People still talk about Jimi Hendrix opening for The Monkees at The Virginia Beach Dome. Demolished in 1994, it is now the site of a parking lot and plans to rebuild the site with a more futuristic, multi-venue entertainment complex have lagged since the economic crunch of 2008.
-Article by Jimmy Arnold with photography by Fitz
Lead photo of Johann Keady and the VB Retro Staff
In it’s hayday, Virginia Beach’s Convention Center/Concert hall was not the only place drawing local and national acts of the day. It wasn’t uncommon to catch Fats Domino, or Hampton Roads’ own Bill Deal & The Rhondells at The Top Hat, The Peppermint Beach Club, Rogues Gallery or Peabody’s. Into the 80’s and beyond, the places that had survived were joined by still more.. Pacific Station, The Cave, Elbow Room, Sea-Rays and Lunasea spring readily to mind. There were plenty of places local musicians could play. However, many of those places are long gone.
“When I moved here from Portland, Oregon in the early 2000’s they had a really good, established scene down here. Years later I came back and there were really no venues.” said Johann Keady, GM of Retro on the Atlantic Avenue strip. “I’m 35 now and I remember being twenty… twenty two years old, and wanting to go check out local music and there weren’t places for it. We want to help keep music alive in Hampton Roads on every level, from the local new bands that are coming up and coming to those that are already established. We want to help kids get their foot in the door that don’t have another outlet, because there aren’t enough venues.
So we try to pay all the bands that play here. Sometimes the bands make really good money, sometimes little or nothing, some are willing to play for free, but we always want to give them an opportunity to play.. every genre of music, it don’t have to be Metal, or Punk Rock or Hardcore, it could be Country, Bluegrass, Folk, Pop, anything that comes through the door, we’re willing to work with. We’re willing to give everybody a shot, because it also brings a sense of community to the Virginia Beach area. It’s not just about music, it’s about locals helping locals and keeping a good, positive vibe about the area.”
As for his own personal tastes, Keady enjoys The Wet Boys, Sister Abigail… “There’s a ton of ’em… The Wet Boys always do well here. Die Faster gets a pretty good draw here as a Hardcore band, you can sit and talk to any one of the guys, they’ll sit and talk to you all night about music and stuff. Even a couple of years ago, when Victim was around, Warhead.. and all those bands, and the sense of community back then was huge.. it was a brotherhood. Shows I get stoked on, for example, a band called Raw, and a band called Ugly, they are like seventeen, eighteen years old getting their foot in the door; and every show they play they get better and better. All their friends come and hang out, it’s cool. I just get pumped on seein’ that, man.”
The owner Joe Hendricks lives in California with family ties in Hampton Roads, and has owned Retro for nearly five years. It’s only been in the last year or so that he decided that he wanted Retro to be a live music hub again. “Joe comes to me with certain bands, but not the typical bands we would book. Sometimes they do really well, sometimes they bust. He booked a band called Buckroe City on Saturday Night; and these guys came in, five piece with a sax player and by the 3rd song everybody was dancing.. so Joe has given me the leeway to follow the vision I have for this place. It’s important to have somebody backing you.”
Retro has established itself as a musician’s mecca at the oceanfront, and it’s not hard to see why. “We really appreciate that the bands say great things [about us], because without that we would be ‘just another bar/venue’.
VB RETRO CAFE is online at facebook.com/TheRetroCafe
757E Zine is a bi-monthly music, arts, and culture magazine dedicated to local musicians and artists who are not afraid to push boundaries. 757E Zine doesn't strive to be "safe" but rather in touch with what is new and unique in Hampton Roads music and art.
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