Music News & Reviews

An anchor of Sacramento’s R Street, Ace of Spades continues to flourish

Concert-goers cross R Street as the doors open at the Ace of Spades music venue on the 1400 block of the R Street corridor, Thursday, Oct. 17, 2013. Fans line up across the street for hours before the nightclub opens.
Concert-goers cross R Street as the doors open at the Ace of Spades music venue on the 1400 block of the R Street corridor, Thursday, Oct. 17, 2013. Fans line up across the street for hours before the nightclub opens. Special to the Bee

When Sacramento’s Ace of Spades opened in 2011, it quickly became a staple of the city’s growing music scene. But to people like Arii Filipponi, it’s much more than that.

“I have grown up attending Ace of Spades,” Filipponi, 22, said. “When I walk in the doors I just get this warm feeling with the decor and the venue in general. A lot of the people who attend shows at Ace of Spades are people who attend a lot of shows in Sacramento, so it’s kind of like a family.”

For Filipponi, it’s the combination of opportunities given to local bands and the booking of more popular artists that makes the venue special.

“It’s definitely put a lot of local acts on the board,” Filipponi said. “Ace of Spades was like the place to play, the ‘we made it here’ place.”

For Citrus Heights resident Lacey Chrisman, it’s that certain je ne sais quoi of Ace of Spades that makes it special.

“I have been to a lot of bars that have music,” Chrisman said. “It’s your average bar that has music, except that it’s Ace of Spades.”

Before Ace of Spades opened, there was a lack of midsize music venues in the Sacramento area. While it had small clubs such as The Boardwalk in Orangevale and large venues like Wheatland’s Toyota Amphitheatre, there were few midsize venues to attract popular groups who weren’t big enough to fill an arena, like Sleep Train in Natomas.

Sacramento Metro Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Peter Tateishi said Sacramento was missing a “strong venue to bring in strong acts.” To him, Ace of Spades filled a need for live performance in the community.

“Golden 1 Center is obviously a phenomenal center, but they’re drawing thousands of people,” Tateishi said. “Here you don’t have that number of people, so you can have a more intimate conversation and engage with the act. There’s a stronger experiential component.”

Filipponi seconded this statement, saying that it’s the intimacy that makes Ace of Spades so special in her mind.

“You can stand anywhere in Ace of Spades and feel like you have a front row seat,” Filipponi said.

Ace of Spades was owned and operated locally until 2016, when Live Nation bought the venue. For Filipponi, it was hard at first to accept the sale of a place so special to her to a major corporation.

“Honestly, it kind of broke my heart,” Filipponi said of the Live Nation sale. “I was afraid it would decrease the chances for local music, but I almost forget that it’s owned by Live Nation. They did a really good job of keeping that local feel.”

Tateishi agreed, saying Live Nation has opened up new possibilities in the Sacramento music scene while staying true to what has made Ace of Spades great.

The purchase offered “the opportunity to connect with different acts and promote the venue in a different way,” Tateishi said. “It’s an opportunity to continue to expand on the success of Ace of Spades.”

Five things to know

It’s now part of something bigger – The venue was bought from co-founders Bret Bair and Eric Rushing in 2016 and is a part of Live Nation’s House of Blues division, along with 12 other clubs across the nation.

It anchors a popular district – Ace of Spades is one of the anchor businesses of Sacramento’s popular R Street district, which features some of the city’s most popular clubs, bars and restaurants.

Its size is a plus – With a capacity of 1,000, the venue is big enough to host top artists such as Snoop Dogg while remaining intimate for the audience and available for smaller local acts.

It’s close to mass transit – Regional Transit’s 16th Street light rail station, less than a block from Aces of Spades, serves the Blue and Gold lines, and the Green Line station is just two blocks away.

All ages are welcome, unless noted – It’s an all-ages venue, and all of the events are open to all unless noted. It has two bars and a lounge and features an expansive food and drink menu.

Aces of Spades at a glance

THREE CAN’T MISS SHOWS

  • Reverend Horton Heat, Friday, Sept. 15, 7 p.m.: The Dallas-based psychobilly trio, fronted by Jim Heath (dubbed by one reviewer as the “godfather of modern rockabilly and psychobilly”), will be joined by special guests Fish Bone and Strung out.
  • George Clinton and Parliament-Funkadelic, Wednesday, Oct. 18, 7 p.m.: In 1997, Clinton and 15 other members of Parliement-Funkadelic became the largest band inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. In 2002, Spin magazine ranked the group sixth on their list of the “50 Greatest Bands of All Time.”
  • Third Eye Blind, Wednesday, Nov. 15, 7 p.m.: The rock band, formed in San Francisco in 1993, has produced five albums, including the self-titled debut in 1997. The single “Semi-Charmed Life” won a Billboard Music Award for Best Modern Rock Track in 1997.
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