"A Dive Bar You Could Bring A Date Or Your Mother To" - The Night Light in Oakland

Posted by Billyjam, March 5, 2013 08:23am | Post a Comment

This weekend The Night Light in Oakland will celebrate its first anniversary with a big party at the Jack London Square district bar/club that is situated on Broadway between 3rd and 4th Streets in the vicinity of such other watering holes as Beer Revolution and Merchant's.  At The Night Light's all day long bash on Saturday (March 9th) there'll be DJs spinning in the downstairs bar area and live bands playing in the upstairs concert space.. Artists celebrating the one-year birthday will include Warm Soda, Mahgeetah, and L3SSONS. In the twelve months since Johnny Nackley and his business partner Doug Kinsey (two vets of the local bar & restaurant and music worlds) opened The Night Light, it has built a an ever-growing, dedicated following and won many accolades.

Within a mere few months of opening it won an East Bay Express readers choice award as "Best New Bar."  Even with such a wide variety of other clubs and bars to choose from in downtown Oakland's vibrant nightlife scene, people are drawn to The Night Light's cozy bar atmosphere and its diversity of live entertainment events. There include stand up comedy nights, live bands of all genres such as punk rock and hip-hop, and themed DJ nights including yacht rock parties when folks get decked out in captains hats, Hawaiian shirts, and beards and moustaches.  On the last Friday of every month they throw hip-hop/reggae/dancehall themed DJ parties.

Recently I caught up to with Johnny Nackley - better known to many by his nickname Scobey - to chat with him about his bar which he half-jokingly referred to as  "a dive bar you could bring a date or your mother to."  Truth is that while, yes, you could bring a date, your mom, or anyone for that matter to The Night Light, the place is far from "a dive bar" - but rather a cozy inviting space with a bygone era bordello feel to it with subdued lighting, a beautiful long wooden bar, dark red wallpaper, comfy leather chairs, and old world decor like its (shipped-in) antique chandelier. Nackely talked about this as well as  the colorful history of The Night Light's location, the rapidly evolving Oakland night life scene and other things including - of course - music in his recent Amoeblog interviews. His two separate interviews (video and text) appear above and below respectively and give more insight into the bar and its owners and their "dirty punk rock roots."               

Amoeblog:  Why did you guys decide to open The Night Light in the first place?

Johnny Nackley:  Well, the noble answer is that we wanted to create a unique space for music and night life in Oakland. There are plenty of music venues and more than enough bar options to suit most any taste, but we saw a need for a place that embodied the rock/indie/punk vibe whilst still offering a touch of classy ambiance. Further, we wanted to combine that aesthetic with the intimacy of a small live music venue where you can see anything from free jazz to funk, metal to punk and all the good stuff in between. A more honest me might also point out that at this (semi-advanced) stage in our lives, we're not exactly hot property on the bar tending circuit anymore. If we wanted job security of any sort, we were looking at the reality of doing what all good bartenders eventually do, we put the yoke on our own shoulders and got down to the hard work of making a place of our own.

Amoeblog: What is your ultimate goal?

Johnny Nackley: We want The Night Light to be a massive success! We want to be one of the first places you think of when you're deciding where to go on your free nights out. My business partner Douglas has had a clear vision of the club and it's trajectory from the outset. The goal is to become one of the area's key venues to perform in - from a bands' perspective - and for the residents of the Bay Area, one of the best places to see some of the greatest up and coming acts our region offers. We have also played host to a number of touring acts both small and large. To that end we hope to move into a position as a launch pad for some amazing talent. We've got a remarkable sound system in place, skilled staff, and Dougie is booking cool bands as quickly as his phone/e-mail will permit him to.

Amoeblog: Can you talk a bit about the illustrious history of the location of the bar?

Johnny Nackley: That may be better left undiscussed (laughs) but suffice to say there is a whole lot of history in the bar. I've heard tales of illicit after hours clubs upstairs before we took over the spot and of course there is the well publicized history of violence that surrounded the owner/operator of the previous establishment. Perhaps I'll just leave it at that and with a wink [and] state that I hope the place is haunted by the unfortunate folks caught up in the prior history of this joint. One thing we're rather proud of is the history of many of the materials that went into building the bar from lighting and wood reclaimed off of old ships to our vintage Swarovski crystal chandelier that we had shipped over from the East Coast.

Amoeblog:  What are some of the concerts or regular nights you have had so far?

Johnny Nackley:  Doug has done an excellent job of working with bands & promoters to bring us an incredibly diverse range of bands and DJ's. Our First Friday / Art Murmur nights are the best place to be in Oakland after the festivities taper off on the uptown end of Broadway. There's a regular Smiths tribute night called The Queen Is Dead that happens monthly and it's one of my favorite nights ever (I always make certain I schedule myself to work those nights). One of my pet projects, Light Nights at The Night Light which as of late has been expertly hosted by DJ Darkat (Ezra Li Eismont) and friends where we spin yacht rock, mellow gold, the softer/shittier side of the rock spectrum, etc. We even have the amazing Joe Quixx in here spinning records on the occasional weekend.

Amoeblog: Is there one genre you focus on more than others or do you cover all musical genres?

Johnny Nackley: I like to think we touch on a little of everything. We do funk and soul, hip hop, punk, metal, indie and college radio stuff, there's even a bubblegum rock night here. I'm a huge fan of old country (old country, I said) and would love to feature a night of whiskey and beer swilling tunes from days of yore.

                             The Kinks [Demon] Alcohol (live version, 1972)

Johnny Nackley's Top Eleven (plus one) Fave Songs Played At The Night Light::
(note that Johnny insisted that the below list, which is in no
particular order, is "a reflection of my personal tastes")
#1 "Demon Alcohol" by The Kinks  
     An obvious choice, especially if you happen to know how I feel about The Kinks

#2 "The Boys Are Back In Town" by Thin Lizzy
     This, I feel, speaks to our return to the East Bay bar scene after our respective absences.

#3 "Polar Opposites" by Modest Mouse
     This one's all about the chorus, yo!

#4 "Survival Of The Fittest" by Mobb Deep
     "Because "We in this shit 'til the day that we die..."

#5 "Let's Find Each Other Tonight" by Jose Feliciano
     After all, isn't that why 80% of people go to bars, to find someone?

#6 "Money In Bank" by Winfred E. Eye
      These guys play here once in a while and they never fail to delight me. This song is a knocker off their
      latest release and it never fails to make me smile. Plus the title is somewhat aspirational for me as I'm
      so tired of being broke.

 #7 "Cafe Regio" by Isaac Hayes
       Just too damn smooth not to include.

 #8 "I Want To Destroy You" by The Soft Boys
       That's what I do with my magic sip-sauce; destroy folks.
  #9 "I Get Lifted" by George McCrae
        Again, an obvious choice for a bar, or at least, my bar.

  #10 "I Like Beer" by Tom T. Hall
          Same reason as above, don't you know.

  #11 "Golden Brown" by The Stranglers
         Never a frown with golden brown. I prefer brown spirits, whiskey, especially.
Honorary mention: "Whiskey In The Jar" by Thin Lizzy.

The Night Light is located at 311 Broadway in Oakland and is open daily from 4pm to 2am. 21+
There is never a cover charge to the downstairs bar while concerts in the upstairs space are
moderately priced at $5 to $10 typically  More information here   .

Relevant Tags

Dj Darkat (1), Jack London Square (2), The Night Light (3), Joe Quixx (4), Yacht Rock (8), Oakland (70), Johnny Nackley (1), Scobey (1)