Christian Jacobs Reminisces About UCR’s Legendary Music Venue the Barn

The Aquabats lead singer and Yo Gabba Gabba creator says in the 1990s, the Barn was the epicenter of UC Riverside

Christian Jacobs, center, talks about the Aquabats 1990s performances at the UCR venue the Barn.

Christian Jacobs, center, talks about the Aquabats 1990s performances at the UCR venue the Barn.

In the Winter 2013 issue of UCR Magazine, we showcase the Barn — a legendary university venue that was transformed from a horse stable into a campus hangout with a rich history of music and culture.

The Barn left lasting impressions on not only the student body, but on its performers as well. Notables such as Pete Seeger, No Doubt, Sublime, and more have graced its tiny stage; here,  Christian Jacobs, the lead singer of the Aquabats and the creator of Yo Gabba Gabba, reminisces on his experiences at the Barn.

“The Barn is special because it’s [on] campus and [you’re playing] for college crowds,” Jacobs says. “The college experience is very unique … like, okay, we’re going to do a little studying and going to have a lot of fun. … That [idea] is really indicative of the Barn, as the epicenter of UC Riverside.”

Aquabats at The Barn

The Aquabats taking on the stage at The Barn, circa 1993. Photo by Marlene McCune.

From campus hangout to dive bar to today’s restaurant/concert venue, the Barn has certainly evolved in its 50-plus years of existence.

The Barn that Jacobs remembers from the 1990s, for example, was completely different from what it is today: “It smelled like sweat, puke and beer. The old Barn was kind of like that bar in ‘The Blues Brothers,’ where they have a cage in front of the stage and people are throwing beer bottles at everything. It had that vibe back in the day.”

Jacobs adds, “I especially remember the Barn because of the way the stage was. There was a three-foot window where you can actually see the band because there was a really high barricade and a really low ceiling so it was like this funky zone — it was really hard to see the band.”

That didn’t make the Aquabats’ performances any less fun. If anything, the Barn was a place where the Aquabats, known for wearing costumes and performing theatrical antics on stage (and who now star in the children’s show “The Aquabats Super Show”) felt free to try out new ideas. Jacobs recounts, laughing, “We had a trampoline we used to bring out on stage and that got stolen at the Barn.”

Crowd listening to Aquabats

The crowd listening to the Aquabats at The Barn. Photo by Marlene McCune

 

The Aquabats tradition of holding Christmas shows also began at the Barn. “The first time we wore red costumes with Santa Claus trims [was at the Barn]; every year we try to do at least one or two shows where it’s Christmas-themed and we throw out presents.”

While the Barn’s aesthetic has changed, the quality of the entertainment has not.  “I always remember the Barn not only as a performer, but as part of the crowd,” Jacobs says. “I’ve seen a lot of bands at the Barn, but one of the more memorable ones was Jimmy Eats World,” he adds. It was the place where Jacobs met Tim Armstrong from Rancid and Operation Ivy as well.  “When Travis Barker (of Blink-182) was in the band and he was living in Riverside, we used to go to the Barn and see shows all the time,” Jacobs says.

The Barn’s intimate environment established a strong connection between the artists and the audience; Marlene McCune, lead singer of the (now-defunct) band All Star Picnic, says, “I have many fond memories playing at the Barn back in the late ’90s.” (Photos of the Aquabats at the Barn can be ssen on McCune’s blog, The Adventures of SuperMar, and are used here with permission).

Many artists passed through the Barn on their road to stardom, as Jacobs proves. “There were lots of good memories at the Barn,” he says.

If you’d like to share your own memories of the Barn, post a comment on our alumni blog!

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