Five years ago, Camp Pendleton "E" clubs (the E stands for enlisted) hosted civilian bands for the entertainment of U.S. Marines. The manager of one of those clubs, Tracer's, would book three punk bands on one night so soldiers would stay on base and not drive drunk. One of those Marines explained why he thought the idea to bring bands on base wouldn't work.
"Ordinarily you wouldn't want to be caught dead in an E club because you might be labeled as a geek or a loser," said the Marine in 2001, when there were five clubs on Camp Pendleton. Since then, all but one club, the Double Deuce, have closed down.
"It's not cool to go [to the Double Deuce] at the moment," says Charles Price, 28, a Navy corpsman from Louisville, Kentucky, who lives on base and is a singer/songwriter/guitarist. "Something has to be wrong. Maybe it's their advertising."
Melvia Robinson, who manages the Double Deuce and the adjoining Taco Bell, says, "This year we had no bands. A few months ago we had a [female] impersonator who looked like Cher. And Saturday we have Charles."
Price approached Robinson about playing at the Double Deuce. "This is a place that has nothing to lose," he says. "They didn't listen to my music. I told them I was an acoustic musician, and they booked me right there. Of course, I'm not getting paid."
Robinson says the reason E clubs have closed down is because so many Marines are deployed in Iraq. Price does not agree.
"Look at how many people are on base right now," says Price. "There are tons of people on base. It's larger than the town I'm from.... What I've seen is that Marines would rather go somewhere else like the Gaslamp or wherever to have a good time. But if you stay on base, beer is cheaper and you save gas. I can walk back to my bunk [from the Double Deuce]."
Charles Price appears tomorrow at Jitters Coffee Pub in Oceanside. Free admission.