Cue’s Hip Hop Shop, Maritime Hall, SF, Fri., January 8, 1999
Here we go… Happy New Year! Yes, we begin the long celebration that was this year of our Lord… 1999. And what a year it was. Between the steady diet of shows recorded at Maritime Hall, there were more than enough other gigs ushering at The Fillmore and The Warfield, as well as other shows elsewhere, usually as a patron. In grand total, it came to 129 glorious musical adventures for that year, give or take a show. This year is a bit of an enigma as I did so many and I was at the height of my live recording intake, yet my record keeping seemed to have dropped off from my usual meticulousness. I found it challenging to piece together where I had put a lot of the art and clippings from the shows that year and even a couple gigs’ dates were left out completely. But with a little research and determination, I managed to piece it together the best I could and I’m satisfied in the most part with what remains. God knows it’s a lot. Maybe it’s for the best that it’s just slightly incomplete.
Anyway, this, the last year of the millennia would face nitpicking arguments about if that it was or the year 2000 or 2001 was, yadda, yadda, yadda, It was the last year with a 1 in front of the 3 other numbers, that we all could at least agree upon. Things were changing around the world and one could feel the future heading towards us all like a runaway freight train. Europe had just adopted the Euro as its official currency the week before and our beloved president, Bill Clinton, had his trial in the Senate over the whole Monica Lewinski thing begin the day before this show. I would turn 27 years young that July, the fabled and cursed “rock star year” causing me to be extra cautious not to die like so many had at that age. I was single and though I had a few random romantic encounters since my break up with my girlfriend Lisa the year before, I would mostly be up to my neck with all these shows and work. It was a miracle that I slept at all. Only a young person could have kept up with that pace.
The first show I’d have the pleasure of seeing would be this revue of hip hop DJs at the Hall, the first I’d record as well. The bill was being hailed as “Cue’s Hip Hop Shop”, the brainchild of DJ Cue AKA Frank Cuevas, a talented turntabilist in his own right and producer of such wax scratching masterpieces as the “Bullet Proof Scratch Hamsters”, “DMT (Drum Machine Technicians)”, and also as a member of The Space Travelers. He had put together an album of various local talent including Rasco, DJ Apollo, and Vin Roc, all who were there that night with him. Rasco, an abbreviation for Realistic, Ambitious, Serious, Cautious, & Organized, was also a member of the Cali Agents and Planet Asia, both of which would play the Hall in the future. DJ Apollo was a member of the Invisbl Scratch Pickles, a group of scratch artists that I’d seen the year before, wowing the crowd with their skills, opening for the Beastie Boys in Oakland the year before. Along with Vin Roc, they all took turns doing their cuts, transitions, and such for hours, each a master at the skill, mind bending stuff really. It should have been better sold a show, but it also was just after New Year’s and people fizzle out for a couple weeks. Still, it was a golden age for scratch masters like these guys, Mix Master Mike, and Kutmasta Kurt, and I’m bitter thinking about some of the EDM artists around today who make zillions, but have no skills on the ones and twos. But it seemed appropriate that Pete and my last year at the Hall would begin with this one, so casual and free spirited. By November, Pete would leave the Hall over various issues with the boss, Boots, and I would follow him, occasionally substituting for our replacement, Wade, until the Hall finally sank for good in 2001.
Fear Factory, Skinlab, Spineshank, Static X, Maritime Hall, SF, Sat., January 9, 1999
SETLIST : Shock, Zero Signal, Self Bias Resistor, Edgecrusher, Smasher – Devourer, Big God, Scumgrief, Securitron (Police State 2000), Descent, Pisschrist, Resurrection, Demanufacture, Replica, Scapegoat
It had been four long years since I saw Fear Factory open for Megadeth at The Warfield, that fateful day when Jerry Garcia passed away. The memory of singer Burton C. Bell stunning the staff when he yelled, “Fuck Jerry Garcia! I’m glad he’s dead!”, will be seared into my brain till my dying day. But they were back as a headliner this time and let’s just say fate got a little revenge on that band shortly before this show. They had been touring back east when in Philadelphia when their truck got stolen along with all their gear, lights, and merchandise. Still, it was unfair to System Of A Down and Shineshank, who had their stuff with them. The truck would later be found empty and engulfed in flames near the Walt Whitman Bridge. At least Static X didn’t lose their shit. They were on this tour along with Spineshank, but local act Skinlab was there instead of System Of A Down.
Static X had been around since ’94, but their debut release “Wisconsin Death Trip”, (named after the 1973 Michael Lesy book), would not be out until two months later. Their frontman, Wayne Static, was from Chicago and had previously been in a band with Billy Corgan of The Smashing Pumpkins called Deep Blue Dream. Wayne’s look was quite striking, his dark, black hair shellacked to point straight up like he was falling down an elevator shaft and with a braided “chintail” beard. These guys were talented, wrote good songs, and were relatively successful for one of these nu-metal bands. Static X would return to open for Fear Factory again at the Hall in September, but then they would have their own monitor board and I could only get a stereo recording of that night. They would get big enough to headline The Warfield in 2002 with Soulfly opening for them, but that would be the last time I’d see them perform. Poor Wayne would die from a prescription drug overdose in 2014, whether it was accidental or not is still uncertain.
Spineshank had played the Hall opening for Machinehead four months before this show, having just released their “Strictly Diesel” album, and they’d be back just five weeks later there opening for Sepultura. Burton C. Bell would sing on their tune “Stain” for that album. And well Skinlab… They were practically the nu-metal house band, playing three times before at the Maritime, opening for both Machinehead and D.R.I. in ’97, then for Deicide just two months before this gig and would come back the following November opening for S.O.D. Knew those guys’ music well and I had said it before, but it bears repeating, that as the years went by, they got better. Being local, they had their usual allotment of hesher friends and relatives in the house. It was pretty well sold that night, enough to open the balcony.
Fear Factory had released the concept album, “Obsolete” the previous July which had a hit with their bonus track, a cover of “Cars” by Gary Numan, though they didn’t play it that night, sadly. Concept albums are always dodgy, running the risk of being pretentious or downright stupid, but I’m glad to say this one was alright. It told a tale of protagonist Edgecrusher and his dystopian future, encountering Smash – Devour, an egg shaped killer robot, and being captured by the Securitron, a worldwide law enforcement organization of their machine controlled society, and so forth. Furthermore, Fear Factory would go on to release a compilation album of their hits that year called “Messiah”, which would also serve as the soundtrack of the computer video game of the same name.
They had brought their own high tech light array, strobes, and set up (presumably) fake skulls with spinal columns attached to them on their microphone stands and one between the drummer’s tom drums. As expected, there was a fog machine too. We would install the robo-cam system at the Hall the following month, but for that show we still just had the trusty single balcony wide shot camera. There would be a friend of Fear Factory in the Hall that night recording a video bootleg of the show also from the balcony and he’d post it on YouTube years later. Not a great video, but there was a funny bit at the end when he went backstage and the camera had been left on, whether it was intentional or not, I can’t be sure. He didn’t seem to be pointing the camera at anybody deliberately and I doubt he was trying to tape them without their knowledge. There was one great bit for me personally watching it again when he went off exploring the upper decks above the band’s dressing room and found the narrow metal staircases leading to the rafters above the stage. He didn’t stay there long, that area being dark and treacherous.
Fear Factory played a lively set and there was a bit of a mosh pit for a couple songs and the occasional crowd floater. There was one guy on the bootleg video who wasn’t impressed and blurted into the camera’s mic with a pronounced souther accent, “Lamest mosh pit I’ve ever seen!” Just before they played “Self Bias Resistor”, they used the introduction of N.W.A.’s “Straight Outta Compton”, sampling the words, “You’re about to hear the strength of street knowledge”. Fear Factory would also use another hip hop sample after “Edgecrusher”, using Flava Flav’s voice from Public Enemy yelling, “Damn, that shit was dope!”. There was the sound of an alarm at the beginning of the “Securitron (Police State 2000)”, song which I swore was used from the alarm in the movie “Aliens” near the end when Ripley was escaping the exploding atmosphere processor and the recording, “You have (such and such time), to reach minimum safe distance”, was playing.
There was one memorable little snafu at the show about half way through. The folks who posted the setlist online thought the band had stopped because someone threw a shirt at guitarist Dino Cazares, during the song “Descend”, but they were wrong. Dino stopped the band because he was having a bit of a verbal tussle with one of the Hall’s security guards who was up in front of the stage in the barricade. Dino had sprayed the crowd with a water bottle during the song and the guard took offense to it getting wet in the process, even after Dino offered him a towel after to dry off. Dino chastised him, yelling, “Act like your working it, if you can’t handle sweat like the rest of us! I threw him a towel and he’s still crying! It’s just water!” then Burton chimed in saying, “I get spit on, pissed on, shit on every night and you cry over water!?!” The crowd then chanted, “Dino! Dino! Dino!” until they started playing again. At the end of the night, Burton thanked all the opening acts and Dino came up front and shook hands and high fives the fans up front. He tossed them a bunch of guitar pics before doing a quick crowd float, then waved goodbye and exited.
Bad Religion, No Use For A Name, Hate Fuck Trio, Maritime Hall, SF, Sat., January 16, 1999
(NO USE FOR A NAME) : (unknown), Don’t Miss The Train, (unknown), Justified Black Eye, Leave It Behind, Redemption Song, Soulmate, Fatal Flu, Straight From The Jacket, The Answer Is Still No, Invincible, On The Outside
(BAD RELIGION) : Against The Grain, Them & Us, The Biggest Killer In American History, American Jesus, Spirit Shine, Turn On The Light, Come Join Us, Dream Of Unity, 21st Century (Digital Boy), No Control, Heaven Is Falling, A Walk, Shades Of Truth, The Happy Killers, Do What You Want, Faith Alone, Sowing The Seeds Of Utopia, Atomic Garden, Along The Way, Change Of Ideas, News From The Front, Hear It, Tomorrow, Generator, Fuck Armageddon… This Is Hell, God Song, Infection, We’re Only Gonna Die
It was a high honor to record Bad Religion that night, particularly since they had no real official live recordings to speak of, at least none that I could find. This would be the fifth time I’d see them though, having caught them twice already at The Warfield in 1994 and 1996, opening for Pearl Jam at the notorious “Hurl Jam” show in Golden Gate Park in 1995, and once more at The Edge in Palo Alto in 1996. Brett Gurewitz had reunited with the band in the studio to record the song “Believe It”, but he wasn’t touring with them still and they didn’t play that song that night. The band was finishing the last show of the Californian leg of the “No Substance” tour that had been going on all the previous year. This would be the third time Bad Religion would play San Francisco in only nine months and they played four songs off that last album that night.
Opening for them were a clever band from Denver called the Hate Fuck Trio, made up of two brothers, Jon & Sam DeStefano. We had the balcony camera set up that night and I think my friend Dan was operating. After them, No Use For A Name was up next. I’d seen them a couple times before, once on the second stage at 105’s B.F.D in 1995 and then opening for my brother’s old band, the Dance Hall Crashers, later that year at The Fillmore. No Use For A Name had just recently lost their guitarist Chris Shiflett who left them abruptly before the beginning of this tour to join the Foo Fighters and was quickly replaced by Dave Nassie. That night, they did a funny, punk rock version of Bob Marley’s “Redemption Song”. I’ve always liked these guys and would be happy to see them once again open for the Crashers at The Fillmore later that year after they released their next album, “More Betterness!” that October.
Bad Religion had been around since 1979 when Greg Graffin was just a wee lad of 15 years old and by this time he and the band seemed like veterans even though they were only in their mid-30’s. They quickly got the crowd worked up and Greg was doing his usual wise cracking between songs. After “Them & Us”, he proclaimed that it was “great to be up here in the land of politics” and congratulated us on “your newly renovated City Hall. It looks magnificent. That is a symbol of California efficiency, isn’t it? Now just get that guy to do something with that fucked up airport and make this first best punk city scene in California”. The City Hall had just been refurbished, yes, sporting the black dome it has today. He later joked that though the band was only allowed to play 30 minutes when they were in town last for the Warped Tour, this night they would be playing 35 minutes.
At the end of the song “Spirit Shine”, one of the Hall’s crew walked across stage and the bassist Jay Bentley playfully scolded him, asking, “Are you with the band?” Greg said something about that their band was increasing in size over the years, leaving folks to wander around the stage aimlessly. Later, Greg introduced the tune “Dream Of Unity”, calling it “a song about the L.A. punk scene which we know is the best. San Francisco is the second best” There was a predictable amount of boos, but Greg immediately followed up, “It’s quickly changing. Things are definitely flowing north” and called that tune “a song of bewilderment and delusion”. Jay later wished Fat Mike from NOFX who was there that night a happy birthday, though Mike’s birthday wasn’t until the 31st, over two weeks later, and got the crowd to sing a truncated version of the birthday song to him. Greg joked, “Jay doesn’t know or care when my birthday is” and introduced the next song “No Control” as some of that “old time Bad Religion”.
He then described “Shades Of Truth” as one of the saddest songs he had ever written and he knows “because I was sad when I wrote it”, though it wasn’t the saddest song they did and promised to play that one later. In the middle of “The Hippie Killers”, he sang the title line from Iron Butterfly’s “Ina Gotta Devita”, an appropriate one to roast there, being the Maritime and in San Francisco. As luck would have it, Iron Butterfly was one of the opening acts for Greg Allman at the Maritime’s grand opening back in 1995. Continuing on the subject of hippies, Greg said “This is the city of love. Philadelphia is the city of brotherly love” and reminded us that this was the 30th anniversary of the Summer Of Love, though technically that happened 32 years before in 1967. He went on commenting on the projections on the side screens, “It’s the psychedelic drugs, oil lights, reminds me of what makes San Francisco so special, their innovation, rather integration into music. Put a flower in your hair and go to San Francisco, man! That was the platform against which the punk scene got started and revolted against. Thank you!” Yes, it was a bit of a jab at his hippie hosts, but it wasn’t entirely untrue.
Greg continued, “I got shit last week from a student of theology”, who “crossed the line and pointed his finger” asking him if he was aware he was “going to hell” and told him to get some “faith in my life”. But he responded, “I got a lot of faith, but faith alone won’t save us” and the band went into the song “Faith Alone”. He also gave a “shout out to the guy at the bar who gave me a coffee. Didn’t even ask questions” and added that the guy did some gesture hitting himself in the chest. Greg then joked, “do me a favor and make a pledge that you’d never do this” and he did that stupid hip hop dance when you pump your open hands in the air, as a comedian I once heard describe it as the “closing the overhead luggage compartment dance”. He added, “you don’t have to follow me, but the world would be a better place” if they didn’t.
After “Change Of Ideas”, he introduced Jay to the crowd calling him, “Jay Bentley – male prostitute”, a reference to the old “Fred Garvin” comedy sketch Dan Ackroyd did years ago on “Saturday Night Live”. Greg then bragged that he was “fluent in two languages, three if you count scientific nomenclature”. Near the end of the set, he kept his promise to do the saddest song they know, “Generator”, also in the “saddest key, sung by the saddest man, Greg Graffin”, but reassured the crowd it was ok to sing along with him. They finished up with “We’re Only Going To Die” a tune they had written “all the way back in 1982”. It was a great experience and I only wish that what I taped could have become a live album as always, but having them there was a privilege enough for me. Though this was the only time they ever played the Hall, I would see them three more times at The Warfield in 2000, 2002, and 2004.
Violent Femmes, El Destroyo, Fill., SF, Thur., January 28, 1999
SETLIST : Rejoice & Be Happy, Look Like That, Country Death Song, Blister In The Sun, Prove My Love, Don’t Talk About My Music (Shut Your Mouth), Candlelight Song, Out The Window, I’m Nothing, Confessions, Faith, I Held Her In My Arms, Good Feeling, Dance Motherfucker Dance!, I’m Bad, Gimme The Car, (unknown), American Music, Black Girl, Gone Daddy Gone, Add It Up
It was great to have the Femmes back at The Fillmore after a couple long years of absence. Indeed, that venue seems like it was made for them. I was well versed in their music by then, having also seen them three different times at The Warfield and once at the first Live 105 B.F.D. at Shoreline. They were still touring with drummer Guy Hoffman of The BoDeans, who had replaced Victor De Lorenzo back in 1993, but this time, they had their famous “Horns Of Delimma” horn section with them to back them up for a few songs. That included the one and only Steve McCay from The Stooges on saxophone, making this not only the first time I’d see Steve play, but the first time I’d see the Femmes with horns. My future friend Kristie had been a member of that crew and would play trumpet with them on other occasions at The Fillmore, but she was there that night as a civilian, watching the show. I would actually not meet her until the following year.
Opening that gig was a local band called El Destroyo, fronted by a fellow named Jimmy Friedman. Their last album actually had bassist Brian Richie from the Femmes playing on it, but Brian didn’t perform with them on that occasion. They were a rather quiet acoustic act for most of their set, but the audience was polite and heard them out. Jimmy admitted that he was suffering from the flu and had to “drag myself out of bed” for the show and “might die mid-set”, though he assured the crowd if he did that they weren’t to blame. He joked that his drummer had just learned all his songs and added jokingly that guitarist had too. I didn’t know their music, but I do know near the end of their set, they played a song called “You’re The One” followed by another called “She Don’t Care”. El Destroyo would return to open for the Femmes again later that year also at The Fillmore, but I’d miss that one.
It was good set for the Femmes, including a couple of frontman Gordon Gano’s more religious tunes, opening for example with “Rejoice & Be Happy”, but he balanced them with darker numbers like “Country Death Song” and “I’m Nothing”. Watching the show, I was annoyed a couple times by a fellow who would whistle along loudly and I did my best to avoid him, but you can hear his high pitched whistle on a couple of the songs on my tapes. Brian would sing a few numbers that night including “Don’t Talk About My Music (Shut Your Mouth)” and “Dance, Motherfucker, Dance!”. Gordon would describe him before playing “Gimme The Car” as the “most underrated, most unexplained bass player in rock & roll today”. Sadly, there was no poster at the end of the night, though the show when the Femmes returned that September got one.
Maceo Parker (Not Recorded), Karl Denson’s Tiny Universe, Maritime Hall, SF, Fri., January 29, 1999
It was disappointing that we weren’t allowed to tape Maceo that night, he being the legendary soul saxophonist everybody adored and wanted to work with. We still got to do fellow master saxophonist Karl Denson, though we had already done him a couple times before with the Tiny Universe as well as the Greyboy Allstars. The Greyboys actually put out a live album that year called “GBA Live”, though I can’t say if any of the stuff on it is ours or where the songs came from. I hope it’s from us, but I doubt it. Maceo was just a couple weeks shy of his 57th birthday on Valentine’s Day and was already a living legend. He had been collaborating around that time with Prince & The New Power Generation and even got a song tribute from Jane’s Addiction called “May Cat’s Name Is Maceo” on their 1997 “Kettle Whistle” compilation album. Maceo had also recently released an album of his own called “Funk Overload” the previous August that featured his son Corey rapping on it. I’m pretty sure he was there performing along side him that night as well.
I can’t recall why Maceo didn’t want us to record, but I do remember appreciating that I had the night off to go upstairs and enjoy it. Pete let me do Karl Denson and he took off early. Seeing Maceo perform live is one of those shows that makes you feel more like a sophisticated as a person in general, not to mention very cool. His skill is beyond reproach and when you hear him belt out a classic like “Pass The Peas”, it gives you goosebumps. I imagine Maceo at least had an enjoyable experience since he would return the following August to play at The One Festival with Jimmy Cliff and Burning Spear amongst others that Boots put on once again at Pier 30/32, though we didn’t tape that one. It was a no brainer that Boots would want this show for the Hall, being a saxophonist himself, a former member of the Hoodoo Rhythm Devils. Maceo also played The Fillmore that October and I’m afraid I missed that one as well, especially since it got a cool poster. That night, I’d be at Type O Negative at the Maritime, but ironically they would let us tape that night either.
SnoCore ’99: Everclear, Soul Coughing, Redman, DJ Spooky, War., SF, Tues., February 2, 1999
SETLIST : El Distorto De Melodica, Amphetamine, Electra Made Me Blind, You Make Me Feel Like A Whore, Sick & Tires, Fire Maple Song, Strawberry, One Hit Wonder, The Twistinside, Like A California King, Everything To Everyone, I Will Buy You A New Life, Santa Monica, (encore), So Much For The Afterglow, Heroin Girl, Father Of Mine, Local God, Sin City
It was the dead of winter, though one would be hard put to find a single flake of snow on the ground in San Francisco. Yes, the so-called 4th annual “SnoCore” tour was back in town, sponsored by all sorts of snowboarding gear guys as well as Levi’s and Spin magazine. It was billed as “The Ultimate Winter Experience” and “A Gathering Of Tribes, Music, Culture, & Physical Stimulation”. They were supposed to play the Civic Center, but the show had been moved to The Warfield, presumably because of low ticket sales. Not that the line up wasn’t any good, it was. But Soul Coughing had just played The Warfield less than five months before this, DJ Spooky just four months before and Redman only 7 weeks before both at the Maritime, and Everclear had been touring non-stop since I saw them the first time opening for Primus on New Year’s Eve in Oakland in 1995. Speaking of Primus, they had headlined the SnoCore tour the previous year, but that show was all the way down at San Jose Event Center, so I skipped that one. Redman was on the first leg of this tour and would be replaced by the Black Eyed Peas for the tour’s second half.
Lack of snow aside, I did appreciate that this tour was at least trying to bring black and white acts together on the same bill. Eclectic festivals such as Lollapalooza were quickly fading out and never really returned sadly. DJ Spooky was an inspired choice to have on this bill, spinning tunes at the beginning and between acts. He would once again dust off some familiar and clever samples in his beats such as video game noises from “Robotron” and “Tempest”, bits of Neil Armstrong and the moon landing, and the sound of Cyrus from the movie “The Warriors” asking, “Caaaaan Yoooouuu Dig It!?!” He also played a bit of “Fly Like An Eagle” by Steve Miller and “Weapon World” by Kool Keith, followed by a long scratch solo, then scratching the line from the Beastie Boys’ “Shake Your Rump”, “It’s Tha’ Joint!”, before Redman took the stage. He introduced himself asking the crowd, “Are you ready to get high?” then got on stage accompanied strangely by the song “Relax” by Frankie Goes To Hollywood, then got the crowd to put their hands in the air and chant “Oh yeah!” Some folks were enthusiastic, but the crowd was still pretty sparse in the beginning and he struggled a little to get them to wake up. But he did get them a little rowdy by the time he got to play “Whateva Man” and ending his set with “How High”.
Between sets, DJ Spooky busted out some Jimi Hendrix stuff from “Voodoo Child (Slight Return)”. I didn’t know it at the time, but this would be the last time I’d see Soul Coughing. They were at the top of their game creatively and commercially, but Mike Doughty was knee deep in alcohol and drug addiction and had enough of the band. After dropping Soul Coughing like a hot stone, he immediately hit the road in a rental car, playing solo acoustic shows around the country. To this day, Mike is bitter about the whole experience and flat out refuses to play any of their songs which is a pity since those songs were so good. They did an epic version of “St. Louis Is Listening” that show. I’m just glad I got to see them as often as I did back then and this last set was fantastic as always. So I got to hear Mike get everybody to chant, “Candy Bar!” when they did “Super Bon Bon” at the end of their set for their final goodbye. Afterwards, there was a raffle contest before Everclear got on and some young lady in the crowd won a brand new PlayStation with her winning ticket. DJ Spooky spun records one more time starting with the beginning of Madness’ “One Step Beyond” then going right into Public Enemy’s “Welcome To The Terrordome”, cutting up the line, “Hear the drummer get wicked” a bunch of times. Further extending his eclectic tastes, Spooky even did a bit from “War Pigs” by Black Sabbath.
Like Soul Coughing, Everclear were also at the height of their popularity then and I’d see them one more time at The Warfield a year later. They were still touring playing songs from their hit album, “So Much For The Afterglow” which went double platinum and chalked up their first and only Grammy nomination to date for Best Rock Instrumental for their tune, “El Distorto De Melodica” which they opened their set with that night. Though as the years went on, they would not see the same level of success as they had then, they always put on a lively set. Frontman Art Alexakis had a ton of energy that night and their fans loved them. He egged them on to sing along to “Strawberry” claiming that even his five year old daughter knew the lyrics and to their credit, the audience were pretty loud, singing the chorus, “Don’t fall down now, you’ll never get up”. They also sang along pretty loud to “I Will Buy You A New Life” as well. Art mentioned between songs that he lived in San Francisco five years before and mused about how the rich people lived up in the hills and all us poor people lived down below them. As usual, they wrapped up their set with their hit song “Santa Monica”. I wasn’t surprised that there wasn’t a poster since it had been moved from the Civic Center, though naturally I hoped there would be one.
Sky Cries Mary, Ali Khan Band (Not Recorded), Maritime Hall, SF, Fri., February 5, 1999
This was kind of a weird one, though most are weird in their own special way. For starters, it is unusual for the opening act to not have us record instead of the main act. I can’t really say why the Ali Khan Band didn’t want us to do it. After all, they had just performed at the Hall only a month ago at the Psychedelic Ball on New Year’s Eve there with Toots & The Maytals. We recorded them that night and we didn’t hear a peep out of them or any other band for that matter. Maybe they didn’t like our mix, but I doubt that since Pete was on the boards that night and his was flawless as always.
The second thing was the very identity of the band to begin with. I have some blurry memory of them being some hippie jam band as we were accustomed to hosting at the Hall, but I found their profile online as a rock/trance band from Seattle, though the timeline checks out. The Seattle band had been around since the late 80’s, but would break up that year after releasing their 4 song EP “Seeds” that October. That Sky Cries Mary would reform five years later, break up again, and reform once more. Like I said, I can’t be sure. Sorry. But if they had made an impression on me, I’d probably would have remembered more.
Vanilla Ice, The Sick, Papa Roach, 40 Grit, Maritime Hall, SF, Tues., February 9, 1999
Oh boy… OK, before you start cracking jokes, let me first just start off that despite any opinions one might have about the one Mr. Robert Matthew Van Winkle, otherwise known as Vanilla Ice, we all know who he is. Indeed, no one who lived through the late 80’s/early 90’s escaped the visage of him dancing to his hit song, “Ice Ice Baby”, clad in parachute pants with that bulletproof pompadour on his head. Like it or not, that one’s in our skulls for life. The success of that song and his persona would become the source of endless resentment to downright derision of from the hip hop community. Vanilla Ice would be the target of many a vented spleen ranging from Eminem who claimed to have “ripped out his blond dreads” in his song “Role Model” to Kevin Bacon’s merciless impersonation of him on “Saturday Night Live”.
Now, that being said, Mr. Van Winkle was painfully aware of this and took it hard when his star quickly faded from the mainstream. People often overlook just how young he was when he catapulted to fame, releasing his hit album, “To The Extreme” in 1990, just shy of his 23rd birthday, less than six years older than me. But just a years later, his movie “Cool As Ice” was a critical and commercial disaster and even Mike Myers lampooned him in his first “Austin Powers” movie, showing him frozen in a hyperbaric chamber next to Gary Coleman. Ice fell so low that by 1994, he attempted suicide one night by ingesting heroin, cocaine, and ecstasy. Thankfully, he’s since recovered and got married in 1997, having his first daughter the following year and another in 2000. Knowing his brand was tainted around this time, for better or for worse, he chose to reinvent himself and explore the genre of nu metal which was at the height of its popularity at the time. Ice had been dabbling with new music on the side, playing in a grunge band called Pickin’ Scabs around then as well. He had recently met producer Ross Robinson, who produced for such acts as the Deftones, Korn, Limp Bizkit, and Sepultura, as well as shared Ice’s love of motocross racing. From there, they put together his new album, “Hard To Swallow”, recruiting a respectable stable of musicians to record it, including Sonny Mayo, the guitarist from Snot, who’d recently disbanded due to the untimely death of their singer, Lynn Strait.
The critics were predictably cruel towards Ice’s new found direction and one would think that even if the album was any good, which it wasn’t, they still would have been equally enthusiastic to stomp on it. I mean, the songs weren’t particularly horrible, it was just he was a little late to the party for the whole nu metal thing, and it all felt just a bit old hat. The good news is that they assembled a good line up of opening acts that night, including 40 Grit, Papa Roach in one of their last appearances at the Hall as an opening act, and The Sick. I really enjoyed The Sick, an underrated punk metal outfit originally from Concord near where I grew up, and was surprised that no one had taken that name for a band sooner. Though I didn’t find any other footage of that show on line, I was glad to see that The Sick’s set was not only on YouTube, but they had it also on their own webpage. They prefaced the video claiming they “think this was when we opened for Bad Brains” which they actually did at the Hall the following year. Whether or not they plum forgot they opened for Vanilla Ice, which is highly doubtful in my opinion, and innocently wrote that in is up to you to decide.
The Sick clearly had one of their buddies up in the balcony set up with a static wide shot of the stage on a consumer grade camera, the sound being atrocious, but marginally better than my cassette bootlegs. In the video, you can hear the sound of Born Naked being played as they got set up, the band my roommate Patrick used to manage, covering the songs “Minus One” and “Innocent”. I’m glad that band at least got some props being played between acts frequently at the Hall. After their first song, the singer took off his shirt and yelled at the crowd to “wake the fuck up!” He had a lot of energy, jumping around a great deal all through the set. Near the end, he dedicated a song to all the skateboarders in the house, calling them “people who have problems with cars” and followed it with a cover of Bad Brains’ “Pay To Cum”. As luck would have it, the Long Beach Dub All Stars would also play that song at the Hall a few days later. Afterwards, they thanked the other opening acts and dedicated their last song to the “Ice Man”. I have to admit, I could have swore I heard the singer saying, “I can’t believe we’re opening for fucking Vanilla Ice!”, but I probably imagined it. But, it’s understandable since practically everybody was thinking it.
It wasn’t a very well sold show, in fact by the end of it, I doubt there were more than a 100 people left, but his fans were enthusiastic nonetheless. I would guess at least half those there that night were friends and family of the opening acts, they all being local. Ice came to the stage wearing a Chicago Bulls jersey and a backwards baseball hat and we all watched him do his thing. He dedicated his song, “S.N.A.F.U.” to Bill Clinton who had just been acquitted by the Senate for the whole Lewinski thing that very day. He of course did “Ice Ice Baby”, but afterwards did his nu metal version which he called “Too Cold”. Hearing him scream the chorus “ICE ICE BABY!!!” will be forever seared into my ears. Ice also did covers of “Stop That Train” and “Play That Funky Music”, but he didn’t do an encore.
This show has the unique distinction of being the very first show the Maritime put on with its new robot camera system. They say necessity is the mother of invention and since Boots had systematically alienated every cameraperson and video director that ever set foot in the place, this was certainly a long time coming. For over a year, I had unsuccessfully tried to bring in new recruits, so he rigged up three cameras just below the railing of the balcony, one right, one center, one left, and ran their cables into the video room. I’ll never forget the sight of Boots monkeying with one of the cameras, standing on a tall ladder, his bloated, pasty face just an inch or two in front of the camera’s lens. From the recording room, I watched his sour puss on my monitor in mild disgust as he futzed with it until it worked properly. But once it was up and running, down in the video control room, on you left hand, one could control all three camera’s movements, left, right, up, down, zoom in, and zoom out, and with your right hand you can switch between them, all the while staring at their corresponding monitors throughout the show. The system worked well and as Morgan, the drummer from the band 008 so accurately described it, our work looked like “German television”. I think of it as a complement.
Suffice to say, to pull it off operating this new video plate spinning trick with any degree of skill was a tall order, but I knew just the man for the job. My friend Tory was looking for some work where he could expand his video and directing skills, so this opening came at an opportune moment. There was a big part of me that was absolutely hesitant about bringing him in since he was a lifelong friend and I knew full well the toxic work environment that Boots had festered there for years. I warned Tory repeatedly about Boots, but I was confident with him hidden away from sight in the video control room most of the time that he’d at least be separated partially from it. I was very protective of Tory back then, overprotective even, but he proved not only a master director, but took Boots’ boorish behavior with dignity and professionalism. Tory would do most of the shows at the Hall from then on until Boots fired Pete in November and we covered a lot of great acts. All those shows with Tory made me very proud. I enjoyed having him on board and I thought we made a good team. After almost every show, we would celebrate by having what I liked to call “the victory lap”, with a feat at OSHA Thai just down the street from where I lived in the Tenderloin.
On one final note, I just want to say one thing about Vanilla Ice. Of all the celebrities I’ve had an encounter with over the years, I have to admit that my short moment with him was one of the most pleasant. I approached him as I did all artists who performed there after his set with the VHS and DAT tapes of his set and had him sign the release. Ice was nothing but smiles and thanked me warmly and genuinely. Naturally, I had mixed feelings as most people did about him and was uncertain what I was in for when I did this, but he put me instantly at ease. Being face to face with him, I could immediately sense what people saw in him, his natural charisma. So, you can say what you want about his music and stage persona, I stand by my story that Vanilla Ice is a nice guy.
Long Beach Dub All Stars, The Ziggens, Maritime Hall, SF, Sat., February 13, 1999
SETLIST : April 29 1992, Garden Grove, 54-46 That”s My Number, Trailer Ras, Have A Little Faith, Scarlet Begonias, (unknown), Work That We Do, Insight, (unknown), Ball & Chain, Right Back, Little District, One More Cup Of Coffee, People Funny Boy, Soldiers, 40 Oz. To Freedom, Kick Down, Live At E’s, Pay To Cum, Get Ready, Fugazi, Pawn Shop, My Own Life, Take Warning, Badfish, Let’s Go Get Stoned
It had been almost two years since the tragic lethal overdose of Sublime singer, Bradley Nowell, who had been slated to perform with his band that fateful night at the Maritime. Since then, I had become quite familiar with the band formed in that death’s aftermath, the Long Beach Dub All Stars. With all the original members and a new singer, they had already played the Hall once in 1997, headlining its first 420 Hemp Festival and being one of the acts on The One Festival line up in 1998 down on Pier 30/32. This would also be the second show we’d be using the robot camera system and my friend Tory was starting to get better at it as I could tell from what little video I found of of that night. For some reason, I had a single song from their set recorded in my DVDs, the song, “Kick Back”. Why I only had that song or what I didn’t have the entirety of their set is still a mystery to me, but I take what I can get.
It was good to hear and see that tidbit. They were tight and I thought it was funny that their bass player had cigarette dangling out of his mouth through the whole song. The singer did a little bit of the chorus from “Nothing From Nothing” by soul singer Billy Preston during that tune as well. The band would go on to release the album “Right Back” that September, but they would lose three of their original members shortly afterwards. They did a few respectable covers that night including “54-46 That’s My Number” by Toots & The Maytals, who they opened for at The One Festival the year before and had just played the Hall for New Year’s Eve. They also covered “Scarlet Begonias” by the Grateful Dead, “One More Cup Of Coffee” by Bob Marley, and “Pay To Cum” by Bad Brains, a song that coincidentally had just been played on that stage a few nights before by The Sick, who were opening for Vanilla Ice. Speaking of openers, the band The Ziggens warmed up the crowd before the All Stars that gig. They too were from Orange County and friends of theirs, signed to their Skunk Records label, describing their music as “cowpunksurfabilly”. They were recorded and produced by their guitarist, Michael Happolt, who actually adopted Bradley Nowell’s dalmatian, Lou Dog, after Bradley’s death and cared for that dog until it passed away and rejoined his original master in 2001.
I believe this was the occasion where I tussled with the All Star’s sound engineer a little over giving his effects two separate tracks on the ADAT recording that night. I had only 24 tracks to work with and 16 not them were dedicated to single instruments and couldn’t be grouped and the All Stars were larger than the average punk/ska band. I tried to reassure the engineer that his effects could always be added later, but he insisted that they were part of the live show experience. Boots naturally sided with the engineer, but he was strangely conciliatory towards me and was uncharacteristically very friendly and diplomatic throughout the exchange. I eventually relented and made room, grouping the drums’ toms and overhead cymbals together. I like to think that my little protest was at least evidence that I was growing more confident in my skills as an engineer. The All Stars would return to the Hall in October, one of the last shows I’d record there alongside my partner Pete, but that would end up being the last time I’d see them perform live.
Indigo Swing, B-Side Players, Maritime Hall, SF, Sun., February 14, 1999
Riding the wave of swing music popularity that had then recently gripped the country, this would be the first of two shows that Indigo Swing would do at the Hall that year, returning to headline again there less than five months later. I liked these guys. Like most swing bands they had class, dressing in vintage suits on stage and played tight as drums. Up till then, they had been playing every Wednesday at 330 Ritch Street and had only just released their debut album, “All Aboard!” the previous July. But Indigo Swing were just about to drop their first major label album, “Red Light”, on Capitol Records that year. Though they weren’t big enough to fill the Hall, much less the dance floor, Indigo Swing played skillfully and all those swing enthusiasts who frequented the gigs of that genre were there also in vintage wear and hairstyles, doing their acrobatic dance moves for all to enjoy. It was a pleasant departure from the uncouth, stoner knuckleheads who were at the Long Beach Dub All Stars show the night before there and it being Valentine’s Day, made it a romantic show to boot. Granted, there were a couple slow numbers for the lovers to dance The Clench.
Opening that night were the B-Side Players from San Diego and I believe this was the first time I’d see them, or the first time I’d record them at least. I’d see them play two more times that year, returning to the Hall to open for the Wailing Souls and Toots & The Maytals in July, then a month later, being the first band to play at The One Festival at Pier 30/32 alongside KVHW, Maceo Parker, Burning Spear, and Jimmy Cliff. It’s actually a little tricky trying to describe their music, almost a heavier version of War, but incorporating various musical styles from the Caribbean such as Cumbia, Samba, San Montino, and Jarocho. Having a little something for everybody made them an ideal opening act, a real crowd pleaser. I would go on to see them open for several more acts in the years to come and they never disappointed, though they would rotate several members in and out of their ranks, mostly the horn players.
Cake, Dieselhed, Adam Elk, War., SF, Wed., February 16, 1999
SETLIST : Is This Love?, Friend Is A Four Letter Word, Hem Of Your Garment, Stickshifts & Safetybelts, Frank Sinatra, Mexico, Sheep Go To Heaven, Rock N’ Roll Lifestyle, Ruby Sees All, Comanche, Satan Is My Motor, Perhaps Perhaps Perhaps, You Turn The Screws, Let Me Go, You Part The Waters, Shut The Fuck Up, Going The Distance, Italian Leather Sofa, Never There, (encore), I Will Survive
This was the third time I’d seen Cake in three years and I watched as they steadily grew more popular, headlining larger and larger venues. Their third studio album, the aptly titled “Prolonging The Magic”, released just five months before this show, not only prolonged their success, but surpassed it in some ways. Though they might always be known for their hit song, “The Distance”, which landed #4 on the Billboard charts, their new single “Never There”, would grab the #1 spot and hold onto it for three weeks. It didn’t take long for that album to go platinum and the song “Hem Of Your Garment”, which was their third song played that night, would be included in the soundtrack for the Farrelly Brothers comedy “Me, Myself, & Irene” the following year.
Opening that night was local boy Adam Elk, who was friendly and upbeat. He joked that the keyboardist Josh would “soothe your hearts, pull on your heartstrings with this one”, for their song “Great Mistake”. Following them were country/punk Arcata transplants Dieselhed. I’d seen their members in a couple of other bands, their drummer Danny Heifetz in Mr. Bungle and their bassist Atom Ellis in the long defunct thrash/funk band Psychefunkapus. They had just put out their 4th album “Elephant Rest Home”, a collection of previously unreleased songs, that year on Bong Load Records. Dieselhed had also recently been touring with venerable guitar legend Link Wray, a couple members serving double duty playing in his band as well. Like Cake, they had a trumpet player in their band and they all had a lot of talent. The singer opened their set describing San Francisco as “one of my favorite cities in the world”. Pity that they broke up the year after and this would be the only time I’d see them perform. Guitarist Zak Holtzman would go on to form Dengue Fever two years later with his brother Ethan, a band which is still together and I adore.
Cake was introduced on stage by a DJ named Chris Kay who said they were “coming from the heart of California’s fertile central valley”. I was roped into working all night as an usher, but it wasn’t that hard to manage. Singer John McCrae did his usual egging on of the crowd, getting them to sing along to the choruses of “Frank Sinatra”, “Sheep Go To Heaven”, and “Satan Is My Motor”. For that last one, while the crowd sang the title over and over, he said, “everybody has a part of themselves that they don’t particularly like or want to talk about in public. Right now, publicly acknowledging yourself, singing loudly and bodily and uncompromisingly. You can’t control it unless you know it’s there.” After, he said he woke up with a lump in his throat that morning and thought of canceling the show, but carried on anyway and then played a cover of “Perhaps, Perhaps, Perhaps”, a whimsical ditty made famous originally by Doris Day. I would hear that song again as the theme for the British TV comedy series, “Coupling”, clearly a knockoff of “Friends”. Incidentally, John would break his hand moving furniture a month later, which would postpone their European tour that year. Tough luck for him, I guess. At least, he would be consoled by the fine poster that was made for this show, an amusing four panel cartoon of various dogs. He ended the set with “Never There” thanking the crowd, saying that “in a big city like San Francisco, you have your choice of bands”, and thanked us for choosing them. They returned to do their cover of Gloria Gaynor’s “I Will Survive” for their encore, but my tape ran out before I could get it. Rumor has it, Gloria didn’t like their version of it because of the profanity they used. Personally, I thought Tony Clifton did it best. It would be over two years until I would see Cake again, also playing the Warfield, just six days before 9/11.
Sepultura, Biohazard, Spineshank, One Minute Silence, Maritime Hall, SF, Wed., February 16, 1999
SETLIST : (BIOHAZARD) : Urban Discipline, Shades Of Grey, Resist, What Makes You Tick, Wrong Side Of The Track, Breakdown, Tales From The Hard Side, These Eyes (Have Seen), Salvation, Punishment, Hold My Own
This show is a bit contentious for me, since Biohazard ultimately put out a live DVD from the Hall, but it most likely was recorded by Wade, who replaced Pete and me. I say most likely because I can’t find any record on line of them playing the Hall again after Pete and I were so unceremoniously given the axe by Boots. I checked all the posters and couldn’t find any listings or mentions. But the DVD does indeed exist and many shows at the Hall were never listed on the posters and any records of them have all but disappeared by now. Truth is I’m just jealous. I liked Biohazard and wanted this one for myself. I’m just glad something of theirs came out from the Hall. It means they liked our stuff at least enough to publish it. I did think it was strange that all the songs on the DVD had splices of singer and bassist Evan Seinfeld, reminiscing about the band years later in 2007 while sitting on a couch at some unspecified bar or nightclub. Still, I could have sworn one of them mentioned during their set on the DVD that their fifth album, “New World Disorder”, was coming out soon, which would put it squarely in this time period, since it was release that June. It would be their first and only album on a major label, Mercury, but their relationship with them soon soured. Anyway, some day, I’ll have to look Wade up and put my mind at rest on who’s really the daddy of this baby.
However, I will never forget giving the tapes to Evan after their set was over. For anyone who’d seen them before, they know that Evan is a rather striking figure, burly and covered in tattoos. Though he was friendly to me, when I presented him with the release form, he looked at me with a little skepticism. I reassured him that nothing would be done with the tapes on our end without consulting and making a mutually beneficial agreement with his band and he joked that if not, I’d be receiving the “Brooklyn Beatdown”. I know he was just kidding, but it was duly noted. Evan’s gruff exterior had actually come in handy the year before when he was cast as Jaz Hoyt on HBO’s prison drama series, “Oz”, a role he’d play for several years. Incidentally, he is also second cousin to another obscure television figure, Jerry Seinfeld. I had seen Biohazard once before opening for the House Of Pain at The Fillmore in 1994, one of the first shows I’d see there when it reopened that year. I also knew their song, “Tales From The Hardside” when it was hilariously critiqued by Beavis & Butthead in one of their episodes.
What I didn’t know about Evan until I started looking into them for this, was his history in the adult video world. After he started acting in “Oz”, he caught the attention of porn star Tera Patrick and they started dating, ultimately getting married after a couple of years. I guess she was impressed by his scene in the series where he went “The Full Monty”. Evan and Tera, let’s just say… collaborated on a couple of projects, he under the stage name “Spyder Jonez”, until they split up in 2009. Evan then married another fine actor in the industry, Lupe Fuentes, in 2011 and then amicably left Biohazard to pursue other projects. But this was Sepultura’s show in the end and they did a fantastic job as they had done when they played the Hall the previous October. For some reason, though I speculate it was just first time jitters breaking in their new singer, Derrick Green, they didn’t allow us to record their set then, but they did on this occasion. I suppose Derrick had gotten his sea legs after a few months on the road and they’d thoroughly worked out how they wanted the new songs off the “Against” album, which had also just been released that previous October. Also opening were Spineshank, who were no strangers to the Maritime, having played there twice before, opening once for Fear Factory, then again opening for Machinehead. Anthrax had been listed on the monthly poster as one of the openers, but sadly they weren’t there that night. Pity, I always wanted to record them at the Hall, but never got the chance.
Bob Marley Days 1999
Eek-A Mouse, Joe Higgs & The Fully Fullwood Band, Pato Banton, Azibo Tribe, Maritime Hall, SF, Fri.., February 19, 1999
Gregory Isaacs, Twinkle Brothers, Sister Carol, Cornerstone, Maritime Hall, SF, Sat., February 20, 1999
Israel Vibration, Don Carlos, Ras Shiloh, Prince Rastan, Maritime Hall, SF, Sun., February 21, 1999
SETLIST (PATO BANTON) : Revelation, Exodus, Situation Crazy, Stay Positive, Jamming, One World (Not Three), Legalize It (A Capella), Don’t Sniff Coke, My Opinion – What The World Needs Now Is Love
Suffice to say, I got my fill of live reggae that weekend, more than most people in the world experience their entire lifetimes. As you can see, I decided to do these three gigs in one fell swoop and I’ve done this for several reasons. One, is that it was being billed as a three day festival, put on by Moss Jacobs and Ragga Muffins whoever they are, so it felt right keeping these shows together. Also, as you might have guessed from previous entries about reggae shows at the Hall, I was subject to a relentless barrage of joints from my partner, Pete, clouding my brain to the point of being catatonic, so trying to differentiate between these days would already be tricky. The Hall was basically hot-boxed with a thick fog of the dank all weekend. Finally, we had recorded practically all of these artists at least one time or more, even releasing a Gregory Isaacs CD/DVD already the year before, so that too made my memories of that weekend additionally unreliable.
That being said, I do remember quite vividly Pato Banton’s set on the first night. Thankfully, he would be one of the first acts that weekend, making my mental state clearer than shall we say by the time we got to Israel Vibration. This whole weekend was being billed as the “Bob Marley Days” festival and naturally, many of the artists paid homage to the legendary reggae pioneer by playing some of his songs. But none of others could match the sheer perfection Pato had achieved with his cover of “Jamming” that night. Before he did that song, Pato pointed out that one could go to the far corners the world and mention Bob Marley and people know his good work, even if it’s the only artist of that genre they know. Yes, it was one of the most ripping renditions of that seminal reggae standard, but it was also one of those rare songs when after it finished, the crowd started cheering loudly, then the cheering grew steadily louder. I can still see the look of exhalation in Pato’s face as he took it all in. He challenged the crowd then to “take it to the next level” and greet the person next to you in the crowd if you didn’t know them. Pato had no trouble as always getting the audience to sing along to “Don’t Sniff Coke” and at the end of his set, did a surprisingly heartfelt and respectful rendition of Burt Bacharach’s “What The World Needs Now Is Love”. His set was a natural choice to make an album from and that one came out a year later. It is still one of my favorites, probably the best of the reggae albums the Hall would ever release.
One disappointing thing about that weekend was the conspicuous absence of Alpha Blondy who was supposed to headline on the first night. He played the Hall the previous August, though we were frustrated that we weren’t allowed to record him then. I don’t think he had a bad experience, since he came back to play the Hall in 2000, so who knows? They were able to get Eek-A Mouse at the last minute to fill in for him, an act who played the Hall so often, that Pete let me take over for that one and was gracious enough to let me take the helm for Sister Carol and the Twinkle Brothers as well. We didn’t record Israel Vibration on the last night either, since we were still haggling with them for their use of a few live tracks on their recent live album that they hadn’t paid us for, much less gave either Pete or I credit for recording. Boots would ultimately released DVDs of later performances by Eek-A Mouse and Don Carlos that had been taped by Wade, the engineer who replaced us, though in my obviously unbiased and modest opinion, Pete’s recordings were superior. But in the end, the marijuana addled smiles of all those who witnessed these three days were what really mattered. Seriously, after that weekend, I had to take a few days off the weed to get my marbles back.
Fugazi, The Ex, The Thrones, Maritime Hall, SF, Mon., February 22, 1999
SETLIST : Birthday Pony, Place Position, Facet Squared, Latin Roots, Styrofoam, Recap Modotti, Margin Walker, Furniture, Two Beats Off, Break, F/D, Closed Captioned, Arpeggiator, Public Witness Program, Bed For The Scraping, Floating Boy, (encore), Long Division, Blueprint, Waiting Room, Break-In, Reclamation, No Surprise, Number 5, (encore), Smallpox Champion, Five Corporations, Version
Even though I knew little of Fugazi’s music apart from maybe “Waiting Room”, I was certain that this was an important one. Their name preceded them, especially amongst other musicians. They were respected. Since Ian MacKaye formed the band after Minor Threat dissolved in the mid-80’s, Fugazi earned the reputation for their unique blend of rock, punk, jazz, and God knows what. To call it alternative feels like a cop out. Seriously, I have always hated trying to describe what bands sound like, but to pigeonhole this one is an exercise in utter futility. Suffice to say, they were one of a kind and ahead of their time. They had also garnered the respect of their fans by insisting that their shows be affordable, often around $5 which was ridiculously low, even in 1990’s dollars. This policy of theirs had prevented them from playing many venues, especially large ones. Rumor had it that they had been offered a slot in the Lollapalooza festival more than once and turned it down because the ticket prices were too high. But Boots at the Hall had the wisdom in seeing the value of booking this show and put it on, collaborating with Goldenvoice, and folks packed the venue easily from top to bottom with the low price of $6 to get in.
Fugazi had released their fifth album, “End Hits” the previous April and were touring with The Thrones and The Ex. The Thrones was actually a one man band, a solo project of a bass player named Joe Preston. He even introduced himself on stage as “The Thrones”, perhaps a parody of the “royal we”. The Ex were from The Netherlands, and though I had been there several times visiting my father, who lived there most of his life, I’m ashamed to say that I had never heard of them, or practically any other Dutch band really, except for maybe Urban Dance Squad or Bobby Farrell, the singer from Boney M. Bobby lived pretty close to where my pop was living at the time in the Bijlmermeer, though I didn’t get into Boney M until years later. The Ex had been around since 1979 and had just put out their 10th studio album, “Starters Alternators”, the previous October, produced by grunge wizard Steve Albini. Interesting as they both were, the crowd saved their energy and attention mostly for Fugazi.
Pete, knowing nothing about the band had left the show for me to do, but my friend Liz Farrow was in the house that night assisting me in the recording room. Anthony Kiedis, the lead singer from the Red Hot Chili Peppers, was hanging out backstage and I’ll never forget the look on his face when Ace, one of the office guys at the Hall pointed his video camera at him and asked him if he was “having fun”. Ace had been shooting footage on the side for his cable access music program, “Reality Check”, and one couldn’t blame him for seizing the opportunity to have such Rock & Roll royalty in his show. But Anthony was having none of it and just sat there silently, looking at him with an expression of utter contempt. After a few seconds of that, Ace got the message and moved on. I don’t blame Anthony for being reclusive. The Chilis were hitting a rough patch back then.
When Fugazi took the stage, there were at least a dozen people hanging out on stage all night with them including member of Bratmobile, who had just gotten back together after a five year break and were touring with Sleater-Kinney that year. Ian dedicated the song “Break-In” to them that night, one of only a few times they played that song on the tour. The song “Latin Roots”, the fourth song played in their set, was one of only three times they performed it on that tour as well. Ian immediately insisted that the lighting guy up in the balcony turn the lights all the way up and after a while, he obliged him. It was a loud one for sure, so loud that the noise was causing the robot cameras to vibrate a little. During their set, someone actually threw a rubber ducky with the words “Thanks For The Show” written on it with a black marker at guitarist Guy Picciotto. He commented between songs, “You know, in the history of the band, I’ve been hit with a lot of things. I’ve been hit with wine bottles, hit with Coke bottles, hit with books, hit with stones. It’s the first time I’ve ever got hit in the neck with a duck”. He kept that ducky on top of his guitar amp for the rest of the show.
About halfway through the set, a second drummer came on stage, whose name escaped me, and he joined the band on a smaller drum kit, consisting of only a kick, snare, and hat. Their main drummer, Brendan Canty, had an interesting bell hanging on a stand to his right, something I hadn’t seen any other have before to my recollection. The second drummer played on a couple songs during the encores as well. Ian dedicated “Long Division”, the first song of the first encore to a friend of his who he had stayed with when he was in town at least eight times over the years, but now can’t stay with him anymore. He didn’t say why, but I got the impression that it was because he had passed away. For the end of the second encore, Guy busted out a clarinet for the eerie and haunting song, “Five Corporations”, joined by their second drummer who played along with him on a trumpet. Though they had done two encores with seven songs in the first and three songs in the second, the crowd still cheered for more, but that was it.
I will always remember how friendly and polite Ian was to me when I gave him the tapes of the show at the end of the night. He was a real gentleman, polite to the point of being Canadian. It made me recall a bit that fellow punk D.C. native Henry Rollins did at one of his spoken word shows when he said he and Ian tried to outdo each other on how boring they were backstage. Henry said he would say, “Oh yeah, well when I’m backstage, I play chess!” and then Ian would counter, “Oh yeah, when I’m backstage, I read!” And so on. As always, I had hoped that Fugazi would have used the stuff I taped that night, but sadly they didn’t. Recently, I discovered that they were avid in sharing their live recordings and one can find most of them on dischord.com, including the one I did from that night. The list of shows they had to choose from was impressive, over a 1000 spanning their illustrious career, so releasing a live album would be rather redundant anyway. The website did complain in its notes about the show about the fact that I had split up Ian and Guy’s vocals, putting Ian on the left, Guy on the right, but I felt compelled to since Guy sang almost as much as Ian did throughout their set. They also bellyached that the guitars were too low and granted, they were in the beginning, but I got it balanced after a few songs. Picky picky.
Though I couldn’t find any of the video footage on Youtube, one can find a video of Fugazi’s set at The Edge in Palo Alto which they did the day before and they played mostly the same stuff. Of course, our stuff sounded and looked better. I also discovered that a poster was made especially for this show, but I didn’t see it on sale with their merchandise guys that night. In fact, I saw it for the first time in a frame at Escape From New York Pizza on Upper Haight years later, a hilarious day-glow pink and green graphic of Jerry Springer’s smiling face on it. Some day, I’ll have to find one and get it for myself. Years later, I became friends with a fellow named Jason Schwartz and I was delighted to learn that he had attended this show too. It’s always nice to meet someone later on down the road that you’d share such an experience with, especially since this would be the only time I’d get to see Fugazi. They went on “infinite hiatus” three years after this gig and haven’t toured since. On a side note, every time I think on this band, I can’t help but think of Al Pacino in “Donnie Brasco” saying the line, “I don’t know how you knew that was a Foo-Gay-Zee”. The band had always gone with “Foo-Gah-Zee”, but I can’t say which is the proper Italian way to say it. I’ve got some friends in Sardinia that I should ask sometime.
GBH, 98 Mute, Against All Authority, Billy Club, Maritime Hall, SF, Wed., February 24, 1999
I admit that I hadn’t heard of GBH before that night, but soon learned that they were punk rock pioneers. They had formed in 1978 in the UK almost immediately after the punk scene had taken off there with such contemporaries as the Sex Pistols, The Damned, and The Clash. Though their name had been thought to be derived from the legal acronym for “Grievous Bodily Harm”, the band had since denied that claiming that it actually stood for, “Girls, Booze, & Hash”. Hell, it’s what it means to you that matters, I suppose. Though they hadn’t released a new album since “Punk Junkies” in 1996, they had recently put out a split album called “Punk As Fuck”, with Billyclub who were opening that night with them, each doing three songs on that album.
Billyclub were from Dallas and had Karl Morris from The Exploited on guitar and Matt McCoy from UK Subs on drums, both respected veteran punk bands in their own right. Following them were Against All Authority from Florida and 98 Mute from Hermosa Beach. I remember it wasn’t that well sold, but there was plenty of rowdy behavior in the mosh pit filled with punks dressed in their typical regalia, spikes, and mohawks abound. Goldenvoice was also co-promoting the show that night as they had done with Fugazi two nights before this. I always liked mixing punk bands because they were always pretty basic, guitar, drums, bass, maybe two or three folks singing at the most.
Though I can’t remember much more about that evening, I’ll never forget a story Bones, one of the stage guys, told me about GBH. Sometime during that night, Bones approached their singer, Colin Abrahall, and asked him, “Hey, remember that time a few years back when you and the band got chased down the street by a gang of skinheads after your show at Gilman Street?” Naturally, Colin remembered and said yes of which Bones offered him his hand to shake and said, “Sorry about that, dude.” Yes, though Bones had since grown his stringy, dark hair out long, one could still see the telltale tattoos he has on his scalp if you look closely. I’m glad to know that Bones had since reformed his wayward ways and I always enjoyed working with him at the Hall. Hope he’s doing well. Sadly, I never saw GBH again though they did return to play at the Maritime when Wade was doing the recordings there two years later, performing alongside US Bombs, Youth Brigade, and the Cockney Rejects. Sorry I didn’t see that show even if I couldn’t tape it.
Vernon Reid & Co., Giant Robot II, Maritime Hall, SF, Fri., February 26, 1999
It had been six long years since I’d seen Mr. Vernon Reid perform with his band Living Colour. You might recall the story I’d mentioned at the beginning of this whole endeavor when I had witnessed promoter Michael Bailey take the tape from a bootlegger on that fateful night at The Warfield in 1993 while that band was on stage and that act was the catalyst that started my own turbulent love affair with bootlegging. So, in a roundabout way, I do owe this a bit to Vernon. Living Colour broke up a couple years after that show, but he stayed busy putting out his first solo album, “Mistaken Identity”, in 1996 and producing “Papa” by Salif Keita and the “Memphis Blood : The Sun Sessions” album by James Blood Ulmer, both which earned Grammy nominations. I like that the first song on his album was called “CP Time”, the name Roy Wood Jr. uses for his recurring skit on “The Daily Show”. One can’t help but wonder if that was where he got the name.
All that aside, this wasn’t a Living Colour show, being something quite different altogether. This was the sort of line-up one would see at Yoshi’s or some other posh jazz club. Vernon was part of a sort of prog-funk super group including Trevor Gunn from King Crimson, playing that weird Chapman Stick of his, Percy Howard on bass, and Charles Hayward from This Heat and Camberwell Now, a renowned session drummer from England who also dabbled in drumming for dance and theater. Trevor was taking a break from his duties from King Crimson then, which had just been downsized to a four piece, along with Robert Fripp, Adrian Belew, and Pat Mastelotto. Between Vernon and his buddies, not to mention Buckethead and his band Giant Robot II, there was an overflowing cup of musical noodling that night. Seriously, this was the kind of show that boggled the mind trying to keep up with these master musicians, the kind of show music students went to. I was a little surprised Pete gave a show of this stature to me to record, so I felt honored, really.
As usual, Boots had to flub one thing on the monthly poster and when he listed Vernon Reid’s name, he had in parenthesis after it (X Living Colour). I suppose that typo is a bit in the grey area, but whatever. Speaking of Vernon’s name, I do remember some confusion on what to call the band and label the tapes accordingly. Since his name was first on the list, I simply called the band “Vernon Reid & Co.” When I presented the tapes to him at the end of the set, he did seemed a little confused that that they were to go to him. He wasn’t upset or anything, in fact, acted quite humble and friendly about it. Vernon took the tapes anyway and that was that. At the end of the year, he played with John Forgerty, doing his song “Fortunate One” in front of the Lincoln Memorial for the “America’s Millennium Gala” on New Year’s Eve. But it would be another four years until I’d see him again when Living Colour finally reformed and played the Great American Music Hall and then another six years later in 2009, when they played The Regency. Needless to say, he shredded at those shows as usual. Yes, Mr. Reid in my opinion is one of the best rock guitarists that has ever lived and frankly is underrated.
The Alkaholiks, Kottonmouth Kings, Dial 7, The Blowpops, Marginal Prophets, Maritime Hall, SF, Sat., February 27, 1999
SETLIST (MARGINAL PROPHETS) : Hip Hop Hypocrisy, Talkin’ Out The Side Of Your Neck, Girlfriend Is The Best, Spotlight, Best Lover (The Masturbation Song), Phat In The Whole
I was no stranger to both The Alkaholiks and The Kings, the first I had recorded twice there in June and October of ’97, the latter three times the previous year alone in April, June, and November. It was a ironic pairing between bands, one being black and rapped about drinking, the other white and rapped about weed. Together they had their bases covered and the few people who attended that show were drunk, stoned, or both by nights end. Neither band had produced anything new by then, so it was basically the same stuff as before. The show was added too late to be listed on the monthly poster. I don’t remember much about Dial 7 or The Blowpops, but I definitely liked the Marginal Prophets. I was looking forward to recording them since I was a fan of co-rapper Keith Knight, the cartoonist that did “The K Chronicles”, a brilliant and hilarious strip. Luckily, I was able to find their set on a website called patreon.com and enjoyed revisiting it. Keith praised the recording saying it was clearest version of them live that he ever heard and that “Best Lover (The Masturbation Song)”, which they played second to last in their set, was the best version that was ever recorded. I am touched and honored to receive such praise. Guess this is no longer a thankless job after all.
Anyway, they were a fun band and were even more entertaining that they had added perennial musical jester Stark Raving Brad to the band playing percussion. He strolled out on stage with the band, clad as usual in his black & white striped referee shirt and introduced the band saying, “Good evening, ladies and gentlemen, It is my supreme executive pleasure to kick off the evening introducing the first of five juggernaut bands hailing from San Fran freak show California. The four time Milton prize winners, six time national MVPs, perennial contenders for MUNI operators of the month. They’re weighing in collectively at 17,420 pounds and they’re close personal friends with… that dude right over there!”. Brad pointed out to someone in the crowd and continued, “Their long run in the freak show circuit for their bodies constant overproduction of industrial strength, stud farm calibre testosterone, they are reportedly so perpetually horny that they’d fuck a big of worms if you’d hold it. I’m sure at the wrong place and the wrong time. This is the Marginal Prophets.”
It was practically empty by the time they started and I doubt there were more than a couple hundred folks there all night, but they all carried on and performed admirably nonetheless. Keith was wearing a red plaid kilt on stage that gig, along with a T-shirt with Elvis’ face on it with the words “I’M DEAD” underneath it in big block letters. When they did “Girlfriend Is The Best”, he laid down in front of the bass player for a bit while he riffed followed by Brad laying on his back to him, then popping up onto to his feet without using his hands. They cracked jokes between songs saying they were selling “sex and merchandise” in the back later, including “$10 blowjobs”, though admitting they were only actually worth $6. One of them said he thought he smelt something burning and another said it was the Maritime and “something’s always smoking”. For the last song, Keith was introduced as “K. Knight, K. Squared, Artist Extraordinaire” and Keith joked, “Read my comic strip, you scumbags.” At the every end, Keith went to introduce the band members and I’ll never forget the other rapper saying, “They don’t care, man!”, his words echoing in the cavernous, empty hall. Well, I cared. Those guys were good and once again, I’m glad that they liked my stuff. I don’t think the Prophets play anymore, but thankfully, I still see “The K Chronicles” in papers to this day.
Common & The Roots, 75 Degrees, Dangerzone, Maritime Hall, SF, Fri., March 5, 1999
I had drastically underestimated how huge The Roots were to become back then, but this show was indisputable proof that they were moving on to bigger things. I had already recorded them three times at the Hall, in December of ’96, August of ’97, and again in May of ’98, not to mention seeing them open for The Fugees at one of those rare double early and late shows at The Fillmore in ‘96 and the side stage at Lollapalooza in twice in ‘95. I had taken for granted that they’d tour reliably and I’d be able to see them in small venues and on side stages of festivals, but with the release of their new album, “Things Fall Apart” less than two weeks before this show, the writing was on the wall. The Roots moved triumphantly into the mainstream with that album, garnering Grammy nominations for their hit single “You Got Me” for Best Rap Performance By A Dup Or Group to the album itself for Best Rap Album, losing to the unstoppable juggernaut of “The Slim Shady LP” by Eminem. Jill Scott had co-wrote that single and was to be the female vocal on the album, but was replaced by Erykah Badu at the label MCA’s insistence, though I believe Jill was touring with them and sang that haunting tune with them that night. Despite the importance of this gig, Pete still left it to me to man the recording room, but I was ably assisted once again by my friend Liz Farrow.
The Roots’ new level of popularity was in fact a source of mild contention for me and this show. My partner Pete and I were both allowed one person each to let be on the guest list for every show and also one half price ticket each in addition. Since Pete rarely used his, he allowed me to use both guests and half price tickets for my friends, which I used often. But this show was so big, that it was hopelessly oversold. Now, I tried to get my friend Hefe on the list along with the extra guest for him, but he wanted the two other half price tickets for two more friends as well. But when I tried to request them in the office, I was given some pushback because of the show’s popularity and I had to kvetch about it a bit, before they finally relented and at least gave me the guests, but not the half price tickets. Hefe was understandably pissed when I had to break the news, though when I questioned him recently on his memories of that show, he claimed he wasn’t there, saying that he had never seen Common before, but my memory remains stubbornly solid on this one. Maybe it was a different Roots show where this stressful pickle developed, but I know it happened at a Roots gig for sure.
Regardless, like I said it was balls to the wall full at that show and the line to get in stretched around the block and took forever to process. I’m sure all the new money folks increasingly populating the area weren’t happy with all the commotion and litter from that night. And coming back to Common, he was the other reason that this show was such a must see. He had steadily grown more popular as the years went on, but he was at the cusp of joining The Roots on high in the mainstream when he’d release his first major label album, “Like Water For Chocolate” a year after this show on MCA. Questlove, the mastermind drummer of The Roots, produced that hit album. Around that time, they, along with an assorted collection of musicians and artists such as Bilal, and J Dilla from Slum Village, had been collaborating together, calling themselves the “Soulquarians”. This collective would congregate at Electric Lady Studios in New York City to create stuff, much like the Dungeon Family did down south in Atlanta, and likewise what they put together was brilliant. This would be the last tour with Malik B. rapping in the band, though he’d return in the future from time to time to be featured in songs on their albums. I was sad to learn researching this that Malik B. died last year at the all too young age of 47, the cause of death still a mystery.
The show upstairs that night, like I said, was packed, so packed that I didn’t even try to negotiate the crowd when I went to give the artists the tapes at the end of their sets. Usually, I’d go upstairs, exit the stage right backstage door, and just walk around the periphery of the crowd, circling to the other side door leading to the backstage area on stage left. This would allow me to check out the upstairs and avoid having to futz around with my keys to negotiate the locked doors in the level below where the recording room was. But I went around downstairs this time after one look at that crowd. It was hot and muggy as hell up there too. But it goes without saying that it was a stellar show. As always, I’d hoped that The Roots would use some of our stuff for a live recording, especially since this was their fourth time performing there. In fact, they’d come back to play the Hall that November, which would be the final show I’d do at the Maritime before Boots fired Pete. But alas, they went on to do a live album of their own that year called “The Roots Come Alive” which used recordings from that tour made in New York City and Zurich, Switzerland. They also played at the Phoenix Theater in Petaluma the following night and I’d of liked to go, but had to work at the Hall helping Pete record Luciano. The Roots would however make the unfortunate decision to play on the disastrous Woodstock ’99 Festival only four months later, but it didn’t hinder their career ultimately.
Luciano, Mikey General, Dean Fraser, Firehouse Crew, Dennis The Menace, Maritime Hall, SF, Sat., March 6, 1999
Reggae had returned once again and Pete was there on what was becoming a rarer and rarer appearance from him. Pete had become frustrated and fed up with Boots and his shady business practices, not to mention his downright psychotic temper tantrums. By this time until Boots fired him in November, the number of shows I was doing there to Pete’s was easily at least ten to one. The shows had become so frequent, especially it being March, and it was a relief to have him there, especially since it was reggae and he was infinitely more skilled and experienced to mix the music. Having him there also ensured that there would be copious amounts of joints passed between the two us as well. It was my sister Erica’s 25th birthday and I though I don’t believe she was at that show, my thoughts were of her as they always are on that day of the year.
This would be the first time I’d see Mr. Jepther McClamont, AKA Luciano, and I believe that went the same for Mikey General. Luciano had recently joined forces with the UK born singer along with the Firehouse Crew who were also there performing alongside them that night. He had formed Jah Messenjah Productions in his home country of Jamaica and started their own record label called Qabalah First Music. As the name suggests, they were determined in their words “to provide people with spiritual uplifting music in there times of degradation”. Maybe they were pissed at Clinton over the Lewinsky thing too, but they were steadfast against other Rastas who were exhibiting what they called “slackness”, promoting profanity and gun culture. Yes, this was some old time religion reggae with plenty of bible quotes and chants of “Jah Rastafari”. It was also a treat to have reggae saxophonist virtuoso Dean Fraser on the bill that night and he came out to play with Luciano as well.
Robin Trower, Puddle Junction, Stonesthrow, Maritime Hall, SF, Wed., March 10, 1999
SETLIST (PUDDLE JUNCTION) : Never Enough, Fruits Of Your Labor, Separation Of Union
Though I was unfamiliar with Robin Trower before this show, afterwards when I knew of his history, I was actually a little surprised Pete gave this one for me to record. Robin was of his hippie generation, a respected guitar master. I had seen Procal Harum at The Fillmore in 1995, but Robin had long since left that band after joining them in 1967, just after the release of their hit song, “A White Shade Of Pale”. From there, Robin formed his own band and cemented his legacy with the seminal album, “A Bridge Of Sighs”. I was actually taken a little aback when my friend Drew mentioned to me when this show was announced how impressed he was by Mr. Trower. Drew was more of a nu-metal fan and if a geezer like Robin could make that kind of impression on Drew, I knew he would be great. Not that he was a geezer, or at least not by then. Robin was only 54 years old at that show, but I do have to admit that he did look older. But then again, he was English, pale, and very skinny, though I’m happy to report that he is still alive and well as of today. I do remember from his set that he was extremely loud and as a consequence of the decades of playing at such volume, was wearing some sort of dual ear hearing device which I assumed was some sort of hearing aid or maybe ear plugs. Either way, it was excruciating for the crowd upstairs, but I have to admit that he shredded, definitely from the school of guys like Hendrix and Clapton. Robin had put out a live double album that year called “This Was Now ’74-’98”, half recorded from a show in Pittsburgh in 1974, the second from Seattle in 1998, so there was little hope that he’d release anything that I taped from him that night.
Still, it’s a pity I didn’t save the recording from his set, but I was able to find the video of the set of the opening act, Puddle Junction, on YouTube. They were a jam band from Chico and had played the Hall once before in March of 1997 opening for the JGB Band. They definitely took a page, perhaps a “Jimmy Page” (ba-dum-boom!), from Led Zeppelin, but I was impressed by both their keyboard player and guitarist. Strangely enough, their set was only 23 minutes long, giving them time for only three songs. The opening song, “Never Enough” was a boogie woogie number, “Fruits Of Your Labor”, the second, was a blues number, and the final one “Separation Of Union”, was a rather curiously structured jam band tune which the singer said was based off the works of the Sufi poet Rumi. I never forgot that line from the chorus, “Drown in the water and you know you’ll never get wet.” Makes you think.
Supersuckers, Zeke, Murder City Devils, Hai Karate, Maritime Hall, SF, Thurs., March 11, 1999
I had seen the Suckers a few times by then, but always as an opening band, first with Bad Religion at the Warfield in 1994, then again with Reverend Horton Heat at the Fillmore in the following year, and once more at the Greek in Berkeley opening for the Butthole Surfers. The poster from that second show still graces the wall of my bedroom in a frame to this day. But this would be the first time I’d see them headlining their own show and I got to record this one. It was a small, but enthusiastic crowd that night and the bill was all bands from Seattle. The Suckers were originally from Tucson, but they had since relocated there and had signed to Sub Pop. They would release a compilation of songs on that label that year in August called “How The Supersuckers Became The Greatest Rock & Roll Band In The World” and an album of new stuff later that October called “The Evil Powers Of Rock & Roll”.
But their relationship with that label would soon sour and they would move on to the big leagues and sign with Interscope shortly afterward. That pairing would collapse almost immediately as they would drop the band about as quickly as they picked them up during a flurry of corporate restructuring and the new album wouldn’t be released until later. The Suckers went on to form their own record label called Mid-Fi Recordings and they’ve been doing their own stuff ever since. Frontman Eddie Spaghetti made a subtle jab about the situation that night saying between songs, “We’re gonna have a new album soon, I promise. It’s been too long and we’ve been trying, but the record companies have a way of making us feel like this next song”. Then they went into “Beat To Shit” which the he coaxed the crowd into chanting along with him.
Like I said the openers were all Seattle people starting with Hai Karate named after the budget aftershave from the 60’s and 70’s. That had the tagline that it helps “fend off women” and it probably did, but for the wrong reasons naturally. They would return to open for the Suckers again when they came back and played the Maritime seven months later. Of course Boots had to misspell at least one thing on the monthly poster and he had them listed as “High Karate”. The third band, Zeke, had already played the Hall once opening for DOA the previous May. Sadly, they had released a live album of their own that year called “True Crime” from recordings they had done between 1993 and 1996, so they weren’t interested in our stuff. I remember some of the more rowdy members of the crowd tossing the occasional plastic beer cup at them.
But the real shining memory of that show was the Murder City Devils who played second that night. They had been in town also playing the Noise Pop Festival that year and from the opening line of “I Want A Lot Now (So Come On)” howled by their singer, Spencer Moody, I was hooked. Spencer looked like a pudgy nerd from an 80’s screwball comedy, but he had all the energy and sheer theatrical commitment of Iggy Pop. I was transfixed by his absolute manic persona, slurring the lines at full volume into his mic, flanked by the others playing their proto-punk mayhem. I really liked Leslie Hardy on the organ. Leslie had briefly been a member of Hole, playing bass for them in 1992, but her organ added a unique sound to the Devils. Unfortunately, she would ultimately suffer from carpal tunnel syndrome and have to leave the band a couple years later, replaced briefly by Nick Dewitt for the band’s last few gigs. Yes, the Devils would break up shortly afterwards in 2001. In the interim period, guitarist Dan Galluci would go on to play in Modest Mouse and their other guitarist, Derek Dudesco, would form Pretty Girls Make Graves and The Cave Singers, but the Devils would reform five years later and they’re still playing today.
But when they left the stage, I only wanted more. I never forgot their brief set, but the only songs I knew for sure that they played were that first one, “18 Wheels”, and “Dancing Shoes”, which was about half their set anyway. I made sure to show the video of their performance immediately to Liz Farrow when she came into help me record Love & Rockets three days later and she was likewise impressed. Ultimately, they would a release a live album from their last show two years later performed in their hometown of Seattle, crushing any hope that they’d put out anything from their set I recorded that night. I only regret that I didn’t save a copy of them from that evening, though I found footage of them playing a gig five days before this show on YouTube. It took me nearly 20 years to see them again, but I did when they played Slim’s in 2017.
The Suckers came on stage to the tune of AC/DC’s “For Those About To Rock (We Salute You)” playing over the speakers and they quickly got the pit into a frenzy covering a number of their songs in their short set, just under an hour’s worth. I didn’t get the list, but I do know that they played “Bad Bad Bad”, “Ron’s Got The Cocaine”, “She’s My Bitch”, and “Creepy Jackalope Eye” which they always performed. I remember their guitarist, Dan “Thunder” Bolton would compulsively comb his feathered hair between songs that gig. It was a whirlwind of punk tunes that night and the Suckers would soon be onto their next gig heading down through the state on their way to Austin to play South By Southwest. But as I mentioned before, it wouldn’t be long until I would get a chance to tape them again at the Hall when they returned to play there that October.
The Abyssinians, The Congos, George & The Wonders, Maritime Hall, SF, Sat., March 13, 1999
This would be the third time The Abyssinians played the Hall, the first in September of 1997 also with The Congos opening for them, the second just five months before this show. But I believe this was the one that was used for the live album. The liner notes say it was done in ’99 and this was the only time they played the Hall that year. Seriously, I would have had a hard time telling the difference between the shows since Pete mixed all three and they played with The Congos twice who already released a live album of their own from stuff we recorded from them. At least Boots did a decent job mixing the Abyssinians’ album, but after a half dozen records under his belt by this time, his skills were bound to improve eventually.
What I can tell you from that night was at least is that it was a good show, emceed by the ever-present Rocky Allen Bailey. He did his usual “What a show! The reggae music! The music with the message” routine and the evening was rounded by the customary, relentless onslaught of joints passed to me by Pete. It was a reggae show after all and also helps explain why I have a hard time differentiating between their gigs. I did notice one of the singers making some statement about how the 999 in 1999 is just 666 upside-down before they sang “19.95 Plus Tax”, an observation made by most people who lived through that year. It was nice to get a day off, having done both Robin Trower and the Supersuckers there just before that and I had two more to go on this five day stretch with Love & Rockets at the Hall and Tom Petty finishing the run at The Fillmore. It was quite a variety of musical styles that week.
Love & Rockets, Orgy, Maritime Hall, SF, Sun., March 14, 1999
Love & Rockets was one of those bands I was always aware of growing up in the 80’s, but didn’t get a chance to see. I remember by dear brother Alex going through a period in his teenage years where he sported a conspicuously tall coif of dyed black hair which bared a striking resemblance to guitarist Daniel Ash’s rooster-like mullet. And though I wasn’t a fan of their music per se, I knew of both their hit songs “No New Tale To Tell” and “Kundalini Express”, which they naturally performed that night. Their music was pretty basic as far as their tune structures and lyrics, Ash making no effort to hide his distain for guitar solos, but one couldn’t deny their ability to make a good hook, especially for those two tunes. Hear them and they’re in your head for life. I still wonder if Kundalini was a reference to the biker in “Mad Max” who had his hand ripped off and wanted it back, but I can’t really say. Being a big fan of Love & Rockets and bit of a goth herself, my friend Liz Farrow was there assisting me in the recording room with a big smile on her face all night.
What I didn’t know, or at least until recently then was that the members, Daniel, David J. on bass, and his brother Kevin on drums, were essentially Bauhaus without Peter Murphy singing. I had seen Bauhaus’ reunion tour, playing two days at the Warfield the previous August and was floored by the experience. That tour was a smashing success, but Love & Rockets had a new album of their own that year called “Lift” which they released just two months after I saw those Warfield shows on the Red Ant label. They hadn’t toured or recorded new material in two years after the “Sweet F.A.” album, which they’d made with American Recordings, but things went really south with them when they made that record. A fire had broken out in a house which American owned where the band was living and recording at the time, torching their gear and months of work. A lengthy legal battle ultimately exonerated the band from any wrongdoing, but left them with some hefty legal bills and hurt feelings. This new tour, as enjoyable as it was would be their last for a while, performing their final show in Toronto only a few weeks after this one. Bauhaus would reunite in 2005 and play two more shows at The Warfield which I would be once again lucky to attend both. Love & Rockets would also reunite for a one off show at the Coachella Festival that year but would get back together for good two years later, though this gig at the Maritime would be the only time to date that I’ve seen them perform live.
The good news is that this show would be a redemption of sorts with the opening act, Orgy. They had been the first act on the bill on the Family Values Tour that I saw at the Cow Palace the year before with Korn, Rammstein, Ice Cube, and Limp Bizkit. But unfortunately, I made it into that show late, catching only the last couple songs of Limp Bizkit and missing Orgy entirely. They had quickly made a name for themselves with their debut album “Candyass” which had only come out the previous August and their hit single, a nu-metal cover of New Order’s “Blue Monday”. Their set was short and sweet, but I’ll never forget what happened when I gave the band the tapes. They’d only been off stage a matter of minutes but had already retreated to their tour bus parked outside on 1st Street. I took it upon myself to try to track them down with what limited time I had between sets anyway and went outside to give the tapes to them. There on the sidewalk, I was accosted by their tour manager who was oblivious to the fact we were recording and blurted something about how the band was all freaked out about it. I did my best to console him, but I had to bail back inside to get to work. I never heard anything more about it, so I figure the band really could care less and the manager was just busting my balls. That was the only time I ever had to leave the building to give a band their tapes.
It was a fairly packed house for Love & Rockets and like the crowd that I saw at Bauhaus, the fans loved them and were dressed in full goth regalia. There were even some fire dancers in the house that night. At one point, Daniel even threw out glow stick bracelets that said “Love & Rockets I Am Godhead” into the audience, taken from a lyric of their song “R.I.P. 20 C”. Yes, the night had a little bit of a Burning Man feel to it. I didn’t get a setlist, but I do know that they played those two hits I mentioned before and also a cover of T. Rex’s “20th Century Boy”. It was a pity, as it is always, that they didn’t use any of the recordings we made that night, but they did put out a live double album of their own four years later called “So aLive”, a reference to their 1989 song of the same name. They had used stuff from a gig they did in Irvine in 1987 and another at The Palace in L.A. in 1996 for that album, but I thought Tory did an excellent job filming them that night and our work would have made a great DVD.
Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers, Bo Diddley, Fill., SF, Mon., March 15, 1999
SETLIST : Rip It Up, Jammin’ Me, Runnin’ Down A Dream, I’d Like To Love You Baby, Swingin’, Call Me The Breeze, Breakdown, Listen To Her Heart, I Won’t Back Down, You Don’t Know How It Feels, Mary Jane’s Last Dance, It’s Good To Be King, Telstar, Mona, Little Girl, I’ve Got A Woman, Little Maggie, Lay Down That Old Guitar, Lucille, The Letter, Walls (Circus), Angel Dream (No. 2), Even The Losers, Guitar Boogie Shuffle, Room At The Top, Another Man Done Gone, You Wreck Me, (encore), I Don’t Wanna Fight, Free Fallin’, Free Girl Now, Gloria
Mr. Petty once again returned to the hallowed halls of The Fillmore for another residency. Though this time around he was only doing seven shows compared to the whopping twenty-two he did two years before this, we were nonetheless spoiled to have him and The Heartbreakers for as long as we did. As previously, these shows were in unbelievably high demand amongst the ushers not to mention his fans. So I was able to only get away with seeing one of them, but I made damn sure that the show I saw had the one and only Bo Diddley opening that night. I couldn’t make two of the nights because I was taping Robin Trower and The Abyssinians at the Maritime anyway. What I didn’t know was that they were filming the night I saw at The Fillmore as well as the night after to make a DVD that would be released later that year called “High Grass Dogs : Live At The Fillmore”, their first new live DVD in over seven years. I only learned about the existence of this official release days ago when I started researching this show again and to this date, I haven’t seen any of it, apart from a song or two I was able to view on YouTube.
I’m not disappointed though. By this time, I’d seen Tom so often, three times during that last residency at The Fillmore alone, that I really didn’t search it out. But though I have recently purged my man cave of most of my DVDs and CDs, part of me feels that I should have this DVD, entitled to it really, for no other reason than a sense of closure. This is especially true since Tom is no longer with us. I am happy to say that this wasn’t the final time I’d see him perform. He played as he so often did at the Bridge School Benefit the following year and I caught most of his set on the main stage of Outside Lands when I worked at it in 2014. I even got to see him again reunited with his first band Mudcrutch and played the Fillmore in 2016, just one year shy of his unexpected death. Had to shell out $100 for that one, but obviously I’m now glad I did it. Yes, I like so many of his admirers had naively assumed that he’d just keep playing forever, especially since guys like me were spoiled rotten getting to see him play so often.
He and the band were on the cusp of releasing the “Echo” album which came out a little over a month after these shows. This would be the final album they’d do with venerable producer Rick Rubin and this would be the last tour they would do with Howie Epstein on bass and background vocals. Poor Howie got deep into heroin addiction that caused him to leave the band and ultimately led to his death four years later at the all too young age of 47, an ominous precursor to Tom’s own untimely demise. Howie didn’t end up on the cover of the new album since he didn’t even show up to the photo shoot for it, an obvious red flag right there. But the band carried on fine without him and they even were awarded a star on the Hollywood Walk Of Fame a month after these gigs. We were fortunate to hear a number of the new songs that night including “I Don’t Wanna Fight”, which is still the only Heartbreakers song to feature Mike Campbell on main vocals, also “Room At The Top”, “Free Girl Now”, and “Swingin’”.
Before Bo Diddley came on stage that night, a DJ from KFOG warmed up the crowd asking how many fans out there were at The Fillmore for the first time. He encouraged everyone to check out the poster room, the merchandise table, and to grab a free apple from the lobby. Tom came out afterwards to much applause and introduced Bo as a “living legend” and with a big smile on his face, Bo emerged, declaring that “this feels like 1955 all over again”, the year he started performing music professionally by the way. He was a sight to behold, there with his trademark hat, shades, and box shaped guitar. Bo went through a number of raw, bluesy numbers including a funny song about being a jealous guy and pleading with his lover to “put your suitcase down” and stay. He went on to say they got “drunk as hell” and “sent the kids over to the neighbors”, then lamenting that he had spent the rent money on those “shoes you wanted from Payless”. I loved the line in that song about how he could make her “body shake like a California earthquake”. He would come out later with Tom to play Bo songs “Mona” and “Little Girl” as well. Sadly, this would be the only time I’d see Bo perform before he passed away in 2008.
I’ll never forget that just after he died, my pub trivia team at the Edinburgh Castle called ourselves “No Diddley” in his honor. But one of the questions that night was asking “Who was Ellas McDaniel and why was he in the news today?” We didn’t know that was his real name and when we got it wrong, Karl the Quizmaster chastised us to the bar saying, “To the team who thought they knew Diddley… You don’t know Diddley!” Shame on me. I should have known that and haven’t forgotten since. But I did learn that his name is actually derived from a homemade rudimentary kid’s string instrument called a “Diddley Bow”. It is a single string nailed to something, even the side of a house, played like a bottleneck guitar with various objects used as a slider, similar to the monochord zithers of central Africa. He had played his early self titled hit single “Bo Diddley” on one string like he was using the children’s instrument. But he had also recently found some new commercial and critical success releasing his “A Man Amongst Men” album in 1996 which garnered him a Grammy nomination for for Best Contemporary Blues Album.
Like he had done in the shows I saw in 1997, Tom played for well over two hours and covered a wide array of his hit material as well as several interesting cover tunes. He opened his set with Little Richard’s “Rip It Up”, later doing his song “Lucille” as he did two years before. They also played “Telstar”, the famous guitar instrumental from the 50’s, “Call Me The Breeze” by J.J. Cale, “I’ve Got A Woman” by Ray Charles, “The Letter” by The Box Tops, and “Another Man Done Gone” by Vera Hall. Van Morrison and Them had made that last song famous and Tom ended the night covering Van’s hit “Gloria” which he had played two years before as well. Indeed, with Bo in the house and their playing of so many old standards, it was beginning to feel like the halcyon days of rock & roll at The Fillmore again. Bill Graham was often fond of pairing new psychedelic rock artists with blues legends on the same bill like pairing the Grateful Dead with guys like James Cotton, so this all felt right. Like Tom’s last residency in 1997, I got the feeling that Bill’s ghost was probably floating around there that week.
Morbid Angel, Nile, Vile, Maladiction, Maritime Hall, SF, Sat., March 20, 1999
It had only been eight months since Tampa, Florida’s own Morbid Angel had headlined the Hall and they had once again brought fellow southerners, Nile, along with them to open again. I thought it an interesting coincidence that the last show I saw before this a few days before was fellow Floridian Tom Petty who was from Gainesville. Very divergent musical styles though. Strangely enough, my partner Pete was there that night to record which was unexpected since he had little to no interest in metal, especially death metal like this, but I was glad he was there nonetheless. It did sting a bit to hear that Morbid Angel, or most likely frontman Trey Azagthoth, complained that the bass was too loud in the previous recording I had done for them, but I bet their bass player at the time, Steve Tucker, had no problem with it. Certainly Pete’s mix was perfect as it could be and the band still didn’t release any of the material he did for them that night. There’s no pleasing some folks. By this show, Morbid Angel hadn’t released any new material for a while, but would eventually put out their “Gateways To Annihilation” album a year and a half later.
The real news about this show would come from the opening act, Vile, who had played the Hall the previous November opening for Deicide. They were a local death metal band from Concord, not far from where I grew up in Alamo and like the other acts on the bill that night, brutally heavy and loud as fuck. Pete as usual had left recording the opening acts to me and I did their set like the others and hadn’t thought much about it. But in doing my research into the Deicide show, I discovered that Vile had used three songs I taped from the Morbid Angel gig on a compilation album called “Rare Tracks 1996-2004” which they released in 2007, eight years after this show.
They put out the songs “Terminal Existence”, “Cradle Of Deceit”, and “Path To Incineration”, all very metal titles indeed. They introduced that last one during their set as a “brand new one” which they had “just finished this week”. I had recently contacted the band after downloading the album and was able to exchange messages to one of their members who had recently moved to Texas during the pandemic. I tried to finagle a copy of CD from him, but he sort of shined me on, saying that they had a bunch still in boxes from the move and he’d try to send me one in the future. Still waiting for that one, but whatever. That’s show biz. I’m not bitter though. It would be highly doubtful that I would get one thin dime from it even if the album made any money and as usual I wasn’t listed in the liner notes. I’m just glad that it came out at all, really the only official release of any of the metal we recorded at the Maritime and it was only three songs.
Roni Size, Krust, Dynamite MC, DJ Die, DJ Rinse & Flow, Maritime Hall, SF, Sun., March 21, 1999
The whole drum and bass scene was still in its infancy around this time and Mr. Ryan Owen Granville Williams, AKA Roni Size, was one of the artists leading the genre’s vanguard. His breakthrough album “New Forms” had only been out about a year and half, but it had already went platinum a whopping five times over. From his humble beginnings as a 16 year old school dropout in Bristol, he along with such Bristol sound pioneers Massive Attack, Tricky, and Portishead introduced the world to a new sound of jungle beats with live drums and double bass. Apart from those acts I listed, I was mostly ignorant to this new scene, but the show that night was a satisfying taste of it. I would later come to call this sound “Ali G Music”, a reference to the character Sasha Baron Cohen created who typically listened to this kind of stuff and used it for his background score.
He had assembled a crew of talented musicians that ultimately made his band Roni Size & Reprazent or Roni Size / Reprazent. Each of these members, Krust, DJ Die, and rapper Dynamite MC had a chance to showcase their talents that gig before coming together at the end of the night with Roni for the main event. Roni and DJ Die had also collaborated recently with their “Breakbeat Era” project which had just released the “Ultra-Obscene” album, but they wouldn’t put out the second Roni Size album, “In The Mode”, for another year and a half. The air upstairs in the auditorium was thick with dank ganja smoke and beats went well on until the wee hours of the morning. Suffice to say, Roni’s sound was a severe stylistic departure from the death metal we heard the night before at the Hall with Morbid Angel.
It was a strange evening already having heard that the film “Shakespeare In Love” upset “Saving Private Ryan” at the Oscars for the Best Picture award earlier that night, not to mention the little matter of NATO beginning its bombing campaign to force the Serbians out of Kosovo at the same time. Pete had left this show for me to record once again and Liz Farrow was there to assist me. I remember their singer Onallee had the voice of an angel and though I didn’t save the recording or get a set list, I know they at least played “Bullitproof”, “Our Disease”, and “Control Freak”. That voice of hers was haunting and unforgettable. I would go on to see Roni Size & Reprazent do an in store gig at Virgin Megastore in March of 2001, but I didn’t see them perform at the Hall later that night, having stopped working there by then and haven’t seen them perform again since, though they are all still around and making music.
Mystik Journeymen, The Coup, Mix Master Mike, The Earthlings, Maritime Hall, SF, Thurs., March 25, 1999
It was a stellar line up of bay area hip hop at the Maritime that night, one that I never forgot, one of the best to be sure. The Mystik Journeymen had long since been bringing houses down with their DIY brand of hip hop. It had been five long years since I first saw them open for Onyx at the DNA Lounge, but I had recorded them once at the Hall by then when they opened for Busta Rhymes the year before this show. Though they probably still weren’t big enough to fill the Maritime on their own, having The Coup and Mix Master Mike there insured that it was wall to wall heads upstairs. I had just seen Mix Master Mike alongside his crew of master turntablists, the Insvisibl Scratch Pickles, opening for the Beastie Boys, also performing double duty as their DJ, at the Oakland Arena the previous September. So I was well aware of his mind boggling skills on the 1’s and 2’s, but this would be the first time I’d see him perform just on his own. I loved the way he’d splice in bits from movies into his tunes, like snippets of the score from “The Omen” and samples of Bruce Lee and “Enter The Dragon”. Almost too routine to mention, The Earthlings once again were able to finagle their way onto this historic bill since Little Boots, the owner’s son and the Hall’s stage manager, was in the band handling the sampling. This would be the… (sigh)… fifth occasion I’d tape these guys, but they clearly were having a good time and as I’ve said before, as the years went by, they got better. Still, this would be the final time I’d record this band, but I was lucky enough to tape Mix Master Mike one more time at the Hall when he headlined there a year later.
The one band that I’d never seen before this night however was The Coup led by the incomparable Boots Riley. Not to be confused with the Maritime’s tyrannical boss, Riley remains the only person on planet Earth I’ve ever heard of other than Boots Hughston and his son with that rare first name, though they couldn’t be more different. Not a paunchy, middle aged, pasty white, stingy, capitalist dictator with a mullet, Boots Riley was a young (at least then he was), diminutive, black, Commie activist with a prodigious afro. He had actually been making music since 1991 with this band, formed after he quit working for UPS with his friend E-roc. The Coup had just put out their seminal third album, “Steal This Album”, (an homage to Abbie Hoffman’s legendary “Steal This Book”), four months before this show and they were quickly gaining notoriety. Left wing leaning lyrics aside, the band was tight, their talent undeniable. Though this would be the only time I’d get to record them at the Hall, I’ve seen them perform five times since then and they always put on a great set.
On a side note, the weekend of this show saw the premiere of the sci-fi epic “The Matrix” in theaters. I remember talking to my partner Pete who had also seen it that weekend and curiously surprised how much he enjoyed it. Pete, a steadfast hippie well into his 50’s, wasn’t exactly one to follow popular culture, but he knew a good thing when he saw it. Impressive as it was, I was nonetheless miffed that it beat “Star Wars Episode I : The Phantom Menace” for Best Visual Effects at the Oscars the following year. I guess everybody was gaga over that “bullet time” scene. On another side note, the Journeymen would go on to put out a live DVD from their “Broke Ass Jam” tour the performed at the Hall the following year, though I didn’t record that one. Still, one review of the DVD claimed that their set came from a show at the Hall in 1999, which makes me wonder if ol’ Boss Boots took the set I did and screwed me out of the credits. It’s doubtful and the review was probably mistaken, but I wouldn’t put it past him for a second. The Journeymen would return to headline at the Maritime once again only four months later, but we didn’t tape them that night which I will go into when I get to the shows in July.
Charlie Hunter & Adam Cruz, Yoshi’s, Oakland, Fri., March 26, 1999
To my best recollection, this was the first time I had ever attended a show at Yoshi’s. The premiere jazz club, nestled in the center of Jack London’s Square in Oakland, had been putting on classy gigs for years, but I knew little to nothing about most of the acts that frequented there. However, I knew Charlie Hunter intimately from all the times he’d grace the Elbo Room with his Trio every tuesday when I lived next to it in the early 90’s and from my experience working as an intern for his manager. But Charlie had long since moved on and up in the world, relocating to New York City and signing to Blue Note, the apex of jazz labels. Still, Charlie keeps a soft spot in his heart for the bay area and returns often to play to old friends and relatives out here, often at Yoshi’s and over the holidays. This show it was in the spring though and he was playing for the first time with just a drummer accompanying him. He had just put out his aptly titled “Duo” album that year with New York City session drummer Leon Parker, his third release on Blue Note. Filling in for Leon was Adam Cruz, an equally talented master of the skins.
I believe my friend Matt Thayer joined me on this adventure and likely drove me there. It was the later of two shows he did that night, doors not even opening to us until 9:45. Long gone were the days of seeing Charlie do two full sets and an encore for only $5. He played just a touch over an hour and it set me back $20 this time. We were seated amongst the others in the crowd at one of the small round tables and I was impressed by the cleanliness and formality of the place. The acoustics were perfect and though it was pretty quiet, the crowd, unlike the folks at the Elbo Room, shut the hell up and listened. Seeing the show there that night made me feel like a bit of grown up. A word of advise, Yoshi’s is an ideal place to take someone out on a classy date.
It was interesting to hear Charlie’s sound stripped down to just him and drums. One could really concentrate on him and his baffling ability to play both guitar and bass lines simultaneously on his custom 8-string guitar. I didn’t know any of the new material and wasn’t able to pick up a setlist, but I do know that he played “Belief”, “Do That Then”, “The Spin Seekers”, and “Mean Streak” from his new album the night before. He also did a cover of Chet Baker’s “You Don’t Know What Love Is” and a song called “Dersu” and another called “Dakar”. Considering Adam Cruz was new to playing with Charlie, it’s likely they played the same stuff. Adam busted out some steel drums and percussion during a song halfway during the set which earned him a well deserved round of applause and praise from Charlie at the end of it. I could hear my recording of the night grow louder and clearer near the end of the set, so I think Matt and I moved to a table closer to the front of the stage. I would ultimately visit Yoshi’s from time to time in the future when they wisely expanded their roster of artists to include hip hop people that would come in and play with a live band backing them up, a marriage made in heaven.
The Ventures, The Mermen, The Ziggens, Maritime Hall, SF, Sat., March 27, 1999
(THE ZIGGENS) : Junipero Serra, Molly’s Lips, Goin Richtor, Surfin Buena Park, Tim The Dinosaur, Burpin USA, Joseph, Surfungus, Breakin The Law
(THE MERMEN) : (Set 1) Latina, Le Jiz Hot, Sponge Cookie, Burn, Splashin’ With The Mermaid, Curve, Lonely Playboy, Astroboy, Emmylou Rides Clarence West Then South, Merry Go Round, (Set 2) Song From Dead Man, Unto The Resplendent, Here Kitty Kitty, Sway
Though I hadn’t seen The Ventures before this night, one would have to have been living under rock to have not heard at least one of their famous instrumental surf anthems, especially in California. If it wasn’t the unforgettable theme song to “Hawaii 5-O”, one could never forget the haunting ending of “Pulp Fiction” where John Travolta and Samuel L. Jackson casually strolled out of the diner to their tune “Walk, Don’t Run”. Indeed, the venerable group from Tacoma, Washington were billing this show as “Hawaii 4-O” being their 40th anniversary and they were touring with (mostly) their original line up. Their drummer Mel Taylor had passed away in 1996 and was replaced admirably by his son Leon. The big news was that they were once again touring with original guitarist Nokie Edwards who had only played with the band on rare occasions since he left the band in 1984.
Pete was in the house that night, but he let me record the opening acts as usual. The Ziggens were there as the first opener and I’d had the pleasure of taping them only two months before when they were touring with their buddies, the Long Beach Dub All Stars. They once again warmed up the crowd with their fun, surf punk stylings, even doing cheerful covers of The Vaseline’s “Molly’s Lips”, a song made famous by Nirvana, and “Breaking The Law” by Judas Priest. Enjoyable as they were, one couldn’t come up with a more appropriate opening act for The Ventures than The Mermen. I have said on multiple occasions that they were already an ideal warm up for any headliner, but surf rock was definitely the band’s wheelhouse.
Unlike The Ventures though, The Mermen were not for once in their original line up for this show. Frontman Jim Thomas introduced the band saying that their original drummer Martyn Jones was “out in Africa traveling somewhere”. Furthermore their bass player, Alan Whitman, had “some serious back problems” and had been “in bed for two weeks” and “almost had an operation”, but was “getting better” and they were planning to get “back together in about a month”. Until then he had “assembled this thing with these really amazing guys” he thought we’d really like what they were going to do there. Jim had brought in Mike Silverman on bass and “Magic Pipe” (which I will go into in a bit), Randy Clark on guitar (the 1st and only time I’d see The Mermen with two guitarists), and Vince Littleton on drums. Randy had worked with a number of artists in town as a session player and would go on to teach music at the renowned Blue Bear School Of Music at Fort Mason. I’d actually recorded a couple times Vince recently when he played the Hall backing both Merl Saunders and the JGB Band. But his main gig was playing with Super Diamond, the Neil Diamond cover band which remains hugely successful doing corporate parties and regularly playing at Bimbo’s 365 Club.
Mike was a horse of a different color though, being the one man band known as That 1 Guy and also a member of The Fabulous Hedgehogs, a brilliant and underrated band. Though he played bass for most of The Mermen’s set, he did bust out the aforementioned “Magic Pipe” for a while. This homemade contraption was what he called a “broken Bowflex”, an electronically rigged pair of metal pipes, connected by adjustable, phosphorus bronze joints, each pipe hoisting bass strings. At 7 feet tall with 13 points triggering sound effects and samples, Mike would slap, pick, hit with a drumstick, and take a bow to the instruments strings making all manner of sound. It was sort of a Diddley Bo from the future and in a strange coincidence, I had just seen Bo Diddley open for Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers at The Fillmore twelve days before this show. And as I had written before, Bo derived his stage name from that rudimentary instrument. Before Vince did his “Magic Pipe” solo, Jim joked, “Watch this guy! He’s my plumber!”
It was a unique show that the Hall allowed The Mermen to do two sets as an opening act, something I don’t think I’d ever seen before of since. Though I personally didn’t keep copies of any of the sets that night, I was able to find The Mermen’s sets on archive.org including bits of six songs from their soundcheck, including “Casbah” and “Testing The Pipe” which they didn’t perform later that night. One of their first songs they did play was “Sponge Cookie” a song they had contributed to the Sony Playstation for a motorcycle racing game called “Road Rash 3D”. Jim dedicated the song “Burn” to a woman named Jennifer Burns who was in the audience who he described as having “too much energy” to burn. Jim also introduced the song “Lonely Playboy” a cover from a band called The Playboys, which Vince’s dad and uncle had played in years before. That band had actually opened for The Ventures in 1961 and when the song ended, Jim added that Vince had “good blood running in that family” and joked that Vince was the “greatest unknown drummer” who had played at “every one of your weddings.”
Afterwards, Jim pointed out a fellow in the crowd named Shigemi Koniyama who was part of the band Shig & Buzz as well as drumming occasionally for Hot Tuna. Though Shig had been shunned by his family in Japan for becoming a musician, Jim praised him and then played Shig’s tune “Astroboy”. Jim laughed that he would beg Shig to call him, but he wouldn’t return his calls. For the next song, Jim explained that “Emmylou Rides Clarence West Then South” was an homage to singer Emmylou Harris and also Clarence White, who he claimed was his “favorite guitarist”. After their set break, they started with a song from the 1995 Jim Jarmusch film “Dead Man” with Johnny Depp. Randy had played guitar with Neil Young for that movie’s score. The Mermen wrapped things up with the song “Sway” which Jim said was meant to give the listener the swaying sensation of a hula dance or palm tree.
One thing that also made this night memorable and unique was this was one of the only, if not the only, show at the Maritime where the Brotherhood Of Light guys were operating three oil plate projectors upstairs instead of the usual two. Having one of the projectors fill out the center of the ceiling gave those in the house basically a complete oil plate light show from one side of one’s peripheral vision to the other. Quite a sight indeed. The endless undulating would be appropriate for surf music I suppose, what with the waves and all, and even the venue itself with it’s ship-like construction and history amplified the “maritime” theme of the show. The Ventures played flawlessly covering the hits I mentioned earlier as well as covers of “House Of The Rising Sun”, “Wipeout” by The Safaris, and “Pipeline” by the Chantays. Coincidentally, they did a cover of the epic guitar instrumental “Telstar” which Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers also covered at that The Fillmore show I mentioned earlier. It would have been nice if The Ventures put out an album from this show, but unfortunately for us, they released a live album called “V-Gold Live!” that year from a show they did in Japan. Sadly, this would be the last time I’d see The Ventures. Nokie died in 2018, leaving Don Wilson as the only surviving original member today.
Medeski, Martin, & Wood, DJ Logic, War., SF, Tues., April 6, 1999
SETLIST : (Set 1) Seven Deadlies, Untitled Blues, Thaw, Brigas Nunca Mais, Rise Up, Swamp Road, (Set 2) Partido Alto, Hey Hee Hi Ho, Toy Dancing, Start / Stop, Combustication, Sugarcraft, Psychedelic Sally, Hey Joe, (encore), Spy Kiss
With the death of Jerry Garcia, a new wave of jam band acts rushed in to fill the void including Medeski, Martin, & Wood, one of a few who were strictly instrumental. It was these bands that I appreciated the most frankly, because it allowed me to focus entirely on their prowess as musicians more than lyricists which was the genres’ strength in my humble opinion. This trio along with other instrumental groups of the era such as Sound Tribe Sector Nine and the Disco Biscuits helped expand jam bands’ audience as they incorporated different styles into the genre itself like funk, hip hop, and even electronica. Such was the case with these guys as they were touring and playing alongside DJ Logic who was one of the only DJ’s to see the creative and commercial potential in collaborating with such groups. He has added his turntable stylings for other such hippies as John Mayer, Jack Johnson, John Popper from Blues Traveler, moe., and Robert Randolph, that last one I’d see open for him with his new band Project Logic at The Fillmore two years later.
Medeski, Martin, & Wood had just signed to Blue Note Records in New York where DJ Logic hailed from and I assume they had met there. He had been mentored by Vernon Reid, the guitarist of Living Colour, who I had coincidentally just recorded at Maritime Hall only a month before this show. In another strange bit of timing, I’d just seen fellow fresh Blue Note signee Charlie Hunter eleven days before this gig and Charlie had toured and played alongside Medeski, Martin, & Wood as well. I’d seen the trio twice before at The Fillmore both in ’95 and ’96, but now they were big enough to play The Warfield. Unfortunately, the show was so quiet, I could barely hear anything in my tapes apart from Medeski’s keyboards. I liked the bit he did during the show where he played a little of “I Heard It Through The Grapevine” by Marvin Gaye though. I also caught a bit of myself at the bar asking the bartender if I could get five ones so I could tip her for my beer. Their first set was acoustic, but I do remember enjoying how DJ Logic melded with the band when he joined them for their second electric set. It made me wish more jam bands employed DJs.
Napalm Death, Neurosis, The Melvins, Skinlab, Will Haven, Maritime Hall, SF, Wed., April 7, 1999
SETLIST : (NEUROSIS) : The Doorway, End Of The Harvest, An Offering, Belief, Under The Surface, Times Of Grace
It was one of the most impressive line ups I’d ever have the pleasure to record that night of any genre of music though it most certainly was the antidote to the earful of hippie tunes that I heard the night before with Medeski, Martin, & Wood at The Warfield. Seriously, it doesn’t get much heavier than any one of these guys and we had five of them in row. And for only $14, the show was surprisingly affordable. First and foremost, it would be my introduction to the one and only Napalm Death. Though I wasn’t familiar with their music, their reputation preceded them as heavy metal pioneers. Hailing originally from Meriden in jolly old England near Coventry, but since relocated to Birmingham, they had been making ears bleed since 1981. By this time they had released their 8th studio album, “Words From The Exit Wound” the previous October, their last work before their acrimonious split from Earache Records.
I’m always frustrated trying to describe any band’s sound, but that goes double for describing metal, especially since there are so many perceived sub-genres ranging from such terms as thrash, black, crust-punk, sludge, doom, post, to drone metal. But Napalm Death has the distinction of having its own classification being “grindcore”, a term coined by their guitarist Jesse Pintado, calling it a mix of “noise & chaos”. I would say that it’s a fair description, especially for the songs they do which are conspicuously brief. In fact, they hold the Guinness Book Of World Records’ record for the shortest song ever recorded, “You Suffer”, clocking in at just 1.316 seconds, just enough time to scream “You suffer, but why!?!”. The band made an appearance on the UK talk show “Chris Evans’ TFI Friday” that year and did three songs which lasted in total only 59 seconds. But Napalm Death played a full and satisfying hour at the end of the night which I will get into later.
The first act of the evening was Will Haven who I had seen once before opening for fellow Sacramento band The Deftones at The Fillmore in 1997. They were still fairly new and wouldn’t release their second album, “WHVN” for another five months. They were followed by Skinlab, who I was infinitely familiar with by then. I’d recorded them at the Hall four times before this, twice in ’97 opening for Machinehead and D.R.I., once in ’98 opening for Deicide, and just that January opening for Fear Factory. Like The Earthlings, who I was subjected to record opening at hip hop shows repeatedly, I was at first unimpressed with at first, but grew to enjoy them as they also improved as time passed. Likewise, I was almost as familiar with The Melvins, who I’d see perform at Slim’s twice in ’94 and ’97, as well as the side stage of Lollapalooza in ’96, but I was absolutely ecstatic to have this opportunity to record them for the first time at the Hall. I ran into King Buzzo, their frontman upstairs after their soundcheck and spoke with him briefly. He’s a easy one to spot with unmistakable giant frizzy hairdo. I quickly spilled my guts about how happy I was and he politely humored me. When I mentioned that I used to be an intern for Dave Leftkowitz, managing the bands merchandise for the “Melvins Army”. Buzzo chortled, “Oh, I’m sorry”. I guess by that time, the band had parted ways with Dave as their manager.
Indeed, they were going through a transitional period then, having recently joined Mike Patton’s new record label, Ipecac Records. An Ipecac, incidentally, is an emetic, a syrup that is used to induce vomiting. The label’s slogan was “Ipecac Records : Making People Sick Since 1999”. Along with The Melvins, they had an impressive roster of artists including Mike’s many side projects such as the Fantomas which King Buzzo was a member, Tomahawk, and Mondo Cane. Coincidentally, Mike had founded the new label with Greg Werckman who I had worked for with my other internship with Alternative Tentacles which I was doing simultaneously alongside my internship with Lefkowitz. On this label, The Melvins quickly released a trilogy of albums that year with material they’d been stockpiling with the titles “The Maggot”, “The Bootlicker”, and “The Crybaby”. There was even a lost album of songs that wasn’t released until recently called “Three Men And A Baby”. Suffice to say, The Melvins have always been prolific. Along with these new projects, they were touring with a new bass player Kevin Rutmanis who had just replaced Joe Preston. One would have hoped with all their different releases that The Melvins put out some of the stuff I recorded, but alas to no avail.
What made this show particularly special was that this would be the one time I’d get to record, or even to this date, see Oakland’s own Neurosis. I had however seen their alter ego band, Tribes Of Neurot, open for Pigface at The Fillmore the year before, but didn’t like them much. But I did enjoy Neurosis’ brand of percussion heavy, avant-garde metal very much. They were just a few weeks shy of releasing their “Times Of Grace” album produced by the legendary Steve Albini. It was actually supposed to be played simultaneously alongside the Tribes Of Neurot album, “Grace”, but I imagine few people actually did that. On it’s own, Neurosis’ new album did get a good deal of positive reviews. Four of the six songs they played in their set that night were new ones.
Their performance also had the unique distinction of having their own projections done by their touring video engineer calling himself Pete Inc. They had draped a large white sheet on stage behind the band and projected videos onto it from their own projector in the balcony while the videos were also projected on the Maritime’s screens on the side, mixed in with our video feed. While they hammered out their tunes, we were subjected to a variety of layered images such as diagrams of brains, lightning, twitching naked bodies, marching soldiers, war torn city ruins, and fields of static. One of their guitarists pounded a small stand up drum kit for the song “An Offering” and the other guitarist played a small Moog keyboard for “Belief” and also a set of electronic tom drums for “Under The Surface”. I loved their music and definitely saw how bands like Tool and Mastodon took a page from them.
And then there was Napalm Death. Honestly, coming in sight unseen, I was unprepared for what I was to witness. As they took the stage, they appeared rather unassuming, dressed casually in T-shirts, shorts, and such. Their singer, Mark “Barney” Greenway introduced them in his proper English accent and then his voice quickly morphed into a barking, Cookie Monster-like roar. I was transfixed by the sound of it and the way he would do little baby steps around the stage like a dizzy, hyperactive toddler. Apparently, Barney got his nickname as a derivative of Barney Rubble from “The Flintstones”, a joke about the way he’d stumble around when he was drunk. But the thing I remembered the most about him was the way he would repeatedly try to blow air up from his bottom lip to try to clear away his long hair from his face, emphasis on “try”. The hair would just come back down again and he’d do this sisyphean task throughout the entire set. All and all, it was a unforgettable cavalcade of metal and though it took 17 years, I got to see Napalm Death play again with The Melvins at Slim’s and it was well worth the wait, especially since they had Melt Banana on that bill. On a quick side note, this night was the first show of the month and I was impressed by the new monthly poster the Hall put out for it, especially since Boots didn’t misspell anything on it for once.
Zero, Sky Cries Mary, Maritime Hall, SF, Sat., April 10, 1999
SETLIST : (Set 1) Forever Is Nowhere, La Fiesta, Catalina, Eight Below Zero, On Your Way Down, Baby Baby, (Set 2) Nefertiti, Cole’s Law, Gregg’s Eggs, Papa Was A Rolling Stone, Gregg’s Eggs (reprise), Anorexia, Hey Hey My My (Out OF The Blue), Can’t Keep A Good Man Down, (encore), Golden Road, Whiter Shade Of Pale, Use Me Up
We’d all but given up recording Zero at the Hall for reasons I’ve long since explained in previous entries, but for those reading for the first time, I’ll be brief. Zero had already released a couple live albums that we taped there and frankly, we were getting bored with them. It had been a while since we done any of their shows there and we weren’t going to do this one either. But word got out that the second of the two day stint they had lined up that weekend was going to be their last show ever and naturally I thought it would be significant. Pete just shrugged and said for me to have at it, leaving me to record on my lonesome.
I’d already taped the opener, Sky Cries Mary, just two months before this show as well, but I consoled myself in the knowledge that I would have at least one Zero show under my belt that Pete didn’t do himself. As you might have guessed, it wasn’t their last show ever and I felt a little burned for having done it. Even at the encore, mustachioed singer Judge Murphy said “God only knows if this is the last gig, probably not.” I hear they even joked about it when they would do later gigs saying stuff like it was their “3rd annual last show” and such. This would be the last one for me though. Fool me once, shame on you and so forth. In fact, I’m pretty certain that this was the last time I saw Zero perform again. Sax player Martin Fierro died in 2008 and Judge did too in 2013. The others are still kickin’. I would see guitarist Steve Kimock a few times in the years to come collaborating with various Grateful Dead offshoots and I caught drummer Greg Anton playing at Terrapin Station in San Rafael a few years ago with Melvin Seals and Stu Allen.
I am happy to report that the recording of that night still exists and is available online at archive.org and as Zero shows go, this one was pretty good. Zero did a few covers in the second set including soul standard “Papa Was A Rolling Stone”, a bit of “Hey Hey My My (Out Of The Blue) by Neil Young before going into “Can’t Keep A Good Man Down”, Procal Harum’s “Whiter Shade Of Pale”, and “Use Me Up” by Bill Withers. They had a young woman named Lauren Miller singing along with them that night and for most of the second set, they were joined by none other than Boots, the Maritime’s boss. Yes, he dusted off his alto sax and let loose. Boots seemed happy, really in his element up there on stage and for the encore, he called them “Maritime’s favorite” and got a round of applause to get them back on stage. I’ve always been hard on Boots for his quick temper, questionable business practices, and tyrannical leadership skills, but I have always admired him anyway. He genuinely loves music and his family, had occasional moments of kindness, and obviously the whole Maritime experiment would have never happened without him in the first place.
Salt N’ Pepa, Lukas Prata, Jungle Bizkit Bop City Project, Maritime Hall, SF, Sun., April 11, 1999
Frankly, I was equally as surprised as I was ecstatic when I learned that the legendary team of Salt N’ Pepa was going to play the Hall. Along with other New York City acts like MC Lyte and Queen Latifah, they would be pioneers not only as the first successful female hip hop acts, but pioneers in the genre entirely, easily as influential as such NYC contemporaries as Run DMC, Public Enemy, and L.L. Cool J. They and Queen Latifah were also the first female hip hop acts to win Grammies, which they both did in 1995. These women were there at the birth of this musical revolution. Everybody in the world knows that Salt N’ Pepa have been putting out absolutely infectious jams since 1985 and I felt quite honored that I would get to record them that night, not to mention relieved that Pete had left it for me to do. Sure, Pete didn’t give a fig about hip hop, but I thought even he wouldn’t resist the opportunity of doing an act of this stature.
Part of the surprise of this show was due to Salt N’ Pepa not touring for four years. Both Cheryl “Salt” James and Sandi “Pepa” Denton were in a bit of a transitional period around this time. Salt was very, VERY pregnant at this show with her second child, son Chapele. She eventually married his father Gavin Wry on Christmas the following year after dating for ten years, but then soon suffered a bruising four year long divorce from him. Pepa, also married her on again off again boyfriend, Treach from Naughty By Nature, only nine days before this show in a Kansas City tattoo parlor, strangely enough. They had a more formal ceremony later that July, but like Salt, she divorced shortly afterwards in 2001. It does make me wonder what is the overall success rate of tattoo parlor marriages, but I digress. Shortly before this show, the duo would also have the bad fortune of signing to Red Ant Records who quickly went bankrupt afterwards, going under even before the release of their fifth and final studio album, “Brand New”. The album still did well enough, quickly going gold, but they would ultimately disband in 2002. Thankfully they eventually got back together and even starred in “The Salt N’ Pepa Show”, a reality series on VH1 about them in 2008.
Opening that night was the Jungle Bizkit Bop City Project, a latter extension of instrumental hip hop band, Jungle Bizkit, who I’d seen a couple times before, including once at the Hall in ’96. I loved those guys and were glad to have them back. They had a couple singers this time including Caitlan Cornwell who had sang alongside fellow bay area bands Alphabet Soup and The Mo’Fessionals. Their set that night has the unique distinction of being what I believe is the only time the first of more than three bands played the longest set of the night. Clocking in at about an hour, they easily beat Lucas Prata, who did a measly 20 minutes, and Salt N’ Pepa who played only 45 minutes. Though he was wearing a San Francisco Giants jersey that night, Prata was from NYC, brand new with his single “Fly Away”. He used to be a backup dancer for Downtown Julie Brown on “Club MTV”.
Salt N’ Pepa ran a little late, but they eventually took the stage dressed in various bright yellow and black outfits, accompanied by their DJ, Deidra “Dee Dee” Roper otherwise known as Spinderella. Salt looked adorable beyond words strutting around in her yellow overalls. Opening with their smash hit, “Push It”, followed by “Tramp” and “I’ll Take Your Man”, they would also be joined from time to time by four female backup dancers. I don’t know the setlist, sadly not having the recording of this one either, but I do know they also played “Shoop”, “Gitty Up”, “RU Ready”, “Hold On”, “Do You Want Me”, “Let’s Talk About Sex”, “Whatta Man”, and “None Of Your Business”. Considering how short their set was, those were probably most if not all the songs they played.
A couple funny things happened during “Whatta Man”. Before the song, they asked for “three good men” to join them on stage and they had no shortage of volunteers. Pepa asked one to take his shirt off and he obliged on the condition that “you gotta promise to respect me.” To his credit, he had impressive abs. They dedicated the song “to all the men out there who have jobs.” Also, Salt, who I had mentioned was super preggers at the time, turned sideways and caressed her belly when she did the line, “You so crazy, I think I wanna have your baby”. That got a big laugh from me and I’ve never forgot it. I wouldn’t learn until years later that the song was a reinterpretation of the 1968 soul song “What A Man” by Linda Lyndell. As wonderful and a privilege as this show was, I can never forget how it was mysteriously empty. Hip hop shows at the Maritime had always sold well, at least filling the dance floor and I assumed that this one would be absolutely packed, but there was only around 300 people there! Maybe it was just a fluke, or bad promotion, but I was stunned, ashamed even. Such hip hop royalty deserved better for sure.
One mildly humorous thing I will never forget from this show was when one of the young, Red Coat security guards stopped me by the stage door for a moment when I went to give the band the tapes at the end of the night, asking me if I could say hello to Spinderella for him. I smiled and shined him on a bit, saying I would if I ran into her. Can’t blame the guy for having a bit of a crush. Spinderella is fine as may wine. If anything, I would have said hello to her from me, being single at the time. On a side note, researching this show, I learned that daytime TV personality Wendy Williams auditioned for Salt N’ Pepa’s DJ before Spinderella did. Sadly, Spinderella sued the duo over unpaid royalties a couple years ago after she was ousted from the band and recently settled out of court for an undisclosed amount. It’s a pity that they fell out so hard. They even left Spinderella almost completely out of the recent Salt N’ Pepa biopic that was on the Lifetime Channel.
Stabbing Westward, Placebo, Flick, Maritime Hall, SF, Thurs., April 15, 1999
SETLIST : (PLACEBO) : Scared Of Girls, Brick Shithouse, Allergic (To Thoughts Of Mother Earth), You Don’t Care About Us, Bionic, 36 Degrees, Without You I’m Nothing, Every You Every Me, Bruise Pristine, Lady Of The Flowers, Nancy Boy, Pure Morning
(STABBING WESTWARD) [partial] : Waking Up Beside You, Shame, Drowning, Haunting Me, What Do I Have To Do?, Hopeless, Sometimes It Hurts
I was disappointed to see that Stabbing Westward had brought their own monitor board to this show, thus preventing us from getting the split to do a multi-track recording, but I thought this show was worth sticking around for, still able to get the simple stereo recording from the front of house guys upstairs coupled with our audience mics. It’s never as good, but was certainly better than nothing and I would do it again for such shows as The Go-Go’s later on when they too brought their own monitor board. And even though there was not much work to be done recording it, Liz Farrow stuck around with me to enjoy the music as we were fans of both Stabbing Westward and the opener, Placebo. The former had proved themselves three times over to me already to be a dependable and talented opening act, warming up the crowds for Killing Joke at Slim’s in ’94, the Sex Pistols at Shoreline in ’96, and just five months before this show with Depeche Mode at the Oakland Arena. However, this would be the first and only time I’d see them headlining their own gig.
But I have to say that both Liz and I were equally as thrilled to see Placebo and I would go so far to say that one could call this show a double headliner, though I can’t recall anything about Flick, the first band. Like Stabbing Westward, I’d just seen Placebo just the previous December, they as the first band on the Not-So-Silent Night show at the Warfield and making quite an impression in their short set then. By this time, their second album, “Without You I’m Nothing” had been released and Placebo were starting to get the attention I felt they deserved. One of their songs “Every You, Every Me” had been included in the soundtrack for “Cruel Intentions” which came just six weeks before this night. When they played it about halfway through their set, singer Brian Melko introduced it saying “If you listen carefully when you go to the movies, you might hear this song.” I have to admit, I still haven’t seen that movie yet, though I know it helped make Reese Witherspoon the star she is today.
Brian said of the song in an interview that he had studied drama as a young man and knew the play “Dangerous Liaisons” of which the movie was based. He and the band watched an early cut of this new remake on their tour bus when considering doing a song for it, but insisted “if he (Ryan Phillippe’s character) doesn’t die in the end, if it’s a happy ending, we don’t do it.” Thankfully, they stuck to the original ending and Brian thought their song fit “in quite well” saying their lyrics were “quite perverted and manipulative”. Incidentally, Reese would marry Ryan six weeks after this show, though they would later divorce in 2007. I was able to find a great sounding bootleg of Placebo’s set from that night on some Russian website, but was only able to find a partial listing of Stabbing Westward’s setlist. Both bands would play well that show, but sadly this would be the final time I’d see Stabbing Westward, though I’d get to see Placebo one more time opening for She Wants Revenge at The Warfield seven years later.
Phil Lesh & Phriends, War., SF, Sat., April 17, 1999
SETLIST : (Set 1), Dark Star, It’s Up To You, Days Between, Dark Star, My Favorite Things, Mississippi Half-Step Uptown Toodeloo, Bird Song, (Set 2), Terrapin Station, Down With Disease, Dark Star, Friend Of The Devil, Casey Jones, (Walk Me Out In The) Morning Dew, Going Down The Road Feelin’ Bad, And We Bid You Goodnight, (encore), Box Of Rain
Mr. Lesh had firmly gotten his groove back almost four and a half years after the untimely death of Jerry Garcia and the disbanding of the Grateful Dead. Phil had already got his feet wet playing a one off charity gig the year before also at The Warfield with the Dead spin-off, The Other Ones, and doing the Philharmonia sing-a-long show at the Maritime the previous December. But he now was officially touring under the moniker of “Phil & Friends”, a project that would continue for many years to come with a steady rotation of respected musicians, an expansive list almost too long to count. As luck would have it, this first of many incarnations I’d witness would be playfully dubbed “Phil & Phriends”, as two of the members of this new collective would be members of Phish, they being singer/guitarist Trey Anastasio and Page McConnell on keyboards. It seemed a natural and perhaps unavoidable collaboration seeing that Phish had more or less taken the vanguard on the post-Dead hippie jam band movement since we lost Jerry. Phish was taking a break from playing together anyway until later that summer and would also take a two year hiatus starting in 2000, so that bands loss was our gain.
Also joining them would be Grateful Dead alumni Donna Jean Godchaux, the widow of their late keyboard player Keith, though she had since remarried taking the hyphenated name Godchaux-McKay. Donna had sang alongside Phil at the aforementioned Philharmonia show and though I never was particularly fond of her grating voice, she thankfully was only on stage for only four songs, “Mississippi Half-Step Uptown Toodeloo”, “Bird Song”, “Going Down The Road Feelin’ Bad”, & “And We Bid You Goodnight”. On drums would be John Molo who would be the go-to guy for Phil for many years to come as well as other Grateful Dead side projects. In another example of God’s sick sense of humor, only a week to the day after swearing I wouldn’t record much less see Zero again, low and behold, there was their guitarist Steve Kimock once more on stage in front of me noodling away. Not that I was complaining, it was just weird. Steve’s an exceptional guitarist and a perfect fit for Phil.
This would be the last of a three night run at The Warfield, all benefiting the Unbroken Chain Foundation. I was only able to sign up for this one and couldn’t do the first night anyway as I was working at the Maritime recording Stabbing Westward with Placebo, a very different show stylistically speaking to be sure. As I had mentioned previously in this humble writing project of mine, I never bothered to bootleg Dead shows before since so many others did with infinitely higher quality gear and the recordings of any of the Dead’s shows were easily available if I wanted them. And even though there were no shortage of Heads there in their customary taped off section on the dance floor with their recording decks and elaborate microphone setups, I still taped it myself and would do so for all the Phil shows that I’d attend in the future. Something deep down told me I should, sort of giving myself permission to since these shows weren’t officially the Dead. Still, I had no trouble finding a stellar quality bootleg of this night and I predict I will have no trouble finding copies of any of the Phil shows I saw at The Warfield or anywhere else thereafter in the future. Likewise, that goes for all the other Dead side projects in the years to come as well.
Like the old Jerry and the Dead shows, there would be two sets and I would have to work extra hard that night since I was once again a paid usher instead of a volunteer, having to endure herding these meandering stoners through both sets and the intermission. I’ve always said the hippie crowds were the toughest to usher and I won’t get into it again why that it is, but I made it through the night somehow. It was an interesting set, the sophisticated way they arranged their songs. The Dead had often made sprawling medleys between two or three of their tunes, but this night they actually opened with “Dark Star” for once, melded into two songs including the old standard “My Favorite Things”, reprised it and then surprised us all reprising it one more time during the second set after a couple songs in. Furthermore, they gave us a little easter egg at the end of the final reprise, playing a bit of “The Other One”. Trey was clearly having a good time on stage all night and even surprised Phil during “Casey Jones”, monkeying a little with the lyrics, singing “Trouble ahead, Phil in red!”. Phil got a kick out of it and busted up laughing, they playing under red lights at that moment and I believe Phil had a red shirt on as well.
I understand, I dare say maybe even more than many, of the complaints that non-fans of the Dead hold, having seen them a number of times and as a bay area resident am resigned to the fact that we out here are practically married to that band and their members. Yes, their music isn’t for everybody, not even for me sometimes. As much as I love Phil and the Dead, I still to this day haven’t been able to connect with the music of Phish at all and I’ve tried to at a number of their shows, though I do appreciate Trey and his solo work slightly more. But I would dare any Dead music detractor to listen to their rendition of “Terrapin Station” at that night’s show and still turn their nose up to it. I will always have mixed feelings for a number of the songs the Dead played in their history, but that epic tune is nothing short of a masterpiece and they indeed performed it masterfully that night.
At the end of the second set, Phil would give a speech which he would continue to give at the end of his shows for the years to come, encouraging the audience to become blood and organ donors, he having received a liver transplant himself the year before after nearly dying from Hepatitis C. That night, he said “This is a very special moment for me because there were times I wasn’t sure I’d ever be playing music again or anything else for that matter. But the reason that I am here is that there’s a family of people out there who in the most stressful and tragic situation were generous enough to donate the organs of a loved one who passed on to eight people including myself. One of the things this brought home to me was the importance of organ donation and blood donation to the health of millions of people and affect the lives of millions of people from diseases like HCV and many others. Half the people who have hepatitis C virus are not aware of it. Won’t be aware of it until they start getting sick. And when they get sick, they’ll be on a list, but the list will be so long, it’s possible they’ll need 28 thousand organs in one year, as opposed to 9 or 10 thousand. So I wanna urge everyone here to become an organ donor. But the most important part is to inform your family in writing it is your desire if you can should anything awful happen to you, to be an organ donor so you can save lives. So be sure to tell your families if you make that step. Also, one last thing, blood donation is important too. There’s a shortage of whole blood in the hospitals all around the country. If you have a chance and have good blood, give some.”
Phil thanked the crowd which generously applauded him and he said that these shows were one of “the finest experiences” of his life and he said they’d be right back for the encore. He returned shortly, introducing the members of the band, including Steve “on interstellar, super-luminal guitar”, John on “Mother Earth drums”, and Trey on “magma flaming lava volcano guitar”. The band wrapped up the three night run with “Box Of Rain”, an appropriate song being the one that Phil first started his singing with the Dead shortly before they disbanded. I always liked that tune, a particularly sentimental one for me. It would be a couple years until I would see Phil play with another lineup of “Friends”, but I would be treated regularly to many more to come as the years went on. Still, I didn’t have to wait long at all then to hear more hippie music, since I would record none other than former Dead keyboardist Vince Welnick at the Maritime only three days later. Frankly, I was surprised he didn’t show up to any of Phil’s shows, nor any other former member either. And if that wasn’t enough, I got to record not one, but two back to back shows at the Hall the days after with Jazz Is Dead and KVHW, also with Steve Kimock. God help me, I got to see Steve play four times in only two weeks. Thank almighty Lucifer that Slayer played The Warfield immediately after all these shows, a perfect and potent antidote to any hippie music.
420 Hemp Festival : Vince Welnick & The Missing Man Formation, B-Side Players, Ali Khan Band, Most Chill Slackmob, Maritime Hall, SF, Tues., April 20, 1999
The jovial festivities of that evening were tempered by the tragic news of the Columbine massacre that day. What was monstrous and unthinkable would become all too common as the years went on, but suffice to say that everybody could use a joint for this one. This would be the third time the Maritime would be hosting the 420 Hemp Festival, but the final time for me. The celebration of all things weed related had been expanded to all three floors of the Hall, allowing vendors, musicians, DJs, and revelers to keep the stony activities going all night. Indeed, it had been billed as going from 4:20 in the afternoon to 4:20 in the morning, though I can’t confirm it went on that late, I having my duties fulfilled long before that. It was only $20 to get in, but there was a $50 ticket that allowed access to the “VIP Lounge” they had that night, though I still have no clue where it was or what perks it offered.
The day’s terrible news didn’t prevent me from appreciating the honor of recording Vince Welnick who headlined that night with his band, The Missing Man Formation. That band’s name, a clear reference to the loss of fellow Grateful Dead member Jerry Garcia who passed away in 1995, was an unneeded reminder that Vince was the final living member of that seminal hippie band that I hadn’t had recorded at the Hall by then. We’d taped Phil, Donna, Bruce Hornsby, Bobby, and Mickey at the Philharmonia sing-a-long show the previous December and taped Bill playing with Merl Saunders opening for Toots & The Maytals that New Year’s Eve. I had long admired Vince for his undeniable skills on the keys, his powerful and melodic voice which the Dead desperately needed, and his overall positive vibe. He had been a founding member of The Tubes, thus was no stranger to folks in the bay area.
And speaking of familiar faces, the rest of the bill that night included bands that had frequented the Hall a number of times, starting with the Most Chill Slackmob. Once again their dreadlocked frontman, Ngaio Bealum, would use his formidable comedic skills to emcee the festivities throughout the night, doing double duty performing with his band as well. They were followed by the Ali Khan Band, then the B-Side Players who both filled the cavernous, smoke permeated walls of the Maritime with their stoney and danceable tunes. This would be the third time Ali Khan would play the Hall in only four months. It’s easy for a crowd to enjoy a show, especially a long one like this, when they’re all baked to gills. I’m sure there was no shortage of business at the snack bar and there was plenty of bottled water sold as well.
I didn’t retain any of the recordings from that night and wasn’t able to find any online, but as you might have guessed, Vince played a good handful of Dead tunes. One song for sure he played was “Samba In The Rain” which he wrote for the Dead, but other bits he had done with his band around that time included “Cosmic Charlie”, “Way To Go Home”, “Here Comes Sunshine”, “The Wheel”, and “Stella Blue”. Probably played at least a couple of those, if not all of them. He also did his own song, “Golden Days”, a touching ode to Jerry. Steve Kimock had played guitar on Vince’s self-titled debut album he released the year before, but I can’t remember if he joined him on stage that night, though it was likely. I had just recorded Steve with Zero, less than two weeks before as well as seen Steve perform with Phil Lesh at The Warfield only three days before this show and he’d grace the Hall with back to back shows playing in KVHW with Jazz Is Dead only three days after. Yes, that’s five times total, so it’s safe to say I had enough Kimock to last me for a while by that Saturday. Jazz Is Dead would also play their versions of “Here Comes Sunshine” and “Stella Blue” on both of the nights they performed.
Sadly, this would be the final time I’d see Vince Welnick perform or alive for that matter. It had been no secret that he took the death of Jerry very hard and that he too had battled drug and alcohol addiction for many years. Vince also suffered from crippling bouts of depression and all that pain ultimately led to his suicide in 2005. I and the rest of the world’s grief would be amplified to utter horror upon learning that he dispatched himself by cutting his own throat in front of his wife. I still shutter when I think of it. But I try to remember the joyful times I spent hearing him play and finally the last and only moment I shared with him, a brief exchange when I gave him the tapes of his set at the end of the night. He was as friendly as any musician I had ever encountered, thanking me, smiling sweetly, and warmly shaking my hand. Vince would play The Fillmore less than two months later and again in August, but I didn’t go to either of them. It’s a pity. I had taken him for granted like all the other Dead members and thought he’d be around performing forever. In a strange twist of fate, upon researching this show, I found somebody online trying to sell a medical ID that Vince had from that year, issued to him from Grateful Dead Productions through Principal Life Insurance. They had mistakenly listed his first name as Leo, which was his middle name. Why anyone would want such a thing, much less pay money for it is beyond me, but there has to be at least one fan out there who’s crazy enough to get it.
KVHW, Jazz Is Dead, Maritime Hall, SF, Fri., April 23, 1999
Jazz Is Dead, KVHW, Maritime Hall, SF, Sat., April 24, 1999
(JAZZ IS DEAD) : Mississippi Half-Step Uptown Toodeloo, Let Me Sing Your Blues Away, Row Jimmy, Stella Blue, Here Comes Sunshine, Eyes Of The World, Weather Report Suite, Estimated Prophet, King Solomon’s Marbles, Scarlet Begonias
(KVWH) : (Set 1), What I Say, Same World, Five B4 Funk, City Of Tiny Lights, (Set 2), Spring Water, Slumber, In Time, Tangled Hangers, Express Yourself, (encore), A New Africa
(KVHW) : Why Can’t We All Just Samba?, Footprints, High & Lonesome, Point Of No Return, You’re The One, (encore), It’s Impossible
(JAZZ IS DEAD) : (Set 1), Help Is On The Way, Slipknot!, Dark Star, Crazy Fingers, Terrapin Station, Blues For Allah, Terrapin Station (reprise), Franklin’s Tower, (Set 2), Mississippi Half-Step Uptown Toodeloo, Let Me Sing Your Blues Away, Row Jimmy, Stella Blue, Here Comes Sunshine, Eyes Of The World, Weather Report Suite, Let It Grow
These shows would round out a weeklong marathon of hippie music starting with the last of the three shows Phil Lesh did at The Warfield and the 420 Hemp Festival headlined by Grateful Dead keyboardist Vince Welnick at the Hall that Tuesday. As I had mentioned in my previous entry, I would be getting a heaping amount of music from guitarist Steve Kimock from all these shows, a man I was already infinitely familiar, having recorded him countless times at the Hall with Zero, even recording that band only two weeks before this show. Donna Jean Godchaux-McCay was there also having performed with Phil, but she just sang the intro to “Mississippi Half-Step Uptown Toodeloo” both nights with Jazz Is Dead. Incidentally, Phil Lesh not only played that song with Steve and Donna as did Jazz Is Dead, but they both played “Dark Star” and “Terrapin Station” too. I got to know those songs pretty well that stretch. With all these shows including the Zero show under my belt, that clocks in five times I’d see Steve play in only two weeks.
He would be joined by fellow Zero member, Bobby Vega, the “V” in KVHW, on bass, who would frankly steal the show on both nights. Bobby was rather subdued when he would play with Zero, but KVHW allowed him to flaunt his chops and he did so with amazing skill. Fellow Zero alumni, Martin Fiero, also showed up and played sax with them for a while as well, though he managed to get through both shows without busting any of his usually corny jokes. That Zero show I recorded at the Hall two weeks before I had pledged would be the last time I’d ever record them and low and behold, I was stuck with three of the five members of Zero for two more nights. These shows had the unique distinction of being the only shows at the Hall where each band took turns being the headliner, KVHW on the first day, Jazz Is Dead on the second. I have only seen that happen twice before in my long years of witnessing live music, the first being British shoe gazer bands Lush and Ride taking turns with the shows they did at The Edge in Palo Alto back in 1992. The other was when Big Head Todd & The Monsters took turns with Dave Matthews Band at The Warfield in 1995.
Doing the honors once again of addressing the crowd between singing songs was Ray White. Funny guy, Ray, as well as being a gifted guitarist and having a voice as strong as it was beautiful. Between songs on the first day he thanked somebody in the crowd named Luis for his “beautiful glasswork… herbal glasswork” and whistled the theme to “Leave It To Beaver” while the others tuned up. He also thanked another fellow later named Herbie saying, “part of this goes to the guy who keeps me on time to rehearsals and stuff”. After a few more songs, people were enjoying the revelry and he declared, “You’re all waking up now! Well, let’s dance, like this! We’ll all do the Michael Flatley!” Flatley’s “Lord Of The Dance” show had just premiered recently, the follow up to his smash hit Irish dance show, “Riverdance”, though I admit I never saw either of those shows live back then.
I know I whine bitterly about hippies and hippie music, but upon revisiting the recordings from these shows, I have to admit that I was privileged to have these gigs under my belt. That is true particularly in this case, since the recordings from Jazz Is Dead were used to make a live album. Yes, they mixed, mastered, and released the “Laughing Water” live album a mere two months after this show. I’m glad my work was at least good enough to be put together so quickly. If I had fucked up, it likely would have taken longer. Pete, who usually did these hippie shows, left this one to me. He had recorded Jazz Is Dead almost a year ago to the day and KVHW that September, so he probably didn’t think either band would have used any of our recordings. Still, Pete having become increasingly demoralized by the situation at the Hall with Boots the owner and was leaving more and more of these shows for me to record as well as more reggae and soul stuff too. I wasn’t complaining for sure, especially since it increased my chances to have official releases of my stuff put out into the world. But after all the hours I clocked in with these hippies, hearing Slayer at The Warfield the following night was indeed the antidote to all their prolonged noodling.
Slayer, Meshuggah, Sick Of It All, War., SF, Sun., April 25, 1999
SETLIST : Bitter Peace, Death’s Head, War Ensemble, Evil Has No Boundaries, Hell Awaits, Born Of Fire, Stain Of Mind, Postmortem, Raining Blood, Dittohead, Die By The Sword, In The Name Of God, Criminally Insane, Scrum, Dead Skin Mask, Seasons In The Abyss, Mandatory Suicide, Angel Of Death, South Of Heaven, Chemical Warfare
Like I had written in the previous entries, I had been inundated with hours of hippie music for the previous couple weeks and was desperate in need for Slayer, the ultimate antidote. I will always love the Dead and all their incarnations as well as many of those they have influenced over the years, but I never could escape the feeling that I never was a hippie, nor ever truly will be. But strangely enough, with all their bombast and fury, Slayer always made me feel at home. The world can be a brutal place and life can be unforgiving and in a way, Slayer’s music helped me embrace that and made me as well as their millions of fans feel a little less alone. It had been a year since I first had the pleasure of their company and they were back to once again to shake the very foundations of The Warfield.
I was excited to hear that Sick Of It All would be the first opening act that night. My friend Hefe had turned me on to the New York hardcore punk band years ago and I believe I saw them at Slim’s with him, though I didn’t record it for some reason. I was so impressed by them then, that I bought one of their stickers at the merchandise booth and put it on my locker at my job at Tech Services in the San Francisco State student union. In my mind, I can still see the circular sticker with their logo, a red dragon encircling an NYC emblem with the bands name above it and the title of their latest single “Just Look Around” below it. Now, one could question the wisdom of putting a sticker with the words “Sick Of It All” on your locker at work, but I didn’t really think about it that way at the time. I hope it didn’t demoralize any of my fellow co-workers and I don’t think it did ultimately since nobody ever said anything about it.
Pleased as I was that they were there, Sick Of It All wasn’t necessarily a metal band. Like I said, they were hardcore east coast punk, part of a movement in the Big Apple during the 80’s that included such acts as Agnostic Front, Biohazard, and the Cro-Mags. But they had recently switched to west coast record label Fat Wreck Chords founded by Fat Mike from NOFX the year before and had just released “Call To Arms” with two months before this show, their fifth studio album to date. Any band, no matter how heavy and talented they were had a hard time winning over the Slayer crowd. Those heshers have high standards, but Sick Of It All did their very best and I thought they did great. Their singer, Lou Koller, thanked Slayer for taking them on tour and joked, “If you don’t like what you heard, complain to Slayer”, then played their song “Maladjusted”. Predictably, there was at least one detractor in the mosh pit and Lou called out that “little bitch in the Sepultura shirt”. Lou scolded him saying he “fucked his mom” and said, “I toured with that band! You had to pay to see them, bitch!” Served him right. He should have known better than to heckle a guy from Queens.
Meshuggah had a easier time with the audience, perhaps since they were warmed up a bit and getting drunker, but also that they were more of metal band, albeit a touch on the prog side. They were one of those Swedish death metal bands that had been making their way stateside like Opeth, Tiamat, and Amon Amarth, Swedecore, some people called it, part of the Gothenburg scene. Despite their complex musical style, often dabbling in weird time signatures like 5/16, 17/16, or 23/16, the crowd still embraced their thrashy sound. This would be the only time I’d see them touring with bassist Gustaf Hielm, who left the band two years later. With this tour and the release of their third album, “Chaosphere”, they steadily grew a larger following and helped advance their metal musical movement farther into the mainstream.
But the night belonged to Slayer, of course. They were still promoting their most recent album, “Diabolus In Musica” which was brand new the time I saw them previously and they opened their set with the first two songs off that album, “Bitter Piece” and “Death’s Head”. Slayer also played “Stain Of Mind” and “Scrum” off that album later in their set as well. Like Meshuggah, they were dabbling in more sophisticated musical stuff, experimenting with tritone dissonance with the new album, murky, tuned down guitar chords, playing mostly in C-Sharp. Their new direction was also a much deserved rebuke to the frat boy nu-metal that had been permeating popular culture at the time, just what we all needed in my opinion.
As always, Slayer tore it up. My only real complaint about the show was the fact that I had to work all the way through their set, being a paid usher that night instead of being a volunteer. I guess Tina needed extra help that night dealing with the throngs of headbangers on the dance floor. I know I have mentioned it before, but it bears repeating that the Slayer crowd is much easier to usher than one might imagine. Indeed, after a couple weeks trying to wrangle the hippies, the Slayer crowd was a bit of a breath of fresh air. These guys had no interest in spinning in place or shambling from person to person, hugging each other. Once Slayer began their sonic assault, their legions of fans would stop at nothing to get up front or they simply stood in place, banging their heads to the beat, putting up their devil horns, and occasionally giving in to the irresistible urge to scream the band’s name. Slayer would go on to tour with Ozzfest later that summer with a stellar line up of other bands including the Deftones, Rob Zombie, Primus, and Slipknot, but to my eternal shame, I missed it for some reason. It would be over two and a half years until I would see Slayer again at The Warfield, the third of five times I would see them perform at that venue.
Frontline Assembly, Switchblade Symphony, Spahn Ranch, Plan 9, Maritime Hall, SF, Tues., April 27, 1999
SETLIST : Retribution, Prophesy, Vigilante, Resist, Surface Patterns, Plasticity, Comatose, Falling, Millennium, (encore), Liquid Separation, (unknown)
It had only been six months since Frontline Assembly had played the Hall and they had returned with the two opening acts they had brought with them before that fateful Halloween night, Switchblade Symphony and Spahn Ranch. As you can imagine, the show was practically the same, though Frontline Assembly had a handful of new songs. As luck would have it, their tenth and latest album, “Implode”, was just released that very day and they opened their set with two new tunes, “Retribution”, the first track of the new album and then the second one, “Prophesy”. They did “Falling” just before the last song of their set. Later that year, singer Bill Beeb and the band would provide the soundtrack to “Quake III Arena”, a first person shooter video game. One of these days, I’m going to have to try playing it.
As before, they had brought along their camouflage netting decorated set pieces with them, TV’s blaring static under the keyboard player, and their own Intelbeam light, blinding the crowd with strobe and laser effects. I was impressed with ferocity of the mosh pit that night as well as Tory’s work on the video system. It had only been a couple months since the Robocam stuff had been installed, but watching the set from that night, I could see his skills were noticeably improving and would continue to show after show. That performance along with Slayer at The Warfield two nights before, effectively counterbalanced the hours of hippie music I had been subjected to for the previous two weeks, recording not only Zero, but two nights of KVHW with Jazz Is Dead at the Hall, as well as ushering for Phil Lesh at The Warfield. Bill made me laugh too when he introduced the song “Comatose”, saying, “Got a little flavor for you now, so pucker up!” Mr. Beeb might have a painfully limited vocal range, but he’s a charismatic frontman and a true gentleman.
One opener that wasn’t on the bill before on that Halloween show the year before was Plan 9, a local Misfits cover band, not to be confused with the Rhode Island neo-psychedelic band formed in 1979. Normally, I have a difficult time remembering opening acts that I didn’t keep recordings of, but I distinctly remembered really, really not liking them. To be honest, I never was a fan of The Misfits either, though I do appreciate Danzig and his solo work. Coincidentally, the real Misfits would play at the Hall that October with none other than Gwar opening up for them, though they had some young ringer singing for them that night and bassist Jerry Only was the band’s sole original member. But it was always a pleasure to see and record Switchblade Symphony, a band I adored ever since they opened for Christian Death in 1996, the first show I ever recorded with Pete at the Maritime. They would release their third and final album, “The Three Calamities”, less than a month after this show, so like Frontline Assembly, they probably treated us to some new tunes that night too. I was lucky to see those sweet young women as often as I did, especially since they would break up almost immediately after the next time they’d perform at the Hall opening for The Creatures, also on Halloween. They were an appropriate band for that holiday to be sure, as were the bands they were supporting for both those macabre evenings.
Tenacious D, Maritime Hall, SF, Fri., April 30, 1999
SETLIST : Jesus Ranch, Flash Gordon – Wonderboy, Kielbasa, The History Of Tenacious D, Karate, Kyle Quit The Band, Tribute, Special Thing, Lee, Explosivo, Sensitive, The Road, Friendship, City Hall, We Built This City (On Rock & Roll), Sasquatch, Rocket Sauce, Rock Your Socks, Hare Krishna, Star Trek, Spider-Man, The Cosmic Shame, Double Team, (encore), Kyle Took A Bullet For Me, Pinball Wizard, The Five Needs
As the past few years went by, I was becoming more and more aware of Jack Black, but I hadn’t the foggiest notion of the who, what, why, and so forth of Tenacious D. Though I didn’t make the connection until years later, I’d seen the young Jack in his first commercial. He, at the tender age of 13 wearing a tan pith helmet, was in a commercial for the video game “Pitfall!” from Activision in 1982, a game I actually played and enjoyed. Like I said, I didn’t make the connection, but I definitely noticed him later in the first movie I ever saw him act in, “Bob Roberts”, where he played a trench coat wearing fanatical follower of the titular character played by Tim Robbins. I’ll never forget the intensity of his gaze as he met Bob for the first time in the movie and I instantly thought to myself, “OK… This one is operating on another level. Who the fuck is this guy?” I would notice him again exhibit that same intensity with his small but memorable part in “Mars Attacks!” and with his role as Sean Penn’s brother in “Dead Man Walking” which Robbins directed, one of the only dramatic film roles Jack would ever do.
Turned out Jack and his partner, Kyle Gass, had met Tim Robbins while performing in the play “Carnage”, which Tim had produced and directed in 1989. Kyle also had a small role along side Robbins in the supernatural thriller “Jacob’s Ladder” which came out a year later. Before that, they had been members of a theatrical troupe in L.A. simply called the Actor’s Gang. There they caught the attention of comedian David Cross who later employed them in his HBO series “Mr. Show” alongside Bob Odenkirk. Together, the duo had been making appearances, performing around that town for three years until HBO in their infinite wisdom decided to give them a shot, allowing Jack and Kyle to make a couple half hour shows and they were an instant hit. I being too cheap to afford even basic cable, still using a rudimentary pair of rabbit ears for my TV at the time, was blissfully unaware of their newfound success much less their existence. It is common knowledge amongst their fans that they had derived their name from a sports term used by Marv Albert, an abbreviation of “Tenacious Defense”, but just in case you didn’t know, now you do. They had only done those first two episodes on HBO before this tour and the next two episodes wouldn’t air for another six months.
They were so new to those outside of L.A. and the fans of their show, that the performance they did at the Hall that night was in fact their FIRST road gig ever! Understanding this now, I am filled with pride from this fact. Indeed, they wouldn’t even get signed to Epic Records until the following year and their self titled debut album wouldn’t be released until the year after that. By this time, they had made friends with such rock stars as Maynard James Keenan from Tool and Dave Grohl from the Foo Fighters and would go on tour to open for them as well. Then there is the little matter of Jack’s acting career to follow. Yes, he’d go on to steal the show in the film “High Fidelity” the year after this and would follow with hit film after hit film such as “School Of Rock”, “Shallow Hal”, and “King Kong”. He’s been an A-lister ever since. Incidentally, in 2006 Jack would go on to marry a young woman I knew in college who once lived nearby me in the Mission named Tonya. She is the daughter of jazz musician Charlie Hayden, one of a set of triplet girls, who I had seen open for Joe Henderson at The Fillmore in 1997. You can read more about her in the bit I wrote about that show if you’re so inclined.
But back to the show. My buddy Tory on video however did know about these guys and was very thrilled to do it and I know he had good taste, especially with comedy, so I was getting excited about it too. It was an evening with Tenacious D, so there was no opening act and it all wrapped up pretty early. The show was also announced with little notice, so it was never listed in the Hall’s monthly poster or even was advertised for much, not that it needed to be. The house was quite full with extremely enthusiastic fans from top to bottom. Their buddy Lee came out to meekly introduce them saying, “The next band is on the last leg of their world tour. They’ve seen a lot of faces and they’ve kicked those faces’ asses. So get ready to have your asses’ faces kicked… Tenacious D.”
Though obviously it wasn’t the last leg of their world tour, it was still a funny line and the sound of the audience’s applause was deafening as the duo took the stage. But I’m afraid their introduction soon fell flat as our faithful sound crew couldn’t get Jack’s guitar to work. Down in the recording room, I rubbed my temples in frustration saying aloud, “Two fucking guitars, guys… That’s it. That’s all you had to get right tonight…” Kevin and Jerry scrambled as Kyle nonchalantly stalled for time apologizing for the “technical difficulties” and attempting to field questions from the crowd. But they eventually got the guitar to work and they got rolling. It really was only about a minute or two, but it probably felt like an eternity to Kevin and Jerry on stage in front of everybody.
Jack thanked the crowd and welcomed them to “the historic first road gig and what a packey-packed house. That’s tremendous. I was afraid it was going to be a ghost town, but instead it’s packey-packs.” I caught both of them glancing throughout the night at their set lists scotch taped on the backs of their guitars between songs though by the end of the tour, I’m sure they had it all down pat. They went through a couple songs until the end of one where Jack pretended that some pyrotechnics on stage didn’t go off and did a bit where he had a hissy fit. Lee came out to deal with it, but then skulked away. Jack said, “You have to have pyrotechnics when you play the big venues. Pay no attention to the help.” He then scolded Kyle saying that his “blood is boiling” and that “fuckin’ rockets” were supposed to be flying. Kyle retorted, “Don’t look at me!” but Jack was inconsolable saying “Kyle, I told you specifically, tell our helper, our special helper to place it in a particular way. I gave you a fucking map of the stage, said here’s where the pyrotechnics are!” Kyle responded, “Don’t blow a gasket!” Jack lost it yelling, “So what I’m saying, Fuck off! Fucking shit air, you fucking shit ass!” and then Kyle shuffled off the stage, shaking is head, simply muttering, “You’ve got a nice vocabulary.”
Yes, it was a bit and obviously staged, but we all went along with it laughing throughout as Jack sang “Kyle Quit The Band”. But then Kyle quickly returned saying that it was “great to be back” and they went into their hit song, “Tribute”. Afterwards, Kyle asked the audience, “Did anyone watch our television show?” which was met with thunderous cheers. Jack pretended to be surprised saying, “I thought you were all here from the grassroots campaign, from the flyers. Well, that’s a shocker.” There was a bit of a dust up in the front when Jack tossed out one of his guitar picks and he asked “What’s going on here? There’s a melee over a pick. People freaking out over a piece of plastic. Just because we touch it, doesn’t give it magical powers.” Then Jack smiled slyly and nodded, mumbling, “Yes, it does… it does.”
He went on to “give props where props were due” saying “There’s a lot of people who make up the Tenacious D family that you don’t see, behind the scenes, behind the curtain. Not pulling the strings, but just helping, doing the things that we ask to be done and they scurry away and do things. And it’s time to say if there’s one guy who did the most things for us and he’s done so many fucking special things, it this guy… Peter Lee Parker. Get out here!” Then Lee came out again and Jack said, “He’s gonna sing a song and it’s a dream come true scenario, so please, humor him” and Lee sang “Special Thing” which was followed by Jack and Kyle serenading him with “Lee” followed by “Explosivo”. Jack then dedicated the next song to “Laura, my backstage Betty”. Laura was presumably actress Laura Kightlinger whom Jack dated from 1996 to 2005. Kyle then followed “I’d also like to dedicate this one to Tracy”. Jack looked peeved then said, “That doesn’t take any steam away from my dedication, Kyle. So now I guess it’s half dedicated to Laura… Bullshit” and then they played “Sensitive”.
Afterwards, Jack introduced “The Road”, “Now this being our first official road gig, we didn’t know quite what to expect, except for one thing with our creative imaginations. We were able to visualize the scenario and it was not a pretty scenario. Hours on the road!” Jack grimaced painfully shouting “my hemorrhoidal tissue! It’s too hard! Motel 6’s, one after the other and it’s hard, hard bullshit”. Kyle quipped, “Why did we ever leave L.A.?” Jack looked annoyed and continued, “And we wrote a song about how hard the road is and how much bullshit you have to put up with.” Afterwards, Kyle marveled for a moment at the Maritime’s giant projection screens for a moment joking, “You know I wish I had this sized TV screen at home. That would be fun, huh?” He then waved and smiled, watching himself for a few seconds. I’m sure Tory in the video room got a kick out of that one.
They went on to do “City Hall”, a tune about tearing down City Hall in a riot, then becoming kings themselves, only to ultimately fight over it themselves. As kings, Jack declared that marijuana was legal and that “whoever said it wasn’t legal is fucking dead!” and that heroin and “ka-kane!” were now legal too. Then he said “pennies are abolished” and that they were to be melted down to “build a copper edifice of my face and a smaller one of KG next to me”. They went on to do an a capella version of Jefferson Starship’s “We Built This City (On Rock & Roll)”, a song San Franciscans are painfully familiar with. If it was anyone but them singing it, I would have been pissed. Jack went on to say that Tenacious D was actually their “second passion”, the first being “our endless search for Sasquatch”. He scolded the crowd, “Go on, don’t believe he doesn’t exist. That would mean more prizes and rewards for the real believers later. It’s not easy to search for Sasquatch, going out in the bush with some fucking freaks. You see some broken twigs, check it out, sniff it, taste it. Couldn’t have been human because of the angle of the fuckin’ tree!” Naturally, they then played “Sasquatch”.
Somebody in the audience was crying out for their song “Rocket Sauce” and they thought it over for a second and agreed to do it, though it would be a second version and sang the lyrics to the tune of The Beatles’ “Blackbird”. People were then cheering for Lee to come back out on stage and Jack said they wanted him because he was “a tall drink of water” but they had “more cushion for the pushin’ on stage! He’s a fuckin’ asshole!” A few folks had been blurting out the stereotypical calls for “Freebird” and Kyle obliged them with a few bars of the opening of that Skynyrd song, though Jack insisted that although Kyle knew it, that “he’s not going to play it.”Jack introduced “Hare Krishna” saying “I wasn’t very popular in high school. I had a lot of foibles. I figured out why I wasn’t popular. It was because I needed it so bad. I need them to love me, everyone of them. So I put in the extra mile, trying to make them laugh, making a shithead out of myself. Then people kind of laughed for a minute, then they were like that’s too uncomfortable to be around. This is a song about that and those times”. Then they kind of surprised me doing the theme song to the original “Star Trek” series with the obscure lyrics that were written by Gene Roddenberry, the show’s creator.
Then they did another “kick ass theme” being that of the “Spider-Man” cartoon. The crowd’s pleas for Lee to return to the stage were assuaged when he came out in the middle of the song dressed in a rather primitive Spider-Man body suit. Lee danced around clumsily as Jack mocked his costume in song, singing “he knows a lot of fun Taebo!” Lee then pretended to punch and kick around him and Jack cracked up singing, “Stay still or else he’ll get you with his fuckin’ Matrix moves! That’s a cheap ass body suit and I can see his package, yeah!!!”. The first “Matrix” movie had just come out two months before this. The mayhem kept going and Jack complained singing, “It’s going on way too long! It stopped being funny five minutes ago!” Lee finished the song spraying Jack with a bunch of silly string and Jack hit back shooting him repeatedly with a double barrel Nerf gun until it was empty and Lee fell down on the floor in defeat. Jack complained that “he got Spidey-Spray in my fuckin’ rum & coke, Jack & coke, Jack & coke”. Kyle joked that “he looked very familiar to me.” Incidentally, the first of those “Spider-Man” movies starring Tobey McGuire wouldn’t hit the theaters until three years later, so one could say this was another example of Tenacious D being ahead of their time. Jack wondered, “Where is Lee? He’s never here when Spidey’s around. Goes and fuckin’ hides probably… Peter Lee Parker…”
Jack went on to encourage people to quit their day jobs saying that your kids would be happier if you “focused on your craft” and that he and KG would check up on you later and tell you to continue, but if they told you to stop then you had to stop. They then played “The Cosmic Shame” and then Jack flirted with a handful of girls up front before singing the raunchy tune, “Double Team”. He asked one if she “Smoked grass? Have cable? Have carpet?” and declared that there were “a lot of possible Backstage Betty’s in the audience.” Jack did a funny bit near the end of the song introducing KG as the lead guitarist to a loud round of applause, then said, “On the drums… no one. On the bass… no one, and on the keys… no one. And on the sax… no one. And on the flute… no one. But seriously, on the three lizard Moog, you might have heard him a bit… NO ONE!!! But on lead vocals, it’s M-m-m-m-m-meeee, JB!!!” That ended the set, but they almost immediately were back with the crowd chanting “D! D! D! D!”
Jack immediately was getting loud pops from his guitar when he plugged back in and thanked the sound men nonetheless saying, “That’s the crack Maritime sound staff, working overtime”. Jack got it back and then Kyle’s guitar went out prompting him to joke, “Can someone call The Fillmore please?” That got a few groans from the crowd and definitely got some from the staff including myself. The very mention of the Maritime Hall’s mortal archenemy definitely struck a nerve. But Kyle was right. This was getting downright embarrassing. Seriously, two acoustic guitars and vocal mics. That was it, no amps, nothing. While they tried to get KG’s guitar working again, they sang “Kyle Took A Bullet For Me” anyway. They got it working after that song and KG apologized, “I was just kidding about The Fillmore. I was just kidding!” They then did a weird pantomime of Jack calling KG on the phone, hanging up, having KG star 69 him back, and Jack morosely threatening to kill himself.
Kyle then reassured him about auditions opening up for the musical “Tommy” which picked him right up and they then did a mock audition, doing a manic cover of “Pinball Wizard”. They cut off the song about halfway through abruptly saying, “that was all we had prepared for the audish”. Jack apologized for their sloppy performance and wished them luck with the European tour and hoped it kicked ass, but then came back insisting that they “lick the crack of my ass because I don’t give a shit if you don’t like it because I know we rock as individuals and as a collective! You fucked your mother and I saw it in the back room! Bullshit!!!” Jack then mooned the crowd and gave them the middle finger. Needless to say, everyone was loving every second of it.
A voice on the speakers, probably voiced by Lee backstage, in a effeminate English accent urged him to come back, saying that they loved the audition and they wanted him for the role of Tommy and Jack apologized for his outburst. But then the crowd jeered when Kyle was denied getting a part, but Jack tried to console him saying that they’d rock again together when he got back from the European tour. He then went into some strange pantomime dance and simulated cunnilingus, picking a pubic hair out of his teeth while KG brooded around the stage and pretended to eat ice cream, went driving, put in a VHS tape into its machine, and so on. Jack called KG again drunkenly taunting KG in a Cockney accent saying he missed him and said he wanted to fly him out there, “would be first class, but it’s going to be coach”, and join the cast with him. Clearly despondent, Kyle puts his index finger in his mouth and pulls his thumb trigger making a gun noise, leaning lifeless onto his mic stand. Jack simulates riding a motorcycle, finds his friend, and sinks his head into his chest in despair.
Jack then said, “The moral of this story is don’t do anything… Ever! You might hurt your friend’s feelings.” Jack then introduced “The Five Needs” as their final song rebuking the protests of the crowd saying that “no amount of cheering” would help in that they indeed had no more songs that they could possibly play. Still, for a band that didn’t even have an album out for another two years, they managed to put on a show for an hour forty which is impressive. Then it was all over. They unplugged their guitars, took a bow, waved good bye, and walked off stage. The whole experience was strangely introspective, sort of a show that was about what it means to put on a show, like Bowie and Ziggy Stardust or Steve Martin’s stand up career. Most certainly they replayed most if not all of their in between song bits word for word for every show. But I know too that they most likely tweaked it all as the tour went on, occasionally adding new stuff and taking other stuff out and there was no doubt there would be a heaping amount of improvising with the crowd each and every time.
I eagerly went backstage to give the tapes to the guys, but couldn’t find Jack anywhere, but I eventually ran into Kyle. He was very gracious and took them from me and he politely shook my hand. Turns out, he grew up in Walnut Creek, the next town over from Alamo where I was from, though he is twelve years older than me. NOFX played the Hall the following night, but for some reason I can’t remember, it wasn’t recorded, which was a pity. I like those guys and would get another chance to see them two years later when they headlined the Incredibly Strange Wrestling show at The Fillmore. Tenacious D went on to bigger and better things and I would see them again playing The Warfield on Halloween also two years later and packing the Civic Center five years after that promoting their movie, “Tenacious D In The Pick Of Destiny”. And by that time, it is safe to say that they had shed their first road show jitters ages ago.
Third Eye Blind, Smash Mouth, Maritime Hall, SF, Fri., May 7, 1999
Eee-gad. Just reading either band name separately would be enough to give anybody the willies. But let it be said that both of them were still pretty new back then and hadn’t been around long enough yet to induce the inevitable nausea that the saying of their names now produces. Yes, I have written about both before, Third Eye Blind playing the Fillmore in 1997 and Smash Mouth opening for Blur at The Warfield the same year, so I won’t go into either of their origin stories much, but it’s fair to say that 1999 was a pivotal year for both of them, so there are details worth mentioning before I go into the show itself.
Third Eye Blind had been riding the gargantuan wave of their first multi-platinum album and were on the cusp of releasing their long awaited follow up titled, “Blue”. Rumor had it that the name was derived from the Blue Lamp Cafe on Geary which was just a few blocks away from where I was living at the time and that the band frequently played there. I can’t confirm or deny that since I rarely hung out there, mostly spending my drinking hours at the Edinburgh Castle up the street, and wouldn’t be caught dead there if they were performing in the first place. The band had just begun working on the new album that January and had recently completed a tour with Eve 6. Frontman and future legendary douchebag Stephen Jenkins was already scheming to usurp complete ownership and control of the band in the process, much to the dismay of lead guitarist, songwriter, and founding member Kevin Cadogan. Kevin would be unceremoniously fired from the band shortly after “Blue” was released and he was forced to sue, successfully I might add, Jenkins to get the royalties he earned writing most of that albums tunes. The quality and commercial success of Third Eye Blind’s music immediately declined after Kevin’s departure confirming he was indeed the brains behind their songwriting and guitar sound.
As I alluded to before, Jenkins boorish behavior was quickly garnering him a well deserved reputation around town and ultimately nation and worldwide. It was bad enough that he acted this way, but he claimed San Francisco as his home town, further sullying our fair city’s already unfairly besmirched reputation with the rest of the country. That year, he had already embarrassed himself and the band with an expletive laden drunken rant at the Bammies that March. In a baffling display of arrogant hubris, he published his speech later on line on his website. Additionally, Jenkins had insulted several rock press people at a secret show they had performed the night before this. Third Eye Blind showed up at the Paradise Lounge, a small south of market nightclub, to try out some of their new stuff under the name “Two Guitarists & A Boob Local Band Titty”. Jenkins asked if there were any members of the press in the audience which he immediately declared that they “all fucking suck.” But the cruelest thing of all about him around this time was that he was dating none other than statuesque actress Charlize Theron until they broke up two years later, sending him into a period of deep depression. I like to think that she came to her senses and dumped him. Yes, life can be unfair to say the least.
Smash Mouth were also about to release the follow up to their likewise successful first outing a month after this, an album called “Astro Lounge” which would include the single “All Star”. Now anyone alive in the 90s and thereafter knows this song and would be tortured by it for the rest of their days, showing up in countless movie soundtracks including that year’s “Inspector Gadget”, the song in the opening credits of “Shrek” two years later, TV shows, commercials, and God knows what else. The show at the Hall was actually supposed to be just Smash Mouth, a Coca-Cola sponsored event announced so suddenly, that it wasn’t even advertised for, much less listed on the Hall’s monthly poster. Third Eye Blind had toured with Smash Mouth the year before playing amphitheaters and since they were in town, I guess they got invited to join the bill.
A strange thing happened that night in terms of the recording. Neither band would allow us to tape the audio, but for some reason allowed us to tape the video without the sound. Maybe they thought they could dub in the songs later or something. Maybe they just wanted it for the projection screens that night, I can’t say. I was at least released from any responsibility of having to mix them, though my friend Tory was on the hook to do his magic in the video room that show. I would have to endure Third Eye Blind one final time in my life when they were on the bill at Live 105’s annual B.F.D. festival at Shoreline the following year, but this would be the final time I’d see Smash Mouth. Don’t get me wrong though. Despite my less than flattering opinion for both bands, I would have changed my tune on them considerably if they’d allowed us to record and release a live album and/or DVD, especially during this pivotal time in both their careers. Say what you want about them personally and the style of their music, as an American, I have no choice but to admire them both for being rich.
Though their singer Steve Harwell would come nowhere near the level of infamy that Jenkins achieved, he managed to receive a dishonorable mention in these last couple of years. It was to the band’s eternal shame that they headlined the entertainment at the annual Sturgis motorcycle rally in South Dakota in 2020, an all too obvious super spreader event during the height of this recent pandemic. Steve openly mocked the pandemic and the virus while on stage, making me wish momentarily that he and the band fell victim to it. But that urge would pass and I feel guilty for ever even thinking it. Nobody deserves to die from that virus, not even Stephen Jenkins. But to make matters worse, a year later Steve got belligerently drunk at The Big Sip beer and wine festival in Bethel, NY, threatening his own audience and allegedly gave them a Nazi salute. I know it was a festival dedicated to drinking, but clearly he should have saved getting shitfaced until after their set. Well, after that, Steve wisely retired from the band citing health problems. Whether it was true or not, I think we all can agree now that it was for the best.
The Creatures, Maritime Hall, SF, Sat., May 8, 1999
SETLIST : All She Could Ask For, Disconnected, Turn It On, Take Mine, Pinned Down, Guillotine, Another Planet, Miss The Girl, Say, 2nd Floor, I Was Me!, Sad Cunt, Prettiest Thing, Exterminating Angel, (encore), But Not Them, Standing There, Pluto Drive – Nightclubbbing, (encore), Right Now
It had been nearly a year since one Susan Janet Ballion and her then husband, Peter Edward Clarke, AKA Siouxsie and Budgie, graced the Hall with their presence with back to back Creatures shows, accompanied by John Cale from the Velvet Underground. I didn’t know their music from Adam then, though I’d been a big fan of Siouxsie & The Banshees, having seen them also doing back to back shows in 1995 at The Warfield. I wasn’t even aware The Creatures existed until they came to Hall those nights, but by this show, I knew their music pretty well, at least the songs they performed previously. The last time around was their first tour as The Creatures since 1989 and they hadn’t put out a new album yet, though they did play five new songs. Those songs would end up on their new album, “Amina Animus”, which had just been released the day after Valentine’s Day that year and they played all of them again, including three other new ones, playing the entire album’s worth of new tunes except for “Don’t Go To Sleep Without Me”. The new album was a critical success, even making the top ten of P.J. Harvey’s favorites.
They didn’t have Cale with them this time, but they brought along two bass players, a young man and woman. The man would switch off and play guitar from time to time, the woman, a violin for a couple of numbers. This would be the first show listed on the new monthly poster and apparently the Hall had booked Japanese new age musician Kitaro on the same night to play at The Palace Of Fine Arts, the only show Boots booked there as far as I know. This show was “An Evening With” gig, so it was over with fairly early, the second of three consecutive shows I’d do at the Maritime that weekend. Pete had recorded The Creatures when they were in town the last time, so he left it to me to do and I was assisted by a very enthusiastic Liz Farrow. She worshipped Siouxsie and I knew she’d be on cloud nine all night and she was. Coincidentally, another act from jolly old England, Motorhead, would play the Hall the following night, but Liz would sit that one out. But both shows were just what I needed to erase the trauma of having to endure Third Eye Blind and Smash Mouth who had played at the Hall the night before this one. (shutter!)
Siouxsie would do her sexy, serpentine dance moves as she always did throughout the show and just at the cusp of turning 42 years old, was the center of everyone’s rock & roll star fantasy that night, including myself. Like I had written before about Bill Beeb, fellow UK resident and singer of Frontline Assembly who had played the Hall a couple weeks before this, she also had a very limited vocal range but more than made up for it with her infinite charisma and stage presence. Always the height of Goth fashion, Siouxsie took the stage that evening in a silver, reflective, plate mail tank top and mini skirt with a matching star emblem necklace. She also donned silver arm guards, what armorers in the old days called “Vanbraces”, making her look like a goddess from a Wagner Ring Cycle opera.Continuing the motif, behind her on the drums, Budgie wore a silver lame vest. They had brought along with their gear four moving lights that were spread equidistantly on stage, flashing strobes and beams all night, cutting through their fog machine. In addition to the new songs, they played a handful of other Creatures tunes I hadn’t heard the last time, opening with “All She Could Ask For”. Just before they did “Turn It On”, somebody up front handed her an inflatable dragonfly strangely enough. She joked, “What you got there? Gimme, gimme, gimme!” Siouxsie made a playful buzzing noise as she held it aloft, undulating it to make its wings flap and smirked, “Cold weather here, bad weather for the bugs.”
Like before, Budgie would emerge from his drum kit from every now and then to play different instruments, first coming out for “Take Mine” to hammer away at a couple standing tom drums with little mallets. Siouxise introduced the song, sneering, “Bloodsuckers and leeches, watch out. Your time is up.” She too would occasionally play a nearby keyboard/sampler and percussion pieces. For “Guillotine” she slipped a pair of castanets on her fingers. During “Miss The Girl”, Siouxsie hit a small cylinder thing with a drumstick, introducing the song, “This is the end of the American tour. Got one more after tonight. Sorry for the people who couldn’t make it and ‘miss the girl’.” They would play at the Fenix Underground in Seattle the next night before flying to do a couple gigs in Japan three days later, then begin their European tour the following week.
After that song, she took a drink from a bottle of beer and chuckled, “I don’t mind it. They get nervous. OK, I’m going to give you some very bad advice, so don’t do it. Cus’ sometimes you just need to have a fuckin’ drink. But with that, I say, drink a toast, cus’ I fucked it up yesterday when I tried to say it.” They had played Palookaville in Santa Cruz the night before, the other venue Boots regularly booked. She smiled and said, “Champagne for my true friends and true pain for my sham friends!”, then trilled her tongue and began singing “2nd Floor”, a song apparently about getting drunk.
When they finished, somebody up front handed her a wilted white flower with a long stem and she looked at it disparagingly, playfully muttering, “This poor thing has seen better days. What are you trying to say?” She then caught sight of the projector screens on the side of the walls which I believe were showing bits from “Night Of The Living Dead” and she hissed and poked the flower toward one of the screens saying, “Scary things on the screen!”, then went into “I Was Me”. Budgie came out again, this time leaving drums to play an acoustic guitar for “Sad Cunt”, one of their songs that I hadn’t heard before that show. Siouxsie accidentally hit the sampler during the song, activating the flurry of middle eastern horns, that sound like Rhaitas but I can’t say for sure, that they would sample during “Exterminating Angel” later. When it came time for that tune, Budgie stood and hit a bass drum at his head level with mallets, and that song ended the set.
They came back for their first encore and Siouxsie coyly suggested that the crowd was forcing them to return. She spread her arms wide and said “I need to be drawn and quartered, over that side, over that side, and right down the middle”. After a few moments, she looked back at her husband and said, “OK, Budgie. This is a long time to be casual”, then launched into “But Not Them”. She put on her castanets again for “Standing There” and taunted Budgie a little saying, “You’ll never get a drummer off his drum kit”. He pretended to stall a little until she spoke again, “Oh, he slays me every night.” She then changed her voice to sound like Mickey Mouse and chirped, “OK, Pluto!” and then they went into “Pluto Drive”. The song with its strip tease drum and bass rhythm morphed into the Iggy Pop song, “Nightclubbing” and just before they finished, a young lady bum rushed the stage, hugged Siouxsie, and kissed her on the shoulder before she was taken away by one of the security guys.
The applause brought them back for a second encore and she thanked the crowd, saying “We’ve been on the road a long time. You’ve been a Duracell battery. Keep this bunny going!” and she made a little walking motion with her arms and giggled. They finished the night with “Right Now” and for that song, she put on a little blinking star light chachkie that somebody up front handed to her earlier, fastening it to her neckline. Just before she left the stage, yet one more bum rusher young lady made it to the stage to kiss her on the cheek as she departed. The crowd cheered and stomped when they were done, hoping for a third encore, but to no avail. The sound guy put on “Nice N’ Easy” by Frank Sinatra and the audience began to disperse, though he reassured those who wanted to keep the party going that “there’s an after hours party in the basement.” Back then, the Hall hosted the “Death Guild” dance night in the club downstairs, a showcase for all the Goths, playing their anthems till the wee hours of the morning. Liz and I enjoyed that night, probably more than most we did together, but we wouldn’t have to wait long to see Siouxsie and Budgie again. They would play the Hall one more time just five months later, appropriately enough on Halloween.
Motorhead, Dropkick Murphys, Hatebreed, Skarhead, Maritime Hall, SF, Sun., May 9, 1999
SETLIST : Bomber, No Class, I’m So Bad (Baby I Don’t Care), Over Your Shoulder, Civil War, Take The Blame, Too Late Too Late, The Chase Is Better Than The Catch, Nothing Up My Sleeve, Born To Raise Hell, Shine, Dead Men Tell No Tales, Overnight Sensation, Sacrifice – Orgasmatron, Going To Brazil, Iron Fist, Killed By Death, (encore), Ace Of Spades, Overkill
I was completely thrilled to tape heavy metal pioneers Motorhead for the first time. They had played the Hall one night before in 1996 back in the Family Dog days there when I was still an usher or “Peace Dog” as we were known them and never forgot helping their frontman and musical mastermind, Ian “Lemmy” Kilmster, through the crowd on the dance floor to get backstage. I still see him in my mind’s eye nodding a moment to thank me at the end, clad in old, red military waistcoat and a saber in a scabbard at his side and I can still feel that magical moment when he touched my elbow before he left me. As much as I dearly hoped they would use my recording that night for an album or DVD, my hopes would ultimately be dashed upon learning that they had just released a live album called “Everything Louder Than Everyone Else” that March, recorded in Germany. Furthermore, they would put out a live DVD the following year from their show back home in London at the Brixton Academy for the band’s 25th anniversary. Still, a boy can dream. Always on the move and touring, Lemmy found time to continue making new music and would release the 15th, yes 15th, Motorhead studio album the following year called “We Are Motorhead”, though we didn’t hear any of those new songs at this performance. Lemmy had also made a brief appearance that year playing himself in a low budget horror comedy called “Terror Firmer”, released just before Halloween. I’ve seen him in a few things like “Eat The Rich”, but haven’t caught that movie yet.
This was a particularly great line up, especially since they would be joined by the Dropkick Murphys. They had played the Hall the year before opening for Agnostic Front, but this would be the first time they would be touring with their new and permanent singer, Al Barr. Their old one, Mike McColgan had just left that band to become a firefighter and front other musical projects and Al had only filled his spot two months before this show. He had been the singer of The Bruisers who had toured with the Murphys previously. Also joining the bill would be Hatebreed from Bridgeport, Connecticut and Skarhead from New York City. Both bands were pretty new then, each just having just one album under the belts at the time. All around, it was a pretty manly show and the mosh pit had no shortage of thugs and heshers doing what they do best all night long. It was quite a masculine left turn from Siouxsie Sioux and The Creatures the night before, though they too were from jolly ol’ England. Rest assured, there was no shortage of business at the bar for this occasion, it being one of the heaviest drinking crowds one could ever witness. I’m sure the bartenders made a bundle that night, not to mention a few of the toilets being violently tainted with vomit. Incidentally, Motorhead had been listed on the Maritime’s April monthly poster to play three weeks before this, so I assume that it got postponed or it was a mistake or something. I was just glad they were there and would have shown up either time regardless.
As always, the sound was cranked up to maximum volume for Lemmy who was notoriously nearly deaf as a post from decades of sonically assaulting countless crowds. He lumbered casually on stage with the band dressed in a collared shirt opened halfway down his torso with the sleeves rolled up and took his usual stance in front of his microphone, angled down a few inched from above him. He declared, “We’re Motorhead and we’re about to kick your ass!” before diving right into “Bomber”. A few songs later he taunted his fans saying, “You’re very quiet for San Francisco”, which of course goaded them on to cheer. He put his hand to his ear a couple times, unsatisfied at first by the low noise level, but eventually nodded and continued, advising the crowd, “Don’t try to dance to this. You’ll tear yourself to fuckin’ pieces” and then they played “Take The Blame”. Some more songs down the line, he thanked the crowd, saying “Not bad for a Sunday night? Hope you gone to church today. Here’s an interesting song. It’s so interesting, we haven’t played it for ten or fifteen years” and then they did “Shine”. After they finished that one, Lemmy sneered, “This is another one for the oldies fans out there, for you older people, you menacing old granddads in your wheelchair… It’s called ‘Dead Men Smell Toe Nails’!”, which was obviously him parodying the title, “Dead Men Tell No Tales”. The lighting guy had set up a couple par cans on stage beneath Lemmy that night to uplight him in an eerie green for “Orgasmatron”. It was fucking creepy to be honest. He also introduced “Going To Brazil” asking, “Who hear remembers rock & roll? I remember fuckin’ rock & roll and it sounds like this!”
After finishing their set with “Killed By Death”, Lemmy returned to the stage with a loose, dangling cigarette trailing smoke out of his mouth. He put his hand to his ear again, egging on the crowd, and laughed, “I’m fuckin’ deaf, you know… Guess which song we’re going to do next.” We all knew what was coming and the mosh pit exploded as they went into their hit song, “Ace Of Spades”. When they finished he introduced Phil “Wizzo” Campbell on guitar who was wearing a T-shirt with a big English Bulldog with a nose ring on it and a wool hat. Strange that he kept that hat on all night considering how hot it must of been for him up there on stage. Lemmy also introduced Mickey Dee as “the best drummer in the world” and Phil introduced Lemmy saying, “On my left, one of the 20th century’s greatest tunesmiths, Mr. Lemmy Kilmister!” The crowd went nuts and they finished the evening with “Overkill” which the often ended their shows with, dragging out the ending as the song title suggested.
Though I would go on to see Motorhead a few more times in the years to follow, this would be the only time I would record them at the Hall. I would see them play there a year later when they were touring with Nashville Pussy, but just just as a civilian. One thing I will NEVER forget about that night was the scene backstage after it was all over. Now, I know most lay people have a stereotypical notion about what backstage at rock shows are like, but I would quickly dispel such stereotypes, informing them that most folks are too busy cleaning up and moving on to the next gig. But this time, it was the real thing. I mean there were all manner of party people packed in back there guzzling beer and liquor and probably ingesting God knows what other substances.
And I could hardly believe my eyes at the line of spandex clad “Backstage Bettys”, as Jack Black would phrase it, literally lined up single file to get into Lemmy’s dressing room. Incidentally, Jack had just played his first ever road gig with Tenacious D a week and half before this at the Hall. Anyway, I somehow managed to slip my way past the hordes of revelers and would-be one night stands to hand Lemmy off the tapes, but I didn’t linger. Now that I think about it, perhaps I should have, though I may not have survived to see the dawn. I played the tapes for Pete the next week and he was astounded how mid-range heavy it sounded, but I assured him that was how Lemmy’s bass always was and soloed it so he could hear it. Lemmy’s bass always sounded tinny and compressed, almost like a guitar. I’ve heard other sound people say that comes from so many years of playing excruciatingly loud, that the particular range is all Lemmy’s ears can really hear anymore. Pete shrugged and said “whatever”. I thought my mix went well though In hindsight, I should have taken the audience mics all the way down while they were playing to help differentiate the instruments. It was such an overwhelming cacophony upstairs that everything bled into every other mic in the first place.
The Meditations, Sugar Minott, Northwest Nyabinghi, Maritime Hall, SF, Fri., May 14, 1999
Two months was a long time between reggae shows at Maritime Hall, but this one brought Pete out of the woodwork to do what he does best. I had recorded the previous twelve shows there and Pete’s absence was starting to become conspicuous, having not been in the Hall since The Ventures played there the previous March. As I had written before, he was getting fed up with Boots the owner and clearly had confidence in my abilities by then, not to mention cared little for work he wasn’t getting paid for and was caring less and less as time went on. But these were classy and respected reggae acts and there was still a chance they’d might use our stuff for an album and/or DVD someday, though ultimately none of them did. So, I just kicked back, labeled and delivered the tapes at the end of the sets as before, and tried to keep up with the inevitable onslaught of joints being passed to me by my mentor.
We’d already taped both The Meditations and Sugar Minott at the Maritime, the former playing alongside Pablo Moses in March of 1997 and the latter two months afterwards there. This one was being billed with a co-sponsor along with 2B1 called “Out Of Many One”, whoever they were. It would be the first and only time The Meditations would play the Hall on their own and not backing up a band with their formidable vocal harmonies as they had done with so many other reggae acts of note like Gregory Isaacs, Jimmy Cliff, and The Congos. This would also be the final time I would see Sugar Minott, since he would pass away unexpectedly eleven years later at the young age of 54, the cause of death still undetermined, but probably due to a previous heart condition. I did however enjoy his contribution to the reggae Radiohead cover album by the Easy Star All-Stars, singing vocals on their version of “Exit Music (For A Film)” in 2006. In a sad coincidence, I would see The Cranberries at The Warfield the following Monday, which would be the last time I’d see their singer, Dolores O’Riorden, who would also die young in 2018 at the age of 46.
The Cranberries, Jude, War., SF, Mon., May 17, 1999
SETLIST : Promises, Animal Instinct, Loud & Clear, Ode To My Family, Sunday, Linger, Wanted, Salvation, Saving Grace, You & Me, Daffodil Lament, I Can’t Be With You, Waltzing Back, Ridiculous Thoughts, Delilah, Zombie, (encore), (unknown, but probably Pretty, Shattered, When You’re Gone, and/or Desperate Andy), Dreams
I had gotten to know The Cranberries rather early in their appearances in America, having been an opening act for Suede at The Warfield in 1993, then headlining there just a year later with MC 900 Foot Jesus. They got big fast back then. But it had been five years since I’d last enjoyed their sound live and I was eager to see them again, especially since they had released not one but two albums since, “To The Faithful Departed” in 1996 and “Bury The Hatchet” which had just came out less than a month before this show. They began their set with the latter album’s new single “Promises” and would play seven other new songs that gig as well. It hadn’t done as well commercially as their previous albums, but it still went gold. Opening that evening was Jude, a nasally voiced local singer/songwriter who had previously been a solo act, but had a band this time around. I had seen him open for Luna at The Fillmore in 97 and for Chris Isaak at The Warfield only six months before this, so I was becoming familiar with his work, though I believe this would be the last time I’d see him play.
Though this also would be the final time I’d see The Cranberries, it was obvious that they were on the top of their game then, this tour just beginning the month before, but going on to do a whopping 110 shows in total and not ending until the following July. On top of that, the band had just done a guest appearance on the TV show “Charmed”, playing their new song “Just My Imagination” which they naturally performed at this show, and would even play at the Nobel Peace Prize concert in Oslo that December. The band’s continued success catapulted their singer Dolores O’Riorden to international stardom and made her the fifth richest woman in Ireland at the time. They had a full house of enthusiastic fans that night at The Warfield, lots of women and certainly those of Irish lineage abound.
This would be the only time I’d see Dolores with her cropped, dyed blonde pixie cut hairdo incidentally, a cute look for her. Her ethereal voice was stellar as before and she had no trouble getting everybody to sing along to old tunes like “Ode To My Family” and especially for the chorus of “Linger”. She dedicated “Pretty” to all of the women in the house and took her shoes off near the end of their set as they began playing “Ridiculous Thoughts”. Listening to the show again, I found a new appreciation for Dolores’ singing in that her voice was not only angelic and powerful, but noticing for the first time her incredible diction. Some Irish singers like Shane MacGowan practically need subtitles when you hear them speak, much less sing, an accent challenging to decipher even to native Irish folks. I also realized that Dolores took a page from Siouxsie Sioux a little, who I had just recorded with The Creatures at the Maritime only nine days before this night.
Like I mentioned before, this would be the final time I’d see The Cranberries play, the reason being a tragic one. Like Sugar Minott who I had seen coincidentally only three days before this at the Maritime, Dolores would die unexpectedly at a young age, being only 46 years old when she accidentally drowned in a bathtub in 2018. Poor thing had struggled for years with insomnia and had developed a dependence on alcohol and sleeping pills, a dangerous mix that would cause her to slip into unconsciousness that fateful night in the tub. At least she had something to break the ice with Jim Morrison when she got to heaven, though he was almost twenty years younger when he died in his bathtub. Still, it was really heartbreaking to hear of her passing and in true Irish fashion, the night of the sad news, I got drunk and listened to her singing “Dreams” at Woodstock ’94 over and over again, weeping profusely. That was the final song I’d hear her play at the end of their encore that last show.
Wilson Pickett, Nick Gravenites & Friends, Faye Carol, Maritime Hall, SF, Fri., May 21, 1999
Many a lay person already knows Mr. Pickett’s music even if they didn’t know his name, myself included before this occasion. Of all the first sources of those covering his music that I would know, it was none other than stars from the World Wrestling Federation who did a music video in 1985 singing, “Land Of 1000 Dances”, a song Wilson made famous, though it was originally recorded by Chris Kenner in 1962. These wrestlers and their managers did shall we say less than a stellar rendition of this hit, but thankfully the singing talents of such people as Hulk Hogan, King Kong Bundy, Rowdy Roddy Piper, The Macho Man Randy Savage, and George “The Animal” Steele hasn’t been unleashed on the general public since as far as I know. A more respectful tribute in popular culture to Wilson would come six years later with the release of Alan Parker’s 1991 film, “The Commitments”. Indeed, Wilson would be inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame that year as well and it’s safe to say that this movie helped win votes for him.
In that film, a struggling group of Irish musicians form a soul band with that name and performed several standards in their repertoire including “Mustang Sally” and “In The Midnight Hour”, which revived mainstream culture’s interest in Wilson and his career. Wilson himself was sort of a “Waiting For Godot” character in the movie, the band members hoping for him to appear at one of their gigs to join them on stage, though ultimately, he never did and the group eventually disbanded. In a strange coincidence, the veteran trumpet player in the band called Joey “The Lips” Fagan was played by Johnny Murphy who I would see act in a small stage production of “Waiting For Godot” in Dublin, Ireland when I was on spring break from classes in London when I was studying overseas there in 1992. Anyway, apart from these two widely divergent examples of Wilson’s work, I knew little more than that about his career and influence on music in general, though I knew he was important.
This made it all the more surprising when Pete left me this show to record. It was downright shocking that he not only gave a legend like Wilson for me to do, but also openers Nick Gravenitis and Faye Carol, both local soul fixtures of the bay area. Pete had known Nick personally for years from his long career playing with Electric Flag and Michael Bloomfield amongst others. Pete had already recorded Nick’s expert guitar work twice at the Hall, once during the Doug Kilmer Benefit in 1997 and again a year later opening for Toots & The Maytals that New Year’s Eve. Yes, “Nick The Greek” was mine to do that night and I was honored. He played a long set that night as well, so long in fact that Wilson literally didn’t begin his set until after “The Midnight Hour” (ba-dum-boom!) That night, Nick told a funny story about how the “Wicked” Wilson Pickett lived up to his name. When he and Michael Bloomfield started The Electric Flag, they stole Wilson’s drummer at the time, Buddy Miles. Buddy, the esteemed drummer of the Band Of Gypsies, incidentally had played a very long set of his own, headlining the Hall in May of 1997. Though a long time had passed, Nick said that both of them were in fear for their lives for years and hoped that Wilson had gotten over it by then.
As far as I could tell, all was copacetic and Wilson didn’t mention it, not on stage anyway. I suppose it was easy for him to bury the hatchet considering how things were going for him at this time. Like I said, “The Commitments” was a big shot in the arm for his career. He had cleaned up his act from ages of cocaine and alcohol abuse and had even been nominated for a Grammy for his latest album “It’s Harder Now” that year. Wilson also made a cameo in the “Blues Brothers 2000” reboot movie, though it was a commercial and critical flop. Speaking of disappointing movie franchises, the long awaited prequel “Star Wars Episode I : The Phantom Menace” had just come out two days before this show and naturally, I was the nerd in the front row for the midnight showing. As most who stayed up late to witness its debut, I was left with a sort of “What just happened?” feeling and frankly am still getting over it to this day.
But I’m happy to report that Mr. Pickett did not leave me or anyone else in the Hall that night with that feeling. There was no shortage of sweat drenched, dirty dancing down on the floor that set as he covered all his big hits. He brought up a couple people on stage near the end and had them sing a verse or two, cracking everyone up with his over the top shocked reactions to the eccentric performances. It was easy to have fun at a show like this with all formalities confidently chucked out the window. And though as usual, nothing came from my recordings, the privilege of getting to tape this legend wasn’t lost on me and remains one of my proudest achievements during my short time taping at the Hall. It is especially a milestone since I believe this would be the final time Wilson would perform in the bay area, at least the last time I’d ever hear of him playing around here. He would pass away in 2006, just two months shy of his 65th birthday sadly, an age too young for his genius, but outliving many of his soul contemporaries like Sam Cooke, Marvin Gaye, and Otis Redding. But thanks to him and the many gifted people in the whole Stax Records scene, the world gained a lot more soul at a time it was desperately needed.
Slick Rick, System Of Beyond, Planet Asia, M.O.S., Maritime Hall, SF, Sat., May 22, 1999
We went from one soul legend at the Hall the night before with Wilson Pickett to a hip hop legend the following night. Yes, yours truly got to tape one Mr. Richard Martin Lloyd Walters, otherwise known as Slick Rick. The one and only Slick Rick the Ruler would grace the Maritime accompanied by a handful of entertaining openers. Though I don’t remember much about the others, I did enjoy Planet Asia and would see him in the years to come many times on his own and in the Cali Agents with Rasco. He was still brand new back then and had just released his first self-titled EP only the year before this show. Now, to be honest, I didn’t know Slick Rick at all, though I knew of the hip hop classic jam, “La Di Da Di” which he did with Doug E. Fresh & The Get Fresh Crew. I did learn afterwards that he was the third artist to be signed to Def Jam and would release “The Art Of Storytelling” only three days after this show, his highest charting album which went gold in it’s first month.
This would be a triumphant return for Rick, having just put a long legal ordeal behind him, ending a five year prison sentence in 1997. He had gotten entangled in a feud with an ex-bodyguard who had been threatening and trying to extort him. Rick tried to shoot this guy, injuring but not killing him, and paid the price, being convicted of attempted murder. While incarcerated, they did allow him a furlough to come out and record the aptly titled album, “Behind Bars” in 1994, but this would be the first new material he’d put out since then. “The Art Of Storytelling” would feature collaborations with such hip hop royalty as Outkast, Nas, Canibus, Redman, Snoop Dogg, and Raekwon, and amongst his old hits, there were certainly a handful of new ones showcased that evening.
One of the things I liked about Rick, as I’m sure most do, is his infectious rap style. As the new album’s title suggested, his manner was that of a teller of tales, even reminiscent of ancient scribes of old. Like Rakim or Del Tha Funkee Homosapien, he was one of those rare rappers who never screamed or shouted his lyrics, presenting each syllable with crystal clear diction through his pronounced London accent. Likewise, it was even rarer to hear any rapper with such an accent, at least one that wasn’t part of the whole Bristol trip hop scene at the time. Yes, though he had long since relocated to New York City, Rick was from London, though he was already easy to differentiate from other rappers primarily due to his eye patch. I was so stupid and naive back then, that I thought it was some sort of prop, but he was indeed blind in one eye, from an injury he received from broken glass when he was an infant. If that wasn’t enough to make him stand out, certainly his jewelry did. Yes, Rick was adorned that night in his customary assortment of chains and rings, his teeth laden with thick gold grills. The value attached to the precious metals on his person probably was worth more than most make in a year, certainly more than what I would make.
But adornments and English accent aside, Slick Rick was by no means a snob and made everybody feel welcome at the party. In his short, but sweet set, he got everybody’s hands in the air and the ganja clouds billowing. And I have to say, that my encounter with Rick at the end of the night was one of the most pleasant experiences I’ve had handing off tapes to folks at the Hall. He was a real gentleman and thanked me warmly. He’s the kind of guy who automatically puts you at ease and of all the artists I met at the Hall over the years, Rick was one of the few who gave me the genuine feeling that we could be friends. Though this was the only time I’d see him play, he’s still around, so I might get another chance some day. I did however manage to see Doug E. Fresh play the Independent years later and he naturally played their hit, “La Di Da Di”, and Snoop Dogg covers it practically every time I’d see him perform as well.
Blondie, Dangerman, War., SF, Sun., May 30, 1999
SETLIST : Dreaming, Hanging On The Telephone, Screaming Skin, Atomic, Union City Blues, Shayla, Sunday Girl, Maria, Call Me, The Tide Is High, In The Flesh, Boom Boom In The Zoom Zoom Room, Rapture, One Way Or Another, (encore), Heart Of Glass
I’d been waiting for this one a long time, all my life really. From as long as I could remember, I looked upon the visage and heard the siren song of one Miss Debbie Harry and like Olivia Newton-John and Daisy Duke, I was irresistibly drawn to her, but had no idea why. It wouldn’t be until March of 1997 that I would first set eyes upon her in person when she would perform alongside the Jazz Passengers at The Fillmore. There, I would hear but one Blondie song, that being a bebop rendition of “One Way Or Another”. So, you could imagine my elation when I heard that not only were the seminal New York band at long last touring again, but they were going to grace the stage of The Warfield. Though I was just shy of 27 and Debbie was turning 53 years old that year, but you’d better believe that I would have still gladly volunteered to become her love slave for the rest of my days if she’d asked me that night.
It had been sixteen long years since they had toured together and with the release of their new album, “No Exit”, that February, Blondie had embarked on a thirteen month tour. Their long hiatus happened for many reasons, but one was quite serious, being that of guitarist Chris Stein’s health problems. Not only was he recovering from years of drug and alcohol addiction, but he had contracted pemphigus vulgaris, a rare autoimmune disease of the skin. This heinous condition caused a number of debilitating symptoms, most obvious being skin blisters, but that wasn’t the least of it. This condition used to be 90% fatal, but with recent treatments, had reduced mortality down to 5-15%. So, with Chris’ recovery, he would once again take his place next to his former girlfriend and devoted bandmate. Stein also had the good fortune that year to get married to actress Barbara Sicuranza, whom he would later sire two daughters with.
Drummer Clem Burke had been keeping busy in the intervening years playing with an impressive list of reputable acts including The Romantics, Pete Townshend, Bob Dylan, The Eurythmics, Dramarama, The Fleshtones, Iggy Pop, and Joan Jett. It wouldn’t be until around this time that I grew to not only appreciate Clem as a drummer, but just how important a drummer is to a band in general. Indeed, in my opinion, many bands can be good, but they will never be great unless they have a good drummer and go so far to proclaim them the very bedrock foundation of any group. Blondie had also brought Jimmy Destri, their old keyboard player along with them as well. Debbie pointed out after they played “Sunday Girl” that show that Jimmy “has quite a history in San Francisco”, having an “infatuation or defatuation” with the town. His sister Donna used to sing backing vocals for Blondie back in the day, though she wasn’t along for the tour this time and Jimmy would ultimately leave the band again in 2004 to become a alcohol and addictions counselor.
As you can imagine, the show sold out quickly. I had never heard Dangerman, the lone opening act of the evening, but I was impressed by them, especially by Chris Scianni, their singer/guitarist. They had just released their self titled debut album that year on Sony/Epic 550, produced by the venerable Brendan O’Brien. Dangerman had an eclectic style, ranging from ska from one song to rock and latin beats the next. I didn’t get their set list, though I know the last few songs of their set were “Roll ‘Em Down”, “Let’s Make A Deal”, “Good Friend”, and “High Heeled Sneakers”. Chris introduced the first of those songs saying, “This one goes out to all those law enforcement who fuck with me, know what I’m saying?” Despite their obvious talent, their label didn’t really know what to make of them and failed to promote Dangerman as well as they deserved, and they were abruptly dropped just as quickly as they’d been picked up. Chris now works as a real estate agent in Colorado, though he still plays in a group called the Tangiers Blues Band and has done work sporadically with others including Bob Weir of the Grateful Dead. In between sets, a DJ from Alice came out to make announcements, mentioning an upcoming Ben Fold Five show as well as a raffle for tickets to the upcoming Lilith Fair.
But the night belonged to Blondie. They made us wait for it a little too. Before the lights went down and they took the stage, they played the theme song to the film “The Natural”. The cacophony of cheers from the sold out crowd grew steady as one by one, the band found their places, reaching a crescendo when Debbie emerged. There was no mistaking the opening riff of “Dreaming” as they began, though Debbie’s vocals were cut off during the first line of the song. One by one, they went through golden oldies and some of the new stuff, including their new hit single, “Maria”. I had to admit, the new one was catchy and yes, it did sound like a Blondie song and the other new tunes were good too. As big a fan as I was, there were plenty of hits and obscure tunes I would have like to have heard that night, but I understood that their time was limited. Blondie would release a live CD from this tour, simply titled “Live”, later that year in November, taking tracks from their gigs in Vegas, New York, Chicago, and the Glastonbury Festival, though no material came from this show.
A funny thing happened about halfway through the show. Somebody up front handed Debbie a bouquet of tulips to her and she at first grinned and said thanks. She then surprised us all taking a bite out of the top of one of them and spitting her mouthful of flower petals into the crowd. Say what you want about Blondie, but people tend to forget that they are still old school New York punks. Yes, they finished the night with their sugar coated smash hit, “Heart Of Glass”, but these guys used to play breakneck paced other lyrically disturbing songs like “X Offender” and “Rip Her To Shreds” at CBGB’s back in the day. Still, I was satisfied thoroughly by what I saw that night, though I was absolutely furious that they didn’t make a poster for it. At least they had one for their show at The Fillmore they would do three years later. It’s hard to believe that I’ve waited exactly twenty years since then to catch them again. Blondie is going to play out here with The Damned opening this May and neither hell nor high water is going to keep me from seeing that one.
Guinness Fleadh ’99: Van Morrison, Elvis Costello, Ben Harper & The Innocent Criminals, John Lee Hooker, Golden Gate Park Polo Fields, SF, Sat., June 5, 1999
(BEN HARPER & THE INNOCENT CRIMINALS) : Gold To Me – Fight For Your Mind, Burn One Down, The Will To Live, Faded, Roses From My Friends, Ground On Down, Voodoo Child (Slight Return)
(ELVIS COSTELLO) : Accidents Will Happen, The Angels Wanna Wear My Red Shoes, Talking In The Dark, Toledo, (I Don’t Want To Go To) Chelsea, New Amsterdam – You’ve Got To Hide Your Love Away, Any King’s Shilling, Oliver’s Army, Everyday I Write The Book, I Still Have That Other Girl, Veronica, God’s Comic, Alison, Long Journey Home, (What’s So Funny ‘Bout) Peace Love & Understanding, (encore), Pump It Up
(VAN MORRISON) : Moondance, Days Like This, Cleaning Windows, Vanlose Stairway – Trans-Euro Train, Help Me, Philosopher’s Stone, Naked In The Jungle, In The Afternoon – Joe Turner sings – Don’t You Make Me High – Sex Machine, Jackie Wilson Said (I’m In Heaven When You Smile), Georgia (On My Mind), Precious Time, See Me Through – Burning Ground, Gloria – Pretty Thing
Shows at the Golden Gate Park Polo fields came and went, usually no more than one a year, but this was a compelling one. It was being labeled as the “Guinness Fleadh”, the first word there obviously the festival’s sponsor, the second, the Gaelic word for “Festival”. This would be the first of four Fleadhs put on in America that year, the next three put on in Chicago, Boston, and New York City with a variety of acts taking turns on each bill. Luckily, we were spared having to endure Hootie & The Blowfish at this one. I had taken a particular fancy to attending since the headliner was Van Morrison, a musician revered globally and practically worshipped in the whole of Ireland, north and south. His reputation for having a quick temper and frankly being a bit of a prick proceeded him, but when taken in account with his undeniable talent, one can easily forgive him for his lack of social graces. Having never met him much less see him perform before, I cannot confirm or deny these allegations and as the years pass, I tend to lend such rumors less and less credence anyway. The other draw to this bill would be the penultimate act, Elvis Costello, whom I was already a big fan and had seen live before. Though his father was of Irish decent and his birth name was Declan Patrick MacManus, Elvis was actually born in London and spent his childhood and teenage years growing up in jolly old England.
Then again, there was virtually nothing Irish about Ben Harper and John Lee Hooker who preceded them both on the bill that day. I like to think if one ingests enough Guinness, they’d turn a bit Irish, at least temporarily. One act who was supposed to play that day was Shane MacGowan, arguably a man that was TOO Irish, if there could be such a thing. Sadly, Shane couldn’t make it being stranded somewhere with visa problems. He did make it to the Fleadh in Chicago 12 days later, but I wouldn’t have been able to see him anyway since he would have headlined the side stage and I was too dug in up at the main stage to catch Van Morrison. I’d already seen Shane at The Fillmore in 1995 and would see him play there twice more in 2000 and the following year with his band, The Popes, so no terrible loss, though I do appreciate that toothless git. Van Morrison’s daughter, Shana, who had been living in Marin county for years already, was also there on the second stage, but I believe she joined her dad later at his set to sing back up vocals for a bit.
Though I had received comp tickets for the show, it was still unlike me to arrive late, especially a festival with so much talent, but I was that day for reasons I don’t remember, missing both Moxy Fruvous and The Cardigans. I’d at least seen the latter twice before at The Warfield, but I was mortified that I only caught the last song of John Lee Hooker. Despite the fact that this would be the fourth time I’d see him play, I knew at his advanced age, at least 80 by then, though the actual year of his birth is disputable, that his days were numbered. My fears would be realized when he would pass away two years later, confirming this as the last time I’d see him alive. Brief as it was, I’m glad I caught a glimpse of him one final time. He would be ably followed by Ben Harper & The Innocent Criminals, an act that I’d gotten to know well, seeing him once every single year since I’d first see him open for Luscious Jackson in 1994. He always delivers and did again that day, sporting a yellow Toots & The Maytals shirt. Ben shredding on his pedal steel guitar is an ideal act for the middle of a festival like he did at the Mountain Aire festival the year before and I have yet to meet anybody who didn’t like his music. He did a smoking cover of Hendrix’s “Voodoo Chile (Slight Return)” that afternoon.
It had been three years since I saw Elvis Costello at The Fillmore, but he was still touring with just him and Steve Nieve, the piano player from his old band The Attractions. He had been going through a bit of a transitional period, having just left his old label, Warner Brothers, and moving on to Polygram. Also, his marriage to Cait O’Riordan was dissolving, their divorce finalized two years later. The good news was that he was in the mood to branch out to new things, beginning with a new collaboration with celebrated singer/songwriter Burt Bacharach. Elvis and Burt even performed “I’ll Never Fall In Love Again” together in the film comedy “Austin Powers : The Spy Who Shagged Me” that year. Elvis would also appear in the comedy “200 Cigarettes” that year as well. Pity Burt wasn’t with him that day. That would have been a hoot. At least he played “Toledo” a few songs into his set from the “Painted From Memory” album he did with Burt, a song Elvis described as being “about a man who betrayed his lover and he’ll do anything, anything known to man, only to man, to delay his confession.” He also did “I Still Have That Other Girl” from that album, introducing it as “a song about a guy who wants to give in to temptation. Have any of you given into temptation?… I know you’re very pure out there. This guy wants to give into temptation, but he still has something on his mind.” I got the feeling that this last album he did with Burt was more than just a little venting about the breakup of his marriage.
Also that year, Elvis contributed a song with Paddy Moloney from The Chieftains called “Long Journey Home” to the Grammy winning soundtrack for the PBS miniseries, “The Irish In America : Long Journey Home”, and he played that song near the end of his set. Lastly, if that wasn’t enough, Elvis appeared on the 25th anniversary special of “Saturday Night Live” that year, parodying his infamous abrupt switch of songs he did on that show in 1977, causing him to be banned from the show for another twelve years. Rumor has it show producer Lorne Michaels gave him the finger all the way through his performance. But this time, twenty two years later, he interrupted the Beastie Boys singing “Sabotage” and then they backed him up as he once again played “Radio Radio”. He didn’t play that song at the Fleadh, though he did dust off a satisfying number of golden oldies after being first introduced by some DJ from KFOG starting with “Accidents Will Happen” and then “Angels Want To Wear My Red Shoes”. He surprised us a little when he passionately covered the Beatles’ “You’ve Got To Hide Your Love Away” in the middle of performing “New Amsterdam”.
Elvis also did a funny little breakdown in the middle of “God’s Comic”, saying “I have to tell you this song came to me in a dream! I dreamed I saw the almighty being and he was bestride a giant (what sounded like) Bertram water van full of tropical fish, a glass of Tang in one hand and (something unintelligible) in the other, looking for the lost episode of ‘Buffy The Vampire Slayer”. Looking down at everything we’ve done with creation and boy is he pissed off, particularly in the field of popular entertainment. And the almighty held himself up by his mighty elbows and he said, ‘Elvis?’ and I said, ‘Uh-huh.’, ‘cus he’s a little behind in the times. He says ‘there’s a fellow up in heaven called Elvis and he sings all the time. It’s so sad that he died so young. Just think if he had lived a little bit longer, all of the wonderful songs he could have recorded.” Then he paused, kept riffing a little with Steve before singing, “Her name is Rio and she dances in the sand!” That got chuckle and somebody out in the crowd shouted up to him that they loved him in which he replied, “I love you too… The almighty says you’re OK”. He finished up his set with “(What’s So Funny) ‘Bout Peace, Love, & Understanding”, trading in his acoustic guitar for an electric for that one and brought it back for an encore, doing “Pump It Up”.
It was better late than never that I finally got to see Van Morrison. Hard to believe that by the time I set eyes on him, he had already put out his 27th studio album, “Back On Top” and this was almost 23 years ago. He’s done fifteen more studio albums since then. I was actually kind of struck on how Van looked, almost an amorphous everyman, partially because he hid a little behind his dark sunglasses, charcoal hat, and coat. It almost felt like he was incognito, like he was in the witness protection program or something, trying to blend in with his large band, horn section and all. Furthermore, he wasn’t much for chatting between songs, apart from the occasional “Thank You”. Strictly business for Van. But he opened his set with a song everybody on Earth was familiar with, “Moondance”, quickly reminding us all that we knew this guy’s work at least. And there was no hiding or a hint of reluctance in his voice, intensely soulful and strong.
I was relieved that he had the good taste not to play the ubiquitous “Brown Eyed Girl”, a song that is downright compulsory in weddings and karaoke nights alike. Van did however bust out the oldie “Jackie Wilson Said (I’m In Heaven When You Smile)”, a song I originally knew from Dexy’s Midnight Runners’ cover they performed on the UK comedy series, “The Young Ones”. In my usual youthful ignorance, I thought that was Dexy’s song up until just before then. He also played a rather unexpected bit of James Brown’s “Sex Machine” in the middle of “Don’t You Make Me High” as well as a respectful cover of Ray Charles’ “Georgia (On My Mind)”. One tune that was unmistakably his alone was “Gloria” which they ended their set with and Van introduced it saying that it was “a song ripped off from ‘You Pretty Thing’ by Bo Diddley”. Coincidentally, I had just seen Bo only three months before this opening for Tom Petty at The Fillmore and as luck would have it, Tom ended his show with “Gloria” as well. This unfortunately would be the only Guinness Fleadh I’d see, though I would get to see Van Morrison one more time at The Warfield a year and half later. I strolled through the thick fog out of the park at the end hearing the recording of “What A Wonderful World” sung by Louis Armstrong over the speakers.
Meat Beat Manifesto, Dub Pistols, DJ Hive, Maritime Hall, SF, Fri., June 11, 1999
It was a great disappointment to me that we couldn’t record Buddy Guy the night before this show. Though a completely different scene stylistically, coming in this night to do Meat Beat Manifesto helped soothe the loss of that one. Granted, Buddy had plenty of live material under his belt, but to have that legend amongst our list of talent recorded at the Hall would have been special, particularly since it was a safe bet that his buddy Carlos Santana would have likely shown up to jam with him. I can’t say whether he showed or not, though I have seen him play with Buddy before this. Opener Angela Strehli has quite an impressive singing voice and at least we had recorded Legion Of Mary previously. I believe this was around the time my future friend Frank Gallagher was touring as Buddy’s soundman, but I would become acquainted with the venerable Scotchman until a few years later.
I myself had recorded Meat Beat Manifesto only six months before they returned once again to the Maritime when they were part of the Electronica Hanukkuh, an all night festival which they were one of the middle acts. They had gotten a fair amount of time on stage that night, but this time, they were headlining and got a proper set. I was a little surprised that Pete would show up to this one to record since he had little to no interest in the genre. Things were looking good for MBM around that time. They had just won a Bammie for Outstanding Electronic Album that March and had their song “Prime Audio Soup” in the soundtrack for “The Matrix” which also came out that month. One of the openers, DJ Hive, a drum and bass artist from L.A. also had his song, “Ultrasonic Sound” in that soundtrack too. He just goes by the name Hive now, perhaps to not be confused with another DJ Hive who lives in Honduras. After watching the recent reboot of the film series with “The Matrix : Resurrections” that came out this year, I was reminded of the impact that movie and its soundtrack lent credibility to the genre to both the film and music history.
Another opener on the bill that night were the Dub Pistols, a group from jolly old England. They were still pretty new then, having just released their first album the year before, but they too would have a song put on the soundtrack of a major motion picture that year, the song “Keep On Movin’” in the film “Mystery Men” which came out that August. Like the show the night before, there would be another future friend in the house that night, Mark Pistel, who had replaced Jon Wilson in MBM and was touring regularly with the band. I wouldn’t become friends with Mark until around fifteen years later when he started doing work for IATSE with me, but when we did meet, he remembered that night as well as the Electronica Hanukkah. Brilliant man, Mark. He and the band were still touring, playing songs from their most recent album, “Actual Sounds & Voices” which came out the previous June, so the mostly played the same stuff I had heard the last time they were there. Pete as always made the mix stellar and there was plenty of strobe lights and fog machine action upstairs from us. Those guys made great music, impossible not to dance to. People forget with the almost universal presence of electronic music these days around the world that there were early pioneers such as Meat Beat Manifesto and they deserve credit.
Zebrahead, The Pilfers, Speak No Evil, Papa Roach, Maritime Hall, SF, Sat., June 12, 1999
SETLIST (PAPA ROACH) : Snakes, Walking Through Barbed Wire, Infest, Revenge, July, Broken Home, Legacy, Thrown Away
Pete had surprised me the night before showing up for Meat Beat Manifesto, being neither hippie nor reggae music and thus having little interest to him, but I knew I had the Zebrahead show to myself. Come to think of it, I don’t think he ever recorded any of the punk or punkish shows at the Hall. Zebrahead had been at the Maritime before opening for Far the previous July and I got that one too. They were good then as they were on this occasion, but neither show sold well, the balcony closed off and the floor less than half full. It was the best and worst of times for that band in 1999. They were at the height of their popularity, but were dealt the heartbreaking news of one of their singers, Ali Tabatabaee’s diagnosis of Hodgkin’s Disease right in the middle of the Warped Tour which they had joined shortly after this show. The good news is that after enduring chemo and radiation, Ali recovered and even continued writing music throughout this ordeal. The new songs would come out the following year with their new album, “Playmate Of The Year”. I would see Zebrahead one more time seven years later opening for Reel Big Fish at The Warfield, but this would be the last time I’d record them at the Hall.
This would also be the last time I’d record a band I’d grown infinitely familiar with at the Maritime, Papa Roach. Believe it or not, this would be the FIFTH time I’d tape those guys, easily making them the band I taped the most there. Well, Zero comes in a close second at four, but Pete was at the helm for three of those, though we could have done more of Zero’s shows if we didn’t get so sick of them. But that’s another story which I’ve already been over. In fact, I saw Papa Roach the last four times they opened for bands at the Hall in merely eight months. And yes, as I also mentioned before about them, they were just on the cusp of becoming big with their triple platinum, major label debut with Dreamworks, “Infest”, which had the hit single, “Last Resort”. But I would have one more time to hear them do their thing, the first of four bands playing to the handful of their buddies from up north in Vacaville up in front and an otherwise nearly empty Hall.
They didn’t phone it in and they never did. Whatever you might feel about them and their music, I am proud of Papa Roach. They got big, but they worked for it and I like to think that their frequent appearances at the Hall helped play a small part in their success. We were lucky to hear them perform four of the new songs that night, half their set, almost a year before their new album would be released. I’m glad I kept the recording for this last show, especially since it is the only one I have. Their singer, Jacoby Shaddix, came out in a matching earth toned, short sleeved, collared shirt and slacks, making him look a little like a UPS employee. But he sang his ass off as always, committed to his performance. Just before singing “July”, he joked, “Don’t be afraid to look like a dipshit since I’m on stage doing it.”
After that song, Jacoby leapt into the crowd at the beginning of “Broken Home”, but his arm accidentally clotheslined a young woman up front as he descended. He hugged her and apologized at the end of the tune saying, “I’m so sorry! I just pummeled this lady. I guess you should expect some flamboyancy and abuse when you come to a Papa Roach show.” He went on laughing, “You don’t know if I’m going to kick you or give you a hug. Maybe I’ll kick you AND I’ll give you a hug!… I think you’re all just jealous cus’ the voices are just talking to me inside my head.” He mentioned that they were playing in their home town of Vacaville at an all day festival with eight other bands soon and then strangely undid his belt, tucked in his shirt, refastened the belt and pulled it up to chest like an old man. Jacoby then bellowed, “This song is dedicated to every last motherfucker who wants to flip the fuck out with me and if you don’t, I’m gonna rip your fuckin’ hair out!” They finished with what would be the last song on their next album, “Thrown Away”, and after a short, but fun filled 37 minutes, they were gone and on their way. I would see Papa Roach a couple more times at Shoreline in 2001 as one of the opening acts at Ozzfest and a year later there headlining Live 105’s BFD. Yep, that’s how fast they got big.
They would be followed by the L.A. metal band called Speak No Evil, brand new having just released their first self titled album that year. This would be the only time I’d see them since sadly their guitarist Lee Rios died in a bike accident fifteen years later in Miami. Sadly, this would be the only time I’d see the following band, The Pilfers, a band that really impressed me. They were also new with a self titled album, led by former Toasters singer, Coolie Ranx. The “raggacore” band were just about to release their major label debut on Mojo Records, “Chawalaleng”, and as I hoped for every band I recorded at the Maritime, prayed that they would use some of my stuff for a CD or DVD. They didn’t, though they had tried to put together a live album from a show they did at CBGB’s which was never released and they split up in 2001, briefly reforming again seven years later.
Rahzel, Phife Dawg, Bukue One, Maroon Descendants, Maritime Hall, SF, Fri., June 25, 1999
I had been no stranger to the talents of beat box master Rahzel, having recorded him four times already at the Hall with The Roots, but this would be the first time he’d play there as a solo act. Little did I know that some of his vocal handiwork that night would be used in his debut solo album, “MTM 2000”, the following year, MTM standing for “make the music”. Yes, Rahzel took six whole snippets from the show that night and used them as interludes between studio tracks, consisting of tracks 1, 3, 6, 8,11, and 13 on the album, the tracks titled, “The Human Beat Box”, Super Dee Jay”, “Just The Beginning”, “For The Ladies”, “Wu Tang Live”, and “If Your Mother Only Knew” respectively. Unfortunately, my name was left out of the credits, simply stating that each track was written and produced by Rahzel M. Brown for Rahzel Enterprises Inc. and recorded at Maritime Hall, San Francisco. At least we got the venue and city. But I’ll talk about those tracks later. I would get to record Rahzel one final time five months later with The Roots at the Hall, but that would be the last time, indeed the final show that I would record at the Hall with Pete as my partner. I’ll get into that one when I reach November as well, a whole other story to be sure.
A couple more more incidental tidbits before moving on, good ol’ Rammstein had played the Hall with Soulfly five days before this, but once again they brought their monitor board and we could get a hook up to tape, so I skipped it. In hindsight, I should have at least watched the show, but I’d seen them both twice in the last two years, recording Soulfly both times they played the Hall, and decided to get my beauty sleep that night. Also Echo & The Bunnymen were originally listed on the monthly poster to play that night, but for some reason didn’t make it, though they would play the Maritime four months later and I was overjoyed to record that one.
On a sad note, this would be the final time I’d see Phife Dawg from Tribe Called Quest when he was alive. He had his well documented falling out with Q-Tip the year before bringing Tribe Called Quest to an acrimonious end for the time being and he was on his own, doing solo work as well as Rahzel. He would also release his debut album the following year, titled “Ventilation : Da LP”, but he would use no tracks I recorded on this gig. Poor Phife was already dealing with the debilitating symptoms of diabetes and he would require a kidney transplant in 2008 which coincidentally he had performed at UCSF just up the street from where I’m writing this now. That transplant would ultimately fail requiring him to get another in 2012, but he would ultimately succumb to his condition and pass away four years later.
The good news is that he and Q-Tip made amends and even toured again briefly in an effort to help pay for his medical bills, but their collaboration wouldn’t last, deteriorating personally once again all too quickly. It’s a pity. Phife was a talented rapper and knew how to please a crowd. Also opening that night and I’m glad to say is still alive and well was Bukue One AKA Tion Torrence. He was billed simply as Bukue as Phife Dawg was simply listed as Phife that show, most likely once again another all too common mistake Boots made in the ad listing. The show was added too late to make it to the monthly poster in time. Bukue One was brand new then as well, releasing his debut album “Lastarfighta” the year before. Hailing from the nebulous region between Berkeley and Oakland, his father was also a musician, once singing back up in Marvin Gaye’s touring band.
Though it was a pretty decent sized crowd, I don’t believe it was sold out. Like I said before, Rahzel did some funny interludes throughout the night between songs including an homage to the Wu Tang Clan called “Wu Tang Live” on the album. Rahzel has the uncanny talent to do beat box or rap and hum a melody of a song simultaneously and he did so there, covering “Wu Tang Clan Ain’t Nuthin’ To F’ Wit”. He also did some video game noises from “Mortal Kombat”, finishing with, “Scorpion wins! Fatality!” But the big hit, which would end up as the last song on the album and ultimately his signature song was “If Your Mother Only Knew”. There he would do the beat and the chorus at the same time, but pause in the middle to challenge the crowd, asking them “Ya all think I ain’t doin’ that shit? You don’t think I’m doin’ that shit? You think there’s some other shit goin’ on? I’m gonna slow it down a bit. I’m gonna slow it down a little bit so you can hear the pronunciation on everything I’m saying.” He then started back up, this time doing the song slower, rasping out the sexy line of the song title, inexplicably and seamlessly between his beats. The crowd was amazed and I was too. On the album, there is a pause afterwards on that last track leaving a couple minutes of silence before revealing a hidden track at the end where Rahzel teams up with Kenny Muhammed The Human Orchestra to do a beat box battle with DJ Skribble & DJ Slinky. It was a funny bit, also filled with kung fu fighting sound bites. Seriously, there are very few people in the world who can do what Rahzel does, which makes me all the more proud that my stuff ended up on his album, especially it being his first album. Like I said, Rahzel would return one more time to the Maritime with The Roots that November, but he would soon leave the band for good and fellow beat box expert Scratch would go too in 2003.
Lost At Last, DJ Adam & Gamma Ray, Gabe Real / Miss E, Maritime Hall, SF, Sat., June 26, 1999
It had been only six months since hippie fusion rock band Lost At Last played the Hall, that time backing beat poet Terence McKenna. They were the opening act then for Jai Uttal, but they were back this time as the headliner and since I already went through their backstory before, I’ll just get on with it. The show was being listed as a benefit for the Climate Theater, but the tickets were still pretty cheap, being only $15. This was clearly a crusty crowd, all steam-punk, (mostly) young hippies gearing up for Burning Man. Indeed, the MC of the evening spoke of it which I’ll get into later. Among the drummers standing in the crowd beating their harnessed toms and snares, fellow revelers had erected a cloth banner in the form of a hornless, devilish face between two poles and held aloft. The mouth of the face was agape and large enough for several people to fit through and served as sort of a portal to and from their strange hippie realm. One of the drummers had a black furry hat with horns on it, reminiscent of Fred Flintstone when he attended his Loyal Order Of Water Buffalos gatherings.
The MC emerged eventually from the mouth of the giant face and addressed the crowd, his wireless handheld mic at first not working, but eventually turned on and brought up to a decent volume. He was quite a theatrical young man, clad in a tall burgundy top hat and matching waistcoat, definitely looking like he just stepped out of the Edwardian era. He spoke boldly saying, “Welcome!” a bunch of times, his voice growing louder each time until he was yelling. He went on, “Ladies & gentlemen, boys & girls, welcome to white heat, white lights! A techno tribal ritual and celebration” then saying under his breath, “Whatever the hell that is.”
He continued, “We tonight are a celebration, a family of diverse communities that have come together to give you a taste of our revels in the desert. But on the night of September 4th, 1999, just a few short months away from…” then his voice delved into deep drone, “the millennium!”, his voice then returning to normal, “an estimated twenty to twenty five thousand people will gather in the Black Rock Desert of Nevada.” Somebody cheered, “Rock City!” and the MC confirmed, ”Yes, Rock City! You said it right and our city’s so big! It’s a city, is it not? It has to be a city. It’s so large our celebration this year is going to take the form of a clock and at the center of our clock, there will stand a lone figure, a lone figure that waits this moment each year, attended by everyone, his consumption by glorious flame! Let me hear you say Amen!”
The crowd cheered and he kept preaching, “Oh yeah, Amen! And brothers and sisters, let me hear you say Amen when I say that heroes die to be reborn! Ladies & gentlemen, boys & girls, brothers & sisters, I have good new for you. Tonight, we are that hero!” His voice then immediately dropped and muttered quickly, “slash heroine”, then returning to normal, “And together in the circle we shall be initiated, together in that circle”, then dropping to a whisper, “we shall be reborn.” His voice shot up, “We are the circle! We are the tellers and tell-E’s! We are the story! If it’s a story, what kind of story is it?” He scanned the crowd listening as they shouted out random answers and pointed about until fixing on one person, “Yes, anybody? What is that? Ding! Ding! Ding! You won the prize. Dark Angel, please?”
A slender, dark haired goth lady emerged on stage and presented the one in the crowd who guessed “Love Story” a stuffed polka dotted elephant. The MC smiled and said, “We aim to please at the Resurrection show. Oh, you win this lovely prize. But wait, there’s more! You get an autographed picture of me! Oh yeah, check out those pants. So friends, if it’s a love story, don’t we need a couple of lovers? Do we have any lovers here?” He pointed to a pretty, young girls on stage in a cloth, white dress and said, “Why you, yes indeed. I believe you fit the bill quite perfectly.” A couple ladies on stage sat on stools and started singing a high pitched “Hoooooo” in harmony while one of them played an acoustic guitar and was eventually joined in by another fellow with them also on guitar.
The young woman in white was joined in the center of the dance floor by a young shirtless man wearing matching white, cloth trousers and together they did a sort of “love dance”, undulating and embracing each other. But their semi-erotic gyrations were soon interrupted when they found themselves surround by some black clad dancers bearing torches and others with long sticks protruding from their fingers and aflame on their ends. They encircled the lovers clearly now in distress and all the while the MC kept ranting on. The male dancer finally made his way to the mouth of the face banner and crept towards it, at first blocked by a couple guys with crossed swords in his way. The dancer eventually got past them and then the MC invited everybody in the audience to “follow into the underworld”. Shuffling through a few people at a time, the crowd passed though the mouth and then there was more drumming and people dancing with torches. Seriously, if the Fire Marshall was there and I can’t say if he was, he would have a conniption seeing all this fire lunacy going on. As far as I know, there were no injuries. Coincidentally, Rammstein had just performed at the Hall with their usual impressive arsenal of pyrotechnics six days before this, but we couldn’t record them because they had brought their own monitor board again and we couldn’t get the hook up to tape.
Anyway, back to the show. A single smart light fixture had been set out in the middle of the dance floor and was lit up, projecting a swirling cone of white upwards to the ceiling through the thick cloud from the fog machines, burning sage, and marijuana smoke. As the MC droned on asking stuff like, “Would you die for love?”, the speakers started blasting this long, ambient keyboard intro that I’d hear Moby use for opening his sets after that year. Two performers on stilts emerged from the mouth of the face banner, dressed in a futuristic armored looking outfit, lined with pulsating, colorful, thin, bendable light snakes. On their heads were similarly lined, long bike helmets, reminiscent of the heads of H.R. Giger’s Aliens. They stomped and danced about looking like extras from “Tron”, thankfully given enough room from the revelers as they not get knocked over.
After they lumbered away, a bunch of young men and women in white togas emerged, who I like to call The Lone Tree Worshippers, an obscure in joke with some old friends that I won’t delve into. They were true commune types, doing their sort of dance around the maypole thing with the light on the floor and one by one the band started taking the stage. It started out real slow with them, the band accompanied by a young, female dancer in a white veil swaying like a hypnotized cobra to the drone of the band. Finally, their singer, Jaya Lakshmi, came out with her cropped, blonde hair, white tank top, and painted colored dots on her face and midriff that glowed under black lights shining on stage. The others in the band were similarly adorned as they were the last time I saw them play at the Hall. The songs eventually picked up the pace and more fire dancers came out on the floor, this time with a couple shirtless guys spinning around short staffs with fire on the end like Darth Maul. The face banner had been disassembled by then and a couple white cloth, conical tee pees were erected on the dance floor, each lit up from inside. The shirtless fire dancers spinning their staffs were joined by another one, a bald fellow in a black body suit with white striped sleeves.
Seriously, I liked these guys. It wasn’t just this strange, bacchanalian scene. Lost At Last could play and was easy to dance to. It wasn’t often you’d see a harmonium in a live band either. That instrument makes any song sound like a gypsy tune. They also had a shirtless guy on stage who dinged a triangle and the drummer had glowing drumsticks. But I believe this was the last time I’d see Lost At Last perform. Jaya still sings and plays harmonium to this day, doing music and yoga with a fellow named Ananda Yogiji, performing at new age music & art festivals and hippie yoga retreats all over the west and Hawaii. Guitarist Deva Priyo still plays with a band called Gypsy Moon as well. The show was a sight to see that night and like Crash Worship, is one of those things I’d like to show unassuming folks from parts elsewhere if they’re curious to see an example of a typical night’s entertainment in the city by the bay.
Sunny Day Real Estate, Mike Watt & The Black Gang, Sunset Valley, Maritime Hall, SF, Sat., July 3, 1999
It had been only eight months since I taped Sunny Day at the Hall for the first time, but I was happy to see them again. I enjoyed their unique, sophisticated music and I remember that our front of house engineer, James Shaw, was a fan as well. James was a talented guy and a bit of a smart alec, and though I’m sure he thought very little of my skills as a sound man, probably and rightfully so, I still admired him. But it is always a ringing endorsement when a sound guy likes your stuff. Anyway, Sunny Day were still touring supporting their last album, “How It Feels To Be Something On”, so it basically was the same show as before. It would be the last time I’d see them live since they would break up two years later, though they would have a brief reunion in 2009 which I missed. And as I think I mentioned last time, they wouldn’t use any of my recordings for an album, particularly since they already had one in the can from their show that May at The Breakroom in Seattle, their home town.
One good thing about this gig was that I got to tape master bass player and songwriter extraordinaire Mike Watt. From Firehose, to playing with Porno For Pyros, to his solo work and beyond, Mike was a tireless musical workhorse. I mean, the list of his collaborations even by then all those years ago was impressive. This time he was touring with a band he called The Black Gang. And like his demeanor on stage, Mike was genuinely nice to me when I handed him his tapes at the end of set. The man is like a ray of sunshine. Anybody who doesn’t like Mr. Watt is not worth knowing. So, it was sad to hear a year later that he came down with a nasty infection in his perineum. For those who don’t know what that is, well… there’s no way to put this delicately. It was his taint. There, I said it. It put him out of commission for a while, but I’m happy to report that he recovered and went on to continue making music. I would get to see him again three years later opening for Mission Of Burma at The Fillmore. Then, he was touring with a new band he called The Secondmen, an obvious parody of his first band, The Minutemen.
Jamiroquai, Union Square, SF, Sun., July 4, 1999
SETLIST : High Times, Alright, Space Cowboy, Soul Education, Virtual Insanity, Planet Home, Supersonic, Miss You, Getting Down, Too Young To Die, Black Capricorn Day, Light Years, Deeper Underground, (encore), Canned Heat
It is a very rare occasion when a show takes place on Independence Day, partially I think that venue employees would likely get holiday pay. But this was one of those rare shows where it did. To make it even rarer it was one of those free shows put on in Union Square and I’m afraid the last of such shows put on there, or at least the last one I would see. Union Square got renovated shortly after this and though they would host occasional music, dance, and whatnot, it never was any bands of note, none that would remotely draw a crowd like this one. I think the only other free Union Square show I saw was Lush back in 1992. And like that glorious show, Jamiroquai also packed the place front to back. I would say around 8,000 people would be a fair estimate. It had been two years since I’d see Mr. Jason Kay play at The Warfield. Though his big hit, “Virtual Insanity” had been out for a while, he clearly was still a big draw. Researching this, I discovered that there even was an official Jamiroquai wall calendar made that year.
So, the crowd went nuts as he took the stage in one of his trademark big hats. I believe this time it was a big. black furry one. He had quite a few musicians with him, changing in and out for solos, at least eleven of them. After a few songs, he joked about it being the 4th of July saying, “Well, my my, it’s a good job that over 200 years ago you got away from us or else you’d have police with big tits on their head carrying truncheons. Then you’d be eating sandwiches and talking like me and drinking cups of tea, doing all that thing.” He went on, “started off this morning and there were three people right up front.” Someone in the crowd obviously got his attention and he laughed, “Hey! That’s a nice ass but can you put it away till later? Please, put that ass away!” Unfortunately, this was one of those cases where my batteries started running out in the middle of the show, so the recording speeds up gradually until I finally replaced them in time for the encore. Still, even sped up, Jamiroquai’s diction is so excellent, that I had no trouble deciphering his lyrics and getting all the song titles.
After the first four songs, he did his aforementioned big hit and then he pointed to the large building on his right and joked, “Oh my God! There’s somebody robbing the underpants from Macy’s!” A couple songs later, he did a rather respectable cover of “Miss You” by The Rolling Stones, obviously a big influence on his work. During “Get Down”, Jamiroquai had someone join him on stage to do a jazzy flute solo. For “Deeper Underground”, the last song of the set, he introduced it by asking, “Did anybody see ‘Godzilla’?” The guy to my right immediately blurted out, “Yeah. I didn’t like it.” Yes, the Matthew Broderick movie put out the previous summer was a critical failure and barely made the money back to pay for its bloated production. Jamiroquai quipped, “I only heard it for about three seconds in a bar scene. Oh my God! That’s huge! Look out behind you!” Just as well, I suppose. That movie is best forgotten. Anyway, it was an upbeat song and it was unique that he brought out a didgeridoo player for that one.
Jamiroquai came back for one more song for his encore, saying, “I would like to take this opportunity to thank our sponsors for the last five to six years, Levi Strauss.” Incidentally, Levi’s was founded in San Francisco if you didn’t know. He continued, “This tune, hopefully we can remember. There’s like five different versions of it. We do know what we’re doing, don’t we?” They then tore into “Canned Heat”, a brilliant disco tune, even getting the crowd to do a few high pitched “Woo Woo” chants for a bit. Everybody was dancing joyfully and clapping as he pumped us up shouting, “Party people, do you feel alright?!? Put your hands together!” They got a rousing round of applause and calls for more songs at the end, but that was it. He waved goodbye and said, “San Diego, next stop! We’ll see you sometime later on!” Sadly though, this would be the last time I’d see him play. Jamiroquai made the ill fated decision to join the bill at the catastrophic Woodstock ’99 less than three weeks after this show. He understandably took a break from music for a while after that, but has since returned to touring and writing new material. Maybe I’ll get another chance someday.
Joe Strummer & The Mescaleros, MXPX, Fill., SF, Tues., July 6, 1999
SETLIST : Digging The New, London Calling, X-Ray Style, White Man In Hammersmith Palais, Tony Adams, Straight To Hell, Rock The Casbah, Yallo Yallo, Brand New Cadillac, I Fought The Law, (encore), Techno D-Day On Omaha Beach, Tommy Gun, (encore), Down The Road, Forbidden City, Bankrobber
I missed my opportunity to see one and only Joe Strummer at The Warfield back in 1991 when he was filling in as the singer for The Pogues, the one time I could have seen him perform before this. I was however lucky enough to see Joe’s fellow Clash bandmate Mick Jones when he did a Warfield show that very same year with his band, Big Audio Dynamite II, though I can’t say I was a big fan of their music. The Pogues had temporarily lost their singer Shane MacGowan in 1991, leaving the band under the weight of his alcohol addiction and his attempt to have a solo career and was replaced by the band’s lead guitarist Philip Chevron. But then they had to have Joe pinch hit for Philip when he became ill. That Warfield show was over a year before I started ushering and frankly, I didn’t even hear about it happening until it was already over. I had grown up listening to The Clash, but had resigned myself to the fact that I’d never see them since they had disbanded in 1985. Joe had kept himself busy in the intervening years, writing music and even playing roles in Alex Cox’s movies such as “Sid & Nancy”, “Walker”, and “Straight To Hell”, a movie clearly named after his song which he also played at The Fillmore that night. Joe also had a bit part in Jim Jarmusch’s “Mystery Train”, playing a drunk who was pissed that everybody was calling him Elvis. But this time away from making records and touring, what he described as his “wilderness years”, would eventually come to a close with his new project, playing with The Mescaleros.
Joe had been struggling for years to get out of his contract with Epic Records and finally shook himself free of it in 1989 and immediately put out his first solo record, “Earthquake Weather” on Sony Records fronting a band he called the Latino Rockabilly War. But the album was such a commercial flop that he was quickly dropped by the label and then ten long years had passed before he was picked up again by Mercury, which he recorded the first Mescaleros album, “Rock Art & The X-Ray Style”, which would ultimately be released that October. So, we were all hearing his new material for the first time and were fortunate to hear five of his new tunes that night amongst his golden oldies. Opening that night were MXPX, a punk band from up north in Washington and like any young punk band, they were ecstatic to be opening for this pioneer of their genre. It’s not often most folks get to meet their heroes, much less collaborate with them professionally.
Speaking of meeting one’s heroes, I have to mention a cute story that happened with this show. By this time, my friend Liz Farrow, who would occasionally assist me recording at the Maritime, was working as a production assistant for BGP, and I had given her my old beat up Toyota Camry which she was using to run errands for them. As luck would have it, two days before this show on Independence Day, Liz was tasked to run down to the airport and retrieve Joe’s luggage which had been delayed and bring the luggage to his hotel room in Japantown, just up the hill from The Fillmore. I believe he was staying at the Kabuki. Anyway, Liz gets to his hotel room and Joe opens the door, taking the luggage with great relief from her and thanked Liz profusely. Apparently, he was so desperate to get them back since they contained his daughter’s Beanie Babies. They were all the rage back then.
Anyway, back to the show. MXPX played a spirited, though short set. The singer mentioned that we wouldn’t be seeing them for a while since they were about to record a new album which he claimed would probably be out in October. The album would be “The Ever Pressing Moment”, but wouldn’t actually come out until the following May. They did however release a live album exactly three weeks after this night called “At The Show”, recorded the year before at the 9:30 Club in D.C. I would see MXPX again five years later opening for Simple Plan at The Warfield. But the night belonged to Joe and his band and after eagerly awaiting him for what literally was my whole life up until then, the lights went down and he took the stage.
He opened with the appropriately titled, “Digging The New”, one fresh off the presses, but it didn’t take long for him to dust off “London Calling” immediately afterward. A couple songs later, they did “White Man In Hammersmith Palais” and Joe got a little miffed at the air conditioner blasting him on stage. It being the middle of summer, The Fillmore would crank it up then, but he wasn’t having it, shouting “Turn The AC off!” in the beginning of the song, then again “AC off!” between singing lines a little later. I assume they finally did since he didn’t complain about it after that. Afterwards, Joe introduced his band, describing his Scottish bass player Scott Shields as coming “from north of the border”. He then talked about the song “Tony Adams”, saying he wanted to “talk to the ladies if you don’t mind”. He went on explaining that back in the 1930’s, women’s soccer was so popular in England that their matches would command crowds of up to to 30 to 40 thousand fans, but “men got jealous” and “cancelled the whole show”, but was reassured that women’s soccer had a “modern lineage” and was thriving once again. Tony Adams, not to be confused with the Sinn Fein politician, was actually a ball player for Arsenal, but Joe said that the song wasn’t actually about him, claiming “it’s a song about going to a festival, losing your friends and losing your mind, and kind of enjoying it.”
Later, he riffed a bit between songs saying, “I’ve been hiding under a rock for 15 years. A lot of moss under there, ya? Anyway, I got some of the moss. I’ll have a look at the moss. Watch the way it slowly crept out of the edges of my cave, down onto the meadow, then it took over the meadow, and then it hit the hedge, then it hit the fence, then it hit the bridge, then it hit the ice rink. Then it took over the entire town and city beyond that, and then the country, then it took over the whole of Italy & Greece and all that shit. This moss is going places, so I decided to take this moss, get these honchos together, and get my ass on the road here!” The crowd roared with approval and then they began the instantly recognizable “Straight To Hell”. In the middle of the song, he got the audience to cheer again, shouting “Hey! We’re fuckin’ alive, ain’t we?!?”
A couple songs later, Joe dedicated his big hit, “Rock The Casbah” to Topper Headon, the drummer of The Clash. Following that, he did another new song, “Yallo Yallo”, and then introduced his cover of “Brand New Cadillac”, saying, “There’s only two British rock & roll songs. One is “Shakin’ All Over” by Johnny Kidd & The Pirates, OK? This is the other one by Vincent Taylor & The Playboys”. He finished the set with “I Fought The Law”, but soon came back for the first of two encores. The first song he did when he came back was a new one, “Techno D-Day”, which he was calling “Techno D-Day On Omaha Beach” then. Joe said that it was festival season in the UK and he was on one recently near a beach and he had brought his “incredible large calypso record collection” with him and when the cops came round to give the festival the third degree with their decibel meters, he would play them Harry Belafonte until they went away. Then they would blast their techno stuff with impunity. He finished the first encore with “Tommy Gun” but warned the crowd to “just be careful with the ladies up front here, mosh-heads.”
For the second and final encore, they did a couple more new ones, “Down The Road” and “Forbidden City”, before finishing with the classic, “Bankrobber”. I’m happy to say that The Fillmore made a cool poster for the occasion, featuring a bright red cartoon slot machine, adorned with flames and a devil’s head with a martini beside it. Damn good thing they had a poster too, since when Joe returned to play The Fillmore two years later, there wasn’t one. I’m so glad I also caught that show in 2001, since Joe would die of a heart attack a year afterward just a couple months after his 50th birthday. I almost didn’t make it to that last show too. Though my brother did take me to the Big Audio Dynamite II show back in ’91, he missed Joe when he played with the Pogues and both Fillmore shows, which I know he regrets. We all thought Joe would be around forever, but we all found out about his congenital heart defect when it was all too late.
The Go-Go’s, Berlin, The Lunachicks, Maritime Hall, SF, Wed., July 7, 1999
(BERLIN) : Masquerade, Touch, (unknown), No More Words, Steps, You Don’t Know, The Metro, Take My Breath Away, Sex (I’m A…)
(THE GO-GO’S) : Surfing, Head Over Heels, How Much More, Tonight, Vacation, He’s So Strange, Automatic, Lust To Love, Turn To You, This Town, Get Up & Go, I’m The Only One, Fun With Ropes, Cool Jerk, Beatnik Beach, We Got The BEat, Skidmarks, Our Lips Are Sealed, (encore), can’t Stop The World, Has The Whole World Lost It’s Head?, (encore), My Heart Will Go On, Johnny Are You Queer?
I had to wait five long years since I got to see The Go-Go’s for the first time when they reunited at The Warfield, but this night they were playing the Maritime and I was getting the honor to record them, or so I thought. Sadly, they had brought their own monitor board, and like all bands that bring theirs, we were unable to get to hook up our stuff to multi track record them, though we were able to tape the openers, The Lunachicks and Berlin, that night for which I’m eternally thankful. We were however able to figure out a way to pipe down a stereo feed from the front of house, giving us at least the board feed of what was feeding the show, and that coupled with our audience mics gave us at least a half decent stereo recording. I was lucky to get a copy of their set as well as Berlin’s and I can tell you, it was a hell of night.
There had been a bit of tension with The Go-Go’s that year because their drummer, Gina Schock, had sued the band to recoup royalties that was owed to her. But they had resolved the case that year and Gina was touring with them and by the looks of it, they were not only getting along, but having the time of their lives that show. Belinda was doing well for herself up till then with a successful solo career, singing such smash hits as “Heaven Is A Place On Earth”, “Mad About You”, And “I Get Weak”, and even released a greatest hits album from her solo work that year.
The first band on that night were The Lunachicks from New York City. They were talented as they were hilarious, the singer claiming that the band was there to “bring the turd back to Sa-turd-ay”. I remember they did a rowdy punk cover of “Just What I Needed” by The Cars. They had just released their final album, “Luxury Problem”, the month before and would disband a year after this show. Sadly, they wouldn’t use any of the live stuff I taped that night since they had already released a live album the year before called “Drop Dead Live”, recorded back in their home town at Coney Island High.
Next up was Berlin, who I had seen for the first time three years before playing The Fillmore. Like fellow LA rockers, The Go-Go’s, Berlin had recently reformed and were also having their share of legal wrangling. Singer Terri Nunn had wrestled the rights to use the band’s name from the other original members and was touring with a new band of ringers. I was happy to say Terri was very sweet to me that night and even addressed me by my first name. It is an astronomically rare occasion when any person of note calls me by my name, much less remembers it and she did once again when I set up Berlin’s gear at the Black & White Ball four years later. But like The Lunachicks, Berlin also had released a live album recorded elsewhere, theirs a year after this show taped at the Coach House in San Juan Capistrano called “Live : Sacred & Profane”. I can’t blame them or The Lunachicks. Most bands like to record their live albums on their own turf.
Though I was able to multi track record Berlin, they were tough to mix since it was excruciatingly loud on stage. I mean, they were up there with Motorhead, the noise bleeding into all the mics. I remember my dear departed friend Tumbleweed was alive and well working their monitors that night and said that they had him basically push all the faders up full blast. God bless that man for indulging them, especially since I believe Boots the owner gave him grief for it. A couple songs in, Terri pumped up the crowd asking, “Hello! How you like girl’s night so far? I’m loving this!” She went on saying that her back up singer had never worked alongside so many girls before and that the other guys were “ecstatic” and that they were “finally a minority”. A couple songs later, she introduced the song “Steps” saying “This is about my divorce!”
Afterwards she asked the crowd, “You having fun? So are we! We’re sweating our ass off too, are you? So, this next song you probably heard before and I want to dedicate it tonight to my God-daughter who’s in the audience. She’s just entering womanhood now and like all women that age she doesn’t know how beautiful she is yet. Well, you are. This is for you, Tera. It’s called ‘Take My Breath Away’.” Yes, they naturally played their big Oscar winning hit single from the blockbuster film, “Top Gun”. I had mentioned before that my wife loathes that song when I wrote about their 1996 Fillmore show, so I won’t go into that again. Speaking, of blockbuster films, I found out researching this show that Terri actually auditioned for the role of Princess Leia in “Star Wars”, but of course lost out to it to Carrie Fisher. Incidentally, I also learned writing this that Jane Wiedlin played Joan Of Arc in “Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure”. I’m not entirely surprised to have missed that since she was disguised with her bowl haircut and never uttered a word throughout the entire movie.
Anyway, like many people playing the Hall for the first time, Terri was wowed by the giant projection screens on the sides of the walls saying, “It’s really weird looking up and seeing your face 17 feet tall!” At the end of their set, Terri mentioned that they were going to come back soon to play with a bunch of bands at the Bay Meadows race track, but I didn’t catch that show. They wrapped it up with their racy hit song, “Sex (I’m A…)”. Between sets, I caught a glimpse of The Go-Go’s who had been using Grant’s office next door to the recording room as their dressing room and Gina and Jane smiled at me, though I was too bashful to talk to them.
The place was packed as The Go-Go’s took the stage to the sound of “Thank Heaven For Little Girls” from the film “Gigi” playing over the speakers. I even spotted a group of folks in the crowd dressed in bathrobes with facial masks and towels on their head like The Go-Go’s adorned on the cover of their first album, “Beauty & The Beat”. Like Terri, guitarist Jane Wiedlin and bassist Kathy Valentine were also impressed with the projection screens, pointing and smiling at them. Jane turned around and playfully bent over, displaying her butt a bit. The band opened with the instrumental song, “Surfing” and then their singer Belinda Carlisle sprang onto stage to sing, “Head Over Heels”. When the song was over, somebody handed Jane a white flower with a long stem and she attached it to her mic stand. They then did “How Much More” and then Belinda thanked the crowd shouting, “Bartender! A round for everyone!”, obviously a joke. She did go on asking for someone to bring her a glass of red wine before introducing “Tonight” saying it was from the aforementioned “Beauty & The Beat” album “recorded about 200 years ago.” They followed that with “Vacation”, a song to this day which gives me goosebumps, one of the best songs ever written in my opinion.
A few songs later, Belinda joked that “the next song is my punishment for being late to rehearsal. So, I get to look like an asshole for about 40 seconds.” She then started “Turn To You” doing a sort of silly, jazz scat intro to it. Meanwhile, Jane took off her shirt leaving her just with her black bra on for the rest of the night. It was understandable being the middle of summer and was sweltering in there, the show totally sold out. They then did “This Town” and afterwards Jane laughed, “I smell marijuana in here! You all are in big trouble!” A few songs later Belinda turned to her and said, “This next one is the oldest song in the set. Jane wrote it when she was about 3. Didn’t make it to the first album and we really regret it”, and then they performed the hilarious “Fun With Ropes”.
The band did a funny bit on the next song, a cover of “Cool Jerk” by The Capitols. Belinda ordered the band to “bring it down, listen up!” Jane smiled gleefully and obeyed, going so far as getting down on her knees as she strummed along, doing a bit of a limbo. Belinda continued, “Now I know some of you people are wondering why the hell are The Go-Go’s back again? Well, let me let you in on a little secret, my friends.” She then started rhyming to the beat, “As you can see, we’re still foxy, but time has took its toll. So we need some bucks for some nips and tucks before we get too old.” She then strolled over to the drum kit and went on, “Now, Gina Schock, she really rocks. You know she’s got the beat. So pitch in for a facelift, so she’ll look twice as sweet.” Gina laughed and did a little drum solo.
Belinda then sauntered over to her bass player and rhymed, “Now, Kathy here’s a sexy babe, as smart as she is pretty. But she’s dreaming of a C-Cup bra, cus’ she wants bigger titties.” Kathy grinned, then squeezed her breasts together and shimmied a little. The band continued the song shouting out instead of “Cool Jerk”, shouting “Implants!… Lipo!… Eye-job!… Botox!” and Belinda sang, “Gimme some collagen!” They then got everybody dancing to “Beatnik Beach” before immediately going into their big hit, “We Got The Beat”. During the first few bars of it, we all knew what we were hearing and the entire audience bounced up and down to to beat in unison. They went into “Skidmarks” which went seamlessly into the final song of their set, another big hit, “Our Lips Are Sealed”. Incidentally, Tom Hanks was recently given “The Colbert Questionnaire” on the late night talk show host’s program and when asked what his favorite song was, he declared that it was that one, even reciting its first verse.
When the band came back for their second encore, Belinda took a moment to introduce the band saying that she needed a break to “catch my breath”. She looked over at Jane and said, “To my far left, the girl in the bra, she has no shit on. She’s trying to get attention. Any takers? Miss Jane Wiedlin”. Jane took a bow. Belinda then stood by Kathy and joked, “On my immediate left, the girl who wants bigger titties. Actually, I like her titties just the way they are.” Jane blurted out, “Don’t mess with Texas!”, a homage to Kathy’s home town of Austin, and Belinda said her name and Kathy also took a bow. Belinda strolled over to Charlotte on guitar and slyly purred, “On my right, she’s strong, she’s smart, she’s sexy. She’s a mother, a proud mother… motherfucka’…Miss Charlotte Caffey!” She took a bow too. Charlotte had just given birth to her only daughter Astrid in 1995 and her husband is none other than Jeff MacDonald from Redd Kross.
Finally, Belinda went back to the drum kit and asked, “Hey babe, can I have a cigarette? I always bum cigarettes off of Gina. Anyway, I know it’s not politically correct to smoke up here, so don’t follow my example. On drums, from Baltimore, Miss Gina Schock!” Gina stood from her drum stool, took a bow, handed Belinda a smoke from a pack she had, and they both lit one up. Then Jane took her mic and said, “Last but not least, the person who makes me laugh more than anyone else in the world, the incomparable, the beautiful, the eternally voluptuous, Belinda Carlisle!” Then they surprised me a bit, doing a rocking cover of Celine Dion’s “My Heart Will Go On”, a tune made famous by the blockbuster film “Titanic” which had come out a couple years prior to this show. Like Berlin’s hit, “Take My Breath Away”, that song too won an Oscar for Best Song, not to mention a Golden Globe as well as sweeping the Grammies too. Come to think of it, this was probably the only show where I saw two different acts play an Oscar winning song each. Anyway, that tune morphed into “Johnny Are You Queer”, another song made famous in a film, that being “Valley Girl” with Nicolas Cage. Coincidentally, “Con Air” with Mr. Cage is playing on the TV right now as I write this.
Anyway, the show finally ended and I have to say that it was one of the best and most memorable I ever witnessed at the Maritime, or in my whole life for that matter. Like I said before, I got to set up Berlin’s gear four years later, but I heard of a embarrassing incident involving them just recently. They had the poor judgement of playing on New Year’s Eve at Mar-A-Lago immediately after Trump lost the election in 2020. If that wasn’t bad enough, they played alongside Vanilla Ice. Terri publicly apologized for showing up there afterwards and I guess I’d understand if she really, REALLY needed the money or if they were holding some her loved one’s hostage or something, but the damage is done. I felt bad for Vanilla Ice too, who I had recorded at the Maritime five months before this show and found him to be a very nice person.
It wouldn’t be long until I had the pleasure of seeing The Go-Go’s again for they would play a year later in Golden Gate Park at Sharon Meadows at the Alice’s Now & Zen Festival with Beck, Travis, and Tonic. I would however have to wait another eleven years until I would get a chance to catch them again, when they played The Fillmore, but sadly, I haven’t seen them since. They recently performed at the Masonic, but I had to miss it. I was able to catch their jukebox stage musical “Head Over Heels” a few years ago, scored entirely with songs from The Go-Go’s at the Curran theater before it moved on to Broadway. To add to the band’s accomplishments, I’m happy to say they were just inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame last year as well. So, as you might imagine, having this show under my belt remains one of the proudest moments of my career.
Indigo Swing, 008, Maritime Hall, SF, Fri., July 9, 1999
Swing music had its moment in the sun for a few of those years, but the tide of its popularity was near the end of its gradual ebb. San Francisco’s own Indigo Swing was one of the better bands that had been frequenting venues back then and I enjoyed them the last time they played the Hall five months before on Valentine’s Day with the B-Side Players. That was a classy show, but like that one, this night was sparsely attended, even though it was being billed as their CD release party for their new album, “Red Light!”. Their frontman John Boydston, AKA Johnny Boyd, would soon depart the band shortly after this show for good. He would be replaced by a young lady named Nicole Vigil and the band would shorten its name to simply Indigo, but they would eventually call it quits in 2001, having not found a record label to pick them up and that was that, gone but not forgotten. I still believe that swing music will never really die, being an integral part of the history of popular music and who knows? Maybe I’ll live someday to see another revival of this venerable genre.
Another band that came and went after this show was the opening act, 008. I had seen them once before opening for The Funky Meters at The Fillmore and thought they were pretty good. Their drummer, Morgan, was actually one of the house managers at The Fillmore at the time and I had known him previously from being a roommate of my friend Kenny, who was a fellow SF State student who studied a semester abroad with me in London. Kenny had lived in the ground floor of our building in West Kensington, affectionately known as “The Dungeon” and I and my flatmates lived on the top floor, known as “The Tower”. Anyway, Morgan dropped by the recording room before his set and I showed him some of our previous work, though I can’t recall which show we watched. I never forgot that he said our stuff looked like “German television”. Funny, because it was true, especially since we were still taping in the 4 X 3 format. Morgan was a gentle giant and I admired him, but he soon left The Fillmore and I can’t say where he ended up, but I wish him the best.
Beenie Man, Tanto Metro & Devonte, Hurricane Gilbert & Majestic, Maritime Hall, SF, Sat., July 10, 1999
It was a stretch that week, doing 5 shows in 6 days and this was number 4 and a late one at that. Pete, as previously mentioned a few times, had grown estranged from the scene at the Hall, leaving me to do this reggae show, a genre that he usually covered universally. In fact, Pete didn’t record any of the shows at the Maritime that month, not that I was complaining. These were all acts of high quality and I was proud to be at the helm for each and every one of them. This was real, bone fide Jamaican dancehall music too. There are few reggae fans around the world who don’t instantly recognize the name of Beenie Man and I caught him there just as he was at the cusp of the height of his stardom. The year after this show, he would release “Art & Life” which would earn him a Grammy for Best Reggae Album. The bad news is that after Pete ultimately left the Hall and I followed him, only substituting for our replacement, Wade, on a handful of shows, Beenie Man would play the Hall again nine months after this and the recording of that show would be used to make a CD. That hurt. I’m happy for Wade, for the few releases he got, but I would have liked to have this one under my belt. Regardless, I still have the experience of taping Beenie Man and hearing his music. I also enjoyed the openers, fellow Jamaican dancehall mainstays, Tanto Metro & Devonte and Hurricane Gilbert & Majestic, both talented acts. Incidentally, Hurricane Gilbert is named after the 1988 storm which really messed up Jamaica, seriously damaging 80% of the nation’s housing, leaving a quarter of the island’s 2 million citizens homeless, and killing over two hundred people. Incidentally, Boots did one of his usual fuck ups on the monthly poster and listed Tanto Metro & Devonte as separate acts.
Still, I can’t say I completely enjoyed Beenie Man live. It’s not that I don’t like his sound, it’s just after ten or twenty minutes of it, I start to lose my mind a little. Beenie Man, even by his own admission, has such a thick patois that most of the stuff he toasts is practically incomprehensible. When I hear him, I can’t help of thinking of the scene in the “Star Wars” parody, “Hardware Wars”, when in mocking frustration, Princess Anne Droid berates the indecipherable Darph Nader, “I don’t understand what you’re saying… Are you talking to me?” And like I said before, this was a late one, I mean really late, even for a reggae show. It was already a Saturday night, meaning it started at 9 instead of 8 and the openers went on late and long as well. I don’t think it ended until at least 2 am. After a couple hours of Beenie Man’s relentless barrage of tunes, abruptly halting mid-song and starting up again, then flowing into the next over and over, I was exhausted by the end of it all. After doing Gang Starr’s show the following evening, it was nice to finally get a good night’s sleep.
I haven’t seen him since that night, but I do remember hearing that Beenie Man got into a little hot water with the LGBTQ community a few years later. Some of his songs were, shall we say, less than complimentary to homosexuals, one even suggesting violence towards them, though he later refuted that interpretation. Under pressure from protests, Beenie Man was even removed from the 2004 MTV Music Awards. But he soon saw the light, never played those tunes ever again, publicly apologized, and even signed an agreement with other artists called the Reggae Compassionate Act in 2007, vowing to never perform any anti-gay material. I remember my friend Terri, a devout reggae fan and lesbian, was particularly upset with him at the time around this show. I lost contact with Terri over these long years, so I can’t say if she ever forgave him. He understandably wants to put the whole matter behind him forever, especially these days when such lyrics would be utterly unthinkable, at least in San Francisco.
Gang Starr, Bored Stiff, Foreign Legion, Jay-Biz, Maritime Hall, SF, Sun., July 11, 1999
Though I knew very little about Gang Starr before this show, I was aware of their reputation as one of the finest east coast rap acts around. The simple fact that my friend Tory manning the video switcher that night was excited to see them was a reliable endorsement enough. Tory had much keener taste in hip hop at the time and I’m sure he still does to this day. Gang Starr was riding high in their career, one could argue the peak of their popularity. They had just released their fifth album, “The Moment Of Truth”, in March of ’98 and it only took two months for it to go gold. It would be their most commercially successful album as well as receiving heaps of praise upon it critically. Additionally, they went on tour later that year supporting Rage Against The Machine when they too were at the height of their game. Gang Starr was primarily headed up by their frontman Guru, which stands for Gifted Unlimited Rhymes Universal, and DJ/Producer, DJ Premier. Together they put on seriously entertaining set, I mean these guys were tight. Guru has a powerful, yet precise and clear vocal technique that I’ve only heard matched by a couple of other east coast contemporaries such as Chuck D and Rakim.
I also enjoyed the support acts that night, especially Foreign Legion, a trio from the bay area, fronted by Prozach, a skinny white shrimp of a man, and Mar Stretch, a black fellow at least a foot taller than him and twice his mass. They made an eccentric pair and I guess it shouldn’t be that weird that they would have met working in a strip club. Stretch was a DJ there and Prozach had kept the bar maintained and stocked the place with cleaning supplies, which rest assured most such places needed desperately. Anyway, with their clever and formidable rap skills as well as DJ Design on the ones and twos, they got the crowd warmed up nicely, followed by Western Addition and Fillmore locals, Bored Stiff. I’m glad Gang Starr came back to play the Hall only four months later, for I would never see them again. Poor Guru would succumb to myeloma in 2010 at the all too young age of 48. Such a pity to lose such talent so young, especially with all the lousy rap acts out there that get to live.
The Cult, New American Shame, Bif Naked, War., SF, Thur., July 15, 1999
SETLIST : Lil’ Devil, Sun King, Rain, In The Clouds, Edie (Ciao Baby), Fire Woman, The With, Peace Dog, New York City, Revolution, Sweet Soul Sister, Wild Flower, She Sells Sanctuary, (encore), American Horse, Love Removal Machine
It’s a very rare occurrence that I see a concert on my birthday, though it being in the middle of summer, one would think there’d be shows lined up on that day all the time. But really, there haven’t been that many at all. It is even a rarer occurrence that I would work on my birthday, having done it only once for a union call, which I did for a favor for one of our business agents and instantly regretted. But to my memory this Cult show was the only time I actually ushered on my birthday and though I was hesitant to do it, especially since I would have to work through two opening acts and it was sold out, it went off fairly smoothly and I was in a good mood all night. I turned 27 years old that evening, the notorious “rock star death” age AKA “The 27 Club”, taking down such notable ones recent ones like Kurt Cobain and Amy Winehouse, as well as veterans like Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Brian Jones, Robert Johnson, Pigpen from The Dead, and Jim Morrison. So, young and dumb as I was, I had the wisdom at least to take it upon myself to be a touch cautious that year and I’m happy to report I’m still around all these years later. So far, so good… knock on wood.
It had been over four years since I had last seen The Cult and it was a good thing I saw them back then when I did. Shortly after that previous Warfield show, the band fell to pieces and didn’t get back together until this one. Singer Ian Astbury had spent time in those interim years with a side project called the Holy Barbarians as well as releasing a solo record. But he reformed The Cult with original guitarist Billy Duffy and had recruited Matt Sorum on drums as well as ex-Porno For Pyros bassist Martyn Lenoble. It’s easy to spot Martyn, being skinny as a rail, smiling with his mouth of crooked teeth. They all were brand spanking new on tour having played the first time back together only a month prior at the Tibetan Freedom Concert in L.A.
First to open that night was Bif Naked, a Canadian singer/songwriter, originally born in New Delhi and covered in tattoos. Her third album, “I Bifics”, would be released in the states only twelve days after this show and though I only recorded one of her songs that night, it was a new one called “The Peacock Song”, the first in her set. She said that although they were from Vancouver, she was a San Jose Sharks fan, a brave thing to say for a Canadian hockey enthusiast. I also only got a couple songs of the following opening act, New American Shame from Seattle. I know the first one was called “Broken Bones”, but can’t name the second. They were a pretty solid rock & roll band and a worthy opener for The Cult, but their career was short lived, so I’m glad I caught them when I did. They had put out just one self titled album on Atlantic four months before this show and quickly disbanded less than two years later. The Cult would have a falling out with Atlantic Records too in a couple years, causing them to split from the label and each other in 2002, though they would reform again four years later.
But like I said, I had a good time that evening and the fellow ushers knowing it was my birthday, were congratulatory and kind to me. I remember being gifted quite a few drink tickets as the show went on and I enjoyed those beers immensely. The Cult is actually a good show to get drunk at. Most of the other patrons were, so I was in good company. The Cult took the stage to the recording of “Duel Of The Fates”, the intense score by John Williams for “Star Wars Episode I : The Phantom Menace” which had just come out in theaters two months before this. You know, it was the music playing near the end for the light saber fight with Darth Maul, one of the only good parts of that movie, frankly. Ian once again served well as the frontman that night at The Warfield. Before they played “Rain”, he entreated the crowd to “please feel free to exercise the right to do anything you wish.” For me, that was permission to drink more, which I happily did.
Thankfully, Pete would take the helm in the recording room the following night at the Maritime for Michael Rose, allowing me time to recover from my predictable hangover. The only other concert I would see on my birthday after this one would be Os Mutantes, a band huge in Brazil, playing at Stern Grove in 2007, though I was tempted to see the Kronos Quartet on another birthday, but didn’t follow through with it. I’d see The Cult two years later perform third to last at Live 105’s B.F.D at Shoreline, the final time I’d see them, but I did catch Ian singing for the Riders Of The Storm band in 2005 at The Fillmore, basically filling in for Jim Morrison, backed by fellow Doors alumni, Ray Manzarek and Robbie Krieger. Yes, like I mentioned, Jim had died at 27, but Ian did a good job channeling his mojo.
Michael Rose, Andrew Tosh, The Skatalites, Maritime Hall, SF, Fri., July 16, 1999
SELIST : Overture, Short Temper, Party In Session, Sensemillia, Ganja Bonanza, Cookie Jar, Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner, Mondays, How You Fi Do That?, Right On, Gone A New York, Shine Eye Gal, Plastic Smile, I Love King Sallasie, General Penetentiary, Black Maria, Happiness, Youths Of Eglington, Abortion, Dance Wicked, Sponji Reggae, Solidarity
It was an interesting day to put it mildly. Being the day after my birthday, I decided to revisit one of my old birthday traditions and spend the day at the water slides. My friend Liz Farrow joined me on the ride down to Raging Waters in San Jose when the big news of the day came over the radio. Poor JFK, Jr. crashed his plane and died along with his wife Carolyn and her sister Lauren. We didn’t see that one coming. And despite recent lunatic fringe conspiracy theories that he is somehow still alive, we have yet to hear from him which is a pity since who knows what he might have accomplished if he had lived to this day. Yes, John-John was gone, but we did our best to enjoy our time at the slides. After a long time visiting every fun filled attraction Raging Waters had to offer, Liz and I took a breather to lie down in the sun and I distinctly remember laying on my left side, using my right hand to massage her back. I had done it for so long, that I ended up getting the mother of all sunburns on the entire upper right half of my body. Combined with the stinging chlorine from the water, my poor skin on that side was in excruciating pain for several days, feeling like weeks. In time, the dead skin from the burn eventually peeled off and I was well again, though for a while the right half of my body was conspicuously tanner that the other half.
Another thing that had happened on the ride down, though totally out of left field, I think deserves mentioning. On the way, we were passing by Bay Meadows Race Track in San Mateo and I don’t know if it was the power of suggestion or something, but for a split second I could have swore I saw a brown horse being flung high into the air, as if it was being launched by a catapult, its legs flailing wildly. On closer inspection, I saw that it was simply a brown, single engine plane rising into the sky above the tree line, but it did cause me to glance twice. It was so convincing and made such an impression, that I had mentioned that vision in the beginning of my first novel, it being a dream waking the main character. But I’ve digressed way too far here and must go back to the show at hand.
The pain of my fresh sunburn was just starting to kick in as we had returned to the city and Liz dropped me off at the Maritime to work the show of the evening, a reggae cavalcade of stars. Pete came out for this one, the only one to my memory that he did that month. Michael Rose was a big one. The former Black Uhuru frontman had played the Hall twice already, once in April of ’98 opening for The Wailers and again just six months before this show, that time headlining. I had been confused before and thought that January show was the one that was used for the live album the Hall put out, but I can say with certainty now that this was the show that was used. For starters, I have the original recording of the whole show and it matches as well as what Michael was wearing that night corresponds to the photo on the album’s back cover. This is the one and it’s a great one at that. I think it is possibly the best sounding of all the albums the Hall put out primarily because Pete mixed this one down in the studio and not Boots this time. One needs only hear a handful of bars from any of the songs and you can hear Pete’s sound, especially in the drums. Pete knew how to mix reggae, big time. He was the best and it showed.
He did however allow me to record the opening acts as usual and I was especially honored since the first one were true ska pioneers and heroes of mine, The Skatalites. I have already written about their illustrious history, having seen them twice before, once in the line up of the Skavoovee tour at The Warfield with the Special Beat in 1993, then again on the second day of the Tibetan Freedom Concert in Golden Gate Park in 1996. Uplifting as the experience was for me this time, it was rounded by a tinge of sadness since the band had lost two of its original members the year prior, tenor saxophonist and flute player Tommy McCook and then fellow tenor saxophonist Roland Alphonso just six months after him. They were mentioned with solemn pride between songs and despite their losses, the band carried on and got the crowd skanking. It was also an honor to record the second opening act that night, Andrew Tosh, the son of Peter Tosh and Shirley Livingston, the sister of Bunny Wailer. Andrew had played the Hall opening for his esteemed Uncle Bunny the previous October and to my pleasant surprise, Pete had left that night entirely for me to do, so this would be the second time I’d get to record Andrew. I’m happy to say he remembered me when I approached him later to give him the tapes of his set and he was friendly and gracious as before. Fully Fullwood and his band who were backing up Michael that night also used to back up Andrew’s dad amongst many others.
Michael took to the stage dressed in his shiny, black leather pants and matching jacket, his dreads tied immaculately into a massive turban shape on his head. It took a while, but he eventually took off the jacket near the end of his set. From Jamaica he might be, but even performing on a stage in San Francisco in the middle of summer would test anyones tolerance of heat. Joyous as the occasion was, Michael too was affected by the loss of someone, a mentor particularly close to him, Dennis Brown. He even called for a moment of silence between songs for “the crown prince of reggae” as he called him. Dennis had died a little over two weeks before this show from pneumonia brought on by years of respiratory problems aggravated by prolonged cocaine abuse at the young age of 42. In fact, his funeral was held in Kingston just the day after this show and if Michael wasn’t already obliged to complete his tour and was home, rest assured he would have attended and performed at it. Michael went on to say Dennis “was a loving & good human being” and that he “was his godfather in this biz”.
Michael honored Dennis’ memory well that night by playing a hell of a show, covering a lot of material in two long hours. It was so long, in fact that several songs had to be left out of the live album in order to make it a single disc including “Party In Session”, “Ganja Bonanza”, “Right On”, “Happiness”, “I Love King Selassie” “Youths Of Eglington”, and “Gone A New York”. Michael was in top form as well as his band and with Pete on the recording console, it was an ideal performance to turn into an album. But this would be the final time I’d record any of these acts at the Hall, though I’m happy to say I got to see Mr. Rose perform one more time three years later at Slim’s with Mutabaruka. That was quite a show as well, an excellent musical pairing.
Foxy Brown, Suga-T, Colorfolks, Gabba, Maritime Hall, SF, Fri., July 23, 1999
Though I had never heard the one Miss Inga DeCarlo Fung Marchand AKA Foxy Brown, I and all the the house that night were given quite an earful as well as quite an eyeful. She left her long handle behind and derived her stage name from the seminal 1974 action movie of the same name and she is proud to call Pam Grier, who immortalized the role, a friend, mentor, and even a “second mother”. This fresh faced young woman hailing from Trinidadian and Chinese decent had in very little time made a name for herself in hip hop circles starting at the tender age of only 15. At this show, she was just about six weeks shy of her 21st birthday. Foxy signed to DefJam in 1996 and with her debut album, “Ill Na Na”, she went quickly went multi-platinum and earned her legions of fans and respect from her peers. She helped prove that a lady especially one that young could go toe to toe with the East Coast big boys and hold her own, even becoming a member of the rap supergroup The Firm along with Nas, AZ, and Cormega, who was later replaced by Nature.
But this was a turbulent and transitional time for her, having just released her follow up album, “Chyna Doll” seven months before this show. As expected, it didn’t match the commercial success of her debut album, a tough one to follow, though it did have the distinction of debuting number one on the Billboard 200 when it was released, making her only the second female rap artist at that time to achieve that other than Lauryn Hill. She had also recently broke off her engagement to fellow rapper Kurupt, but Foxy had the additional misfortune to agree to join the “Get Up On A Room” tour with R. Kelly earlier that year, a name which has recently been mired with infamy. That doomed tour quickly fell apart from cancelled dates due to low ticket sales, a disastrous melee at their Miami show which left 8 people suffering from stab wounds, to having Busta Rhymes leave the tour shortly afterwards. Foxy would see the writing on the wall and leave the tour that June, but would begin her own tour a month after this show, so their loss would ultimately be our gain. And despite all that, she at least had the good fortune not to take part in the catastrophic Woodstock ’99 festival which happened to be the weekend of this gig.
I remember enjoying the final opening act that night, Suga-T. A local act hailing from Vallejo, she too was a young woman fresh to the hip hop scene with a great deal of talent. Like Foxy, she also would be a member of a rap supergroup, The Click, which included such notable bay area artists as E-40, D-Shot, and B-Legit. Though I haven’t seen her since, I read that she now goes by her non-stage name, Tenina Stevens, and teaches music as well as accumulated an impressive amount of academic degrees including an AA in Business, a BA in Psychology, and an MA in Organizational Management. Like I had mentioned before, we got an eyeful of Foxy Brown. She came out dressed in a loose, gold chain mail top and let’s just say not much else beneath it. She was indeed foxy and she knew that, but she was unashamed, unapologetic, and supremely confident. It didn’t take long for my throbbing loins to cool off enough so I could stop watching her bouncing curves and appreciate her raw talent as a performer. There are few women in hip hop who can match her flow even to this day, joining such fierce, respected East Coast female acts as Queen Latifah, Salt N’ Pepa, and MC Lyte.
Unfortunately, Foxy hit a rough patch starting the year after this show, first suffering from a bout of depression, followed by treatment for an addiction to opioids. Then she got into hot water in 2004 after a fight she had with a couple of manicurists in New York City. The year after, she suffered serious hearing loss which required surgery to restore it. Then, she violated her probation from the aforementioned fight and was put in jail for an entire year. If that wasn’t bad enough, Foxy got into a fight with a fellow inmate while inside and was put in solitary for a whopping 76 days. Though she was released in 2007, she got into trouble yet again three years later after she swore and even mooned her neighbor who had previously put a restraining on her. Foxy threw her BlackBerry at the neighbor as well, but the charges were ultimately dropped the following year. This show would be the only time I’d see Foxy perform, but I’m glad to say she has since stayed out of trouble and has taken to touring again in recent years, even collaborating with new hip hop acts like Nicki Minaj.
Social Chaos Tour : TSOL, The Business, UK Subs, DOA, DH Pelligro, The Vibrators, Sloppy Seconds, Maritime Hall, SF, Sun., July 25, 1999
(UK SUBS) : Emotional Blackmail, C.I.D., Stranglehold, Party In Paris, I Live In A Car
(THE BUSINESS) : Suburban Rebels, The Truth The Whole Truth & Nothing But The Truth, Spirit Of The Street, Do They Owe Us A living?, Saturday’s Heroes, Justice Not Politics, Out In The Cold, Loud Proud & Punk, Real Enemy, Smash The Discos, Harry May, (encore), Drinking & Driving
This was an impressive lineup from start to finish. I had long heard of TSOL, or True Sounds Of Liberty, predictably through my brother Alex who had been my ear to the ground for quality punk music all my life. I knew they were important, being one of the pioneers in the L.A. punk scene since 1978. They were headlining this so-called “Social Chaos Tour”, co-sponsored by Goldenvoice, and were preceded by other veterans of the genre, English, American, and DOA from Canada. I know that Murphy’s Law, D.R.I., and Vice Squad were on the bill, but they were playing downstairs on a stage in the hiring hall so I didn’t get a chance to see them. Strangely enough, one of the distinct, if not the most distinct memory from this show was the opening act, Sloppy Seconds. Though the youngest band on the bill, they had been playing music for 15 years already by then. The singer, simply known as B.A., was a big guy, probably around 300 pounds and his skinny as a rail guitarist, Ace “Spice” Hardwhere had a guitar that had the body of a Fruit Loops cereal box. Anyway, I still can never forget B.A.’s flushed, crimson face loudly braying their song, “Why Don’t Lesbians Love Me?” and finishing with one called, “I Don’t Want To Be A Homosexual”. They being the first act had maybe a handful of people to hear their gritty sound echo in the cavernous walls of the Maritime. Poor guys had to start after the doors opened at 5:30 in the afternoon. They were from Indianapolis of all places, but I haven’t seen them since.
Next up were The Vibrators, they and the UK Subs making punk rock since 1976. DH Pelligro, the former drummer of the Dead Kennedys, followed and I looked around to see if Jello Biafra was in the crowd or backstage that night, but he was nowhere to be seen. Jello usually shows up to all these punk shows, but it was no secret that there was bad blood between him and the the other former members. Maybe he was just out of town at the time. They would reform DK years later with a new singer, but Jello never sang with them and most likely never will. It was good to see DOA play the Hall again, having graced the venue the year before, though it was shamefully undersold. UK Subs put on quite a set, even if was only about twenty minutes long, as most of the openers sets were. During the song “Stranglehold”, their shirtless guitarist Nicky Garratt rolled one of his Marshall stacks over to the center of the stage and lay down on it for a bit while he was playing. The crowd was getting bigger by the time they came on and the mosh pit was growing accordingly.
So, everybody was nice and warmed up by the time The Business took the stage. This rowdy bunch of Cockney blokes from South London had been around since ’79, but I’m afraid this show was the first time I’d heard of them. I thought it was funny that in one of the reviews I saw for the show the frontman Micky Fitz and one of the others were in suits, most definitely worn ironically. Micky came out in a wife beater shirt and immediately announced that our city was the “best crowd in America” and that “We’re the Spice Girls and we’re from fuckin’ London!” before ripping into “Suburban Rebels”. A couple songs later he asked “Where’s the punk rockers?!?”, followed by the punks applauding, and he then said, “Skins, wait your turn. There’s plenty for you!” and then “Do They Owe Us A Living?” Then after, he obliged them saying, “Punks, you had your turn. Where’s the skinheads?!?” and did “Saturday’s Heroes”.
Micky dedicated “Justice Not Politics” to Lars Frederiksen from Rancid who produced The Business’ last album and his wife Megan. Lars had married her the year before this show, but they’ve since divorced. After that song, Micky gazed up at one of our video screens and joked, “I just looked up there and I thought ‘Fuck, he looks like me’. Then I realized it was!” Just before they played “Harry May” at the end of their set, Micky took a moment to thank all the bands, the staff, and even the “redcoat” security guard in front of him. He put his hand on top of the tall, young black man’s backwards baseball cap saying, “Some guys think he’s an asshole, but he’s working class and he’s doing this for his family!” The guard remained surprisingly stoic and still, not even looking at him, and simply nodded in agreement when Micky took his hand off him. They brought up some kid with a shaved head like Micky’s and he sang along to the song, shouting “What’s his name?!?! Harry May!!!” Micky goaded the crowd on prodding them, “That wasn’t loud enough, eh?” The kid shook his head no and they did it again. That was cute. The kid couldn’t have been more than nine or ten.
The other shining memory of this night was their encore, “Drinking & Driving”. I can scarcely think of any song ever written which was more punk than this. Never had such flagrantly reckless and irresponsible behavior be more celebrated. Naturally, the pit was bananas by then and there was no shortage of folks floating, stage diving, and dancing on stage with the band singing along to the chorus, “Knock it back! Have another one! Drinking & driving is so much fun!” They were a hard act to follow. Incidentally, it just occurred to me that there were a bunch of “initials” on this tour, being TSOL, UK Subs, DOA, and DH Pelligro. Hmm… Sadly, I learned that Micky passed away from lymph cancer back in 2016, so this would be the one and only time I’d see The Business, but I’m very glad I did.
Finally, TSOL wrapped up the evening with a tight set clocking in a hair under and hour. They had just reunited that year after settling a long standing dispute with their former guitarist Joe Wood over the rights of the band’s name. I had actually had seen both the singer “Gentleman Jack” Grisham and guitarist Ron Emory in their side project, The Joykiller, which opened for Pennywise at The Fillmore in 1995, though I didn’t make the connection back then. I do remember liking them as I did TSOL on this gig. Like The Business, they got a bunch of fans onstage and I read one account of the show saying that the frustrated security guys were chasing down those patrons later, threatening to beat them up. Yeah, the “redcoats” were pretty rough guys. But TSOL were a fun bunch all the same and I’ll never forget their last song of the night, “Code Blue”, a sort of a playful ode to necrophilia. Ewww… Such vulgarity didn’t stop Jack from getting 2,200 votes when he ran for Governor during the infamous recall election of 2003 that ushered Arnold Schwarzenegger to power. Ironically, 2,200 is roughly the capacity of the Maritime. As much as I love Arnold, it’s a safe bet Jack would have been a more competent Governor. There had been a listing on Discogs that said the band did an unofficial VHS release of the video from that night, but I haven’t been able to find it. I am glad to say that UK Subs did post the songs from their short set on YouTube though.
M.A.B.D.: The Flaming Lips, Robyn Hitchcock, Sebadoh, Sonic Boom E.A.R., IQU, Fill., SF, Wed., July 28, 1999
(ROBYN HITCHCOCK) : (unknown), My Wife & My Dead Wife, Kirago Street, Beautiful Queen, Insanely Jealous
(THE FLAMING LIPS) : The Spiderbite Song, Race For The Prize, Feeling Yourself Disintegrate, She Don’t Use Jelly, Slow Nerve Action, Waiting For A Superman, What Is The Light?, The Observer, When You Smile, Suddenly Everything Has Changed, The Gash, The Spark That Bled
This was a real unique show for several reasons, but first and foremost it was due to a prolonged blackout that happened at the beginning of it and the unusual steps that were taken dealing with it, but I will get into that later. This was the second of a two night stint called the “The First International M.A.B.D. Tour”, short for Music Against Brain Degeneration. It had been four long years since I had seen its headliner, The Flaming Lips. I was a big fan and was looking forward to hearing their new material from “The Soft Bulletin” which had only just been released the month before this show. By this time, the band had parted ways with their guitarist Ronald Jones, who some claimed was suffering from acute agoraphobia and/or paranoia, though he was also fed up with the heroin and alcohol habits of their drummer, Steven Drozd. Steven’s habit had gotten so bad that he almost had to have his arm amputated from an abscess that had festered dangerously from his injections, just like Jared Leto in “Requiem For A Dream”. Thankfully, Steven recovered and took up the guitar as well as backing vocals. Their first song of the evening was called “The Spiderbite Song”, written about his ordeal, parodying the fact that they initially told the public that his abscess was due to such a wound.
The Lips’ line up in part was the second thing that was weird about this gig. They were just a three piece here, being Steven, singer Wayne Coyne, and bassist Michael Ivins. They had pre-recorded Steven doing the drum parts on video and were playing them while projecting the video of it behind the band on a large screen, along with random footage such as atomic bomb blasts, aerobic videos, and Leonard Bernstein directing his orchestra. The next weird thing was that they had set up a transmitter that would pipe the stereo mix from the show into headphones that people could check out at the back of the venue. Wayne instructed the crowd to tune their receivers to 96.9. They were trying to promote brain health and awareness of hearing loss and thought that somehow this headphone thing would help, but to be honest, very few people wore them that night, which would explain why nobody has done this since. You can get hearing assist headphones at stage theater shows, but I’ve yet to see one again at any music venue. Seriously, The Lips are such a notoriously loud band that for the headphones to be effective at all, one would have to be listening to them outside on the street or at least in the poster room.
Anyway, let’s go back to the top. The show had just kicked off when lo and behold, the place went dark. The Fillmore’s emergency lights kicked in and all the security folks busted out their flashlights. We’d assumed that this was just another one of PG & E’s fuck ups and the power would go back on shortly. This was the time when Enron was screwing with California and there were frequent “brown outs”. But the juice had been knocked out of the whole block and everybody was soon accepting that it wasn’t coming back right away. Then something magical happened. They were able to scare up a bullhorn with a CB on curly wire attached to it and Wayne from The Lips took the stage and addressed the crowd. Every flashlight in the house was used to light him up and he and Lou Barlow from Sebadoh proceeded to take turns serenading the crowd in the meantime. One of the security guy held up the bullhorn for the acoustic guitar and the CB was used for the vocals.
It was hilarious, frankly. We all knew we were experiencing something special and just went with it. Even Lou, being the sour puss that he is, did a funny, overly sensitive acoustic cover of “Cold As Ice” by Foreigner, followed by a straight up one of “Wichita Lineman” by Glen Campbell. It had been over an hour before the lights went back on, but they finished this weird hootenanny with Wayne singing a truncated version of “Waterbugs”. Wayne served as a sort of emcee for the rest of the night saying, “We’re doing our best to entertain while we were stuck in the dark. We’re trying to keep the show moving along cus’ I still think people want to get home before four o’clock in the morning. Well, some people don’t, some people do and we respect that.” So, they did the changeovers as fast as they could and the sets of the openers were pretty short starting with IQU, pronounced “ee-koo”, from Olympia, Washington followed by Sonic Boom E.A.R., an experimental music group fronted by Peter Member, formerly of Spaceman 3. Jason Pierce had split off from Spaceman 3 to form Spiritualized, the first band I ever ushered for at The Warfield when they opened for The Jesus & Mary Chain in 1992. Cornelius was supposed to be on this leg of the tour, but they didn’t make it for some reason.
One of the big draws of this show for me was that Robyn Hitchcock was there, always a favorite. It had actually been a while since I’d seen him, three years in fact, when he co-headlined The Warfield with Billy Bragg. He was playing solo again, though he did bring up Tim Keegan, a man who had toured with him for years, to accompany him on guitar for “Beautiful Queen”. Wayne introduced Robyn before his set, mentioning that he had broke a string last night but was a trooper and kept on playing anyway and thanked the people who were trying out the headphones. There was a strange recording before Robyn got on stage of a man going on about conscience, appearance, and reality, but it was sort of hard to follow. Robyn was his usual brilliant self, going off on his stream of consciousness verbal tangents between songs. He had just released “Jewels For Sophia”, his 12th studio album that year, but he didn’t play any new stuff that night.
Robyn also had starred in a sort of quasi-documentary called “Storefront Hitchcock” the year before, directed by Jonathan Demme. It was basically just him playing in an abandoned clothing store in New York City and I’m sorry to say that I still haven’t seen it yet. It’s definitely on my list, especially since I just watched Demme’s “Silence Of The Lambs” last night. Next up was Sebadoh and this being the fourth time seeing them in four years, the third time at The Fillmore, I was actually getting a little tired of Lou Barlow’s whiney schtick. Lou did however get a little grin out of me when he sang the chorus of The Lips’ “Turn It On” between songs, one of my favorite tunes from the band that sadly I haven’t heard them play live since 1995. Sebadoh still were OK and they were an easy band to usher for, though the show was going on late from the delay from the blackout earlier. In hindsight it was a good thing I caught them then because the band went on hiatus for 14 years shortly after this show, though I still haven’t seen them since. I thought it was amusing that they played a recording of “If I Only Had A Brain” from “The Wizard Of Oz” between sets.
So, at long last The Flaming Lips took the stage. They played a rather monotone voice recording of a man checking the headphone system before they started, repeatedly droning, “Left… Left center… Center… Center right… Right…” It went on for a few minutes, then the band performed “The Spiderbite Song” briefly to test it out. Then Wayne joked that they were going to step off into the wings for a second and then “burst onto the stage” and everybody was to just pretend that it was them coming out for the first time. We all obliged him and had giggle about it. They then went straight into the first song of the new album, “Race For The Prize”, a tune they would open most of their shows with from then on. I was impressed by the beauty and brilliance of their new material and we were lucky to hear a whopping nine new songs out of their twelve song set. I regret that my tape ran out during “When You Smile”, making me lose the last three songs, but I was able to find a good recording of the night on YouTube, though it was missing the final song, “The Spark That Bled”. It was almost the same set as the night before, but the Tuesday show got “Riding To Work In The Year 2025” and “Thirty-Five Thousand Feet Of Despair”, while we got “What Is The Light?”, “The Observer”, and “Suddenly Everything Has Changed”.
Wayne introduced the song “Waitin’ For A Superman” warning how sad it was to people with “a heavy heart” and “we don’t always play happy, escapist” tunes. He thought this one was “the saddest song that we do”, though went on to claim that sad songs can also make you feel happy, but if this one didn’t to “try to bear with us”. And he was true to his word. It was and remains one of the saddest songs I would ever hear. In fact, listening to it again while writing this, I not ashamed to say that I broke down into tears again, still processing the horror of the school shootings in Uvalde, Texas from last week. Indeed, this song served as a sort of unofficial theme song for the tragedy of 9/11 which happened two years after this show. At the end of this hauntingly beautiful tune, somebody in the crowd shouted out, “I feel sad!” and Wayne apologized, “I’m sorry. We’ll do our best to try to lift you up” and then they played “What Is The Light?”
The Lips did however go on to play one of the happiest songs I know, “When You Smile” a little later. That song is so sweet and sentimental that I included it in a compilation disc my wife and I made for our wedding in 2015. That one brings me tears of joy instead of sorrow and for all those out there currently with the blues, I recommend listening to it right away. It’s good therapy. Wayne did a sort of slow ending to that song, singing out the words gradually slower until finishing and joked, “See! I promised you I’d get you out of that slump.” Yes, it was a long, but memorable evening and I would be lucky to record The Lips a year later at Maritime Hall with the same set up, playing many of these same songs. Still, despite all the times I saw them back in the day, it just occurred to me that next year, it will have been twenty years since I saw them last when they played The Warfield with Liz Phair. Shame on me, especially since I missed the tour where they were playing their brilliant remake of Pink Floyd’s “Dark Side Of The Moon”. I should check them out again next time I get a chance.
Mystik Journeymen, Living Legends, Aceyalone, Planet Asia, Maritime Hall, SF, Thurs., July 29, 1999
Forgive me, gentle readers, for I have sinned. It has been (gulp) nearly six months since my last entry and I feel I owe y’all an explanation before I continue. My wife and I had back all those months ago received the jarring news that our building was being bought by new owners and they were intent on moving in and giving us the heave ho. The details of the move out are of little consequence, so I’ll just skip ahead to the happy news that we’ve found a new home across the bay in Alameda and are gradually setting up shop. Having been about ten days in, the computer desk, the internet, and more importantly my mojo to write again is up and running.
Few people I imagine enjoy moving, but I’m certainly not one of them. My wife and I had been at Ocean Beach in SF just a few weeks shy of ten years. I’m a guy who likes to stay put. So, this move dislodged me from my usual mindset which allowed me to do this little musical history project, but I am now ready to wade my way into the shallow end of this pool at least. I’m flexing old muscles here, so I appreciate your patience and understanding that I may not be entirely on my A game for a while, but I’ll do the best I can. Jolly good. OK, now that this nervous disclaimer has been established, I will return to the task at hand.
I suppose starting once again with the Mystik Journeymen is strangely appropriate, being a hip hop act by the summer of 99’ I’d be familiar with. I am now on the east side of the bay where they hail from as well, they just being just next door to me in Oakland. The Journeymen had already regaled the Hall with their skilled brand of DYI rap three times, once opening for Busta Rhymes and again for Ol’ Dirty Bastard the year before and headlining the Hall for the first time merely four months prior to this one. They were there headlining again, ably backed up by the Living Legends crew which they shared members with, as well as with Aceyalone and Planet Asia. And as before, they all were at home in the bay area and surrounded by familiar faces, everyone enthusiastic, hands in the air, immersed in thick clouds of herb smoke.
What is mysterious about this show was the fact that the Journeymen, despite having played the Maritime all those occasions chose not to have us multi-track record them that night, yet they still allowed us to record their video. I certainly hope it wasn’t because the poor quality of my mixes, though I hadn’t heard a peep about it before then or since. It was probably more likely that they were suspicious of Boots and his shenanigans or something, but they would eventually overcome their trepidation a year later when they would use the following recording for a live album. Though I naturally was happy for my future replacement, Wade, to have that album credit under his belt, you can imagine my disappointment that they didn’t use any of the four shows I had taped for them up until then for anything. Yes, I’m afraid this would be the final time I’d get to tape the Journeymen at the Hall, but I would at least get to see both them and the Living Legends crew perform four years later at The Fillmore.
Toots & The Maytals, Wailing Souls, B-Side Players, Maritime Hall, SF, Fri., July 30, 1999
It had been a fairly busy month, ending on this gem to make a Baker’s dozen. The one and only Toots Hibbert had brought the house down at the Maritime on three separate occasions by then, including the previous two New Year’s Eve’s. But this would be the first and only time yours truly would get to record him all by my lonesome. It was quite an honor and an unexpected one at that, but as I had written umpteen times before, Pete was slowly growing alienated from the Hall and was leaving more and more shows to do, including reggae stars like Toots who had been firmly in his wheelhouse. That, coupled with getting to record the Wailing Souls on my own for the first time, would quite firmly plant a mighty feather in my career cap. When it comes to reggae, those names cut glass.
But I was very familiar with the first act, the B-Side Players, who I had recorded twice that year, first opening for Indigo Swing on Valentine’s Day, then at the 420 Hemp Festival, being the second to last act just behind Vince Welnick & The Missing Man Formation. Indigo Swing incidentally had just played the Hall again only three weeks to the day before this show. Once again, the B-Side Players brought their unique blend of funky, latino tinged rock music to warm up the crowd, an ideal opener for practically any act seeing that their eclectic tastes pleased so many. I had always hoped they’d use some of our stuff for an album, but alas they never did. Like the Mystik Journeymen who played the Hall the night before, the Wailing Souls would go out to release a live album from a show they did a year later. I mean, it’s deflating enough having them not use my stuff, but Pete’s mixes of their sets in ’96 and ’98 were stellar as all his mixes were. But having used stuff recorded after our unceremonious sacking allowed Boots to not pay anybody royalties. Go figure, but enough sour grapes.
I’ve said it before, but it bears repeating that Toots is one of those rare performers that one can ALWAYS rely upon to do an excellent show and I mean each and every time. Few acts such as Tool, Los Lobos, and Stereolab, in my humble opinion, can share this distinction and this show was no exception. It was pure joy from start to finish, leaving everyone within earshot with a big grin on their face that would last for days. He was 57 years old when I taped him that night, but I assure you, if I had attempted to give the performance he gave, even at my then young age, I’d would have been taken away in an ambulance gasping for air probably before I even made the halfway point. The man had stamina, that’s for sure.
But I dare say, there was one particular moment from that evening that would be seared into my memory for all time and it happened long after Toots had left the stage. As always, I had gathered up the VHS and DAT tape to hand off to the artist and made my way to his dressing room upstairs. Pete had given the tapes on the other occasions, but I had naturally assumed to hand them off to Toots himself. When in doubt with any act at the Hall, I always went for the lead singer, partially because they were the one I would be most likely to recognize. But this was my first and would be the only time I’d get to come face to face with the one and only Sweet & Dandy man himself and I was looking forward to it as you might imagine.
So, I made it to the dressing room door with the tapes, but Toots was still inside and one of his people told me to wait a bit as he was cooling off, making himself presentable, and so forth. There I waited… and waited. It seemed to go on forever and it being a reggae show, had predictably gone on until the wee hours of the morn, especially since it was the weekend. Well, my patience finally wore out and I decided it had been long enough and I sheepishly made my way into the dressing room. And lo & behold, there was the man standing up tall in all his glory… dressed only in his tidy whiteys. Needless to say, I was stunned and wasn’t at first sure what to do. I found myself jabbering a bit trying to explain who I was and why I was there.
Still, I’m happy to report that Mr. Hibbert wasn’t upset in the slightest by my intrusion, giving me a rather puzzled look instead. I averted my eyes and quickly backed away, leaving him to finish getting dressed. A short while later, he did emerge at last and greeted me. The thing was, he had no idea about the recordings not only from that night, but from the three other times he played the Hall. Apparently, the tapes had been handed off to his manager instead and for some inexplicable reason, Toots never knew about them. I could tell this irked him a little and after I finally left the tapes with Toots, I noticed he was already having words with his manager about just that.
This would be the final time I’d see the reggae legend at the Hall, though I would be blessed to see him four times more, twice at The Warfield in 2002 and 2007, once at The Fillmore in 2009, and at his final bay area appearance at Stern Grove in 2019. Yes, Toots has passed on, succumbing to COVID at the age of 77, but I will always have those many joyous moments to sustain me in dark times… as well as the visage of him in his Y-Fronts.
King’s X, Protein, Swarm, Ultraglide, Maritime Hall, SF, Sun., August 1, 1999
King’s X was one of those bands that I knew that I should know more about, but didn’t. Despite not knowing song one from them, I knew they were respected amongst the peers and though were lumped into the prog-metal scene, that their eclectic tastes ran through a spectrum of styles. Jeff Ament, the bassist of Pearl Jam, even proclaimed that “King’s X invented grunge”. Yes, they’d already been around for twenty years by the time they came to play the Hall. It can be said that only a place as square as Springfield, Missouri could spawn such a unique band. Hard rock bands with black singers like Doug Pinnick aren’t particularly unique, but they’re aren’t many that break through into the mainstream, especially ones from Missouri. But they and others such as Love, Bad Brains, and Living Colour just to name a few are spectacular. I still think the Bad Brains album I recorded at the Maritime is the one I’m most proud of to this day.
But another distinction that set this band apart was their relationship with the big guy upstairs, their name, a not too subtle reference to the crucifix. Obviously, they were Christians and their lyrics often reflected that. King’s X made little effort to cater to the so-called Christian rock scene, but the followers of Jesus bought their albums anyway, which I’m sure they didn’t discourage either. But as luck would have it, I’d be recording them just as their relationship with the bible thumpers was going sour. Pinnick had the courage to finally come out as a gay man publicly just shy of his 49th birthday and to turn a biblical phrase, those thumpers weren’t going to turn the other cheek and subsequently washed their hands of him and his band. It’s a pity. Doug had sung gospel in his church growing up. But Christian book stores that used to carry their music cut them off as well as the Diamante Music Group who used to distribute their albums.
My father went though a similar divorce from his faith when he finally came out, more or less around the same age as Doug actually, though he had been Russian Orthodox. Doug has since turned agnostic and the other members of the band have politely disassociated themselves from the church and especially from the Christian rock business entirely. I suppose King’s X would get the last laugh when I saw them open for Dio at The Fillmore three years later. Holy Diver indeed. The band also had a change in record labels the year before, leaving Atlantic for Metal Blade and were then touring with their most recent and seventh studio album, “Tape Head”.
I was glad to see Protein was on the bill, having seen them also at The Fillmore, but back in ’97. They were an impressive band, but short lived, having just put out their second and final album, “Songs About Cowgirls” that year, so I was fortunate to not only see them twice, but get to record them as well. Members from that band went on to form The Mother Truckers whose vulgarity is only matched by their sheer brilliance. Likewise, King’s X are still touring to this day and each member has an impressive resume of other solo work and collaborations to boot. These guys are always working it seems. Hard to believe that Doug’s 72 years old now. I just wish that the show had been more well sold, probably just a couple hundred people made it that night. I was happy that the monthly poster for August was a good one though, one of my favorites the Maritime put out, a collage of swinging 60’s stuff. The sight of James Colburn in a tuxedo from “Our Man Flynt” sitting in a backwards chair, holding a martini, with his big toothy grin always puts a smile on my face.
Moby, Boom Boom Satellites, Maritime Hall, SF, Tues., August 10, 1999
Every once and I while, I get to see a show of great importance, and my appreciation of these shows doesn’t always emerge right away. Moby had been around for years and was a regular in the electronic dance music scene. I would go so far to proclaim him one of its pioneering founders, but I never really swung with that crowd. Moby also was no stranger to SF, having lived there briefly when he was a boy, as well as being part of the aforementioned rave scene which would clandestinely invade warehouses all over the bay area late at night to do their thing. I was never in the know about these things back then and frankly was too preoccupied with other shows that didn’t go on so late into the wee hours. I may have been young back then, but I still had to work in the morning.
The worm was finally turning for Mr. Richard Melville Hall. Though prolific and hard working, at 33 years of age, he was growing weary of not breaking through with his music but that would all change upon the release of his fifth album, “Play”. He had even considered giving up music entirely if it wasn’t a hit and would go back to school to study architecture. To make matters worse, his mother died of lung cancer just before he started recording it. Not to say that “Play” took off right away, it didn’t. Sales were sluggish in the beginning and it didn’t help that the first gig he would do promoting it would be to a mere 40 people in the basement of Virgin Megastore in New York. And if that wasn’t bad enough, the first official show of the tour would be at the catastrophic Woodstock 99’ Festival. That disaster had only taken place three weeks before this night.
The good news was as the tour went on and more and more people were exposed to his new material, word caught on. Before everyone knew it, practically every song on that album started turning up in all manner of mainstream film soundtracks, TV shows, and commercials. When the smoke cleared, Moby had sold over 12 million copies of that album and garnered himself a Grammy nomination. Of coarse, there were no shortage of detractors from his rave community that accused him of selling out and I’m sure there are still plenty of those folks still harboring that grudge to this day. But “Play” was in a category unto itself. Moby had plenty of diverse musical influences from punk to country to soul, you name it. He even once sang vocals for Flipper for a couple gigs. Perhaps he took a page from Beck, mixing up hip hop with these various styles, but what the hell, it worked. Seriously, listening through it now, it’s hard to deny its genius.
Part of his success with this new album came with the new stage show that he assembled. Such music desperately needed live musicians and real instruments and he knew it, so it was good that he at the very least had a real drummer backing him up as well as a back up singer, a bassist, a turntablist, and percussionist. Moby kept the crowd engaged, orbiting from one instrument to another between songs, from electric to acoustic guitars, hitting the congas and keyboards too. In addition, there we a few extra pairs of intelligent strobe lights spaced out around his set.
Moby had brought along the Japanese electronic music duo, Boom Boom Satellites, with him for this tour. They were brand new, having just put out their first album, “Out Loud” the year before, but I thought they were pretty cool. Like Moby, they too had brought along a live drummer to back them up on tour. Sadly, this would be the only time I’d see them perform as their guitarist and vocalist, Michiyuki Kawashima, would succumb to complications from a brain tumor in 2016. Poor guy was only 47 years old. I’m glad their talent was rewarded nine years later when their songs “Scatterin’ Monkey” and “4 A Moment Of Silence” would be in the soundtrack for the blockbuster superhero epic “The Dark Knight”.
Though I didn’t get the setlist from that night, I was able to get a pretty comprehensive account of the songs that were played from a review in SF Gate. He opened with the meditative intro “My Weakness”, then went into “Find My Baby”, “If Things Were Perfect”, “Porcelain”, and “Why Does My Heart Feel So Bad?”. He busted out some percussion for “Machete”, then switched to acoustic guitar for “Everloving”. Moby took a rather radical stylistic turn picking up an electric guitar to play a few bars of “Paranoid” by Black Sabbath. He would do this at most of his shows playing covers that ranged from “Ring Of Fire” by Johnny Cash to “Stairway To Heaven” by Led Zeppelin. One would think he was making an all too unsubtle point of his eclectic tastes and musical talent, even showing off a little, but what the hell, it was his stage and he used every second he could to impress. Moby stepped up to a keyboard then for “Honey”, but when I soloed him down in the recording room, he basically was just playing one note, though his frantic thrashing about on stage suggested that he was doing a little more, but that again was all part of the show. His breakneck pace commanded attention.
Similarly, he was only playing one chord on his acoustic guitar when he did the “James Bond Theme” that he had composed for the movie “Tomorrow Never Dies”. I was mortified to discover too late that I had it turned all the way down accidentally in my monitor mix, but was at least relieved that it made it loud and clear to the multi-track recording. Seriously, he was hitting that chord with all his might and I was baffled why I couldn’t hear it all until it was almost over. I thought he was going to break a string or two. From there, they played “Natural Blues”, “Bodyrock” claiming before that song that “if it was humanly possible, I’d like to have sex with each and every one of you… But I’m old and invalid, so I’ll sing you a sexy song instead.” Moby made another little joke before playing “Feeling So Real” saying “in all modesty” that it was “the greatest disco song ever written”. I noticed between songs, he often mutters, “Thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you”.
For the last song of the night he did “Thousand” which I believe still holds the Guinness Book Of World’s Record for being the fastest song ever written. It is in fact played at 1,015 beats per minute and is understandably a big finish for his musical marathon. Like I said before, I had no idea the importance of this show, especially as a BIG feather in my recording career list of artists, but the rest for Moby as they say, is history. He just got bigger and bigger after that and the venues I’d see him in the future would reflect that. Next stop for him performing in the bay area would be playing the main stage at B.F.D. the following year, then back to back sold out shows at The Warfield, followed by headlining his own Area One and Area Two Festivals at Shoreline.
When I gave him the tapes at the end of his set that night, he was drenched with sweat, but all smiles and very polite. I joked with him that I loved him on “Space Ghost : Coast To Coast” and he giggled a little about it. The year before when he had been a guest on that cartoon interview show, Space Ghost had been sprayed with a gas that made him crave human flesh and he ate Moby’s brain before he could finish the interview. The irony that such a publicly vocal vegetarian would die in that manner surely wasn’t lost on him.
Hothouse Flowers, Donal Lunny’s Coolfin, Maritime Hall, SF, Thurs., August 12, 1999
I had been mostly unaware of San Francisco’s extensive Irish community by then, but had since grown familiar with some of them when I relocated to the Outer Sunset. Suffice to say, there’s a lot of them out there and many of those from the Emerald Isle and their kin found their way to the Maritime that night to catch a couple of venerable acts. Kool Keith was supposed to play the night before this with DJ Spooky at the Hall, but that show got postponed until the following September. Anyway, I had heard the name of the Hothouse Flowers before, mostly because I’d seen their name on a rather striking, bright red, cartoonish poster at the Fillmore from a show they headlined back in 1989 before the big quake shut it down. The Indigo Girls opened for them on that one, those women being fairly new back then.
The Flowers were new back then as well, but got big fast. Bono from U2 discovered the two leads in that band busking on the streets in Dublin back in ’88 and quickly signed them to his label, Mother Records, which led to a deal with London Records. From there, their first album, “People”, would become the most successful debut album in Irish history. Their newfound stardom would ultimately burn them out, causing them to disband in 1994, but they reformed the year before this show and left London Records when their contract expired the following year. Not that I would have known it, but these guys were huge in Ireland, stadium big. In fact, they had just released a live album recorded at their National Stadium in Dublin, so the chances they would use anything I recorded that night were hopelessly slim. Still, they had a pretty full house at the Hall that evening.
Though the show had been originally billed on the monthly poster as “An Evening With” the Hothouse Flowers, there was in fact an opening band that night, Donal Lunny’s Coolfin. Mr. Lunny was a veteran musician, having been performing since the late 60’s. He was 52 years old when he played the Hall that night. Mainly playing traditional Irish instrumental music, Donal would strum left handed on a Irish bouzouki, similar to the original ones from Greece. Coolfin was one of many musical collaborations he had assembled in his long career and the musicians he brought along with him were excellent. He had a drummer, keyboardist, fiddle player, and fellow named John McSherry playing the Uilleann Pipes, a sort of Irish bagpipe contraption he’d monkey with while sitting.
John would also play a whistle for a couple songs as well and he would lend his talents to the album Donal put together under the Coolfin banner. Also playing on that album and joining them on stage that night would be Sharon Shannon, though she had left the tour briefly to do some shows in London before this. Sharon would also sit on stage that night, she playing fiddle and also accordion and a whistle occasionally. I thought Sharon was pretty cute actually and I caught her grinning when she caught sight of her image on the giant screens. I didn’t catch all the song titles they played, but I do know that did “The Green Fields Of Glentown”, “The Swedish Jig”, “Spanish Point”, “Blackbird”, “Kickdancer”, and “Costa De Glacia”. As a couple of those names imply, Donal and the gang would tinge their Irish style with accents of other lands, like Spain, Sweden, but also Moldavia, “Moldavian Tripych”, on one of the songs he did on the album, though he didn’t play it that night. He needed Marta Sebestyen to be there to sing it and she wasn’t on the tour with them.
What made this show particularly memorable, at least for me, was that Donal and his people would join the Flowers on stage at the end of the night to play alongside them. I mean all of them were up there, both band’s instruments at once, making it the largest band I even had to mix together, save perhaps for James Brown and his vast army of musicians. There had to be at least 45 inputs to wrangle leaving me scrambling to put figure out how to cram them all into 24 tracks, 16 being dedicated to single instruments and two of those were for audience mics. Somehow I pulled it off and my mix wasn’t a complete disaster.
This would be the only time I’d see either bands, but I’m sad to say that Donal was in the news this year for something unthinkably tragic. He had been romantically involved with Sinead O’Connor a few years after this show and they sired a son together, who they named Shane. The relationship between Donal and Sinead however soured causing them not only to break up, but for Sinead to lose custody of Shane in 2013. The poor kid would go on to suffer from depression and ultimately take his own life last January at the young age of 17. The blow hurt Sinead so badly, that she would be hospitalized when she too would threaten to take her own life. Thankfully, she didn’t do it, but it goes without saying that she hasn’t been the same since and surely Donal hasn’t been either.
Luciano, Ivory Coast Stars, Mishka, Maritime Hall, SF, Sat., August 14, 1999
It had been only five months since Mr. Jepther Washington McClymont, AKA Luciano, graced the Hall with his melodious voice and Pete decided to let me have the reins of the recording room this time around. I guess the show was just added at the last minute since it wasn’t listed on the monthly poster. Luciano was bringing once again his brand of pious rastafarianism to the pot filled, smoky cavern of the Maritime. I had written about him before, but I learned this time around that he got his stage name from his friends comparing him to Luciano Pavarotti, the world famous Italian opera singer. He was a little pudgy too, but nowhere near Pavarotti’s well known rotundness. I also learned that before he became a professional singer, he worked for a time as an upholsterer.
Luciano had just parted ways with his longtime producer, Philip “Fatis” Burrell that year. In a completely unrelated and frankly bit out of left field thing, Luciano also received the “Key To Kansas City” that year as well. Seriously, one doesn’t particularly associate reggae with that town, especially serious roots reggae like his, but hey, whatever. It’s encouraging nonetheless. I remember the opening act, Mishka, was pretty good. He was from Bermuda by way of Nova Scotia where he was born and where is mom was from. Interesting guy. His uncle was actually the puppeteer who created Miss Piggy from “The Muppets” and Mishka was also an accomplished champion windsurfer. Though this would be the last time I’d see him or the Ivory Coast Stars, I’d get to see Luciano again three years later playing at the Warfield for the Bob Marley Day show with Mikey General who he had played with at the Hall the aforementioned show at the Maritime the previous March. He’d return to play the Warfield again only three months later in 2002 for the One Love Festival with Dean Fraser who had also been at that show in March.
The Brian Setzer Orchestra, BR5-49, War., SF, Wed., August 18, 1999
SETLIST : Hawaii Five-O, Hoodoo Voodoo Doll, This Cat’s On A Hot Tin Roof, Let The Good Times Roll, Guitar Rag, Let’s Live It Up, Gloria, The Dirty Boogie, Drive Like Lightning (Crash Like Thunder), Sleep Walk, Stray Cat Strut, Jump Jive & Wail, ’49 Mercury Blues, (Every Time I Hear) That Mellow Saxophone, Rumble In Brighton, (encore), Rock This Town, (encore), Die Moritat Von Mackie Messer (Mack The Knife), Jumpin’ East Of Java, Malaguena, Brand New Cadillac
This show was a long time coming for me. As little as I knew growing up about music, I at least recognized the contribution of one Mr. Brian Robert Setzer and his old band, The Stray Cats. With their smash hit, “Rock This Town”, that song would haunt me for years and still does. I’m ashamed to say it always would pop into my head every single time I’d see war footage on TV of America blowing up stuff. I know I’ll have to answer for that in the afterlife and who knows, maybe Setzer will too. For some reason, perhaps it was his signature Teddy Boy look, but I always thought he was English. He was actually a New Yorker from Long Island and would often perform at the Christmas tree lighting ceremony at Rockefeller Center.
Brian was back on top with his latest hit, “Jump, Jive, & Wail” from the third album, “The Dirty Boogie”, which had come out the year before this. I know I’d said before that the whole swing music fad was in its decline around this time, but upon re-examining this show, I will recant and proclaim that Brian was the an astronomically huge exception. In fact, that hit remains the biggest song to ever come out of that brief movement, so ubiquitous that I’d be subjected to it constantly during the corporate events I’d work for years. Santana’s “Smooth” would dethrone it as the mainstay company anthem eventually and the Black Eyed Peas’ “Let’s Get It Started” would take that mantle shortly afterwards. Little did I, nor I think most people would know that Brian’s big hit was actually a cover from Louis Prima, one of swing’s most talented founders. That cover of his would earn Brian a Grammy for Best Pop Performance By A Duo Or Group With Vocals and another song on that album, “Sleep Walk” would win the Grammy for Best Pop Instrumental Performance.
It was Brian’s time to shine and he was at the height of his game. This show was the first of two days he had at The Warfield and the house was filled with all sorts of folks in vintage clothing doing their fancy swinging dance moves, the women all dolled up in liberty curls. It was a nostalgia crowd to be sure and though this would be the only time I’d see Brian perform, I’d never forget around that time seeing him on some thing on MTV and being taunted by Johnny Lydon from the Sex Pistols. Johnny gave him a calendar for a present to “remind him what year it was”. Typical Johnny, that smart ass. One should at least give Brian credit for cashing in big time on songs in public domain. But like many notable acts I’d see that year, Brian made the unfortunate decision to play at Woodstock ’99 only a little more than three weeks before this gig and like everyone else involved in that catastrophe, I’m sure he was eager to put that memory behind him.
Opening that night was BR5-49, a genuine, old timey, honkytonk band from Nashville. They would return to town the following year, being one of the only acts I’d record at the Maritime after my partner Pete’s unceremonious sacking in November. There, I’d learn that their name was derived from the phone number used by a used car dealer in a recurring sketch on “Hee Haw”. Founding member, Chris Scruggs, is actually the grandson of Earl Scruggs, the banjo virtuoso who did the legendary theme song for “The Beverly Hillbillies”. Though I’d record them the following year at the Hall, they didn’t use any of my stuff since they’d release a live album called “Coast To Coast” that year from a variety of dates from touring. These guys had talent, not just with their instruments, but with their three part harmonies. That’s not easy to do and I remember they were nice gents as well.
Regardless of what people think about swing music, Mr. Setzer’s operation is an impressive one. I mean, that’s a 15 piece band he wrangles up there, 5 of which are saxophone players. I don’t think people give Brian enough credit for his well honed chops on guitar too. He strolled out in his suede creepers with 2 inch soles to begin the show, wearing a dark purple suit adorned with silver dollar sized 5 point stars, though he’d eventually strip down to his wife beater shirt by the end of the main set, exposing his tattoo laden arms. Brian was packing a shiny, matching, dark purple Gretsch guitar and his horn players donned pink dinner jackets, black pants, and black bowling shirts with Brian’s logo stitched on them. Their music stands had little lamps hidden and shining inside little plastic skulls. Before they began, they played a recording of the old 1950’s TV jingle for Chevrolet, “See The USA In Your Chevrolet” sung by Dinah Shore, then he orchestra opened with the classic TV instrumental theme song to “Hawaii 5-0”. As luck would have it, I’d just help record The Ventures, the original authors of that theme, at the Maritime only five months before this night.
We were actually lucky the Warfield shows happened at all since Brian had been suffering vocal cord problems then, causing him to cancel a few shows earlier on the tour. Thankfully, that wasn’t the case that night and he sounded fine, allowing him to play a satisfying set, naturally revisiting a couple of The Stray Cats big hits like “Stray Cat Strut” and the aforementioned “Rock This Town” which they played for their first encore. They also did a cover of Henry Mancini’s seminal instrumental theme to “The Pink Panther”, followed by the inevitable “Jump, Jive, & Wail”. Brian did give a nod to the locals during “Rumble In Brighton”, replacing the lyric with “Rumble in San Francisco” and “Rumble on the bay tonight”. For his second encore, Setzer came out wearing a glittery pink shirt and regaled the crowd with lively paced rendition of the Kurt Weill tune, “Mack The Knife”, from his “Three Penny Opera”. Sadly, most folks were familiar with that song around that time from the haunting 1988 McDonald’s commercial with that piano player with the giant moon head. I still shutter when I think about it. That commercial is infinitely more disturbing than that song’s macabre lyrics. Anyway, he finished the night with a rousing swing cover of The Clash’s “Brand New Cadillac”, but sadly there was no poster at the end of the gig.
The David Nelson Band, Legion Of Mary, Maritime Hall, Fri., August 20, 1999
This hippie bill got my partner Pete out of the woodwork to record once again. As I had written many times before, he’d grown disillusioned with the Hall and the shenanigans of its cruel owner, Boots, but he reluctantly showed up for this show and KRS-One the following night. I remember he wanted to at least attempt that he was making a bit of an effort and still cared. Third Eye Blind played the night before at the Hall with the Afghan Whigs opening, but we didn’t record that, though I can’t rightly recall why. Either I was working elsewhere or the band simply didn’t want the show taped. Whatever the case was, I’m eternally grateful I didn’t have to endure that awful band led by that insufferable, pompous dickweed Stephen Jenkins, but I did like the Whigs though. This hippie show was announced late, so it didn’t appear on the monthly poster.
A very different scene at the Hall from that show though from the night before. These were old school hippies, starting with the Legion Of Mary, the former side band of Jerry Garcia and Merl Saunders which played originally between the years of 1971 and 1975. Though neither of them were in that band anymore, they had the ever-present Martin Fiero from Zero on saxophone. Seriously, there was no escaping that guy back in those days. I’d rather not try to count how many times I’d seen Zero up till then. The Legion Of Mary had already played the Hall only two months before at the Hall opening for Buddy Guy and also for Little Feat there the previous October. Coincidentally, I had also seen David Nelson open for Little Feat at the Fillmore back in 1995 as well as had once previously help record him with Pete opening for Merl Saunders & His Rainforest Band back in 1997.
So, yes, the music was familiar that night. David had been a founding member of the hippie band, The New Riders Of The Purple Sage, who would pen one of the most renowned hippie anthems, “Panama Red”, and naturally they dusted that one off for that show, near the end I think. This would be the last time I’d see David play a whole set, though I think I caught him once or twice at Hardly Strictly Bluegrass after I stopped bootlegging. David often showed up to those. He is as of today alive and well at the age of 79, though Martin and Pete have since passed. After that weekend, Pete would only come in to run the recording room for the Pavement shows the following October and that was only because he had to since I had work with the union later those nights. I still regret to this day not getting to record that band, though I was able to stick around long enough those gigs to record their opener, Calexico, who I really admire. Still, it was good for Pete to hear some newer music, even if it was to be the last ones for him and Pavement won him over in the end, but I’ll get to those shows later when I get to October.
KRS-One, Various Artists (Truck Turner, I-Born, Thor-El), Frisco Crew & B.A.A.C., Maritime Hall, SF, Sat., August 21, 1999
There had been enough water under the bridge for KRS-One to return to the Hall after the legal stuff was settled over his, (e-hem), unauthorized usage of our recordings in his previous album, “I Got Next”. Seeing that he liked our recordings enough to steal them, Pete stuck around to record this one, perhaps hoping Mr. Lawrence “Kris” Parker would use our stuff again. But it didn’t happen. At least it was nice to have Pete around to take the helm at the end of the night after letting me record the openers. Like I said from the show the night before, this would be the last weekend Pete would come in to record anything at the Hall apart from the Pavement shows the following October. And as leery as we were to have the offending Mr. Parker back at the Maritime, it was at least a welcome antidote to all the hippie music we heard the night before with the David Nelson Band. But the one thing KRS-One had in common with Mr. Nelson was that this show was also announced late and wasn’t listed on the Hall’s monthly poster.
It was just two days after KRS-One’s 33rd birthday. I learned researching this show that his stage name isn’t just a play on his nickname, Kris, but also an acronym for “Knowledge Reigns Supreme Over Nearly Everyone”, a fun fact I didn’t catch before. The acronym does beg the question on who are the ones that knowledge’s reign misses. Maybe I’ll ask him that if I ever get another chance to meet him in the future. It was kind of a weird time for KRS-One. On top of his extensive performing and recording, he took it upon himself to also pick up the moniker of vice president of A & R at Reprise Records. He’d end his relationship with Jive Records the following year, shelving the release of his “Maximum Strength” album for nearly a decade, and ultimately also leaving his position at Reprise the year after that. He did manage to get one song, “5 Boroughs”, on the soundtrack for the film, “The Corruptor”, an action flick starring Chow Yun-Fat and Mark Wahlberg.
Speaking of movies, one of the openers, Truck Turner, took his name from a movie, a 1974 blaxploitation film starring Isaac Hayes and Yaphet Kotto. I’ll have to check that one out someday, the poster from it looked pretty bad ass. Though I have seen “The Corruptor”, I thought it was disappointing. Chow Yun-Fat was trying to break through to American audiences after “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” and never quite pulled it off. Anyway, I don’t remember much from the other openers. I’d see KRS-One one more time live three years later playing with Michael Franti at his “9/11 Power To The Peaceful” gig in Golden Gate Park, but this would be the last time he’d be recorded at the Hall. The following night, I would once again be making a musically stylistic drastic left turn and catch Ministry with L7 at The Warfield. Coincidentally, L7 had just been dropped that year from Reprise which makes me can’t help but wonder if KRS-One had anything to do with it.
Ministry, L7, War., SF, Sun., August 22, 1999
SETLIST : Reload, Crumbs, Psalm 69, Filth Pig, Eureka Pile, So What, Bad Blood, Just One Fix, N.W.O., Deity, Hero, Thieves, (encore), Supermatic Soul, Jesus Built My Hotrod, Lava, Supernaut
It’s no secret that I was into practically any of the bands that were on the Lollapalooza tours back in those days and this show had two of their hallowed alumni, Ministry who played on that bill in 1992 and L7 two years after them. I had heard a rumor that L7 was favored to be on the ’92 tour, but got sidelined for some reason. I remember distinctly hearing their album, “Bricks Are Heavy” being played during set changes that year at Shoreline. But like I said, they were finally brought in for the 1994 tour, which like the ’92 tour, had an excellent lineup, one of the best I’d ever witness. So, then five years after that, these two titan headbanging acts would team up making it a show I simply couldn’t allow myself to miss.
Little did I know that both bands would be hitting such a rough patch around this time. Al Jourgensen had grown depressed after the release of the “Filth Pig” album three years before and was helplessly sinking further into drug addiction. Their touring guitarist, William Tucker, just killed himself earlier that year, eating a bunch of pills before cutting his own throat and Ministry dedicated their latest album to him. Just released two months before this show, Al the and the band were touring in support of their hilariously named “Dark Side Of The Spoon” album, which despite getting a Grammy nomination for its single “Bad Blood” for Best Metal Performance which also made it on the soundtrack for the blockbuster film, “The Matrix”, that year, was given a less than enthusiastic review from the critics and fans. To make matters worse, Kmart pulled the album over its cover which was the back view of a naked fat lady sitting in front of a blackboard with “I will be god” written repeatedly on it. I’m not half as surprised that Kmart pulled it as much as the idea that one would find a Ministry album in that store in the first place. Ministry would be dropped from Warner the following year and poor Al even had to have a toe amputated when it got infected after he accidentally stepped on a discarded hypodermic needle. Then, they were dropped off the lineup for Ozzfest, being replaced by Soulfly. If that wasn’t bad enough, Al nearly lost his arm the year after that when he got bitten by a poisonous spider. Yeah, there are folks with problems, then there are folks with Al Jourgensen problems.
L7 was having a tough time as well then, though not nearly as life threatening. They had just replaced their bassist, Jennifer Finch, a couple years prior to this with Greta Brinkman very briefly, then to be quickly replaced by Gail Greenwood from Belly. Then they would replace Gail for this tour with Janice Tanaka from Stone Fox. Like Ministry, L7 also were dropped from their major label, Reprise, and their new album, “Slap-Happy” also wasn’t fairing well critically or commercially. In a miracle of coincidence, rapper KRS-One, who had just become the vice president of A & R at Reprise that year, I had just help record at the Maritime the night before this show. Good thing I didn’t know about L7 getting dropped then. I might have had mentioned it to KRS-One and caused some friction, well, more friction than there was already between him and the Hall.
One fun fact though, the photography for their new album was done by none other than actor Viggo Mortensen, yes Aragorn himself. I swear, that guy always keeps you guessing. The month before this show, the band played a prank at the Lilith Fair in Pasadena, which they shamefully weren’t invited to, and flew a plane over the show sporting a banner that read, “Bored? Tired? Try L7” and the following day they flew another plane over the Warped Tour in Asbury Park, New Jersey, with a banner saying, “Warped needs more beaver… love, L7”. One could call those cries for help, but I would argue that the band wasn’t getting the recognition they deserved. Seriously, both festivals would have been lucky to have them.
All this ultimately would lead to L7 to go on hiatus in 2001 and wouldn’t reunite for another fourteen long years. In fact, this show would be the last time I’d see them until they played at the Folsom Street Fair a full twenty years after I saw them at this one. It actually shocked me to learn it had been that long since I’d seen them play when I looked them up again in my archive list. However, I did catch Jennifer Finch with her band Otherstarpeople open for Echo & The Bunnymen at the Maritime that October and saw Donita Sparks with her solo band, The Stellar Moments, open for The Donnas at the Great American Music Hall in 2007. L7 drummer, Demetra Plakas was touring with Donita in that band as well. Another fun fact, the year after this show, guitarist Suzi Gardner would become the first woman to have her breasts plaster-casted by none other than Cynthia Plaster-Caster, the artist renown for casting plaster impressions of rock’s most famous… shall we say… members.
And I’m glad to say Al pulled himself out of his rut eventually and by the inexplicable grace of Cthulhu is somehow still with us to this very day. I think he was partially motivated, like so many of us then, to come back to life in order to help resist against George W. Bush and his regime. God, Al hated that man. Thankfully, I would go on to see Ministry several times since, including just before the pandemic when they were on the bill for Slayer’s final tour. But despite all the problems both bands were enduring then, it was still a fun filled show. It’s a foregone conclusion that it was loud as hell and it was equally a safe bet that the mosh pit up front was nuts. Pity there was no poster that night to commemorate this momentous pairing of bands.
Steve Earle & The Bluegrass Dukes, Fill., SF, Wed., August 25, 1999
Steve was yet another one of those artists that I knew I should have known by then, but shamefully hadn’t seen, so I was eager to catch this show. He’d been making music since the 1970’s and I was impressed by “Copperhead Road” when I heard him play a live version of it on TV once, though the show it was on escapes me. We were still in the midst of the “Alt-Country” scene, where older veterans like Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson, and Merle Haggard were getting accolades from young fans and young musicians alike. It wasn’t the over-polished Nashville scene, though Steve had done plenty of work there. He and the other vets had gone on to influence guys like Wilco, Uncle Tupelo, and The Jayhawks. However, Steve hit a rough patch a few years before this show, falling into addiction to cocaine and heroin, leading to him getting busted and going to jail for a couple months. But he went into treatment and is thankfully clean to this day.
Steve had just released his 8th studio album that February, “The Mountain”, his first album entirely dedicated to bluegrass music. He had been backed by Del McCoury and his sons, Ronnie and Robbie, for that album, but I don’t think they were in his road band that night. Dedicated to mandolin virtuoso Bill Monroe, who had just passed away three years before this, the new album brought him critical success, garnering him a Grammy nomination for Best Bluegrass album. Tim O’Brien who had contributed backing vocals on that album was with Steve on stage that night. Tim had been in a band called Hot Rize for years before this and his fellow bandmate, Charles Sawtelle, just passed away that March. Tim had also just started his own record label that year called Howdy Skies Records. Venerable hippie legend Peter Rowan had also joined the band that night on stage.
He looked good that night, in shape. Steve was only 44 years old when I’d see him here. Though professionally things were looking up for him, it was a solemn time for Steve as well, since he had just witnessed the execution of Jonathan Nobles the year before, a death row inmate that he had befriended. He would go on to write “Over Yonder (Jonathan’s Song)” during this time, but it wouldn’t be released until the following year on the “Transcendental Blues” album. He remains a vocal opponent to the death penalty to this day as well as various other liberal causes. Steve would go on to play at Farm-Aid less than three weeks after this show.
Bluegrass music was a good fit for Steve clearly and his new interest in the genre would pay off in the long run. He would soon become chums with billionaire Warren Hellman who would be the founder of the annual Hardly Strictly Bluegrass festival in Golden Gate Park in 2001, though Steve wouldn’t begin playing at it until 2002. But rest assured, Steve would be there with bells on for every year afterwards, playing on the main Banjo stage at the end of one of the days all those weekends. God knows how many times I would see him there, though apart from an in-store performance he would do at Amoeba Records ten years later, this is the only time I’d see him indoors at one of his own shows. Still, it was a good one and I’m glad it was loud enough so the usual bluegrass fans’ jibber jabber didn’t distract me too much. Sadly, there was no poster that night.
Testament, The Haunted, Fill., SF, Sat., August 28, 1999
SETLIST : D.N.R. (Do Not Resuscitate), Down For Life, Demonic Refusal, Low, Burnt Offerings, Into The Pit, 3 Days Of Darkness, Eyes Of Wrath, Legions Of The Dead, Riding The Snake, True Believer, Over The Wall, (encore), Dog Faced Gods, Disciples Of The Watch
It always feels good to hear some genuine bone fide bay area thrash metal music in its home, or at least home region since they were originally from Berkeley. Needless to say, there were plenty and familiar faces in the crowd for these guys. It had been a transitional period for Testament having just parted ways with both their bass and lead guitarists, Derrick Ramirez and Glen Alvelais, as well as Jon Dette on drums. Their old guitarist James Murphy rejoined the band, along with Death bassist Steve Di Giorgio and Slayer drummer Dave Lombardo for their new album, “The Gathering”, though the last two were switched out for the touring band by Steve Smyth and Steve Jacobs. Dave was on drums that night though, which was fortunate. Probably the only show they did with him back then here, at least the only San Francisco show anyway. I guess Jacobs joined the band later. Finally, Jon Allen would take over for Jacobs the following year. Suffice to say, they’ve had more ex-members than Menudo. This new album would be the only one Lombardo would do with Testament, though he just rejoined the band just last year since Slayer called it quits in 2019 (allegedly, I’ll believe that when they’re all in their cold, cold graves and even then maybe). Word is Testament’s working on a new one, so I might get another shot.
Singer Chuck Billy would be diagnosed with a very rare form of cancer shortly after this tour and would undergo chemo that thankfully cured him of it and I’m happy to say that he’s alive and well today. Nothing can take down that hairy hulk of a man, tougher than Chewbacca. On a much less perilous bit of bad news, the Maritime had put on the “Thrash Of The Titans” show to help pay for his medical bills in 2001, but I didn’t get to record that one since it was after Pete and I got the heave ho from there. Wade, the main recording guy clearly wanted that one and I can’t say I blame him. That was a who’s who of bay area metal that night. In another terrible turn of events, James Murphy was diagnosed with a brain tumor around then too, but likewise was able to get it treated early and made a full recovery. But I digress.
I had seen Testament at The Fillmore before back in 1995. That was a profound honor since I would discover that night because the show was being recorded for the “Live At The Fillmore” album. But this being just a normal gig for them this time, still to me, is always an honor to see them or any metal show at The Fillmore. The venue elevates the genre and its graceful ambience makes a curious juxtaposition to the bombastic music and crowd. Rough as they are, the fans don’t make a mess of the place, at least no worse than fans of any other genre of music. Incidentally, I’ve always admired Testament’s hair. There’s a forest of well kept locks up there with them and it being August must get pretty hot. Makes sense that most of them wear shorts on stage. Dave’s hair was short then, but then again he was only only in the band briefly.
Pissing Razors was originally supposed to open for Testament that night, but they were replaced by The Haunted from Gothenburg, Sweden for some reason. They were still pretty new back then, having just released their debut, self titled album the year before this. Like Testament, The Haunted were as loud as fuck, so the recording came out nice and clear. Damn, their singer, Peter Dolving, could yell. Makes my throat sore just listening to him. I was lucky to see him then though since he’d quit the band shortly after this gig along with their drummer Adrian Erlandsson. Though Peter would return back to the band in 2004, he’d leave again in 2012. The other band members had been in At The Gates and they played one of their songs that night.
All night, Chuck sang into his mic, still attached to the top half of his mic stand, like Freddie Mercury. He’d carry the thing about like a riding crop and frequently would pantomime guitar playing on it. After they finished “Into The Pit”, Chuck praised their new album saying it was some of the best stuff they’d ever done and then brought up a handful of heshers who had won some kind of contest. He let these young headbangers sing along to “3 Days Of Darkness” commanding them to sing louder than all us motherfuckers. Testament were tight that show, heavy as it gets. They gave Dave a drum solo near the end of their set and he was impressive, one of the best metal drummers ever in my opinion.
The crowd repeatedly chanted “Testament!” during the encore break until they came out again and Chuck introduced the band. He praised northern California for the quality of our weed, lamenting how awful it was everywhere else, then finished the night with “Dog Faced Gods” and “Disciples Of The Watch”. I’m sad to say that this was the last time I’d seen Testament, but like I said they’re still around and I hope I get another chance. Maybe if they do The Fillmore again, they’ll finally get a poster. Third time’s a charm I hope.
GZA, Dr. Israel, The Deadbeats, Ginseng Root, Maroon Descendants, Maritime Hall, SF, Sun., August 29, 1999
SETLIST : Reunited, Publicity, 4th Chamber, Duel Of Da Iron Mic, Bring The Ruckus, Clan In Da Front, Dreddy Krueger (Freestyle), Prodigal Son (Freestyle), Labels, Liquid Swords, Living In The World 2Day, Cold World, Beneath The Surface, Mic Trippin, String Play, Hip Hop Fury, Crash Your Crew, Breaker Breaker, Triumph, Older Godz, GZ (Freestyle), Gold, Killah Hills 10304, Breaker Breaker (Remix) Outro
This was one of those rare and bittersweet occasions where all these years down the road, I find another album. Yes, once again, in doing research for this show, I found that our stuff was good enough to steal. Now, to be clear, this was an unofficial release, a bootleg with no label of any kind, so I won’t be pointing fingers at any suspected guilty people. I found it on Discogs and Mixunit and am currently awaiting the CD of it in the mail, but I can say with almost absolute certainty that my name won’t be listed in the credits, if there are any, which I sincerely doubt. But Mixunit at least allowed me to sample snippets of each song and clearly it’s my stuff. There’s no way this was somebody in the balcony with a portable set. The vocal and audience mics are way too clear for that. And yes, this is MY stuff. Pete had never had any interest in rap acts and left them all to me ever since Run DMC played at the Hall over two years before this. But if he knew of GZA’s talent and reputation he might have reconsidered leaving this one to me.
This would be the first time I’d see the one and only Mr. Gary Eldridge Grice. I had the honor of recording fellow Wu Tang Clan alumni, Ol’ Dirty Bastard and Method Man, on separate occasions the year before at the Maritime, but I wouldn’t see the Wu Tang Clan altogether until three years later at The Fillmore. GZA mentioned during the show that people were always asking him when they’d get together again and he assured them that it would be soon. I would soon discover that “The Genius” was a name well earned by this artist. To this day, I still struggle to conjure up any names in hip hop that are on the level of GZA’s lyrical mastery. But as usual, I knew jack shit about him at the time. Shortly after this night, I mentioned the show to my friend Drew and he kicked me down a copy of his platinum selling “Liquid Swords” album, which I loved immediately. That one came out in ’95 and continues to be a seminal masterpiece of the genre.
Along with his cousin RZA and ODB, GZA formed the Clan initially as a three man trio in 1992. He had dropped out of school in the 10th grade and worked briefly as a bike messenger before Wu Tang took off. His lack of formal education obviously didn’t hinder his vocabulary, not to mention his renowned ability to play chess. The last time I saw him, a few years ago at The Independent, a fan in the front row even brought a portable chess set and played a game with GZA while he performed, though they didn’t have enough time to finish the game when the encore came to an end. Maybe they finished it backstage later. Anyway, by the time of this show, GZA’s third solo album, “Beneath The Surface”, the title a reference to his “underground” roots among other things I’m sure, had been out for only a couple months. Not as critically and commercially successful as “Liquid Swords”, it nonetheless quickly went gold. It was a pretty packed house that night and there were plenty of chants of “Wu Tang!” before GZA took the stage as well as after his set ended. I don’t remember much from the openers, but Maroon Descendants had just played the Hall that June opening up for Rahzel.
GZA was accompanied by a trio of rappers, Allah Mathematics, Dreddy Kruger, and Prodigal Sunn. Mathematics had been one of the founding member of Wu Tang and had taken to producing by then, including the aforementioned “Beneath The Surface” album. Prodigal Sunn did a little acting on the side, even appearing in an episode of “Sex & The City”. Near the end of their set, they teased the audience, “If y’all want us to go home, be quiet!” Naturally, everybody made noise and they continued. At the end of the show, the soundman played “Steppin’ Out” by Steel Pulse over the speakers as the crowd dispersed. Earlier in the set between songs, GZA warned people not to trust record labels and as much as I feel a little burned by the bootleg album coming out, I’m just glad it came out at all, label or not. Seriously, when I found about it, I felt a great swell of pride, something I hadn’t felt since I discovered Public Enemy used one of my songs. I can go anywhere on this planet, hold my head up high, and boast about this album in a loud, steady voice. There isn’t a hip hop fan on Earth worth their salt that hasn’t heard of Wu Tang.
Fear Factory, Static X, Dope, Maritime Hall, SF, Thurs., September 2, 1999
(STATIC X) : Stem, Sweat Of The Bud, Otsegolation, The Trance Is The Motion, I’m With Stupid, Love Dump, Push It
(FEAR FACTORY) : Shock, New Breed, Flashpoint, Zero Signal, Self Bias Resistor, Edgecrusher (with Stephen Carpenter), Scumgrief, Descent, Pisschrist, Resurrection, Demanufacture, Martyr, Scapegoat, Cars (with Koichi Fukuda), Angel Of Death (with Tom Araya), Dead Embryonic Cells / Roots Bloody Roots, Replica
It had only been eight months since Fear Factory had played the Hall with Static X opening for them, so I knew what I was in for. I would invite y’all to revisit my writings about that January show if you’re curious about more of their biographical stuff, but I’ll skip it mostly this time as not to repeat myself. This time, these two nu metal acts were touring with their own monitor board, so I wasn’t able to get a multi-track recording of them this time, but I was still able to get a stereo mix of the night. Though I didn’t save it for myself, you can find a comparable set of Static X on YouTube from a show they had played in Detroit the week before this show. Both bands had just finished a stint on the Ozzfest tour that summer. Fear Factory had been brought in to headline the second stage, replacing Judas Priest, and they were still promoting their album, “Obsolete”, from the year before, their only album to go gold.
Static X had been ridiculously busy even for rock band standards, playing over 300 shows that year alone. This time, they had the band Dope with them, the first to play that night. Dope were still pretty new, having formed in ’97 in New York City. They were appropriately named as they were shall we say amateur pharmaceutical salesmen, a side gig to help support themselves and their efforts to make music. Their frontman Edsel Dope and his brother, keyboardist Simon Dope, were friends with Marilyn Manson and his band and they would go on to release their first album, “Felons & Revolutionaries” only 12 days after this show. One of their hits from that one was an industrial metal cover of N.W.A.’s seminal hip hop classic, “Fuck Tha Police” which naturally they performed that night. They also did a cover of Dead Or Alive’s “You Spin Me Round (Like A Record)”, which would be bonus track on their album in a later pressing. Dope’s guitarist, Tripp Eisen, fed up with not getting paid royalties, would leave the band to join Static X in 2000, replacing Koichi Fukuda.
As I had mentioned in the show they did the previous January, I would see Static X and their frontman, Wayne Static, one more time three years later when they played the Warfield with Soulfly and then Wayne would succumb to a drug overdose in 2014 and die in his sleep. What I didn’t know until recently was that his wife, adult film star Tera Wray, would die just a year afterwards, tragically taking her own life. Static X however did reform in 2019 and toured celebrating the 20th anniversary of their album, “Wisconsin Death Trip” with an unidentified vocalist wearing a gruesome “Michael Myers” style mask that looked suspiciously like Wayne calling himself “Xer0”. Some people have speculated that it was Edsel Dope who was the masked singer, despite Edsel denying it to this day. Dope would go on to have several line up changes over the years, including 7 different drummers, though I believe this was the only time I ever saw them.
There were several guests of note appearing on stage with Fear Factory that night starting with Stephen Carpenter, the guitarist of the Deftones, who joined them for the song “Edgecrusher”. Then, the aforementioned Koichi Fukuda joined them for their cover of Gary Numan’s “Cars”. But the big surprise came later when none other than Tom Araya, the bassist and vocalist of Slayer, took the stage with them to do Slayer’s unforgettable metal classic “Angel Of Death”. Rest assured, the pit went bananas for that one. Coincidentally, I had just seen Slayer’s drummer, Dave Lombardo, perform with Testament at The Fillmore only five days before this show. Fear Factory also did a cover of “Dead Embryonic Cells / Roots Bloody Roots” by Sepultura, the second to last song of their set. I’d see Fear Factory play one more time five years later at The Warfield with Lamb Of God and Children Of Bodom, but that would be for the last time for me.
Billy Bragg & The Blokes, Freedy Johnson, Fill., SF, Sat., September 4, 1999
SETLIST : Accident Waiting To Happen, Milkman Of Human Kindness, I Guess I Planted, Eisler On The Go, Glad & Sorry, All You Fascists, Sulk, Shirley, A New England, (encore), The World Turned Upside Down, Jeane, Upfield, I Don’t Need This Pressure Ron, (encore), Walk Away Renee, Debris, Rule Nor Reason
It had only been since the previous December since I’d recorded Billy at the Maritime when he was in town doing a benefit for local dock workers, so I knew more or less what I was in for that night. He and the Blokes were playing The Fillmore this time, though they were playing the following night at Palookaville in Santa Cruz, which was booked by the folks at the Maritime then. Billy was in between volumes of the “Mermaid Avenue” albums, the Woody Guthrie revival project that he had done with Wilco, but was still singing tunes from the first album. Feel free to go back and read about it from the Maritime show. It was a big hit and I’ll leave it at that.
Billy had an interesting year in ’99 having just moved to Dorset and appearing to speak at the House Of Lords. There he sought reform for UK’s general elections, hoping to rearrange the Upper House in a manner that would more accurately reflect the result of the election, calling it the “Bragg Method”. Hopefully, people didn’t confuse it with the other Bragg Method which is a technique in which a beam of X-rays is directed against a crystal, the atoms which because of their lattice arrangement, reflect the ray in the same way as a series of plane surfaces… As luck would have it, the SPIE optics show was just in town and I usually work it every year. Makes me wonder if Billy has heard of this other method. Also that year, he had a social housing development named after him in Barking, UK called “Bragg Close”. Billy attended the opening of it, musing about his family’s history in the area and how proud he was.
Anyway, back to the show. Opening that night was songwriter Freedy Johnston. I managed to tape only one song from his set, but it was one of his hits, “Bad Reputation”. Freedy was originally from Kinsley, Kansas, but had relocated to New York City where he accumulated a respectable catalogue of songs, some finding themselves on movie soundtracks like “Things To Do In Denver When You’re Dead”, “Kingpin”, “Heavy”, and “Kicking & Screaming”. He had just released his fifth album, “Blue Days Black Nights” just six weeks before this evening.
Billy mentioned early in his set between songs, that there was a hotel workers strike going on down near Union Square and he voiced his support for them and their pursuit of a living wage before playing “I Guess I Planted”. He had veteran musician Ian McLagan from The Small Faces on keyboards that night and before they played Ian’s song, “Glad & Sorry”, Billy told a story about how fans of The Faces and The Small Faces would butt heads about which band was better, though Billy reassured both camps that Ian had been in both bands. Ian had done session work with everybody from the Stones, to Bob Dylan, Frank Black, and John Mayer just to name a few. I was lucky to have stumbled into a pub in Camden Town when I was a student in London in ’92 and catch him and his band doing a show there. I was glad to see him again, but I believe this would be this last time since he passed away in 2014.
Before he played “All You Fascists”, which Woody had written all the way back in 1941, Billy said he had been inspired to do the “Mermaid Avenue” album by The Clash whose members would write anti-fascist slogans on their instruments. But he noted that Woody was the first to do it, even before electric guitars, famously scrawling “This Machine Kills Fascists” on his acoustic and Billy joked that Woody was a Clash fan. He also gave a shout out to imprisoned activist Mumia Abu-Jamal and mentioned a rally for him at Dolores Park the following weekend with Michael Franti. The aforementioned song didn’t make it to the first “Mermaid Avenue” album, but made it to second volume and Billy always played it.
Afterwards, he took a moment to just speak to the ladies in the house to give a shout out the U.S. Women’s Soccer Team who had just won the World Cup which was met with a rousing round of applause. He joked that the guys “can go on with your silly runny runny, catchy catchy game”, but he and the ladies can go to any country and “strip off to our bra and penalty shoot out” with anybody and they didn’t have to “dress up with big pretend muscley things and tight ass trousers” or with a “crash helmet with a visor”. He then praised soccer as a game for all nations and an “extension of the socialist ideal” adding that “the World Series is not the World Cup”, before playing “Sulk”. He encouraged the men in the audience to “stop playing hackey sack” and “go for the goal!”
After the first song of the first encore, Billy mentioned that the WTO were meeting in Seattle at the end of November and as you may or may not remember, it didn’t go so well. The protesters rioted and made a mess of the place, though most came to just make their voices heard. Up until that point, I had actually been registered to vote as “anarchist”, but after that scene, I decided that my little inside joke might be a red flag to certain domestic intelligence agencies. I then changed my registration to become a member of the “Bachelor Party”, though after over seven years of matrimony, I finally got around to change it again and am now a member of the “After Party”. But if confrontational politics isn’t your thing, you might want to skip a Billy Bragg show. I remember seeing him on a double bill with Robyn Hitchcock who talks as nearly as much as Billy does between songs, though his banter is a teensy bit more scatological. But Billy isn’t an unreasonable man, he spoke of the upcoming election and of George W. Bush and would put the question to him and his people if they were compassionate and if they were, that they were welcome at his show.
But Billy wasn’t all fire and brimstone politics. He did a funny spoken word piece called “Walk Away Renee” at the beginning of his second encore and did a sentimental acoustic number, “Rule Nor Reason”, to finish the night. Though there wasn’t a poster to commemorate the gig, Billy returned to play the Fillmore the following year and he got one then. In one final note, upon hearing Billy sing again in this recording, I couldn’t help but think about just how pronounced his accent is. I mean, there are many English people who sound American and vice versa, but when you hear him, he leaves absolutely no room for doubt. It’s as almost as if he’s EXTRA English, but hey, it’s the way the good lord made him I suppose. One thing I will give him credit for, despite his heavy East London accent, Billy has excellent diction which made figuring out his set list a breeze.
Crash Worship, The Master Musicians Of Jajouka, Subarachnoid Space, Maritime Hall, SF, Thurs., September 9, 1999
I couldn’t wait to see this one, especially since Pete gave the show for me to record. He had done the first time they played the Hall, strangely enough on April Fool’s Day the year before and to say that this freakish collection of pagan artists made an impression would be an understatement. They had the reputation of performing at a venue once… ONCE… then never invited back again, so having them do their thing at the Hall for a second time was fortunate. Between all the fire and various liquids splashed about all night, they make a bit of a mess. I know they left a decent sized burn mark on the dance floor from at least one of the two shows they did at the Maritime. I’m glad I caught it for several reasons, yes, but the main reason wouldn’t be revealed until the show was long over. This would be not only one of just four shows they would do that autumn, but indeed the last shows they would ever do. I know one of the four shows was at the Aztlan Theater in L.A., but the final performance of this bizarre spectacle known as Crash Worship would take place six weeks after my night in San Diego. Many members would scatter to parts unknown, but a few of their locations are not so secret. Simon Cheffins, their percussionist and effects specialist, went on to form the Extra Action Marching Band. Markus Wolff relocated to Portland, Oregon and Adam Nodelman unfortunately relocated to the afterlife, passing away in 2008 at the young age of 43, the cause of death still a mystery.
But one attraction of the show that night that most probably will never die was the opening act, The Master Musicians Of Jajouka. For over a thousand years, these guys have been carrying on the traditional music of the Jbala Sufi people of the Riff Mountains of northern Morocco, passing down their skills and knowledge of pipes and drums from father to son. At the very least, I appreciated that the Hall had booked a line up with such an eclectic roster, something that most venues woefully neglect. If the name of the these Masters sounds remotely familiar, you might be a fan of beat poetry or at least of the early works of the Rolling Stones. Let’s set the clock back a handful of decades and continue.
Once upon a time, in the 1950’s a fellow named Mohamed Hamri took it upon himself to get these guys together to play and promote them. It was blind luck that during that time, the venerable beat poet William S. Burroughs had taken residence in the area, still dealing with the fallout after accidentally slaying his wife in an urban legendary incident, performing his “William Tell act”. It was that time, he would compose the writings that would ultimately become “Naked Lunch”. But while he was in the area, he and his fellow expatriates, Brion Gysin and Paul Bowles, would encounter these musicians, Brion first hearing them at a music festival in Sidi-Karem. It is disputed who amongst the three coined their “Master Musicians” name, but it was one of them. Burroughs would cite them and the piper god Pan,“god of panic” on more than one occasion.
From there, one of the Stones’ sound people got word of them and passed it on to guitarist Brian James who immediately took a fancy, perhaps while under the influence of some of Morocco’s popular mind altering substances. Mr. Jones to his credit made a live recording of their work and published an album titled “Brian Jones Presents The Pipes Of Pan At Jajouka” which would be released in 1971, three years after Brian’s untimely “death by misadventure”. In the intervening years, the band changed hands and members, splitting the band between Bachir and Ahmed Attar and the aforementioned album would be rereleased in 1995, undoubtably reigniting interest in them. So, fast forward to 1999 and I would be lucky enough to be on the receiving end of their talent.
But before I continue, I must share a ridiculous anecdote that stuck in my head for that entire evening. Years before this show, my friend Hefe’s father had visited Morocco for some reason and had an interesting encounter on the street while there. I know this sounds like a stupid joke, but my lifelong friend swore that this is what happened. A young man approached Hefe’s dad in the street in broad daylight and asked him in a warm, friendly voice if he knew how a Moroccan pickpocket picked pockets. He said no and the young man went on to demonstrate. He said, “First he takes out his hand”, and then he showed him his hand, then said, “Then he puts it in your pocket”, then he put it in Hefe’s dad’s pocket. Then he said, “Then he takes out your wallet”, which he did and then he grinned and announced, “Then he runs away!” Well, that young man took off with Hefe’s dad’s wallet down the street and despite the pursuit Hefe’s dad made, he got away. He must have been fast since Hefe’s dad was skinny as a rail, like his son, and certainly wouldn’t have given up easily. I have to give credit to Hefe’s dad for having the humor and humility to share that story and though it might be embarrassing to him and the good people of Morocco, it makes for a funny story and worth sharing.
But as usual, I digress and must get back to the show. These Moroccans weren’t the first on stage that though, being preceded by Subarachnoid Space. They were a psychedelic improvisational group, adding to the eclectic bill that evening, and were led by a fellow named Mason Jones, no relation to Brian Jones. Let’s just say this wasn’t he kind of music one would dance to and leave it at that. What I did remember strangely enough about this act was Mason’s head. He was a stout fellow with a thick black beard and with some strikingly, abnormally pronounced wrinkles on his forehead. Even after all these years, I never forgot that. He would go on to found Charnel Records, a label specializing in experimental music such as his. Incidentally, their name is derived from a space formed by an opening in the brain that is filled with cerebrospinal fluid. Though I’m sure my father, God rest his soul, who was a neurobiologist and my father in law who is a neuropathologist would appreciate the name, I highly doubt they would be into their music.
But they were only on for about a half hour and the Jajouka boys were up next. Their sound beguiled me. I mean, I don’t want to lump them into the so-called world music thing. I always thought that phrase was sort of a cop out, but suffice to say, I hadn’t heard anything remotely like that before that night. They came out dressed in their causal, earth toned, soft clothes and traditional instruments and just started jamming. Almost immediately, their instrumental music put me in a trance, so much so, that I had to sort of snap out of it from time to time to focus on mixing them. Thankfully, the crowd shut up enough, that I could pick up what they were playing and keep them balanced. What I didn’t expect was that after their set was done, their leader, which I assume was Bachir Attar, said they were going to take a break and “have a smoke” and then return for a second set which they did. It wasn’t on the schedule for the night, but I wasn’t complaining.
As crazy and memorable as the spectacle of Crash Worship as it was, I found myself more captivated by these guys, so much so that when Pete was at the Hall again, I made him a point to play him the tape of their performance from that night, something I’d never done before with him. I thought since Pete was of that Beat generation, he’d be interested, but after five or ten minutes of it, he simply folded his arms and casually said in his gruff voice that he’d had heard enough. Still, I was honored that I had the opportunity to record them, perhaps even more than that of Crash Worship, even if that was their last show in the bay area. I was just relieved at the end of the night that they hadn’t burned the place down.
Dance Hall Crashers, No Use For A Name, Limp, Fill., SF, Sat., September 18, 1999
SETLIST : Go, Make Her Purr, Mr. Blue, Buried Alive, Shelley, The Real You, Next To You, Beverly Kills, My Problem, Triple Track, Enough, Cat Fight, Sticky, Everything To Lose, Good For Nothin’, Queen For A Day, Just Like That, Lost Again, (encore). Cricket, Elvis & Me, He Wants Me Back, DHC
It had actually been three long years since I heard my brother’s alma matter, the Dance Hall Crashers at Live 105’s B.F.D. at Shoreline. They were back at The Fillmore, headlining there again for the second time in their illustrious career with No Use For A Name opening for them there also for a second time. Reggae veterans Israel Vibration played the Maritime the night before, but as usual, Pete and I didn’t record them since they’d already put out a live album with our stuff, so I had that night off. This time around, DHC had Limp on the bill, who were also bay area natives. The lead singer, Phil Ensor, celebrated that fact when they took the stage and praised The Fillmore, declaring that although it was their first time performing at the venue, he had been “coming there for many, many, many, many years.” Despite their undeniable talent and that they had just released their second album, “Guitarded” that February, Limp had the unfortunate timing around then that Limp Bizkit would be at the height of their popularity. Limp was often being confused for those dingbats, though their music was radically different.
Limp had actually employed guitarist Scott Goodell to be their first drummer, one of DHC’s many former members like my brother Alex. I had seen them once opening for The Offspring at Maritime Hall the year before, but since that bill was touring with their own monitor board, we didn’t get a hook up for the multi track recording, so I took the night off and just watched that show instead. I was impressed with Limp and their frenzied energy as I was at this show. They did a rather respectful cover of Boston’s “More Than A Feeling”, although Phil did joke before playing it that they would be playing a “guessing game” with the crowd and that they were “probably not old enough” to recognize it. One cover they did, which they had also played at the Hall which certainly everybody recognized and was a crowd pleaser was “Holiday Road” by Lindsey Buckingham of Fleetwood Mac, which they saved for the end of their set. Of course, everybody on Earth knows that tune as the theme song to the seminal film comedy, “National Lampoon’s Vacation”. Limp brilliantly flew through it at first, then brought it down to a hush in the middle, getting the audience to sing the “Whoa-oh-oh-a-oh-oh” between lines, before bringing it back to a faster and faster pace, climaxing at the end. It was a brilliant cover and I certainly hope that Mr. Buckingham and all those involved with the movie have heard it at least once.
Next up was No Use For A Name, who played admirably as always, they being one of the most reliable opening acts I’d ever see. The singer, Tony Sly, recognized one of his fans up front during his set, saying he “saw you before at other shows, the Tahoe one” and he offered him a towel. Karina from DHC came up on stage and sang back up vocals on one of their songs that night as well. They also did a fun punk cover, doing Depeche Mode’s “Enjoy The Silence”, probably the best cover I’d ever heard of that moody anthem, clearly the most cheerful version of it anyway. Also, the did a breakneck paced punk cover of Bob Marley’s “Redemption Song” which I appreciated since that song is so overplayed and held with such sanctimonious regard, that it is a relief to hear it performed with such humor and upbeat optimism.
No Use For A Name was in a bit of transitional period that year. I believe this was the first show I’d see them without their lead guitarist, Chris Shiflett, who left them to join the Foo Fighters. No one can really blame him for trading up, even on the eve of No Use For A Name’s release of their new album, “More Betterness!” which came out just 17 days after this show. The Foo Fighters were huge, even back then. Thankfully, they found a replacement for Chris almost immediately with guitarist Dave Nassie, formerly of the 22 Jacks. DHC had some new songs from “Purr” album they released that year on Pink & Black Records, an off shoot of Fat Wreck Chords, owned by Fat Mike of NOFX. Years later in 2015, Karina would join NOFX as their keyboardist and back up singer. We were treated to six of their new tunes amongst their extended catalogue of hits.
Like before in 1995, it was gratifying to see them headline there in the native bay area and be surrounded by friends, family, and their long term devoted fans. Elyse asked them if they got the new album and how many folks out there owned turntables. Before they played “Shelley”, Karina asked the crowd how many of them were there at the 1995 show reminding us that No Use For A Name played with them that night too. Like them, DHC was tight, especially the Hammon brothers, Jason on guitar and Gavin on drums. Seriously, they always made it look more than easy. They make it look fun. Everybody looked like they were having the time of their lives on stage. They even played “Triple Track”, which was only 30 seconds long, that they had added to the compilation album “Short Music For Short People”. All the songs on it were around the same length, totaling 101 songs, yet still altogether being less than 50 minutes long. That has to be some kind of record, no pun intended. No Use For A Name and Limp also contributed tracks to that album. They finished their main set with “Lost Again”, though it didn’t take them long to come back on stage, brought back with the audience chanting, “DHC! DHC! DHC!” Karina joked, “That’s our name, don’t wear it out!”
But I have to admit the strongest memory of this show was the feeling of profound embarrassment I felt during their encore. They were egging on the crowd asking for requests and as usual, I screamed out “Street Sweeper!”, one of their earliest songs which they never played live anymore. But before wrapping up the night with the customary “DHC” theme song, they dusted off their golden oldie, “He Wants Me Back”. As you might recall from my previous writings about them, yours truly was brought in at the last minute to play their trumpet player in a music video of it made for a SF State film student recorded out on Ocean Beach. Karina and Elyse had invited the crowd up to sing along on stage with their impeccable voices and you can imagine the utter mortification I felt when I froze up and for the life of me and couldn’t remember the lyrics! Karina even made a point telling the crowd not to come up if they didn’t know the words. I must had heard that song a couple dozen times that day we shot the video, but that was seven years before this and I was caught by surprise to say the least.
To my defense, I was bootlegging that night as always and feared that I would get caught if I had joined them on stage under all those lights. But still, I was disappointed in missing out, especially since most people on stage with them simply danced or just sang during the song’s chorus. Naturally, the song’s lyrics came back to me as clear as crystal while they sang it. I at least enjoyed the experience vicariously through the joy of those who did manage to join them on stage and listening to the whole show while writing this fills me with mirth and gratitude that I got to see them as often as I did, even after my brother was no longer performing with them. Other than my inaction during that encore, the only regret from that show was for a second time The Fillmore shamefully didn’t give them a poster.
Chris Cornell, Fill., SF, Mon., September 20, 1999
SETLIST : Sunshower, Can’t Change Me, Flutter Girl, Mission, Preaching The End Of The World, Seasons, When I’m Down, Pillow Of Your Bones, Moonchild, Sweet Euphoria, Like Suicide, Follow My Way, (encore), All Night Thing, Steel Rain
After three years since my last seeing Soundgarden at the Henry J. Kaiser, I hadn’t thought about Chris Cornell till he finally resurfaced to release his first solo album, “Euphoria Mourning”. That was in fact the last show I’d see at the Kaiser which still to this day remains dormant, at least as a rock venue. Chris’ new album was so new that it was the released the day after this gig and he pronounced that this Fillmore show was their first ever! Lucky me. However, I found out that it was actually the fourth show of the tour, the previous three being in Cambridge, MA, New York City, and in D.C.
It would be his only solo record before joining Audioslave a two years later, but he’d put out a few more solo records after that band parted ways in 2007. Soundgarden had been splitsville for over two and a half years by then and Chris was wrestling with some serious personal demons as well. His marriage was falling apart and he was suffering from depression which was aggravated by his drinking. After the birth of his daughter, Lillian Jean, the following year, he’d finally divorce his first wife in 2004, but would quickly remarry to his second wife that same year. Though I’m sure this new album and tour helped, as we all know, his demons would take him down in the end and he’d take his own life in 2017. At least we’d have him around for another 18 years.
Though I wasn’t initially impressed by the songs from the new album, the majority of the material he performed that night, upon hearing them again, they grew on me. People, distracted by his superhuman voice and dashing good looks, forget how talented he was as a songwriter. There was a funny bit about the album’s title which was the now and future title, “Euphoria Mourning”. But at the time, Chris and his manager debated it thinking when one pronounces the title out loud, they hear “Morning” instead, so after much deliberation, they decided to change it to that. But afterwards, Chris realized that the first one was better and joked that the second title sounded like a “potpourri scent” and changed it back when the album was rereleased in 2015. Though it wasn’t a commercial success, selling less than 400,000 copies, it won over critics and even garnered a Grammy nomination for Best Male Rock Vocal Performance for the single, “Can’t Change Me”, the second song he played that night.
It was just an “evening with” show for Mr. Cornell and since he only had that one solo album, it was a relatively short set, making it an early night for me. Early in his set, he mentioned that the closest thing he had done to a solo show before was when he was much younger, he and Matt Cameron opened for Jonathan Richman, playing 12-string guitars, but couldn’t recall where that happened. Though like I said, most of the material was from “Euphoria Mourning”, we were treated to “All Night Thing”, a song from the Temple Of The Dog band, for the first song of his encore. Also, earlier he did “Mission” and “Seasons”, songs that he wrote for the “Mission Impossible 2” and “Singles” soundtracks respectively, and gave us one Soundgarden tune, “Like Suicide”. Technically, “Flutter Girl” was a Soundgarden song too, being an outtake from “Superunknown”.
He thanked the people of The Fillmore saying that it was only the second or third time he’d played there, but that “they treat you like a human being which is very rare.” Though I never saw Soundgarden play there or know exactly when they did, I do know they played The Warfield once in 1992 since I’d seen the poster from that night. After the show ended, Chris and his band immediately went to L.A. to play back to back shows at the Henry Fonda Theater and from there, to tour Europe for a month before returning to the States to continue playing gigs until the following March. I’m happy to report that there was a poster given away at my show that night and it was a good one. That helped make up for The Fillmore denying one to the Dance Hall Crashers for their second time headlining there two nights before this.
Kool Keith, DJ Spooky, Jimmy Luxury, Maritime Hall, SF, Wed., September 22, 1999
SETLIST : Fantastic Voyage, Ego Trippin, Funky, Two Brothers With Checks (San Francisco Harvey), Ease Back, Freestyle, More Bounce To The Ounce, Sex Style, Blue Flowers, Livin Astro, Poppa Large
Let’s face it, any Kool Keith show is a special show. But this one would probably turn out to be the most important of them at least for me and my friend and partner, Tory. By this time, we’d already been fans of Mr. Thornton, bordering on obsession. Though I had the honor of recording him the year before, this would be Tory’s first, which was important unto itself. What we didn’t know back then was that nine years after this night, Keith would do a show at the Mezzanine and it would be taped for a the live “Ultra-Octa-Doom” DVD and the footage from the Maritime show in its entirety would be used on that DVD for its bonus footage. I had long since gave any hope that Keith’s or any other artists footage from the Hall would be used by then. Even the stuff that was supposed to come out maybe had a fifty-fifty chance of seeing the light of day in the first place. I was at that Mezzanine show with Motion Man and saw that they were taping it, though I was understandably skeptical. It was sad but not surprising when neither Tory’s or my names ended up in the credits on the packaging. At least they were in the credits rolled in the footage at the end of our set. It’s ours and it’s for the ages which makes me infinitely proud, maybe more than any other thing the Maritime would put out. Maybe it ties with the Bad Brains album, but it’s in the top three for sure.
This fateful evening, Keith was touring with DJ Spooky and Kutmasta Kurt and riding high on the critical and commercial success of his “Black Elvis / Lost In Space” album, which had just been released only six weeks before this show. Both Tory and I had listened to it non-stop and were well versed in its jams. On the way to the show, I mused that it would be cool if Keith actually got his hands on a life-size, mechanical replica of an alligator that he could operate remotely, a reference to a line in the song, “Maxi Curls”, where he uses the phrase “Remote Control Alligators” in its chorus. I still think that album might be the best work he’s ever made, undeniably the one that made him the most money anyway.
I suppose it was for the best that “Black Elvis” was delayed in its release by four months, originally supposed to be put out alongside the “First Come, First Served” album the previous May. Keith’s stuff in my opinion is best digested slowly. There’s a lot to take in. However, Keith was understandably pissed that the new album was delayed and encouraged his fans to contact the record company, Columbia, to complain about it. The song “Test Press” that he’d put out later was about that friction. Keith had just adopted the persona of Dr. Dooom for that previous album, literally killing off his previous persona, Dr. Octagon, in the first track. Dr. Dooom would continue to flip songs detailing his penchant for things like eating human flesh, Flintstone vitamins, and pet rodents. It was another marriage made in heaven with his collaboration with both DJ Spooky and Kurt.
But the opening act, Jimmy Luxury was a bit of a departure from your run of the mill bay area hip hop act. Jimmy had coined the term “swing-hop” and as you might have gathered, it is a mash up between swing music of the 40’s and 50’s with hip hop. He was a white fellow donning a vintage suit and fedora and to his credit, he managed to pull it off. Jimmy was new then, just releasing his first album “A Night In The Arms Of…” that year. It was a refreshing take on the swing genre, which was beginning to wane in its popularity after a big spike in interest that decade. One of Jimmy’s songs, “Love Me Cha Cha” would be used in the background during the film comedy, “Me, Myself, & Irene” with Jim Carrey, though didn’t make it to its soundtrack album.
But the night belonged to Keith and he was in fine form, possibly the best set I’ve ever seen him do live. He wore a sports jersey of some kind, maybe a football or hockey one, with the number “5” on it. His hype man had one too, but with the number “31”. I can’t say what team or who those numbers belonged to and am not really even sure what color they were. They looked red, but they might have been orange, lit red by the stage lights. So I theorize that it might have been Jeff Garcia’s from the 49ers since they were in San Francisco and Garcia had just become their new quarterback that year, wearing that number “5”. Keith also wore his rubber Elvis wig all night along with a pair of wide sunglasses and I couldn’t help but wonder how he kept from sweating profusely under that thing. I suppose it helped that he had a shaved head, but I tried wearing one of those for a Wolverine costume for Halloween a few years later and I sweated like Nixon in church.
We got to hear his usual assortment of hits from his solo stuff and the Ultramagnetic MCs, but were treated at least to one of the new songs, “Livin’ Astro”. Keith would go on to play at Palookaville in Santa Cruz the next night and at Coachella three weeks later. Tory and I were walking on air after that show. Seriously, that night meant a lot to us. Keith was and remains one of my heroes. We went to OSHA Thai on Geary for our ceremonial “victory lap” feast afterwards and had one of those meals so large, that the waitress double checked with us that we were indeed just two people eating that night. But we still finished it all. Tory was one of those few friends of mine who could go toe to toe with my insatiable appetite. As I finish writing this, I can’t help but feel a tinge of loneliness. Tory has since moved on to Colorado and we really aren’t in contact anymore. But the memory of that night with Keith sustains me and I hope it remains a happy one for him as well.
Parliament Funkadelic, Say What, Maritime Hall, SF, Fri., September 24, 1999
George Clinton had played the Maritime plenty in the last three years up till then with the P-Funk All Stars racking up at least 10-12 hours of live material already in the can, so Pete let me have this one. Forget a live album, we had enough stuff to make a box set and then some. But this show was different this time, primarily because George wasn’t in this incarnation. They were billed as “The Original Parliament Funkadelic”on the Maritime’s monthly poster, but they were officially called “The Original P”. It was many of the All Stars in the band, but they were touring with all their original singers, Grady “Shady” Thomas, Clarence “Fuzzy” Haskins, Calvin Smith, and Ray “Stingray” Davis.
Let’s set the clocks back aaaaaaallll the way back to 1956. These guys were all old friends from Parliament, New Jersey which is where they got their name from, though some believe they got it from the cigarette brand. George was only 15 years old when the band formed, simply calling themselves The Parliaments and they were more of a male harmony, doo-wop ensemble back then, like the Temptations. They would relocate to Detroit where George would write songs for Motown on the side and they would ultimately release the seminal “Funkadelic” album in 1970 and then ultimately change the band name to “Parliament Funkadelic”.
Fast forward many, many years and many, many different incarnations of the band and we find ourselves in 1999. George had just played the catastrophic Woodstock ’99 festival with the All Stars, and these guys had split off to do this thing. Separately, they had just released their own album called “What Dat Shakin’” under “The Original P” name. They and their voices were in good shape for men of their age. “Fuzzy” had cleaned up his act, getting off drugs and even becoming a Christian minister. I considered it to be an honor to record these great founders of funk, especially since “Shady” is the only surviving member of that four still with us today. We just lost Calvin just last year. We were also lucky that night that they had Dawn Silva sitting in with the band, one of the original “Brides Of Funkenstein” singers. Dawn and Lynn Mabry had been back up singers for Sly & The Family Stone before George helped put that band together, which would open for P-Funk on tour, then they would perform double duty as P-Funk’s back up singers.
Also, there was Greg Thomas, no relation to “Shady” Thomas, joining them on saxophone who had joined P-Funk back in 1978 and has been with them ever since, playing woodwinds and singing as well. Greg had toured with all sorts of other bands like Cameo and The Gap Band, not to mention a list of session work a mile long, more like several miles long. Listening to a recent interview of him, he pointed out something I never really noticed before. George Clinton never played an instrument. It’s remarkable after all these decades that I never noticed that. He clearly had the ears and the talent of a conductor, a role George performed with understated modesty, despite his colorful attire and hair. And even though he wasn’t there to lead them that night, P-Funk played all the hits and clocked in a respectable couple solid hours of music. Any less and the fans would have been disappointed. Luckily, The Original P would return to the Hall in May of 2000, only 8 months later. It would be one of only ten shows that I would do there that year, filling in for Wade who had taken over the recording full time then, so I had the pleasure of recording these guys twice.
ITF USA DJ Championship, Maritime Hall, SF, Sun., September 26, 1999
This night would be the third time the International Turntabalist Federation, or ITF for short, would bring its national finals to the hallowed halls of the Maritime. Though I didn’t save the tapes of the other two, I was lucky to find this one on YouTube. They used excerpts from the competition for the first hour of it, then rough footage of their own cameras on stage for the rest. The first half was unquestionably my stuff and it was Tory’s camera work, though he had little to do that night since the DJ’s mostly stayed put. The monthly poster had billed this show as the “World Championship”, though it was in fact the “USA Championship”. The “World Championship” would take place shortly after this one in Hawaii and was being billed as the “Battle In Paradise”, hosted by Mix Master Mike.
This one was being hosted by Rasco of the Cali Agents and Planet Asia and he graced us with a set of his own once the competition concluded. He was no stranger to the Hall and would be back there only five weeks later with EPMD for the Lyricist Lounge. There was no shortage of talent that night with Excess, Fresh, and Impereal from New York City, Perseus from Rhode Island, Mike C from Sacramento, Remedy from San Jose, and Snaykeyz from Vallejo. But the night belonged to the one and only Mike Relm, our man from San Francisco and former fellow S.F. State alumni. He had been a film student while I was there and I probably saw him around, but didn’t realize it back then. Equally as impressive were the calibre of the judges that night, being Apollo, Vin Roc, Shortkut, and Cue, all masters of the 1’s and 2’s to be sure. If anyone was qualified to judge that night, it was those guys. Their ears are too good to sneak any mistakes past them.
I heard the DJs all pair off and duel each other that night in three separate rounds, but it was clear that Relm was a cut above the rest, so when he was triumphant at the end of the night, it came as little surprise. It was his first win of any major DJ competition and Mike would go on to win second place in the “World Championship”, only being edged out by A-Trak. Though scratching wasn’t new to the hip hop scene, it was definitely a young man’s sport that night. Relm was only 21 years old that year, but A-Trak was only 17! Both DJs would go on to have illustrious careers, the latter going on to be (the artist formerly known as) Kanye West’s first touring DJ and later being one half of the hip hop duo, Duck Sauce.
Now, granted this was over twenty years ago, that these were young, uncouth ruffians, and competition was high as the rafters, but the dissing that was done with their samples got downright nasty at times. Back then, it was still acceptable to call your adversary “Faggot” and get away with it. Indeed, Snaykeyz used the unlikely source of folk singer Jewel’s “Pieces Of You” to repeat the (other) F-word, undoubtably used out of the context Jewel had intended for her own song. Also, Perseus used a sample of someone blurting, “What!?! You wanna battle me!?! Get outta here, ya’ faggot!” But like I said, it was Relm how held the day and he finished off one of his battles with the unmistakable voice of Eddie Murphy imitating his drunk father during his stand-up concert movie, “Raw”, declaring, “This is my house and it you don’t like it, get the fuck out!”
They Might Be Giants, You Were Spiraling, War., SF, Wed., September 29, 1999
(YOU WERE SPIRALING) : Will You Love Me Tomorrow, (unknown), Excellent Body, Lightning Twice, This Is The Road, (unknown), Take On Me
(THEY MIGHT BE GIANTS) : Drinkin’, Spider, James K. Polk, She Thinks She’s Edith Head, Older, Twisting, Cyclops Rock, Spiraling Shape, She’s Actual Size, Man It’s So Loud In Here, Letterbox, Narrow Your Eyes, Ana Ng, The Guitar (The Lion Sleeps Tonight), No One Knows My Plan, Shoehorn With Teeth, (encore), Particle Man, The Famous Polka, New York City, Why Does The Sun Shine (The Sun Is A Mass Of Incandescent Gas), She’s An Angel, Dr. Worm, (encore), Spy, Counterfeit Faker, Birdhouse In Your Soul, (encore), Maybe I Know, Istanbul
As you might have gathered by now, I was no stranger to the works of They Might Be Giants, this being my fifth occasion seeing them perform. But this was an interesting time for the iconic, nerd-core duo of John’s Flansburgh and Linnell. Not only was their live album, simply titled “Live”, to be released about three and a half weeks after this show, but they had also just put out “Long Tall Weekend”, their 7th studio album, two months before this. The latter was the first of its kind, being the first full length album by a major label artist to be released in MP3 format over the internet. Certainly, they wouldn’t be the last, but back then, it was revolutionary and of course had it’s share of doubters amongst their critics and even their fans. I myself was still blissfully unaware of the underlying potential of the digital streaming of music and dismissed it naively as a sort of gimmick or fad.
They Might Be Giants had just left their label Elektra, though they would have the last laugh. Indeed, they would ultimately be the most downloaded band that year. But they weren’t new to being innovative. As you might recall, John Linnell had launched his “Dial-A-Song” phone service years before and just a year after this show, he’d update it for the internet, offering the songs instead to be streamed via flash doc. Furthermore, just that June, they had contributed the song “Dr. Evil” to the Mike Myers sequel, “Austin Powers : The Spy Who Shagged Me”. So between that and packing the house at the Warfield once again, it was safe to say that the Giants were doing well for themselves.
I was impressed with their opening act, You Were Spiraling, fronted by keyboardist and vocalist Tom Brislin. Tom was a classical piano prodigy from New Jersey who had been in bands since he was only 10 years old. He and a few of his music student buddies at William Paterson University formed the band and caught the interest of the Giants a few years before this. John Linnell would release some of their early stuff, including their debut self titled album, on his subscription only record company, the “Hello CD Of The Month Club”, also known as the “Hello Recording Club” or just “Hello” for short. That club was an outlet for the Giants to put out some solo work of their own along with then unknown NYC acts such as Soul Coughing. You Were Spiraling had just put out their third album, “Delusions Of Grandeur”, through the club that year, but it would be the last release they’d do there and also the last one they’d do with that band name, soon shortening it to simply Spiraling. They would put out their first album, “Transmitting”, under that new name three years afterwards.
From their first song, a cover of the Motown classic “Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow?” by The Shirelles, I could tell Mr. Brislin had classical chops. He had a strong voice and made it look easy. They did a half dozen of their own songs before finishing their set with an impressive cover of A-Ha’s hit, “Take On Me”. It was so well done, that I believe firmly it is one of the rare occasions where the cover was superior to the original. I hope the fine Norwegians from A-Ha got to hear it, or maybe not, since they’d bound to be jealous. Tom would also continue to play keys for other several notable artists such as Yes, Meatloaf, and recently Kansas.
We were introduced to some of the Giants’ newer material starting their set that night with the instrumental “Drinkin’” that went straight into “Spider”, though it should be noted that some of the new songs were just older tunes that got shelved. “Drinkin’” was written in ’93 and their cover of Leslie Gore’s “Maybe I Know”, which they played second to last that night dates back to the 80’s. Leslie incidentally was famous for singing “It’s My Party” and “You Don’t Own Me”. Before the Giants did “Cyclops Rock”, they mentioned the new downloadable album and did a little jingle for it twice, singing “They Might Be Giants on emusic.com!” Then Flansburgh said the song was “about a guy with one eye instead of two. That’s the way he is… angry and he resembles myself.” Afterwards, they thanked You Were Spiraling and dedicated appropriately the song “Spiraling Shape” to them.
It was gratifying to hear the Giants with a full band again, especially when they did a jazzy, dynamic, big band rendition of “She’s Actual Size”. After they finished “Man, It’s Loud In Here”, another new song, Linnell introduced “Letterbox” as it being a “chestnut from the vaults… That’s where we keep our chestnuts.” Then, they had a false start to “Narrow Your Eyes”. Flansburgh apologized, claiming that he just “learned the song two days before.” He joked about the area around the Warfield, that it was weird to “be on a block where there’s more people muttering to themselves than in Brooklyn”, calling the neighborhood an “open air mental institution”, and stating that “we’re scared of this place and will be leaving shortly, but not before playing this song.” They did a couple encores that night including a six song one for the first encore before finishing their second one with their hit cover of “Istanbul”. Though I’d be disappointed that there wasn’t a poster for the show that night and that I wouldn’t see them in 2000, I’d be lucky to see them twice the following year, both times at the Fillmore.
Gang Starr, Nice & Smooth, Maritime Hall, SF, Thurs., September 30, 1999
We were spoiled to have Gang Starr back at the Hall again, just a mere two months after they had performed there last. To read more about the history of the iconic hip hop duo of DJ Premier and Guru, feel free to refer to that previous show in July. Following their fifth album, “Moment Of Truth”, put out that March, Gang Starr had just released their compilation, “Full Clip : A Decade Of GS ’89-’99” three months later and by August, it had already gone gold. Contrary to what the Maritime’s monthly poster said, this show was not in fact the “Lyricist Lounge” tour. That tour would however play at the Hall just two months later, headlined by the incomparable EPMD accompanied by an impressive roster of hip hop talent such as Planet Asia and the Dungeon Squad.
One thing that was different about this show from their previous appearance was that they had Nice & Smooth opening for them this time. They too were a rap duo from New York City comprising of Gregory “Greg Nice” Mays and Darryl “Smooth B” Barnes. Together, they had finished their fourth album, “Blazing Hot”, which they released only a month after this show. They had been tight with Gang Starr and had done guest vocals for their song, “DWTCK” on their “Hard To Earn” album back in 1994. I think Nice & Smooth are still together, having celebrated their 30th anniversary with a tour a few years ago in 2016. This would be the only time I’d see them, though I would have the honor of seeing Gang Starr one more time four years later at The Fillmore on a bill arranged by KMEL’s House Of Soul with Talib Kweli, Common, and Goapele. Sadly, Guru would die from blood cancer seven years after that.
The Damned, Wench, The Doormats, Fill., SF, Fri., October 1, 1999
SETLIST : Curtain Call Intro, Wait For The Blackout, Disco Man, Plan 9 Channel 7, I Just Can’t Be Happy Today, The Shadow Of Love, Dozen Girls, Dr. Jeckyl & Mr. Hyde, Neat Neat Neat, Democracy, Curtain Call, Looking At You, drum solo, New Rose, Eloise, Love Song, Smash It Up (Pts. 1 & 2), (encore), Ignite
For those who had read about The Damned’s previous appearances at Maritime Hall and the Phoenix Theater, it should come to no surprise how thrilled I was to see them again only a year later. This time I wouldn’t be cooped up in the recording room, but face to face with the venerable punk rock pioneers. It was a long shot that they would have used any of my recordings from the Maritime for a live album considering that they had so many other live albums by then, but I was bummed to learn that they would release the “Molten Lager” live album the very month of this show, recorded from a gig they did in Mulhouse, France in 1994. Though it was billed as their “Halloween Tour”, they would in fact play that Halloween in Boston at the Paradise Rock Club. But hell, every night is Halloween with The Damned and I would see them on that ghoulish holiday a year shy of two decades later at the Regency Ballroom. Better late than never. This would be the first time I’d see them at The Fillmore and you can imagine how pissed I was when they didn’t get a poster at the end of the night. I’d have to wait two more times of them playing there until 2017 when they finally got one.
Opening that night were the rowdy punk stylings of The Doormats. They were a fun bunch of local guys, launching into their set with a breakneck paced punk cover of “The March Of The Empire” from “Star Wars”, well, “The Empire Strikes Back” technically. They also did another wild cover of Jerry Reed’s “Eastbound & Down” from the film “Smokey & The Bandit”. The Doormats, now middle aged like myself, still do gigs around the bay area to this day. Following them were a band called Wench who were an interesting pick to open for The Damned, being quite a dark, ambient, industrial band. Contrary to their melancholy sound, the lead singer was actually a really sweet young lady who thanked the audience profusely between songs. Don’t know what happened to that band, though there were a couple other bands with the same name. One was an all girl rock band that was around from ’87 to ’93 and the other was a more recent Australian prog stoner act that were around from 2007 to 2013, but broke up after their drummer tragically died of cancer.
Like I said, it had only been a year since I’d seen The Damned, but they had already been through two drummers since then. They had replaced Garrie Dreadful with Spike T. Smith that February, but by this show, they were touring with Andrew “Pinch” Pinching from the English Dogs. He’d remain in the band for an impressive 20 years, longer than any other non-founding member apart from Monty Oxymoron, until Pinch was finally replaced only last year with Will Taylor. Like the others, Pinch was exceptional and a good fit for the band. They even gave him a little time to do a solo near the end of their set in which he was accompanied by some DJ scratches and samples of breaking glass, an interesting and unexpected addition to their sound that night. Other than that, they were the same line up with Patricia Morrison again on bass and Monty on keyboards.
The Damned had a fantastic set, covering their usual hits, though we did get a couple oddballs with “Dr Jeckyl & Mr. Hyde” and “Democracy”. Captain Sensible was his irrepressible smart alecky self, donning his trademark red beret and round sunglasses. After they opened with “Wait For The Blackout”, he joked, pointing to somebody up front saying, “We love ya’ except for you. You stink of shit.” He teased somebody else up front after “Plan 9 Channel 7” asking, “You wanna pay me back that money you owe me?” When they came back for their encore he made some sort of joke about the Backstreet Boys and praised The Fillmore, giving thanks “to all the ghosts of all the greats. Jim Morrison who’s Patricia Morrison’s brother… Jimi Hendrix who was my dad.” The Captain then introduced the final song of the evening, “Ignite”, kicking it off by screaming, “My ass is on fire!”
Though it would be some time until The Damned would play The Fillmore again, I’d see them two years later when they played the Great American and two years after that at Slim’s. Seriously, I think I’ve only missed them a couple times when they’ve passed through the bay area, once I know for sure at the Burger Boogaloo festival in 2018 and another opening for The Misfits the year after at Oakland Arena. The Damned were actually just in town a few months ago opening for Blondie at the Masonic and despite the hefty price tag for that ticket, that was one double bill I couldn’t pass up. I vowed never to use Ticketmaster again after that night and I still haven’t. Captain didn’t tour with them this time which was a disappointment, but to make matters worse, it was because he refuses to get vaccinated for COVID. It’s hard when your heroes let you down, like when Johnny Lydon said he liked Trump, but I forgive him, just like I forgave Johnny. They’re only human.