Sevendust, Snot, Hed (PE), Born Naked, Maritime Hall, SF, Fri., January 16, 1998

Happy New Year! It felt good to put the marathon year of ’97 behind me and though ’98 had slightly fewer shows to write about, I still have around 160 to hash out. I say around because I’m still discovering new ones from time to time that I didn’t record, plain forgot about, or was unsure which show I was at on a particular night in question. It was a busy time. This would be the last complete year I would serve out at the Maritime as my and my partner Pete’s relationship with the Hall’s tyrannical owner, Boots, would gradually become intolerable. But Pete and I wouldn’t have parted ways with the Hall full time until the end of ’99 and I would go in and substitute for our replacement, Wade until the Hall’s final sinking in early 2001. So, until then, I’ve got plenty to write about, so let’s get started.

It was the height of the so-called “nu-metal” movement back then typified by bands like Korn, Limp Bizkit, Staind, and the like. There was no shortage of talent and Sevendust was one of them and was brand new back then. They were from Atlanta and had just released their first self titled album the previous April. Sevendust derived their name from an insecticide powder called “Sevin” that was found in the garage of their bassist, Vince Hornsby’s grandmother. They originally were called Crawl Space but had to change it when they discovered a band in L.A. with the same name. Happens all the time to bands when they’re getting started especially as time goes on and more and more band names get snatched up. I saw them a few times over the next few years, including when they came back to play the Hall again in October. And though there are some other examples of black man singing for heavier guitar driven acts like Bad Brains, Fishbone, Oxbow, and Living Colour, it’s always good to see some diversity on stage. Their singer Lajon Witherspoon has an impressive set of pipes.

It was good fortune that the first band I’d see in this new year, opening that night was Born Naked, a band I was intimately familiar with having been roommates with their manager Patrick Dillman for a couple years in the Mission. I had moved out of that place for almost a year by this time, but it was always a pleasure to see them, hear them play, and catch up with Pat and the band again. This would be the first time I’d see Hed (PE) and they’d play the Hall quite a few more times in the future as well. Their name is an abbreviation of “Higher Education” and at first “Planetary Evolution”, but then later revised to “Planet Earth”. This would be one of only two times I’d have the honor to see Snot, a band with remarkable talent that ended all too soon and tragically at that.

Snot, like Sevendust, was also new having released their first and only album with singer Lynn Strait, “Get Some”. Lynn would be killed in a car crash that December along with his poor dog, Dobbs. That pooch was so beloved by the band that she graced the cover of that album and as luck would have it, give birth to a litter of puppies the day the album was released. Though I doubt any of those puppies are still living today, I can only guess if any of Dobb’s grandkids are barking. I hope so. Sevendust would go on to write a song called “Angel’s Son” for a tribute compilation album to Lynn called “Straight Up”, accompanied by a couple members of Snot. 

Putting the future tragedy aside, it was good to be back at the Hall again after having a couple weeks off after the New Years show with Toots & The Maytals. Pete was confident enough in my skills by this time to leave me at the helm of the recording room alone regularly and I had the honor of getting to tape the first two shows of the year myself. Lord knows, I had time on my hands having been unceremoniously let go from my AV job at the Marriott only a little over a month before this show, but I’d soon bounce back, beginning to work for the stagehands union. I’d take my first call with them that February and I’ve been with them ever since, though working with them and reconciling my schedule with the Hall and ushering proved to be dicey, at least until the Maritime folded, but that’s another story which I will get to when we get there. This night was a rowdy one and loud as hell and it was good practice to get back mixing full rock bands again after having not been at the the helm of the recording room without Pete since the previous November with the Brian Jonestown Massacre. The Electronica Hanakkuh a week after that didn’t really count as mixing since I had only two tracks and the audience mics to wrangle that evening.

Wyclef Jean, John Forte, Coolbone, Maritime Hall, SF, Wed., January 21, 1998

The second show of the year was also one I was able to record alone, Pete having no interest whatsoever in hip hop music. Thank God for that too since he didn’t realize just how popular this guy was at the time. Wyclef Jean, one of the members of ridiculously successful hip hop group, The Fugees, had landed a another hit with his new solo album “Wyclef Jean Presents The Carnival”, commonly referred to simply as “The Carnival”, which he released the previous June. Fellow members Lauryn Hill and Pras helped contribute to the album and Lauryn would blow everybody out of the water later that year when she released her even more meteorically successful solo album, “The Miseducation Of Lauryn Hill” that August. So, though I’d seen The Fugees four times in 1996 alone, I didn’t realize that they’d all move on so quickly, but they did.

Wyclef’s new material, like The Fugees, seemed to rehash older soul and reggae standards, even doing covers of Bob Marley’s “No Woman No Cry” and the classic Cuban folk song, “Guantanamera”. He tweaked the lyrics of the former that night, singing it solo on his guitar and getting a cheer from the crowd when he sang, “in the government yard in San Francisco”. He even had the original I-Tals back up singers contributing to his new album, as well as The Neville Brothers and Celia Cruz. Derivative he might be, but at least he had good help. 

Speaking of which, opening that night was Coolbone, the New Orleans “brass hop” band. I loved these guys having seen them open for Ben Harper the year before at The Warfield, rapping to Big Easy style second line music, tubas, trumpets, and all. Their sound was inspired and original, making them one of those few bands like The Mermen that seemed that they were born to be the perfect opening act. Wyclef brought along John Forte that night, a brilliant producer and songwriter who helped make The Fugees’ hit album, “The Score”, as well as Wyclef’s new solo album. He was excellent rapper in his own right and would go on to release his first solo album, “Poly Sci” later that year in June, which Wyclef produced. Wyclef’s DJ, DJ Higgins also got the crowd worked up beforehand, exhibiting his skills spinning and especially scratching. He did all sorts of tricks like scratching behind his back, between his legs, and even gradually taking off his T-shirt while scratching the record one hand at a time, never missing a beat. 

I have to hand it to Wyclef for being a showman, though I’m not a huge fan of his meandering performances myself. He undoubtably has charisma and worked up the crowd getting shout outs between songs once, taking turns welcoming Asians, Mexicans, Blacks, Whites, Filipinos, and Japanese people. Wyclef also improvised lyrics during the chorus of “Anything Can Happen” asking questions like “Will The Broncos win the Superbowl?” and “Will Tyson get a rematch”, before answering with the song’s title. Incidentally, the Broncos did win four days later, beating the Packers 31-24. And yes, Tyson would eventually get a rematch with Evander Holyfield later that June. But that would be the infamous one where Tyson was disqualified after biting Evander’s ear off. I’ll never forget watching that match with my mother on the one time I took a cruise with my family in the Caribbean. We were watching it in the ship’s casino with about 200 horrified other passengers. My poor mom had never even watched a boxing match before and wondered aloud if this was normal. I assured her it wasn’t.

Anyway, back to the show. Wyclef took a “moment of silence” bit where he took his electric guitar alone on stage and played a solo for people who have passed, first hitting long drawn out notes, before ending it with a bunch of Eddie Van Halen-like hammer down notes on the frets. I have to admit that his song “Gone Till November” is catchy to the point of being an ear worm. For some reason, after that show, I always had my own strange line implanted in that song being “Tell Jerry Springer I’ll be gone till November”. Your guess is as good as mine how Jerry snuck into my head for that one. I guess I just liked the way the words sounded. Though this would be the only time I’d see Wyclef headline one of his own shows, he’d come back to play the Hall on a bill in September called the Lyricist Lounge with De La Soul, and bunch of new acts including the Black Eyed Peas (before Fergie joined the band) and a fresh faced new kid calling himself Eminem.