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Eclectic Martinez Music Club Armando's to Close

MARTINEZ (CBS SF) -- People sit on mismatched wooden chairs and on a few old couches, watching The Landbirds, a young Concord-based combo, play British Invasion-style rock. Most of the 60 or so spectators are twice the age of the musicians, many of them regulars at this small, out-of-the-way venue in a Martinez storefront on Marina Vista Avenue near the Amtrak station.

In the past month or so, they may have seen country, blues, bluegrass, rock, folk or classical acts here at Armando's, which some might describe as a mix of coffeehouse, rock nightclub and art studio.

And after the "big shoe," as Roy Jeans calls it, on Feb. 9, Armando's will close its doors -- at least for the time being. Jeans said he's being evicted.

Exterior View of Armando's in Martinez
Exterior of Armando's in Martinez. (Google Street View)

"My landlord and I don't get along," Jeans said this week. "It's a shame -- the place has great, great sound; for a room this size, you can't get better sound."

While Jeans said he hopes to find a new home for Armando's soon, he and many of his regulars are seeing this as an end. The band members acknowledged it between songs, too.

"This is my family, my musical family," said Belinda Godin of Martinez, who estimates she's been to Armando's about 100 times in the past year. "I know at least half the people here."

Jeans opened Armando's 14 years ago, booking primarily Contra Costa County-based players but later ventured into periodically hosting bigger-name performers. Over the years, the likes of Maria Muldaur, Dan Hicks, David Lindley and Chuck Prophet have graced the small stage.

David Margen, a former bassist for Santana, said, "I would sometimes get more nervous playing here than playing in front of 60,000 people because people are here to listen."

Armando's in Martinez
The crowd at Armando's in Martinez dances to the band The Landbirds on Wednesday. (Sam Richards / Bay City News)

But Jeans said he knows local performers have ultimately been the lifeblood of this place.

"These local bands really pack them in. They bring in a great bunch of people," he said.

"They've always made sure they give new faces an opportunity,"

said Mark Hummel, a singer and blues harmonica virtuoso who has played Armando's dozens of times since 2006. He calls Armando's imminent closing "very upsetting."

"There are very few venues that are that small, yet so music-friendly," Hummel said this week. "And it sounds so good in there."

The venue is also unique visually. In addition to the usual old concert posters and old guitars hanging on the walls, each wooden chair has been painted differently. And the name of the band playing on a given night is painted on the support beam closest to the stage.

Jeans said he's looking for a new home for Armando's, but that he hasn't found one yet.

"It's not going to be easy -- there are lots of hoops, but I'm going to try," he said.

As for whether he's got a line on anything yet, he wouldn't say.

"I don't want to jinx anything," Jeans said.

R.C. Ferris of Pacheco has been coming to Armando's since it opened. She remembers seeing Redmond O'Colonies, Martinez's former official town crier, performing folk music there. She, like Godin, will miss the community.

"Many of us know each other," she said. "This is what Martinez is all about."

Jeans said he has no plans to open a new space anywhere but in Martinez.

"I was born here," he said. "I love this town."

© Copyright 2020 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. KPIX 5's Andrea Nakano and Bay City News contributed to this report

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