Late desert evenings carry with them a certain mysticism; quiet, yet full of life, possessing warmness and camaraderie in the most unexpected places. The dark alleyways of Tucson’s Church Avenue and Washington street ooze with this mysticism. Bouts of distant laughter cut the stillness of the air, and a closer look through the rustic wooden gates of La Cocina reveals a cozy conglomerate of friends huddled together in an old adobe building, drinks in hand, as they watch local Tucson band Ex-Cowboy serenade those in attendance. There are smiles all around, and everyone is basking in the celebration of Tucson’s local solidarity. From an outsider’s perspective this is a special moment in time, but for La Cocina’s friendly staff, this is Thursday. This magic occurs every night at the local eatery, bar, and music venue. And with additional local and national musicians pouring in to grace La Cocina’s stage, there is no doubt that the enchantment will continue to flourish for some time.
Located in the Old Town Artisans section of downtown Tucson, La Cocina’s establishment is rich with history. Its foundation lays atop the site of El Presidio San Augustin del Tucson, a Spanish fort constructed in 1775. Apache raids were commonly thwarted along the north wall of present day La Cocina before the site opened to public merchants and civilians in the wake of the construction of adobe buildings in the 1850’s. In fact, those who pay attention to detail may even spot saguaro cactus ribs along the ceiling, packing crates, or whiskey barrel staves with remnants of imported wallpaper and gold-leaf mouldings that are over 150 years old.
Under new management in 2010, La Cocina’s current operators embrace this historical background, and have found a way to meld it with a current artistic aura that surrounds Tucson’s music culture. Housing both an indoor and outdoor music area, La Cocina accommodates performers of all genres. Bands that play a more mellow style of music are given a dinner-hour time slot, while more aggressive styles begin in the late evening and continue until the early morning hours. This dichotomy allows for a diverse clientele within La Cocina’s walls, and an even more diverse fluctuation in musical acts.
Though the business houses a somewhat mercurial variety of performances, this is not what sets it apart from other musical venues in Tucson. What truly makes La Cocina standout is its ability to conjure a laid back atmosphere night-in and night-out. Diehard music lovers and casual socializers alike have found a frequent home at La Cocina.
“People can come and hangout without letting the show interfere with their conversation, while at the same time, people can come expecting to see a concert and not be bothered by those who are just there to socialize”, Said frequent La Cocina performer Logan Greene of local rock band Logan Green and the Bricks. “Some venues don't really have a way to balance that, but something about the vibe at La Cocina does the trick”.
La Cocina has much more to offer than an average restaurant or music venue. It has become a public outlet of art and a hub of positive social gatherings. It harbors a special vibration as an avenue of opportunity for artists and an upbeat destination for entertainment seekers. In this way, La Cocina is a community venue, one that is much needed, appreciated, and utilized by people of all backgrounds.