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MUSIC | LOCAL ANGLE

Syllabus of Blues

At the Classroom, it's a perpetual study of simple pleasures.

October 08, 1998|BILL LOCEY | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

So what if your course work won't appear on your permanent record? There are no books to purchase, no one ever calls the roll, and there's never any homework at the Classroom in Northridge.

More and more students, perhaps needing a break in their difficult schedules, seem to be attending the Classroom, where the syllabus remains a paragon of simplicity: booze and blues. Located in a strip mall at Tampa Avenue and Roscoe Boulevard, between an Asian market and a Thai food place, the Classroom is even in the right neighborhood should you get the munchies.

The venue is one big room, with a big stage in a corner and lots of red upholstered chairs that line the long bar and surround the many tables. The Christmas lights that are still up will be timely again soon. There's one pool table, one of those dart machines with the fake darts, and one big-screen television.

Life at the Classroom is pretty basic, according to John Hayes, the man who books the bands.

"It's just a blues club with live music five nights a week. The place is pretty packed on Friday and Saturday nights, but we're trying to upgrade the place and get better bands. Last Thursday night, we had a blues jam and drew over 100 people, which is great. Most of them, for some reason, didn't drink, unfortunately."

Despite the fact that L.A. still has no team, pro football rules on Sunday and Monday, as it does at most bars.

On Tuesday, the Blue Baron plays blues. Wednesday, traditionally one of the toughest nights of the week for bars, is still in the experimental stage, with Hayes looking for the right band and a successful formula.

Thursday is Jam Night, and Friday and Saturday, the hot bands play.

Stoney Curtis, named after a character in "The Flintstones," and Bob's Your Uncle, with about a dozen members and no one named Bob, are two of the venue's most popular bands.

Country Boy Ruben, who plays "blues you can use," and Charlie D & Company are also popular.

The Classroom has been at the same location for decades, which for a bar is a veritable eternity. For the historians among us, Eddie Spanier, who has worked at there for 15 years, explains the past.

"It's been the Classroom for about 20 years now, but about 25 years ago, it was the Black Knight, but it was only about half the present size. People's first impression from the outside is that this is just a little beer-and-wine bar, and they don't realize that it's this large. It'll hold 110 people, and, when we have a good band, we cover the pool table."

The Classroom, like every other other bar, is always trying to attract more females because, wherever the ladies hang out, so shall there be a vast and hopeful fan club of guys.

Maybe the Christmas lights are not bright enough, but Hayes thinks the Classroom may be a bit misunderstood.

"I do think it's a little dingy in here, and I know my wife doesn't like the place," Hayes said. "But I've never ever seen a fight or even heard loud, angry voices in the three years I've been coming in here. For women, they don't have a completely safe feeling coming here until after they've been here a few times."

Spanier expands on the harmonious-clientele thesis.

"People come in here from 25 to 55. It's a mixture, but everyone gets along fine. There's just a real good atmosphere here. It's just good music with no cover. I think this is the best blues bar in the Valley."

BE THERE

The Classroom, 8333 Tampa Ave., Northridge. Tonight is Jam Night; Charlie D & Company plays rockin' blues Friday; Country Boy Ruben plays blues Saturday; the Blue Baron plays blues Tuesday; Wednesday to be announced. No cover or minimum charge. (818) 885-0250.

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