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.