The man behind the concept is Matt Eiseman, who sings and plays guitar in Burning Monk and works at the bar. His goals are multifold: “I wanted to let people know that the Legionnaire is a venue,” he said. “There’s a shortage of venues in Oakland for heavier music. And a lot of the venues, like Eli’s [Mile High Club], the shows have to be over early. I thought it was a great venue to work with. I wanted to do something for the bands.”
Thus far, the Legionnaire Saloon has been more known for booking DJs and hip-hop acts. The bar was opened last year by rapper Prozack Turner and his wife, RaeAnne, who used to be partners in the Layover, with the intention of hosting more live music. As the Express previously reported, that was Turner’s initial intention with the Layover, too, but instead that bar has remained more of a dance club.
Eiseman insists the night isn’t a showcase for his band (though Burning Monk will play the first and third editions of First Thursday). Rather, he said, “My whole point of doing the shows is to give back to the community. I’m not trying to make money off of it — there’s not much money to make anyways. … I just want to see great shows. I want other people to be excited about it, too. I want it to be a community thing — make shows that everyone is excited about.” Eiseman added that he won’t take any cut of the door; after the bar takes 30 percent, the rest will go to the bands.
Among those already booked to play future First Thursdays are Oakland punk/rock outfit Lecherous Gaze (June) and Oakland sludge-crust band Bädr Vogu (July). The shows are held upstairs in a room above the bar. Tomorrow night’s show starts at 9 p.m. and costs $7. Bands interested in playing First Thursday can reach Eiseman via Facebook.