Amanda Castro at Steamers
Amanda Castro Band at Steamers in Fullerton, CA. Photo by M.C.

I was told by a local that Fullerton used to be a sleepy town that has a renovated downtown area with many added bars, calling it a “zoo.” Others have said people come from LA and the Inland Empire to have a good time in downtown Fullerton. New places keep popping up for drinking, dining and dancing.

Steamers is a jazz club and café that has been around for a while bringing in hip jazz musicians from LA. It’s a comfortable place that is inviting. The club is long with the bar running down one side and the stage on the other side at the end in a corner. Tiny round tables fill the dark room with smaller square tables down the wall to reach maximum capacity—I believe the sign read 91. The jazz club is just like you would imagine—dark, red curtains, framed drawings on the wall with candles lit on every table. There’s something about a dark bar that is romantic and magnetic.

Amanda Castro Band featuring Pat Aranda played the night I went and they did not disappoint.

Sweetly speaking, Amanda introduces a song. She asks Pat on the keyboard what the song means. He makes up something silly about the song You Can’t Ride This Train saying it’s about a train. I’m not sure if it was a Louis Armstrong song called Hobo, You Can’t Ride This Train and they made it sexy for Amanda. They had a fun time. Pat would say something goofy and Amanda would speak softly, “Oh, you’re out of control.” She’d get back to singing jazz from my grandparent’s day. There must have been five songs that started her voice low and built up to the middle register. Amanda is a singer—she sings a melody and has a range unlike so many we here on the radio today—and she has beautiful tone quality. She moves with the music with her hands floating, wrists twisting, hips swaying as she is holding an old style rock-a-billy microphone. She talks to the audience naturally with some bantering with the band members. Her stage presence reminds me of Cher—love Cher. She sang one of Cher’s older songs Bang, Bang, then back to songs from the twenties and thirties.

Pat Aranda stands up from the keys and plays a red plastic trombone—the sound is just like any other trombone. Every band member has their solo from standup bass to drums to the saxophonist/clarinetist. I have never seen a patina saxophone. There was shine no more. The saxophonist sneaks in a few familiar samples into old songs like The Pink Panther. His clarinet is just as smooth. What is it about the clarinet, especially playing something jazzy that sounds like nothing else? For a moment all is right in the world.

I wasn’t expecting more than good music, but the food and service are great too. I was told to order a Black Dalia—that the bartender all tatted up created the drink. It tastes like orange sherbet and looks blood red. The bartender with a tribal looking tattoo on his neck plucked a red rose petal and tossed it on top of the drink to float. Complementing the bartender almost made him blush. He slumped his shoulders and bashfully looked through his eyelashes. The waiter said the drink was nominated as one of the best drinks in the OC for 2013. Definitely, a nice night cap. It was my dessert and not too sweet. All the food is good—cheese and toasted bread, salads, Panini and pizza.

The night we went said all ages, but I didn’t see any children (Pretty sure it means 18 and up. When I was leaving Nashville I heard a lady in the airport say you can take children in bars and they let them get on stage with the musicians at one of the famous bars. We should do that in California. California used to be laid back. So many rules here these days.) This is a date night kinda place. Couples were cuddling and caressing each other. There was a man next to us by himself. I felt totally comfortable and I think anybody else would too. You can go dressed up or not. I did, since when does a girl get a chance to dress up? Never. I certainly don’t wear a dress and heals and jewelry to write. I write naked. Kidding, but I don’t wear sweats.

You will be charged $8 a person and you have to buy two items per set. So, plan to eat dinner during the first set. It can get pricey, but totally worth it once in a while.

Update: Sadly, Streamers closed in 2015 after bringing jazz musicians to Fullerton, CA for 21 years.

Copyright 2013 Melissa Crismon