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Former Viper Room booker Joe Rinaldi says he will continue to give San Diego bands the same love when he takes over one of the most prominent rock venues: the Sunset Strip House of Blues.

“Somebody bought the Viper Room,” says Rinaldi, who spent four and a half years booking the 175-seat West Hollywood venue. “They wanted to do things differently with a different talent guy. We parted amicably.”

Prince, Elvis Costello, and the Queens of the Stone Age played the Viper Room during Rinaldi’s tenure. Rinaldi, who used to play in a local band called the Offenders, made it a point to book San Diego bands. By giving Dirty Sweet, Transfer, the Deere Johns, Reeve Oliver, Lady Dottie and the Diamonds, and Roses on Her Grave regular gigs at the Viper Room, those bands were able to nurture an L.A. fan base.

“Louis XIV made their L.A. debut at the Viper Room; Dirty Sweet ended up having a real strong market presence in L.A.”

Rinaldi, 42, earned an economics degree from UCSD. He moved to L.A. to work for the now-defunct Ultimatum label (from 1998 to 2000), which signed local artists Moses Leroy and the Bastard Sons of Johnny Cash.

Rinaldi says he got the attention of the Viper Room when he started booking free weekly concerts at the independent record store he opened in 2000.

“When the Viper Room gig came up, it was easy to make the decision to close the record store. It was definitely going to go under just like all the Towers, most of the Wherehouses, and Rhino [record stores].”

Rinaldi says the San Diego House of Blues and his club generally operate independently when it comes to booking local, unsigned bands. He says he will continue not to use pay-for-play, but bands that commit to a certain amount of tickets may get a better slot.

– Ken Leighton

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