When Dan Vado first got word he would have to close his comic shop and local music venue SLG Art Boutiki on Market Street in San Jose, he figured he’d just move all the graphic novels to his garage and continue to run the publishing part of his business, Slave Labor Graphics.
But then he found a new location on 44 Race Street. He has transformed the new building into a space that is much cozier than the downtown location, plus it’s situated just off The Alameda where he’s getting more foot traffic than ever before.
“We would go days without seeing someone walk in the front door at the old place, whereas we have customers coming in here every day now,” Vado says.
The front room of the new building is now a small, but spacious, inviting retail store with graphic novels, comics, local music and oddball gifts. The back room doubles as a tiki-themed lounge and a live-music venue, which will be tested for the first time on June 29 with Art Boutiki favorites Picture Atlantic, Cartoon Bar Fight and Cold Eskimo.
Vado has already placed several couches in the lounge, and plans to install a coffee bar, as well as several shelves packed with comic books and graphic novels. “People can just come in here and buy some coffee and sit around and read comics all day if they wanted to,” Vado says.
As different as the new space is, there still remains the iconic wall of vinyl records, which is situated directly behind the stage. This time around, Vado has added a row of enlarged CD art by several of the local and national bands that played the Art Boutiki on a regular basis during the Market Street location’s four-year run as a music venue: Curious Quail, Cartoon Bar Fight, Drop Dead Sixty, Dogcatcher and Picture Atlantic. There’s even a fake jazz-style cover of Zen Zenith, singer of the now-defunct Please Do Not Fight, who was a big part of the club’s music scene.
The other side of Art Boutiki’s live-music scene is jazz. Vado brought in jazz musicians to perform during some First Fridays, which was the Art Boutiki’s busiest day of the month, and monthly jazz jams. With the new venue, he will continue to do jazz events, but he hopes to expand into even more musical genres as well.
“There’s not a lot of venues for rock music, but there’s really not a lot of venues for music beyond that,” Vado says. “Bluegrass? Country Western? Americana? Who’s booking that kind of stuff? I’d like to try to start to build an audience that will do stuff like that.”
This is just one of the many ideas Vado has floating around his head. He wants to continue to book only about three to four rock shows a month, like he did at the old location, but he’s considering adding comedy nights and shows for songwriters to play songs, and then do a Q&A with their audience explaining what inspired songs.
In 2009, when Vado started booking live music, he got a lot of different kinds of bands. He refined his booking to include mostly indie rock. The Art Boutiki really became a mainstay in the local indie-rock scene once Zenith and Picture Atlantic’s Nikolaus Bartunek started to curate the successful bi-monthly Rock Hop series, which started in 2011.
Though the Rock Hop is no more, Zenith and Bartunek are also floating around ideas for the new Art Boutiki space.
“We have a lot of plans of curating there, events that are music related, but don’t necessarily always have a band playing,” Bartunek says.
One new idea Vado has already implemented is Midtown Beat, held every fourth Friday with live jazz and local art—The Alameda’s answer to First Fridays in the SoFA District. This Friday, the second Midtown Beat will feature comic book artist Mick Gray’s work.
Vado is trying to talk the rest of the businesses in the area to participate in Midtown Beat. So far tattoo shop the Arsenal and clothing and boutique store the Usuals have joined in.
“It’s very difficult in today’s environment to sell anything because people can find it ultimately cheaper online,” Vado says. “What you need to be able to sell is an experience—a neat place to come to, a place that’s not going to chase you out, a place that wants people to come in and get into this stuff, music or comics or whatever. We’re trying to sell that experience.”
Picture Atlantic, Cartoon Bar Fight and Cold Eskimo
Art Boutiki San Jose
June 29 7:30pm