Review by Kirsten O'Brien/The AS Review

I’m just going to come out and say it: I like beer. Please, keep your Cosmopolitan and your Mai Tai and whatever other fancy concoction with an exotic-sounding name to yourself while I sip on this apricot ale. On the weekends, I like drinking beer, especially at bars. So I was particularly excited about the opening of The Shakedown, the newest place to hit the Bellingham bar scene.

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The Shakedown, located just down the street from the Herald Building. Photo by Joe Rudko/The AS Review.

The Shakedown is located at 1212 N. State St., across from dumpling hotspot Pel’ Meni and in the former location of Plan B. The bar officially opened last month on St. Patrick’s Day, and featured a high energy, hard rock show by Harkonen, Dog Shredder, Lozen and Swayze on March 18. Throughout the month of April, the bar will feature a variety of local bands each week, which will surely make it a hub in the Bellingham bar and music scene.

My friends and I began our night at the Up & Up Tavern, also located on North State Street. Despite the fact that it was a Tuesday, we enjoyed a pitcher or two and shot a game of pool before wandering several hundred feet to the newest bar in town. I had high expectations that were deflated as soon as we got to the door. There was a one dollar cover charge to listen to two DJs with a MacBook Pro play music onstage. I was confused, slightly irritated and not nearly drunk enough.

Still though, I decided that I shouldn’t write off this new bar so quickly. The interior of the bar has a feel unlike any other bar in Bellingham. The walls are black and dark red, with industrial-style wall lights illuminating the booths that line the left wall. The entire right wall is exposed brick, giving the entire place a subversive, edgy feel.

However, the real centerpiece of the bar is the stage. Visible from the street through the garage door-like paned window, the stage is large and easily seen from most everywhere in the bar. I see a lot of potential for live music shows in the future, but unfortunately that night there just wasn’t much to listen to.

My friends and I walked up to the bar, and checked out the food menu first. The Shakedown features the standard pub food, such as French fries and burgers, as well as more unusual items. There were Vietnamese banh mi sandwiches, tater tots and curiously named tofu and meat “candies.” The full menu is available until 9 p.m. but food is served until 2 a.m. I blindly ordered the tofu candy, which turned out to be two skewers of large, hearty tofu chunks bathed in a sweet and salty sauce. The food was hot and came quickly and paired well with my classy beer of choice: a $1.50-can of PBR. For three dollars, I felt my money was well-spent on an item that is rarely, if ever, served in a bar.

My friends ordered two Jack & Cokes at $3.50 apiece. The bartender was extremely friendly, and made an especially stiff drink. The bar also featured a number of beers from local breweries, including Boundary Bay Scotch Ale and the Chuckanut Pilsner, among others. The drink special of the night, “Fireballs of Freedom,” made of Fireball Whiskey, Cherry Coke and a hint of lime, sounded delicious, and at $5, seemed extremely reasonable to me.

There is also an upper balcony level, which features smaller, more intimate booths, an unfinished mini bar and stools overlooking the bar down below. The balcony above provided a unique perspective of the whole place, and would be an excellent spot to watch live music.

I may not have been impressed with the entertainment on that particular night, but I can forgive The Shakedown for charging me $1 to listen to people fiddle with ProTools in exchange for some of the incredible live shows they have coming up this month. On April 15, the bar will be hosting the Go Slowpoke reunion show, with guest bands

The Sweaty Sweaters and Lumpkins. All three bands hail from Bellingham, and Go Slowpoke has been one of my favorite local acts since my arrival in Bellingham. For $5, you can’t get a much better line-up of local favorites. On April 30, the bar will host a benefit concert for Ladyfest and the organization Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Services of Whatcom County. Bellingham-based Serious Black and Tearamanapart are scheduled to perform.

Although I haven’t listened to either band, I can certainly appreciate attending a concert for a cause.

My introduction to The Shakedown may have started off a bit rocky, but I’m going to give it a second chance. The food was hot, the drinks were strong and the staff was friendly. And based on the concert calendar, the music will also eventually be good. One thing is for sure about The Shakedown: If the beer doesn’t keep me coming back, the promise of awesome local music surely will.

THIS WEEK AT THE SHAKEDOWN

WEDNESDAY, April 13
White China Gold, Lizzie Huffman, Gimmick(s)

FRIDAY, April 15
Go Slowpoke (reunion show), The Sweaty Sweaters, Lumpkins

SATURDAY, April 16
Baal Beryth, Cathoholix, Sacrament Ov Impurity
Cover charges and show times vary. More information at shakedownbellingham.com.