Rockbar has the kind of buzz that can't be bought -- or can it? The kitschy club at 3015 East Colfax Avenue opened in late August, has already garnered more press than a Michael Jackson courtroom drama, and last week held a belated grand-opening party to keep the scene whisperers chattering. Owner/empire-builder Jesse Morreale has an unmatched zest for promotions and revitalizing dumpy spots, and the vintage, disco-happy '70s decor inside what had been Perry's, a restaurant that was sealed like a tomb inside the All-Inn Motel when Morreale purchased the property, was a spectacular real-estate find. But still, Rockbar has more in common with the Hard Rock Cafe than CBGB. The "themed" booths (really just booths with fancy, lit-up band logos hanging above them) cheese up the bar almost as much as its deliciously ironic white-trash-inspired menu. For late-night eats, the kitchen offers such greasy goods as White Castle mini-burgers, corn dogs, hot wings and just about anything else that can be dipped in a deep fryer. The trailer park never looked so tacky.
Banking on the soul of rock and roll can have its odd charms. Rockbar offers DJ action most nights, and on the last Wednesday in September, the place was packed with locals from the neighborhood as well as clubbers looking for a safe-yet-edgy nightlife alternative. Such crowd-pleasing DJs as Peter Black and Wesley Wayne rolled out the dance-floor hits, and the yelps of off-key partyers singing along to "Fat Bottomed Girls" distracted drinkers from the sobering fact that Rockbar charges $2.50 for Pabst in a can. Now, that's irony. Drown your sorrows with a $1 shooter of Mad Dog 20/20.
There's more movement at the Shelter (1037 Broadway), where Uplifted Entertainment and Word of Mouth Productions have teamed to launch Community Development. The every-Friday event is devoted to urban-rap culture, and promoter Josh MacCurdy, who organizes the night with partner Jacob Cozy, promises that it's not all booty-shaking, Top 40 mainstream drivel. "With us, it's all about the underground," MacCurdy says. "We want to be friendly with the hip-hop community. When NIPP or Clear Channel does a hip-hop show, it's all about money. Our night is for hip-hop, by hip-hop. It's a lifestyle."
Every week features a different lineup, and the entertainment varies from turntablists to B-boy breakdance battles to localized fashion shows to top-notch national rappers with wide underground followings. "We don't hate commercial hip-hop," Cozy continues, "but we want to take what hip-hop is supposed to be about and bring it to a Friday-night club night."
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