The floors are clean and unsticky. The dressing rooms still show signs of construction. “It’s so new you can get high off the paint,” says Jamie DeWolf to the second ever audience at Leo’s, a new music and performance venue in Temescal, which opened Thursday, July 24.
Truthfully, though, there isn’t much paint in the new venue. The walls and bar are mostly constructed of wood boards, which give the venue an earthy cabin feel. The first Friday performance at Leo’s featured local hardcore, punk, garage rock bands: Instant Gratification, Spider Heart, and Cornelius Asperger and the Bi-Curious Unicorns; as well as a burlesque show. Outside, the Meathead food truck provided burgers to revelers before and between acts.
The whole night featured Oakland talent and was produced by Sheba Queen of the Night who has been putting on Séduction Féroce, a monthly burlesque show, in Oakland for four years and now co-produces with Roma Mafia at Bench and Bar in Uptown. The event is one part of a larger, tight-knit burlesque community in Oakland that holds shows in spots such as The White Horse and The Uptown.
Sheba grew up in the East Bay and believes in the importance of new venues like Leo’s, which is a smaller venue that comes to the area from the owners of The New Parish in Uptown and Brick and Mortar Music Hall in San Francisco.
“It’s fun supporting a brand new local business.” Sheba believes the new venue acts as important space for showcasing local talent. “For some, it’s just a show, but for me, it’s community building.” This is why the night showcased some of Sheba’s favorite local artists. “I have a list of local bands that shred, these are just three of the bands on the list.”
Jamie DeWolf, the emcee of the night, is also excited about a new venue in Oakland. There have been a new galleries and new bars for performers to use, he notes, but bars are not new venues. “It’s awesome when Oakland gets a new mid-sized venue.” Leo’s provides another space for artists in Oakland to thrive. “New freaky folks are moving to Oakland. Oakland has the community aspect performers are looking for,” says DeWolf.
DeWolf is part of that community. He runs his own monthly event, Tourettes Without Regrets, every third Thursday of the month at The Oakland Metro Operahouse next to Jack London Square. The event includes freestyle rap battles, erotic vaudeville, break dancing, dirty haiku showdowns, and more.
The event on Friday drew roughly 75-100 people, though the space is able to fit around double that. It’s rustic, minimalist appearance along with its small capacity and great sound system will make it a great spot for intimate shows, whether raucous rock, sultry blues, or more burlesque.
By the end of the night on Friday, a beer had been knocked over on the new stage and a small run in between the headstock of a guitar and a forehead of a guitarist during the set of Spider Heart, led to minor bloodshed. And with that, Leo’s is officially open for business.