Wednesday, Nov 21 2012 12:02 PM

MATT MUNOZ: Downtown's Dome going out with a big bang

By The Bakersfield Californian

Apart from the legendary basement at Jerry's Pizza, no other venue has boasted as many all- ages shows as the Dome, on the eastern edge of downtown Bakersfield.

But after more than a decade as a destination for young concert-goers, the historic venue that started out as a boxing stadium will begin saying its goodbyes with a pair of shows this weekend.

Located on the corner of V and 22nd streets, the 1,650-seat arena has hosted concerts, sporting events and religious services since owner Chencho Madera purchased it 13 years ago.

"I think I created one of the best music venues in Bakersfield," said Madera, 61, who is negotiating the sale of the building to a local church. "I think it's just time to move and do something different."

The talent that hit the stage in that time represented some of the most buzzed-about acts in music across all genres: Social Distortion, Bad Religion, New Found Glory, Queens of the Stone Age, Kottomouth Kings, Bone Thugs-N-Harmony and Atmosphere, plus Latin groups and countless local acts.

Bakersfield musician and show promoter Patrick Spurlock, 31, who attended many shows at the Dome over the years, said the venue's change in operation will leave a big void.

"A lot of my favorite bands have played there, bands you couldn't see anywhere else in town. Bands like the Cold Blue Rebels and D.I. from Los Angeles. I also liked how bands had a lot of opportunities, especially the younger bands, who could be on a lot of shows. Lots of memorable nights from a fan's standpoint."

Large enough to accommodate better-than-average draws, the Dome was small and accessible enough to meet the needs of more modest shows.

"I thought it was the best building in Bakersfield to hold rock shows of different sizes," Madera said. "I invested my whole life here."

The circular building's first owner, Steve Strelich, opened the venue as Strelich Stadium in 1941 and hosted amateur boxing and championship wrestling events that kept the seats filled for 22 years. The building was then sold to a trio of new owners, including Jules Strongbow, who kept Strelich's name on the building until 1976, when he renamed it after himself. Eventually, Strongbow Stadium began operating as a church for Victory Outreach ministry for a number of years before closing down. Enter Madera.

Following a massive remodel, the Dome began hosting a wide variety of events but became known mostly for live music.

The Dome has always had its critics, but there was no denying Madera's commitment to testing out different ideas to attract business and attendance. I've spent many evenings and afternoons at the Dome and I can't recall a moment when Madera wasn't strolling the grounds to ensure that operations were running smoothly.

But though it was spacious, accessible and safe, sound quality was always hit or miss. The acoustics -- thanks to the building's high ceilings -- were loud and boomy. Unless the act drew a full house, it was a bit like an echo chamber in there. Plus, if anywhere south of 300 people showed up in the venue's main hall, the place looked empty.

To address that problem, Madera held some shows in another of the Dome's smaller rooms, equipped with a full bar and grill. During warmer months, there was an outdoor stage and a large grassy area.

Bakersfield High School senior Lily Lauria, 17, said shows at the Dome were always the subject of campus socializing among classmates. Among her favorites: rapper Afroman and Latin rockers Los Abandoned.

"A lot of people liked it better than Jerry's Pizza because it had a lot of room. I really liked the smaller room next door, where the bands would meet fans and sell their merch. Everyone's parents would let them go to a show at the Dome before they would let them go to a party on Friday night."

Along with Madera's son Pete, who operated his own in-house promotions company, outside promoters such as San Luis Obispo-based Numbskull Productions and Bakersfield's own Tim Gardea helped fill the roster of live offerings for years. Gardea put together the last big weekend for the venue, which kicks off with Saturday's electronic dance/rave event, "Final Fantasy," headlined by Los Angeles deejay Faith "Lady Faith" Leedman, one of the most sought after EDM artists in the nation. Classified as a "hard dance" performer, Leedman's style is loud and hard-hitting with a booming bass.

Co-headlining is fellow Angeleno Justin Michael, who made a name for himself in the house music dance movement of the '90s. Michael's latest collaboration, with vocalist A/J Jackson, blends big room synths, progressive house and contemporary electronica with soaring guitar solos and his signature rock-edge vocals.

Saturday's show kicks off at 6 p.m. Tickets are $10 in advance or $15 at the door. Also performing are deejays Angel A, Dirtymind, K-Lin, Lewcid and more. Advance tickets are available through flavorus.com.

Then on Sunday, it's the "Farewell Forever Festival," which resembles Gardea's summertime Rockin' Roots outdoor festival.

Headlining the all-day event is a collection of post-hardcore, screamo and familiar electro groups that have at some point graced one of the Dome's stages. Among the bigger names are San Diego's Pierce the Veil, Jonny Craig, Make Me Famous, Millionaires, Get Scares, Hands Like Houses, Young London, I Am King, Adestria, The Animal in Me, In Dying Arms, Stand Your Ground and City in the Sea.

One of the acts originally scheduled to co-headline on Sunday was Riverside-based metal act Suicide Silence, but following the death of 23-year-old lead singer Mitch Lucker, who died from injuries suffered in a motorcycle accident earlier this month, the group will no longer be performing. In light of Lucker's passing, a table will be set up to accept donations and stuffed animals to benefit an education fund in the name of Lucker's 5-year-old daughter.

Doors open at noon Sunday. General admission tickets are $30 or $60 for the VIP experience. The Dome is located at 2201 V St. For more information, call 327-0190 or visit timgardeapresents.com.

Madera added that in the coming weeks, smaller-scale shows may be added at the Dome, along with karaoke in the bar. For more information, call the Dome information line.

Let's hear it for Buck

The National Academy of Recording Arts & Sciences, home of the Grammy Awards, has just announced this year's inductees for the 2013 Grammy Hall of Fame. Among those making the list is the Buck Owens recording of "Act Naturally," written by Johnny Russell and Voni Morrison.

The song became a No. 1 hit for Owens and the Buckaroos when it was originally released in 1963 (and covered by the Beatles two years later as the B-side of "Yesterday"). In 1989, Owens and Ringo Starr teamed up in the studio for a new rendition of "Act Naturally" that included a music video.

Owens' recording of "Act Naturally" joins 26 other classics by Elton John, Billy Joel, and others being recognized at the 55th Annual Grammy Awards on Feb. 10 in Los Angeles. The Grammy Hall of Fame list currently totals 933 titles and is on display at the Grammy Museum at the L.A. Live complex in downtown Los Angeles.

Matt's picks

The English Beat at B Ryder's , 7401 White Lane, Saturday, $20, all ages, 8 p.m., 397-7304.

British Two-Tone ska legends The English Beat are on a roll this year following a slew of releases: A killer box set, titled "The Complete Beat" that featured all three of their studio albums filled with extras; a CD/DVD set of their '82 and '83 US Festival concerts; and a new compilation, "Keep the Beat: The Very Beat of the English Beat." Joining original lead vocalist Dave Wakeling is longtime Bakersfield drummer Rhythm Epkins, who's been touring with the group for nearly two decades. My personal favorite English Beat album is "Special Beat Service," with the singles "Save It for Later," "I Confess" and "Jeanette." Also appearing is Bakersfield ska band The Pragmatics. Highly recommended for working off Thanksgiving gluttony.

Kill Devil Hill at Narducci's Cafe , 621 E 21st St., 6 p.m., Wednesday, $10, all ages, 324-2961.

I don't consider myself the biggest heavy metal aficionado, but I do catch "That Metal Show" on VH-1 Classic every chance I get, and one thing I've learned is that metal fans live and breathe for their favorite bands. On Wednesday there will be no louder place than in the cozy confines of Narducci's, when all-star head bangers Kill Devil Hill hit the stage featuring acclaimed drummer Vinny Appice (Black Sabbath, Heaven and Hell, Dio) and bassist Rex Brown (Pantera, Down) guitarist Mark Zavon (Ratt, WASP,) and lead vocalist Dewey Bragg. The band's self-titled debut album was released this past May and faired well on the Billboard heavy rock and Heatseekers charts. You can check out their video for the single "Strange" on YouTube. Also appearing are local heavy rock outfits Vlad Arthur, Meditated Assault, Mother Puncher and more.

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