“Jolt ’N’ Joe’s downtown canceled all entertainment, which included every band night and a comedy night,” says Lenny Morris of his now-defunct residency at that venue every other Wednesday. “It was a real surprise. I was working with them to get music, comedy, and other events up and running. The first show we did there had a great turnout. The two in December were a little lighter.”
According to Morris, “I didn’t get to have a direct conversation with the owner. Rather, I just received a call from the entertainment director the night before my showcase, stating the owner is canceling all entertainment.... His reason was he didn’t have any money to pay the bands. It was a shame, as I had to cancel over 15 acts for my showcases. I can’t imagine what their overhead must be with a 15,000-square-foot space on Fourth Avenue. I just wish it was being utilized properly.” Venue operators have not responded to a request for further information.
In addition to band showcases Morris has been running at the Salty Frog in Imperial Beach for the past eight months, he will launch a free weekly Saturday night event at downtown’s Hard Rock Cafe — Lenny Morris and Friends, set to debut February 4 with local acoustic guitarist/songwriter Ben Varela and pianist John Intrabartolo.
The La Mesa–based troubadour and promoter says the Hard Rock restaurant, wearing its rock ’n’ roll pedigree all over the walls, doesn’t host enough concerts. “I’m just trying to start a new concept, whereas people will get me serenading them for three hours, for free, as well as a couple of talented guests playing sets, in a family-restaurant setting. I’m not trying to compete [with other live music venues], but there aren’t many places downtown with delicious food, great drinks, a wonderful staff, a variety of live music, and no cover charge.”
“No cover” being key. “Just spend your money on satisfying your appetites. [The Hard Rock], honestly, seriously has the best chicken strips ever.” Starting in March, themed nights will feature music from a particular decade or a specific artist, with contenders to include Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Michael Jackson, the Beatles, and Van Morrison.
Morris is currently recording his sophomore album No Secret. Upcoming Lenny Morris and Friends events will include Jeffrey Joe Morin with Jo James Lewis (February 11), and Celia St Croix with Katie Dwyer (February 18).