Live bands at Marilyn’s on K will soon give way to the waka-waka sounds of Pac-Man. But before the K Street nightclub takes on a new life as a cocktail lounge with old-school video games, there’s one last blowout of music.
The K Street mall will come alive with guitar riffs and drum licks from 1 p.m. Saturday until last call at Marilyn’s on K. It’s a swan song for the 15-year-old nightclub, which has occupied two spots on K Streeet, including its final incarnation near Ninth Street. And in a bit of unintended irony, this final Marilyn’s on K gig takes place on Dia de los Muertos, the Mexican Day of the Dead holiday.
The free show includes bands that became fixtures over the years at Marilyn’s: R&B-group Mercy Me!, rockers Cuesta Drive and Diva Kings, Black Sabbath tribute-act Children of the Grave and many more.
The site will soon be occupied by the team behind Coin Op Game Room of San Diego, and will be a mix of vintage video games and adult libations. Linda Swanigan, co-owner of Marilyn’s on K, says this new watering hole with joystick controllers is expected to open in February. For now, she’s singing the blues when thinking about this longtime club going silent.
“It’s bittersweet,” said Swanigan. “I didn’t quite meet my dream. I wanted to be part of the live music thing in Sacramento.”
The owners opted to close Marilyn’s on K as the lease was coming to an end. Instead of signing for another two years – a period in which the K Street mall will see significant construction from the new downtown arena – Swanigan decided to call it a run and focus on her business, a software company called Paradigm Systems Inc.
Marilyn’s on K debuted in 1998 a few blocks away, at 12th and K streets, and became synonymous with singer-songwriter Jackie Greene. Before touring nationally as a headliner and filling a guitar slot with Black Crowes, Green honed his act at Marilyn’s on K.
A 2003 live CD captured Greene, Beau Brummels lead singer Sal Valentino and a consortium of leading local musicians over two nights at Marilyn’s on K. The album, “Postively 12th & K: A Bob Dylan Tribute” paid homage to the nightclub in the album’s title and included 13 tracks of Dylan covers.
Greene’s now touring with Trigger Hippy, a supergroup of sorts featuring Joan Osborne on vocals and Black Crowes drummer Steve Gorman.
“Marilyn’s was my hometown club gig for many years,” said Greene, in a text message from the road with Trigger Hippy. “I’ll always have fond memories of that place, like the night Huey Lewis dropped by and played harmonica with us. Awesome times.”
Marilyn’s on K moved to the 900 block of K Street in 2005, and its former location was absorbed into what’s now Ella Dining Room & Bar. But the past nine years have been fairly hit-and-miss for the club, owners said. Marilyn’s on K was dedicated to live music nearly every day of the week, including open-mike nights, cover bands and karaoke backed by a live band.
Drawing crowds on a Tuesday or Wednesday night for local live music is tough for any Sacramento venue. The newer location for Marilyn’s on K was nestled on a block that became nearly deserted after sundown.
“Even with the bigger groups, it became a challenge (to draw crowds),” said Swanigan. “I think for all of the clubs, people don’t come out like they used to. I don’t know if it’s the change in technology, or there’s so much other stuff out there. We’d have some awesome bands and maybe 40 people would be there. But I figured if you’re doing music seven days a week and paying for the space, you see what you can do.”
Swanigan prefers to remember the good times at Marilyn’s on K as the final notes approach. She thinks of the New Year’s Eve celebrations with Greene, and the many stops by the Mother Hips the popular Northern California roots rockers. More than 1,600 bands are logged in the club’s database of groups that have played Marilyn’s on K, from locals like Cuesta Drive to Grammy-nominated soul singer James Hunter.
“I don’t regret it,” said Swanigan, about the club’s run. “We were the only live music bar on K Street for 15 years. People are coming in and saying, ‘There’s no other place like you.’”
Call The Bee’s Chris Macias, (916) 321-1253. Follow him on Twitter @chris_macias.
MARILYN’S ON K FAREWELL PARTY
What: Cuesta Drive and Diva Kings, Mercy Me!, Children of the Grave, City of Trees Brass Band and many more play at the club’s final show.
Where: Marilyn’s on K, 908 K St., Sacramento
When: 1 p.m. Saturday until last call
Information: (916) 446-4361, www.marilynsonk.com