Soda Bar and Electric Guitars

Soda Bar

3615 El Cajon Boulevard, City Heights

Soda Bar opened in late 2008 at the former City Heights location of dubious dive Chasers. Set between a car lot and a Mexican herb shop on El Cajon Boulevard, the bar hosts local and touring musicians seven nights a week. Cozy black booths and Neapolitan pink/white/brown wallpaper lend a Willy Wonka penthouse vibe to the venue, which is split down the middle by a full bar with 20 taps of primarily craft and microbrews.

“We’re a live-music venue first and foremost,” says booking agent Cory Stier. “It’s a smaller Casbah-type feel.”

January saw an assortment of local noise artists molesting their instruments at Trummerflora Collective’s second annual Experimental Guitar Show, emceed by Sam Lopez (Zsa Zsa Gabor). Highlights included dreamy loops by Pall Jenkins (Three Mile Pilot, Black Heart Procession), atonal fuzz issued through modified amps by Henry Barnes (Man Is the Bastard, Amps for Christ), and a glitched out “Star Spangled Banner” by Bobby Bray (the Locust, Innerds).

Abel Ashes’s erratic acoustic guitar work was followed by Randy Chiurazzi, who was bleeding from the hand minutes into his set as he ground his guitar against foil, pennies, sanding discs, wires, and bits of ducting attached to his white jumpsuit. SxDx Noise honcho Frank Melendez (Riververb, Sprung Monkey) ignited firecrackers in an oil drum and looped chugging krautdoom riffs as the sulfur stink lurked through the crowd.

The League of Assholes consisted of Marcelo Radulovich, Esteban Flores, and Soda Bar’s other booking agent, Peter Graves (Roxy Jones), layering feedback while Michael J. Stevens struck his 100-string guitar with a hand tool. The Frankenstein instrument was affixed with a cymbal over the sound hole and 99 strings spiraling off the body from unlikely locations. Stevens eventually produced the 100th string and proceeded to floss sonic plaque from the cymbal and fret board while everything groaned like a shipwreck.

Drinks are potent and pool is free. Watch out for the occasional Street Fighter II tournament to win bar tabs and custom Pabst can trophies. The free monthly Art in the Park night showcases local artists and DJs. Upcoming shows include Marnie Stern, Tera Melos, and Red Fang.

Soda Bar

3615 El Cajon Boulevard, City Heights

Prices: Drafts $5 ($3 High Life), wells $4+
Hours: 5 to 2
Happy Hour: 5 to 9
Capacity: 230
Cover: Free to $15
Food: No

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