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Terrible Tuesdays Transform Club Scene

In Clubs, Music
DJ Clint Westwood (right) and Ben Bremer (second from right) were longtime friends and bandmates in Language Arts Crew and Trashkannon when they started Terrible Tuesdays at Johnny V’s.

DJ Clint Westwood (right) and Ben Bremer (second from right) were longtime friends and bandmates in Language Arts Crew and Trashkannon when they started Terrible Tuesdays at Johnny V’s.

Sometimes Tuesdays are downright terrible. That’s how DJ Clint Westwood remembers them being in downtown San Jose last spring.

“The Sharks were losing the playoffs,” he says. “All of downtown was in a lull.”

He and his friend Ben Bremer were feeling a bit down themselves. The VooDoo Lounge, which they’d both been involved with, had closed in February.

“We kind of needed something to do after Voodoo closed. We were bored out of our minds, and wanted to do something cool,” says Westwood.

What they ended up doing is currently the hottest thing going on Tuesday nights in the South Bay. But it started inauspiciously enough, when Johnny V’s owner Johnny Van Wyk offered them Tuesday nights to build a weekly event around.

“It was an off night, so he said ‘do whatever you want,’” recalls Westwood.

They could have chosen any one theme, but instead they did what no one else dares to do: they chose every theme. More specifically, they decided to change the theme every week, which for reasons that are probably obvious, is the exact opposite of the strategy that dance nights normally take. A hardcore dubstep following can be counted on to show up at a regular dubstep event. Clubgoers quickly learn where to go for top 40, house or hip-hop nights. But who’s going to show up every week to a dance night that could be old-school funk one week, reggae-ska the next, then mod-rock, then punk rock?

The truth is, neither Westwood nor Bremer had any idea. They didn’t care. They even counted on shaking up the status quo a little bit, dubbing their night “Terrible Tuesdays.”

“It was a counterculture kind of thing,” admits Westwood.

He and Bremer have been friends as well as bandmates for a decade, in Language Arts Crew and its many offshoot bands—last year they even recorded as a duo—so grassroots promotion was nothing new to them.

“The first couple of nights we bombed everyone’s Facebook, to the point that we annoyed them,” says Bremer.

It worked, and Terrible Tuesdays took off quickly. They had some ups and downs, but unexpectedly people did start to respond to the utter disregard for continuity, and most weeks it seems to be packed now.

“We have our regulars, but we get different crowds in there,” says Westwood.

To a certain degree, their success is part of a bigger picture that has seen DJ nights keeping some clubs afloat at a time when the success of live music is hit or miss. But no one has gone about it like they have. Other quirks include their habit of waiting for inspiration to strike for their themes.

“Sometimes I don’t know what they’re doing until the day of,” says Van Wyk. “Sometimes I don’t think they know.”

Westwood laughs. “Sometimes. We try to do a little more planning now,” he says. “But I’m a go-on-the-fly kind of dude anyway.”

Part of the reason is that a couple of months into their experiment last year, Bremer—who bartends at both Johnny V’s and San Jose Bar and Grill—began booking live bands for some of their Tuesday events. He started with friends’ bands, and friends-of-friends’ bands, and now books out-of-town bands as well. He tries to make the bills cohesive, and they build the themes around the bands.

Bremer wants his bookings to get more and more out there. He just set a blues night—“we’ve never done blues before, so I don’t know what the hell’s going to happen—and is looking into doing a goth night and a bring-your-own-instruments theme.

“I want to think way out of the boundaries,” he says.

As a DJ, Westwood has to keep up with all of this, which is even more impressive when you realize he never DJed at all before Terrible Tuesdays started. But as a self-described music nerd, he simply dug into his collection, starting with vinyl and then saving up for a Serato turntable.

He admits it can be tricky trying to impose a different theme on every night.

“The whole concept of reading the room, you have to know your audience,” he says. “You can’t totally be in your own little world. You don’t want to clear the room out, which I can definitely do.”

In fact, he’s known for doing it at last call, when he’ll blast grindcore and death metal to get people out the door.

Bremer explains that if a theme isn’t working on a particular night, they won’t so much abandon it as enhance it.

“We’ll throw other themes into the mix,” he says.

In another unexpected twist, Terrible Tuesdays has become something of an industry night, helped by the fact that its an off night for the bars and clubs. That’s one of many reasons they never want to move what they’re doing to a marquee weekend night—Bremer and Westwood both say it just wouldn’t work. For now, they’ll continue making Tuesdays less terrible—but they’ll keep the name.

“Alliteration,” says Westwood. “That always helps.”

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