No brooms, no cauldrons, no black cats. But hopefully plenty of spellbinding shows.
Witch Room, a new music and private-events venue in the midtown building that previously housed do-it-all space Bows & Arrows, is scheduled to soft-open Tuesday with a bill featuring female-fronted Oakland punk band Wax Idols, Wreck and Reference (who split time in Sacramento and L.A.), Hollow Sunshine and locals So Stressed and Darlingchemicalia.
“I think it’s funny we are calling it a soft opening when they are some seriously hard bands with a ton of intensity,” said Liz Mahoney, who operates Witch Room with Liz Liles and Olivia Coelho.
Coelho, former co-owner of Bows & Arrows, dissolved her business partnership with Trisha Rhomberg after the January shuttering of their specialty shop, which included a clothing boutique, cafe, art gallery and music venue. Coelho maintained the lease on the building at 1815 19th St., but was undecided on her next move until a conversation at a music show at a house in Davis.
The closure of Bows & Arrows meant one less Sacramento venue for independent touring acts that lack the draw to play larger rooms such as Assembly or Harlow’s. House shows are often the alternative for such fringe bands. And it was at the January house show that Coelho began talking with Liz Liles – of local punk band G. Green – about her future. Standing around a backyard bonfire, Liles pitched the idea that became Witch Room.
“Olivia and I got talking about the closing of Bows & Arrows,” Liles said. “And the venue idea immediately popped up as something we both wanted to see in Sacramento. When I got home I immediately texted Liz Mahoney about the idea.”
Liz Mahoney is the lead singer of gothic proto-punk band Screature and former operator of Fools Foundation, a midtown music and art space that closed in 2008. Liles said she and Mahoney, who both work at B Street Theatre, wanted to get back to booking musical acts. They discussed opening an 18-and-over (though sometimes all-ages) venue with Coelho, who liked the idea.
“The way the pieces all fell into place so effortlessly was kind of magical,” Coelho said. “Liz Mahoney and I go way back to Fools Foundation days, and I’ve known Liz Liles since she was in high school. I just couldn’t respect them more.”
When choosing a name for the 150-person capacity club, the three wanted a moniker that spoke to the empowerment they feel in what’s often a male-dominated scene, one that also highlighted a belief that the partnership was cosmically foretold.
“We wanted a name that had a female quality to it without sounding too cute,” Liles said. “The fact that all three of us (running the business) are women is pretty unheard of in this city. Witch Room really spoke to us for two reasons: It’s a fun play on words and we want to smash the current misconception … of the word ‘witch.’ ”
Coelho added: “When I think of witches and their mythology, I think of the love of the physical self, our senses, our influence on one another and the physical cosmos. Music is so important to our shared experience, so varied. I’m stoked to create this space where it can dominate.”
In preparation for Tuesday’s soft opening show, the Witch Room owners, with the help of friends, remodeled the venue. Painted black walls, a modest stage, updated sound equipment and salvaged furniture and booths from Stock Market Lounge make up the newly modified venue.
“I think people are going to trip when they see what we’ve done to the space,” Coelho said. “It looks really sexy and gothic, but there’s a warmth to it.”
While Witch Room’s opening show is mostly punk, the March 28 show lists hip-hop and electronica acts. Metal, comedy and movie nights are also in the works, Liles said. They’ve also booked a Celtic harpist.
“We all grew up in this town,” Liles said. “Witch Room will cater to every audience in Sacramento. We do not want to become the club that only has performers of a certain genre.”