Tiger Mountain wasn’t planning on being a music venue, at least not in the traditional sense. When Sean Bickford bought the former Emerald Lounge space and moved his business to North Lexington Avenue in August, he figured on keeping it as a bar with regular dance parties and occasional DJ shows. That changes with a new lineup of live acts, including La Luz, The Shivas, The Krektones and Mope Grooves on Saturday, March 7.
Not that everything is changing. Specific events have remained on the books — a Valentine’s Day fete inspired by David Lynch’s cult TV show “Twin Peaks” was a big hit — and Bickford says Friday nights are “still pretty dancey.” But with an excellent stage and sound system left in place by the previous tenants and the venue’s penchant for playing garage, surf and psychedelic rock during regular business hours, he looked to marry those interests while filling a need in the neighborhood.
“There’s lots of great venues downtown, but they all have their certain kind of niche,” Bickford says. With the likes of Portland, Ore.’s Guantanamo Baywatch and Los Angeles-based Meat Bodies already Tiger Mountain veterans, the spot is fast becoming a home for similar bands.
Long popular in indie havens like Austin, Texas, garage, surf and psych are now enjoying an upswing across the country, which Bickford believes is largely due to bands’ access to more sophisticated production styles. “I’ve been listening to this type of music my whole life, but the new stuff that’s coming out is great,” he says. “There’s been a wealth of new bands that have this great old sound.”
Teaming with Asheville booking agents Onward Indian Touring, Tiger Mountain is drawing much of its lineup from California-based Burger Records and its sister label Lolipop Records. The linked outfits specialize in high-energy rock ‘n’ roll bands and their artists who fit well with the local venue’s atmosphere. “People who come to Tiger Mountain are going to party. It’s a chill place, but on the weekends or when there’s shows, people get loose,” Bickford says. “[The Burger and Lolipop bands are] inviting people onstage, jumping down in the crowd, swilling tequila. It’s a rowdy good time.”
That vibe looks to continue with Seattle four-piece La Luz. Signed to Hardly Art Records, which frontwoman/guitarist Shana Cleveland calls “a kind of kid sister label to Sub Pop,” the surf rock/doo-wop group has had cassettes released through Burger, as have fellow Hardly Art bands like Shannon and the Clams and Hunx. “Burger’s been a big force in making it cool to love rock ‘n’ roll and party and have fun at shows, which is something that I think was kind of lost for a while,” Cleveland says.
Along with bandmates Marian Li Pino (drums), Alice Sandahl (keyboard) and Lena Simon (bass), Cleveland has been in Los Angeles working on La Luz’s follow-up to 2013’s It’s Alive. Recording, producing and mixing the album with them is the prolific musician and songwriter Ty Segall, whom La Luz supported on tour last fall. “He has a lot of great ideas. It’s almost been like having a fifth band member for a couple weeks,” Cleveland says. “[The music is] sounding so good, and we can’t wait to be able to share it with everyone.”
The band hopes that the as-yet-untitled release will be out by late summer, but audiences won’t have to wait that long to hear the new material. In line with its preference to record live, La Luz has been playing as many of the songs as possible on its last couple of tours, and Cleveland plans to add in a few more fresh compositions as the group winds its way to South by Southwest and back to Seattle.
Following the March 7 show, Tiger Mountain will hold a small music festival on Friday and Saturday, March 13 and 14, with bands also heading down to Austin for the SXSW festival. The roster includes Mystery Lights, Cool Ghouls and Las Rosas. Onward Indian Touring will join those acts in Texas to scout out new bands for Tiger Mountain and, along with other agencies, help Bickford expand to hosting two or three shows each week.
“I was holding off because we were still getting our feet underneath us with the move,” Bickford says. “Now I feel like we’re in a spot where we’re really stepping up our live music game.”
WHAT: La Luz, The Shivas, The Krektones and Mope Grooves
WHERE: Tiger Mountain, facebook.com/tigermountainthirstparlour
WHEN: Saturday, March 7, at 9 p.m. $10