark closing,” Larsen said. “I’m not going to say the street kids are the only reason, but it has impacted the environment downtown. I’m going to keep on doing what I’ve always done to try to create an inviting establishment for people who want to come down, but it’s important for the people of this city to know we care about it and what it looks like and what visitors see when they come here.”
Over the past several months the Red Room has brought some key shows to Spokane, especially in the genre of classic hip-hop, including Rakim, Mobb Deep and last week’s Dead Prez show. Larsen also recently remodeled the Red Room, expanding the stage, dance floor and enhanced lights and sound system.
The Red Room breathes life into the block tonight with a smackdown of Latin-style bands featuring San Diego’s B-Side Players, supported by powerhouse locals Son Dulce and Milonga sharing a rare bill together.
B-Side Players started their Latin global funk movement in 1994 and have since built an eclectic blend of jazz, funk, Latin, hip-hop, soul, punk and ska, carrying their uplifting message of unity and consciousness – sometimes in English, sometimes in Spanish. B-Side Players also mix elements of cumbia, gritty samba, son montuno and jarocho.
Similarly diverse, Milonga has been a regional staple for a dozen years, playing a variety of pan-Latin sounds including hip-hop-laced cumbia, disco-funk merengue, slammin’ mambo, rumba, reggaeton, bomba, mariachi rap, funked up flamenco and grinding cha cha.
More focused in its sound, Son Duce plays authentic salsa music.
Incidentally, B-Side Players used to appear at The B-Side, another beloved downtown nightspot that closed.