What the hell, The Underground/Evangelo’s!? Y’all fired Chris Quintana!? You fired the dude who took the basement of your often empty bar and turned it into one of the most musically varied and highly attended clubs in town!?
Look, I’m no businessman, but this seems like a terrible plan.
“It’s not that I have negative feelings toward [Evangelo’s], I’m just hurt,” Quintana says. “I put six years into that place, and it was one of the last venues in town where there was punk and metal and performance art…I tried to do every possible genre of music I possibly could.”
Six years ago, The Underground didn’t even exist. Evangelo’s had been in the same spot on San Francisco Street since the dawn of time, but similar to today, the downtown bar sat patronless unless certain bands took the stage. Owner Nick Klonis was—let’s face it—usually scary, and native Santa Fean Chris Quintana was working as a sound technician and event promoter in Vegas, after completing school for audio engineering and entertainment business at Full Sail University in Florida. These were dark days for local music.
Then, a brief trip home resulted in fatherhood for Quintana (he’s mum on the details other than totally loving his kid), and he’s been back ever since.
“When I returned, I wound up stuck doing construction with my dad,” he says. “Nick was always like a second father to me, and I literally walked in and told him there wasn’t a single thing I wanted to do in Santa Fe, and he told me to clean up the basement so we could open up a bar.”
Four months later, The Underground was born and, according to Quintana, “We were crazy steady from day one.”
The Underground provided a haven for fans of everything from death metal to dubstep. It was almost like everything Warehouse 21 has always been but with a liquor license. So much of its success hinged on Quintana’s willingness to take a chance on just about any style of music he liked, so on a Monday, you might see Nick Peña of La Junta playing a stripped-down acoustic set; in the middle of the week, you could go nuts to the horror-punk antics of The Independents; and by the weekend, you could take part in a free-flowing hip-hop open mic. Shows were often reminiscent of basement punk parties or underground hip-hop events you might find in larger cities, and life was good.
So, if Quintana has proven himself an above-average promoter and businessman, why screw with a proven formula? Repeated attempts to connect with Evangelo’s owner and new Underground manager Johnny Pink went unanswered, so we may never know. This is an understandably sensitive situation, but for the many people who have made The Underground their go-to club, it’s hard news to swallow. In all fairness, Johnny Pink has been promoting shows for ages, so things might not change that much. Many, if not all, scheduled shows will go on as planned, and a fresh set of hands could potentially breathe new life into the bar. Regardless, it isn’t easy to understand.
“I worked my ass off to bring great music to town,” Quintana laments. “And I always kind of thought The Underground was going to be a major part of my future, so of course I’m bummed.”
Local music aficionados loyal to Chris Q will be glad to know that he’s still working in a promotions capacity.
“I—we—need good live music, good bands, good DJs in town, so I’m going to keep putting on shows at places like El Paseo and The Den and the patio at Kohnami,” he says. “And I want to be clear that Nick did a lot for me, which I will always appreciate…it’s just one of those things you can’t fix.”
Quintana also teases about the possibility of opening his own bar in Santa Fe or Albuquerque.
“Who knows,” he says. “Everyone will just have to wait and see.”