Wovenwar’s Hipa, Mancino, and Sgrosso (left–right), after running Brick by Brick for three years, “haven’t really had a day off.”
Bar ownership Rule No. 1: You snooze, you lose.
“We learned it's not real easy,” says Shannon Sgrosso, part of the rock-star contingent that swooped in to save the struggling Brick by Brick three years ago. “After three years, we haven’t really had a day off. If you don’t check your email one day, you may end up not getting a show.”
1130 Buenos Avenue, San Diego
Rule No. 2: It’s not easy. But in the case of Brick, no one’s bitching. “We wouldn’t do it if we didn’t want to.”
By the time Shannon and her guitarist husband Phil and his two fellow ex–As I Lay Dying bandmates guitarist Nick Hipa and drummer Jordan Mancino came into the Brick picture in the Spring of 2014, San Diego’s oldest continuously opened rock venue was in trouble. Its liquor license was suspended for nonpayment of sales tax.
The three rockers had fond memories of playing the Bay Park venue when As I Lay Dying was just starting. “We didn’t want to see it go away,” said Sgrosso. They bought the bar despite the fact it was failing and that San Diego didn’t support hard rock. (As I Lay Dying had just been dissolved.)
Wovenwar — "Archers"
Phil Sgrosso now plays in Poison Headache. Hipa and Mancino play in Wovenwar, which uses Brick by Brick as a “home base” practice pad when the band isn’t on tour. Both bands tour internationally and record for Metal Blade Records.
“San Diego had fallen off the map for a long time,” says Sgrosso about how national hard-rock bands had been avoiding San Diego. “It was a struggle convincing agents to let their bands come back. [Bay Area groove metal band] Machine Head hadn’t played San Diego in ten years.”
Shannon said San Diego had developed a national reputation for producing soft audiences for hard-rockers. “Soma had some huge metal shows on its main stage in the early 2000s. And the Casbah does metal now and then. But the metal scene hadn’t had a good home base in San Diego.”
When they first took over, they used two different talent buyers (the second, Anilee Griffin, died recently at 35). “Eventually we decided to take everything on ourselves.” Sgrosso tells the Reader she handles the booking while Mancino is the onsite manager. She and Hipa handle the graphics and occasionally work behind the bar. “And Nick will sometimes do security…. We didn’t used to be hands-on, but we learned nobody cares about your own livelihood like you.”
She says she welcomes outside promoters: “One specializes in tribute acts, one in European death metal,” and the Brick is open to other venues who want to bring their own bands in. “The guys who do Psycho in Las Vegas just brought in Truckfighters from Sweden.”
With a 400-capacity space, the Brick is twice as large as the Casbah. They’ve managed to succeed by focusing on metal. “We had six sold-out shows in October,” says Sgrosso. “Despite what some people might think, metal is alive and well in San Diego. A lot of people here want aggressive music. San Diego is secretly angsty.”