Joe Henderson Trio, Charlie Hayden Quartet West, Kansas City All-Stars, Fill., SF, Wed., January 8, 1997
Hello, 1997! Yes, looking over this list, I admit that this is one of the better years, partially because of the sheer volume alone of shows. Between the Maritime Hall and everything else, I cleared a whopping 181 shows this year. I’ll have to check later, but I think this might of taken the record. Still, I know a handful of others who see this many every year, either working or attending. Crazy bastards.
This was an interesting show to kick off the new year. The Fillmore rarely had jazz shows and these acts were real professionals. This gig was being billed as the “Verve Jazz Fest”. Joe Henderson had been blowing his sax for decades by this time, putting out albums on Blue Note, not to mention having been the sideman to practically everybody on Earth. It’s a pity that shortly after this show, he developed emphysema that would ultimately lead to his death in San Francisco no less only four years later. Glad I got to see him at least once.
The same goes for Charlie Hayden, who would live until 2014, though this would be the only time I’d see him as well. You might remember me writing previously that he had a son three daughters who were musicians in various projects as well and one of the daughters, Tanya, I knew in college. She was very pretty and I had a crush on her and as luck would have it, she would years later go on to marry the one and only Jack Black. Anyway, if Tanya was in town that night, she obviously would have been at that show. Everybody played admirably that night and it reminds me how much a pity it is that The Fillmore doesn’t host jazz musicians more often, especially considering the prestigious history of jazz in that neighborhood.
Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers, The Wallflowers, Fill., SF, Fri., January 10, 1997
Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers, The Wallflowers, Fill., SF, Sat., January 11, 1997
THE WALLFLOWERS : One Headlight, Three Marlenas, Bleeders, Sixth Avenue Heartache, Invisible City, Tears Of A Clown, The Difference
TOM PETTY & THE HEARTBREAKERS : I Won’t Back Down, Jammin’ Me, Little Girl, Shakin’ All Over, You Don’t Know How It Feels, Diddy-Wah-Diddy, I Want You Back Again, Goldfinger, King’s Highway, I Got A Woman, The Apartment Song, Asshole, Stick To You Baby, Time Is On My Side, Last Dance With Mary Jane, It’s Good To Be King, Running Down A Dream, (encore), Free Falling, You Wreck Me
THE WALLFLOWERS : One Headlight, Three Marlenas, Sixth Avenue Heartache, Invisible City, Tears Of A Clown, The Difference
TOM PETTY & THE HEARTBREAKERS : Rip It Up, Jammin’ Me, Running Down A Dream, Shakin’ All Over, Diddy-Wah-Diddy, Walls, Slaughter On Tenth Avenue, On The Street, Image Of Me, I Won’t Back Down, The Best Of Everything, Ain’t No Sunshine, I Want You Back Again, Little Maggie, Keeping Me Alive, Treat Me Nice, Believe What You Say, Another Man Done Gone, Love Is A Long Road, You Don’t Know How It Feels, (Pepper Spray Incident!), You Wreck Me, Last Dance With Mary Jane, It’s Good To Be King, Gloria
This was a big deal. Tom and the gang had settled down to be the de facto Fillmore house band for a while, playing a whopping twenty shows, all hopelessly sold out immediately, between these first two shows starting January 10th through February 7th. I don’t regret only seeing three in total because three was plenty. Each show was at least two hours long and God knows I’d seen Tom a few times by then and would go on to see him many more times after. No need to be greedy. Though I do regret only getting two of the four posters that were made in a series to commemorate those shows, mine being the first and the last. However, I do think the poster I got were the best ones. He’d come back in 1999 to do another string of shows, but that time it was only eleven of them. Obviously, it was one of those gigs where I and the fellow ushers were spoiled rotten, seeing such a popular act who was regularly playing arenas, doing this string of shows at a venue that only holds about a thousand people.
Tom had a variety of openers for this run of shows he was doing, but the first ones up were The Wallflowers. This was Jakob Dylan’s band, the son of Bob Dylan, and as many people had assumed, myself included, that he was merely getting big riding on the coattails of his famous dad. Though in show biz a little nepotism goes a long way, it was safe to say after these shows that I was convinced The Wallflowers were good on their own merits. Like so many others, I had no idea that they’d been around for a few years, paying their dues, playing small clubs in L.A. and had already released a self titled album. But with the release of their second album, “Bringing Down The Horse” the previous May, they got big fast. Heartbreakers guitarist Mike Campbell even played guitar on their hit song, “One Headlight”, a song that would win them two Grammies for Best Rock Song and Best Rock Performance. They were a tight band and easy to like, a strong opening band to be sure, a little jam bandish, but more urban.
Mr. Petty and company were in fine form for these two gigs, showcasing many of the big hits, both solo stuff and with the Heartbreakers, plus a wide variety of covers, such as “Shakin’ All Over”, “Ain’t No Sunshine”, an instrumental version of the theme from “Goldfinger” and “I Want You Back Again”. Tom had actually done a soundtrack, something he had never tried before and didn’t do since, the year before for a film called “She’s The One”, starring Cameron Diaz and Jennifer Aniston. They would play a couple songs from that movie, “Walls” from it on the second night and his cover of Beck’s “Asshole” on the first. Tom was at the top of his game and arguably the height of his popularity, though secretly he was struggling with heroin addiction, a habit he wouldn’t kick until a few years later.
Though the first night was great, it was the second night that made the biggest impression for two reasons unrelated to the show itself and for very, very different reasons. The first being my encounter with actor Winona Ryder, yes, THE Winona Ryder. Anybody who knows me well enough knows that I will live and die by her command and that night I helped her and her friends to get to the entrance of the backstage. They’d come into the lobby and I spotted her immediately. Her movie “Alien Resurrection”, the sequel in the Alien series directed by Jean-Pierre Jeunet, wouldn’t be released until that November, but she was sporting the short haircut she had in it that night.
She looked a little bewildered, so I did my best to keep my composure, looked into her beautiful doe like eyes, and asked if she needed help. She said she was trying to find the backstage, so then it was my time to shine. I walked her and her friends, including one man who I’m pretty sure was local musician Eric McFadden, along the main bar and to the house left entrance by the stage. I took this opportunity to ask her for an autograph, but she very sweetly let me down, saying, “No, not tonight, sorry.” I didn’t make a fuss and was frankly embarrassed that I asked since I found out later that she never does autographs anyway. Still, that was our microscopic little moment and I’ll remember it forever. She’s a little slip of thing in real life. Only 5’3”.
But the big reason I’ll remember the second show for the rest of my life is what happened near the end of the set. The Band was just a couple minutes into “You Don’t Know How It Feels” when I noticed an increasing itching sensation in the back of my throat, like a grain of sand back there that I couldn’t dislodge, no matter how much I coughed. I looked around me and noticed there were a couple guys smoking a joint nearby, so I initially thought it was just my reaction to their smoke. But the cough got worse and worse to the point where it was uncontrollable and everybody around starting coughing the same way. It was pepper spray. Somebody had set off what must of been a whole canister of it in the middle of the dance floor.
Eventually, Tom noticed the commotion on stage and stopped the show. Then something happened that was unprecedented in live music history and to my knowledge hasn’t happened since. They turned on the house lights, opened all the doors, cleared the center of the dance floor, and the house guys mopped it down. The house manager then came on stage after the air was clear and said everybody in the crowd could have a free drink! I even can hear myself on the tape after the announcement jokingly saying, “Charge!”, as I followed the hordes of fans to one of the bars to get a beer. Smart move on the house guys part. I’m sure somebody at that show could have sued them for something. The police arrested a suspect, but to this day, I don’t know who they were or if they were guilty and/or convicted for what happened.
Suffice to say anybody there, especially people like myself who were affected, will never forget it. The fire marshall gave the all clear and the band came back on and did a few more songs. Tom even cracked a little joke about the incident during a little breakdown section in the middle of a fantastic cover of the 60’s classic “Gloria”, the last song of the night. He went on talking about his “honey” and his efforts to “chase her down”, asking her to “slow down and let me talk to you, girl”. Then he said the girl retorted, saying that he had to go out “first thing in the morning and get a job”. He countered saying that he was doing alright with his new band, though “we might get pepper sprayed from time to time”.
Zero, Derek Trucks Band, Maritime Hall, SF, Wed., January 15, 1997
Yep. Zero again. Sorry to y’all out there, but you’ll have to hear me gripe about them for the next couple years until the untimely sinking of the Maritime. We eventually put out two live albums, one a double album, but consistent with Boots’ conspicuous lack of attention to detail, the dates of the songs recorded were never listed. So some of the songs from this show or any of Zero’s shows may or may not have made it to these albums, Truth be told, I never made an effort to find out. They were who they were and they had loyal fans and friends, but as the years went on, I grew more weary of their shows.
The good news about this particular show was that it would be the first time I’d get to see Derek Trucks. He was still pretty new, a fresh young face of only 18 years of age by this show, but had already made a reputation for being a guitar virtuoso. Derek is the nephew of Butch Trucks, the drummer of the Allman Brothers Band, and Derek would eventually become a member of that band in 1999. But by this show, he hadn’t of even put out his first album, which would be released ten months later in October. His appearance that night made the show a little more palatable.
Los Van Van, Conjundo Cespedes, Maritime Hall, , SF, Thur., January 16, 1997
Los Van Van, Conjundo Cespedes, Maritime Hall, SF, Fri., January 17, 1997
This was a big deal, even I knew it and I knew nothing about Los Van Van before they were booked for this show. Our country’s relations with Cuba were tense ever since Castro took over in 1959 and they still were, despite Cuba’s hopeless isolation. But things were starting to thaw out around this time, even though Cuba would be stuck with Fidel as their dictator for another ten years and even then he wouldn’t croak for nearly another ten after that. Indeed, I was beginning to think Fidel was truly indestructible, him running around in those ridiculous track suits of his trying to look spry. To this day, we’re still trying to sort out our relations with Cuba even though Fidel’s been in the cold, cold ground for years now.
Los Van Van were respected for decades amongst Latin music circles and though they had toured Europe, Latin America, and Japan regularly, this would be the first time they’d tour America and we were lucky to have these two shows to be the first two shows of their tour. This coincided with the release of a “Best Of” compilation album released that year as well. The shows were stellar and it’s a pity that the recordings from those shows were never made into an album. This would be a new beginning culturally between our countries and relations would continue to thaw with the popularity of the Buena Vista Social Club. Their first album would hit the shelves later that year and Wim Wenders’ hit documentary would be released the year after that. God willing I ever get the pleasure to visit Cuba, I will at least have the story of recording these shows as an ice breaker if I get a chance to talk to some of the locals.
Cake, September 67, The Kinetics, Fill., SF, Sat., January 18, 1997
It had literally been less than a month since I’d seen Cake at the Live 105 Green X-Mas show at the Cow Palace. Not that I was was tired of them, far from it. I was glad that they’d achieved commercial and critical success, especially since Xan McCurdy joined them on guitar. It’s strange seeing a band so close between gigs. It’s a good thing insomuch that you learn their show, vibe, songs, and personalities a little quicker, but a detriment as it makes you grow familiar, and the experience less unique. Surely, this is an experience every road person for a band must feel night in and night out, hearing the same songs with the same people. And what is true for the road people, must be a thousand times as potent for the performers themselves.
That being said, it helps when that band and the experience they provide is Cake. Jon McCrae might come off as a bit of a pill, but I respect him, because he writes excellent songs and keeps the band tight. I like the way he hits that rattling hand percussion instrument on beat, an instrument known as a Vibra-slap. This is a wooden ball attached to a metal bar that bend around so when hit, the ball would rattle against another wooden block on the end of the bar directly adjacent… ah,shit. Just look it up sometime. Anyway, it was based off of an instrument called a Quijara which was a dried out donkey jaw bone that would make a similar rattle when struck, jittering the teeth inside.
Opening that night was a band I liked called the Kinetics. Xan had been a member before he joined Cake and I can only assume he had some small part that they were part of the tour. Regardless, they performed admirably and frontman Bart Davenport has been a rock solid mod blues man here in the bay area and all of California for years now. My brother Alex loves these guys, and like Alex, they all look very, VERY cool. Next up was September 67, a rare chance to see singer/songwriter Shannon Worrell. Talented woman, Shannon. She recorded a live song that year while touring with the Lilith Fair called “Steve Malkmus Is A Fucking Snob”, Steve being the frontman for Pavement. Whether he is a snob or not, I cannot say. I never met him, but he had reputation for butting heads. Still, Stockton, where he was from, was not renown for its snobbishness.
Speaking of personality disorders, McCrae kept on taunting the crowd between songs. At one point between songs he asked the crowd which astrological sign was most likely to be in a car accident. He asked a few folks before one guy in an orange hat named Bill guessed right, it being Aries. He had an alleged drunk thrown out a few songs later offered him his maraca. Jon mused that since they were about to hit the year 2000, that in 30 years, musicians would have to wear riot gear. One could only guess if the maraca offer was sincere or not. Jon would sometimes keep you guessing, a bit of Andy Kaufman in him. Finally, after Cake did their cover of Gloria Gaynor’s, “I Will Survive”, he said to those yelling out song requests, he asked them to “shut up and let me do my job”. But he tried to make up for it, getting the crowd to cheer for the opening bands. Even he commented that he thought he sounded like an “authoritarian father”. Either way, Jon keeps the crowd lively like a carnival barker or wrestling villain.
Personalities aside, it was excellent music and part of me appreciates, even if I may never understand his perspective. He’s a serious musician and demands perfection which he gets each and every time without a peep from the band behind him, so I’ll forgive him his prickliness. It had been a good stretch, having done Zero and two days of Los Van Van at the Maritime before this show. It was a two show gig for Cake and I was catching the second night. Dieselhed, a very good band, and Lysobar, who I didn’t know opened up the first night, and being a two night well sold show on a weekend, I’m happy to say we were rewarded with a good poster that night. It was of a naked woman from the turn of the century falling down a flight of stairs.
David Crosby, Maritime Hall, SF, Tues., January 21, 1997
SETLIST : In My Dreams, Tracks Of Dust, Homeward Through The Haze, Rusty & Blue, Thousand Roads, He Played Real Good For Free, Morrison, Somehow She Knew, Till It Shines On You, This Time, Where Will I Be, Delta, Deja Vu, One For Every Moment, Guinnevere, Eight Miles High, (encore), Laughing, Box Of Rain, Wooden Ships
I had learned a modicum of the hippie history of my beloved bay area by this time, but up to this point, I’d only seen Mr. Young from Crosby, Stills, Nash, & Young. so this was my time to see another one. Apart from the handful of their hits that I had known before this show like “Teach The Children”, the Byrd’s cover of “Mr. Tambourine Man”, and the Stills’ song “For What It’s Worth”, I knew little else. But thanks to “The Simpsons” in two separate episodes in 1993, I was aquatinted to him on a different level, first being lawyer Lionel Hutz’s AA sponsor and then presenting Homer’s barbershop quartet into the Grammy for “Outstanding Soul, Spoken Word, or Barbershop Album Of The Year”.
What I did or didn’t know about him would soon be moot in the proceedings of that night as Mr. Crosby flat out refused to let us tape. I had little to no experience in the goings on in the negotiations or lack thereof of whether a show got taped or not at the Hall by then. Since Pete was still doing all the main engineering work, I’d let him go upstairs and hand off the tapes to whoever, while I labeled, reloaded, and reformatted the tapes for the next set, though he was beginning to let me record the opening acts by then. But I’ll never forget the sight of Mr. Crosby coming down to the recording room with Boots, the main florescent lights on and all the recording equipment switched off, as he personally gave up the up and down look to make sure we weren’t taping. Yep, David looked like he was in a killing mood, seriously, real daggers in those eyes. It was intimidating.
I felt sympathy for him later when I had learned that one of the reasons he didn’t want us taping is that he was just beginning to tour with his new band, CPR, which is understandable since they were just getting started and he didn’t feel comfortable yet with their performances to publish. CPR was his new band, the name being an abbreviation of the last names of Crosby, guitarist Jeff Pevar, and keyboard player, James Raymond. Now the R was a big deal, he being Crosby’s son, who’d he’d given up for adoption in 1962 and had only been recently reunited with him and had starting touring with him in this new band. Once again, I could understand the sensitivity of this new undertaking and I was ultimately blessed to take the night off from recording to witness one David’s shows with this special new band of his. As fate would have it, I’d be lucky enough to see him again play with Crosby, Stills, & Nash at the Fillmore eight months later and I can say for certain that he would be in a much more relaxed mood.
Saddened as I was that I would not have Mr. Crosby under my list of my recording accomplishments, it was compounded further by who showed up at the encore that night. Mr. Phil Lesh, yes, the bass player of the Grateful Dead, joined him to do the songs “Laughing”, “Box Of Rain”, and “Wooden Ships”. Naturally, some hippie in the crowd got that recording as usual, so it wasn’t a complete loss. Once again, it was relieving to see Phil out and about playing music after the loss of Jerry. He looked happy that night.
Marilyn Manson, L7, War., SF, Wed., January 22, 1997
SETLIST : Angel With Scabbed Wings, Get Your Gunn, Dooma, Dried up Tied & Dead To The World, Tourniquet Of Roses, Lunch Box, Sweet Dreams (Are Made Of This), Cake & Sodomy, Little Horn, Cryptorchard, Antichrist Superstar, The Beautiful People, The Reflecting God, (encore), Man That You Fear
I may not have been or have ever been the biggest fan of Manson’s music, but I always appreciate somebody who freaks out the general public. They need it for their own good. Enough that even Orrin Hatch and his conservative ilk used their latest album, “Antichrist Superstar”, to showcase how much music provokes violence in children. It was a good album, probably his best, but I doubt it would so influential that it would be the cause of any violence, much less the violence that has ensued in America by its youth since its release.
Regardless, half the reason I was there that night was for L7 anyway. I was a fan, having seen them several times in only a few years before this show and they had just released their new album, “The Beauty Process : Triple Platinum”. Unfortunately, this would begin a decline in the band both in popularity and financial success. Jennifer Finch, the bassist, had just left the band, replaced by Gail Greenwood from Belly. Poor sales from the new album would lead them to be ultimately dropped from Reprise Records. They still sounded great that night as always and I would say that L7 is one of those few bands that is not only a great headliner in their own right, but a four star opening band. Any headliner would be lucky to have them. They make any show better.
And respect due to Manson for doing what he does, he needed a band like L7 then. To me, the whole rock & roll ghoul thing was wearing thin. After seeing David Crosby’s steely gaze a few days before at the Maritime, giving us the stink eye when inspecting our recording room, making sure we weren’t recording without permission, Manson’s on stage antics seemed less than provocative. He don’t scare me. Merle Haggard… now that’s a scary guy. Still, his music and personality did get the attention of David Lynch, one of my all time favorite film directors, getting him a cameo and a song on the soundtrack of “Lost Highway”, which would be released in theaters only a couple weeks after this show.
World Peace Benefit, Maritime Hall, SF, Fri., January 24, 1997
You got me on this one. But throw me a bone here, there’s lots of shows under my belt and no matter how hard I looked, I couldn’t find anything about this show. Suffice to say, it didn’t make an impression and wasn’t significant enough on the line up to show up anywhere. To make matters worse, as of today we haven’t achieved world peace and if we ever do, I doubt this show would have had anything to do with it. So, that being said, it was the thought that counted and good luck to all those who may have been involved.
The JGB Band, Steve Kimock, Maritime Hall, SF, Sat., January 25, 1997
Another hippie show, but at least this was a good one. It had been almost two years since Jerry died, but the band from his solo act was still carrying on. Led by keyboardist virtuoso Melvin Seals, they are still playing till this very day. As you might imagine, the line up in the band has changed numerous times since then, leaving him today as the only original member from the line up when Jerry passed away. And though bassist John Kahn unexpectedly kicked the bucket only a year after Jerry at the tender age of 48 in his sleep from a heart attack, Jackie and Gloria were thankfully still there to sing back up vocals.
I’d just worked the night before at the Hall for the World Peace Benefit. Steve Kimock opened up and he was his usual self, noodling calmly on his guitar while sitting on a stool. Part of me had a certain distain for guitarists who sit while they play back then, but now that I’m over 40, like he was at this show, I have sympathy. That, and considering the complexity of the stuff he plays, well, he gets my respect. It was reassuring to hear Melvin and the gang play again, though it would be the last time for me. I’d seen them all plenty with Jerry in the few years I was ushering at the Warfield, not to mention the zillion times I would see members of the Dead play for years and years to come, so I don’t feel like I’ve missed much.
Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers, Iris DeMent, Fill., SF, Mon., February 3, 1997
SETLIST : Around & Around, Jammin’ Me, Runnin’ Down A Dream, Lucille, Call Me The Breeze, Cabin Down Below, You Really Got Me, Friend Of The Devil, Goldfinger, Listen To Her Heart, The Date I Had With That Ugly Homecoming Queen, I Won’t Back Down, It’s Good To Be King, Green Onions, I’d Like To Love You Baby, You Don’t Know How It Feels, Little Maggie, Walls, Angel Dream, Guitar Boogie Shuffle, Even The Losers, American Girl, Honey Bee, Bye Bye Johnny, Another Man Done Gone, You Wreck Me, (encore), Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door, Mary Jane’s Last Dance, Hi-Heel Sneakers, Gloria, Alright For Now
It had been almost a month since I saw the first two shows of Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers 20 show run at The Fillmore and his stint was nearly over. I was glad to catch one more, not only to revisit the experience, but also to get the last poster in the four poster series for these shows. Opening this time was singer/songwriter Iris Dement. She’d been around a little while putting out her own songs and singing harmony vocals on other folks’ albums like Nanci Griffith and Emmylou Harris, and she had just released her third album, “The Way I Should”, the year before. She has a very pretty voice and I had seen her once before playing at the Merle Haggard a couple years before at The Fillmore, though this would be the last time I’d see her.
Tom Petty and the boys were tight as always and I’m happy to say we got through “You Don’t Know How It Feels” as well as the rest of the show without another pepper pray incident. They dusted off a good number of covers including “Lucille”, “Goldfinger”, and “Gloria”, which I’d heard during the shows in January. They even played a song they called “Mike’s New One”, who I assume is Mike Campbell, the guitarist. I found out later it was called “The Date I Had With That Ugly Homecoming Queen” which they ironically played two songs after “It’s Good To Be King”. Maybe they did it intentionally, maybe not. They would finish their run of shows at The Fillmore that Friday and in hindsight, I probably should have seen more of them. Still, with over two hours of material each show, I got plenty. There were no shortage of ushers trying to get into these gigs and I’m thankful I was able to see three of them.
In an unrelated story, Tom would go on to have a part in the disastrous flop, “The Postman” with Kevin Costner, released the following Christmas. I can’t help but wonder if that contributed to the drug habit he was struggling with around that time. Thankfully, he still had his music career to fall back on. I have to say, I thought his casting as the voice of “Lucky” for the last five years of the animated show “King Of The Hill” was inspired.
Crispin Hellion Glover’s Big Slide Show, The Edge, Palo Alto, Wed., February 5, 1997
This installment comes as a sort of happy accident which is an appropriate way I suppose to describe the one and only Mr. Crispin Hellion Glover. For those who don’t know or they’ve forgotten, he is an eccentric, but well known actor from several films, most notably from the first “Back To The Future” movie, playing George McFly. And as luck would have it, I just saw him last night at the Castro Theater performing this very same show nearly 23 years to the day that I saw him at the Edge. It was only random curiosity that I decided to see if I could find the date of this gig and in a moment of coincidence… (or is it?)… I not only discovered the date, but it miraculously fell on the very week I was passing in my efforts to write this thing I do. I had always thought I’d seen Mr. Glover’s show much earlier in years, being the Edge, a venue that had long since come and gone, thinking it was more around 1992 or 1993. It felt like an eternity ago for sure.
I had gone alone that night, though I had hoped my friend Tory would join me. He and I were both big fans of David Lynch and Crispin’s portrayal of Jingle Dell in “Wild At Heart” made quite an impression. Alas, I was alone to make the long drive to Palo Alto and experience this weird spectacle. Even having freshly seen his performance less than twenty four hours ago, I struggle to try to explain exactly what I observed. I suppose the best way to begin would be to at least describe the structure of the show. First, was the slide show itself, which comprised of Glover under a simple dim spotlight, reading from a handful of his poetry books while advancing a slide projector with depictions of the pictures and texts from them. Simple enough premise, but his spoken word is a rare bird indeed.
The piece that stuck in my head most prominently and still does is “Rat Catching”, a strange, redacted version of “Studies In The Art Of Rat Catching”, a non-fiction guide published in 1898. The slides consist of lithograph pictures of rats, both live and dissected, and traps to catch them, the original text with layers of sprawling black ink words written in the margins and between lines. Crispin would go on in a sort of semi-instructional way on how public schools could dispose of the vermin but then would veer off into other seemingly unrelated stuff, before coming back to rat catching near the end. He’d profess that students and teachers would not adhere to this instruction since rat catching would be too intellectually daunting to them. I’d normally say now, “you get the idea”, but believe me, you don’t. Seeing is believing with Glover and that goes for all the pieces he read that night. Forgive me if words fail me.
The second part of this show was his showing of the film, “What Is It?”, or at least one could call it longer than a preview, definitely a short film. The finished product would take until 2005 to complete, running about 70ish minutes, but around this gig, Crispin had just started putting it together. But what he did show was sizable, probably at least half of it and definitely stuck with me. Like his slide show, I’ll try to keep it together, but let’s just say the piece involves snails, a minstrel, naked women wearing monkey masks handling watermelons, a puppet show, Crispin himself on a stone chair wearing a giant fur coat, swastikas, Shirley Temple, a man with severe cerebral palsy inside of a giant clam shell getting jerked off by one of the monkey women, and every other actor in the piece had Down’s Syndrome.
Of all the downright insanity of this film, to me and to most people I would later learn, the most disturbing part about it was with the snails. Yes, on several occasions during the film, actors would pour salt on them and they would naturally, curl up and bubble over, dying horrifically. They being pests legally can likewise be legally be killed on film, but the sight of it certainly gets to you and obviously that was the intention. Mission accomplished. There was also a couple points in it where there was the off screen sound of a woman screaming, presumably playing a snail or at least the snail’s widow, which I would find out last night was voiced by actress Fairuza Balk, from such movies as “The Craft” and “American History X”.
A little shook up as I’m sure most of the crowd was after the show ended, I lingered about and contemplated getting money out of the ATM to get one of his books to have him sign it. Regrettably, I was sort of hard up on cash at the time, having just finished college and trying to make money, so I didn’t, which I regret. I was thinking I would have him sign it, “To Nick, Let’s Do Lunch!”, a reference to his Jingle Dell character. I didn’t get a book last night at the Castro either, but it was only because Crispin was only singing stuff for people who had the expensive meet and greet tickets. I did however have the honor of asking him a question during the lengthy Q & A period at the end of the show.
I asked him if Shirley Temple had seen his movie and I was relieved to hear a tittering of laughter from my question. He replied that he didn’t know and it probably was unlikely. He said he had used samples from her movie “Bright Eyes” and was an admirer of her work and went on to say that he didn’t think she would have minded. Mr. Glover said that Shirley, or at least a picture of her head, had been used in work by Salvador Dali in 1939. In the picture, she was the head of some kind of sphinx or manticore, surrounded by bones. One would like to think she’d be open minded, but who knows? I’ll have to ask her in the afterlife.
Third World, Dub Nation, Sunfur, Maritime Hall, SF, Fri. February 7, 1997
The reggae education continued unabated with the great Third World. They’d been around since the early 70’s and consistently released albums, singles, and compilations all the years since. Third World had gone through a variety of line up changes as most bands do after been performing for nearly 25 years by this time, but they were tight that night, one of the best reggae acts that I will ever have the pleasure of seeing. There were only two original members in the band by this time, Stephen “Cat” Coore on guitar, Richard Daley on bass, and Michael “Ibo” Cooper on keys. This would be Ibo’s last tour with them and now teaches at a performing arts academy in Kingston, Jamaica.
Opening that show was Dub Nation, a local act I believe primarily based out of Santa Cruz, and often a go to act to open the numerous reggae bills that the Maritime would host. I remember the drummer from that band was a fellow broadcasting student with me at S.F. State for a time, a nice fellow and a talented drummer, though his name escapes me. Strange today that their band name has been co-opted by the Golden State Warriors as the moniker for their fan base. I doubt they received any compensation as they would certainly have faced an impenetrable wall of high priced lawyers.
By this time, I was getting settled in recording with Pete and would soon be taking the reigns of recording all by myself. Chaotic as the process was, reggae shows presented a peaceful departure from the other shows since not only was Pete well versed in the style and how to mix it, he was often friends with the artists themselves, having worked with many of them on the Reggae On The River festivals. Often at reggae shows, the bands would use the same drum kit, making re-patching, labeling, and mixing for us a good deal easier as well. With clockwork consistently, the joints would be passed during these shows to the point where I would have to decline. I’d be zombified at the end of the night, Pete would hardly even be fazed.
Pete would keep the remaining roaches from his joints in a small Altoids mint tin that he’d keep next to the studio’s monitor amp. I would often pick out a handful of roaches to take home to carefully unwrap the papers from them and use the sticky resin coated weed chunks left over to be smoked in my pipe or bong. Pete would joke from time to time when putting new roaches into the tin that the “mice had been in there”, though I know he didn’t mind. He always had so much weed around that smoking the remains of those roaches would be an act of desperation to him. I remember once a charismatic, yet smart ass guy who worked there who would come in from time to time to smoke with us, wondered if he could could raid that roach tin sometime. Pete said that he’d hide it and if the guy could find it, he could keep it. He had the guy close his eyes and turn around and Pete simply slipped the tin onto its side and shunted it against the backside of the amp, like the Millennium Falcon clinging to the side of that Star Destroyer in “Empire”. And like that famous ship, the poor guy couldn’t find it no matter how hard he looked.
Sebadoh, Those Bastard Souls, Fill., SF, Sat., February 8, 1997
I had already seen Sebadoh twice before, so this show was nothing new. Lou Barlow’s lo fi, tortured artist schtick was even starting to wear a little thin for me. The show was certainly a musically stylistic departure from the stoney, roots reggae of Third World, who I helped record at the Maritime the previous evening. However, I do appreciate that they did a cover of Tom Petty’s “I Won’t Back Down” that night, an obvious nod to the residency Mr. Petty had just wrapped up at the Fillmore earlier that week. Bob Fay was still playing drums for them, but would soon be fired and replaced by Russell Pollard. Lou’s painfully moody stage presence would further be hampered that show by what seemed like an endless stream of technical problems from the band, such as Lou breaking his capo and the snare drum needing to be replaced. One could hear a pin drop between to songs, the silence being as uncomfortable and awkward as the lyrics of the songs themselves.
As luck would have it, it would be the opening act, Those Bastard Souls, who would attract the most attention, not for their performance that night, but years later for what the drummer they selected to tour with them. Yes, none other than comedian Fred Armisen was playing with them that night. Of coarse, I didn’t know him from Adam at the time. Fred had been playing drums in various acts including Trenchmouth from Chicago for years and hadn’t had any notable comedy experience then. He would not even begin at “Saturday Night Live” until five years later. So, at least if somebody ever asks if I ever seen him live before, I can say yes, though I have no real memory of it. This is one of those reasons I insist to getting to shows on time and never missing an opening act and serves as a poignant reminder to pay attention to them, even if I’m not aroused by their music.
Arlo Guthrie, Fill., SF, Sun., February 9, 1997
It was nice to see mr Guthrie again, a year almost to the day after in the very same venue. He was just about to release a new album called, “This Land Is Your Land : An All American Children’s Folk Classic”, consisting of songs from his dad Woody’s catalog, the more silly ones, but also including “This Land Is Your Land” naturally. There would be two versions of that song the CD actually. I’d go on to see and record Arlo at the Maritime a year later, so I got a healthy dose of his stuff around that time.
He was playing alone this night, doing songs on both piano and guitar, doing two hour long sets with a twenty minute intermission. Like before, he’d tell long stories between songs, so long in fact, that the spoken word took up at least as much time as the music. Not a bad thing, if what being said is entertaining. Many artists I like such as Robyn Hitchcock, Ray Davies, Bunny Wailer, and Richie Havens did the same thing, though I think Arlo did it longer than any of them. Doesn’t matter. Arlo is a funny guy. I wish my recordings were louder, so I could actually hear the stories he was telling that night, but really, I can barely make it out. Pretty sure one of them involved his writing a song that he thought was awesome before realizing that he was ripping off “Swanee River” and another about when he and his mother were visiting China and stepped off the plane to hear “This Land Is Your Land” being played by a brass band which made his mother flip out. If he didn’t tell these stories at this show, it had to have been the one the year before.
It was also a relieving show, being the end of a 5 show out of 7 stretch, being an intimate one to boot. If memory serves, it was a seated gig. He played a few covers I knew including “The City Of New Orleans”, known mostly for being sung by Willie Nelson, likewise, for “Can’t Help Falling With You” and he also did “San Francisco Bay Blues” made famous a couple years before by Eric Clapton on his “Unplugged” album. He didn’t however play “Alice’s Restaurant”, the epic spoken word/ballad he was most known for and frankly, I’m glad he didn’t. It takes courage for an artist to do that and I appreciated it. Who can blame him, anyway? It’s over 18 minutes long. No poster that night, I’m afraid.
The Ohio Players, The Tommy Castro Band, Sweet Vine, Maritime Hall, SF, Fri. February 14, 1997
This would be my second Exotic Erotic Ball at the Maritime, but at least this time around they had some notable musicians performing. Like the last time, there were plenty of people strutting about in lingerie and they even had a costume contest in the middle of the show. I’ll never forget a couple during the contest had to be reluctantly broken up by Little Boots, the young stage manager, when the woman attempted to give her partner a blow job in front of everybody. I remember the woman was rather buxom, with short blonde hair and was wearing a black leather bodice. I couldn’t blame them for showing their affection though. It was Valentine’s Day after all.
Anyway, back to the music. The Ohio Players had gotten a bump in popularity around this time after the Red Hot Chili Peppers did a cover of their hit, “Love Rollercoaster”, that appeared prominently in the film, “Beavis & Butthead Do America”. They were an appropriate act for the Exotic Erotic too since they were notorious for having naked or nearly naked women on their album covers back in the 70s. They were contemporaries amongst many funk pioneers back in those days, such a George Clinton, Rick James, and Earth, Wind, & Fire. Likewise, their music would go on to sampled numerous times in the future by famous hip hop acts like Dr. Dre, Ice Cube, and Snoop Dogg.
Thankfully, one of the openers was Tommy Castro and his band, a solid and reliable blues act that had been in the bay area for years. Tommy was only a few months away from releasing his second album, “Can’t Keep A Good Man Down” on the Blind Pig label. The man has talent for sure, not only as a guitarist, but also a singer. On the other hand, Robert Ward, the singer of the Ohio Players, was shall we say less sophisticated in his vocal stylings. Now I can’t say if, what, and how much drugs this guy had done in the past or at that show, but he sounded like a true bone fide crackhead that night. Not to say that it wasn’t a compelling performance, it was certainly memorable, so much in fact, that I can still picture his wild eyed rambling to this very day. Sadly, he passed away nine years later and most of the other original members have by now as well. So, I won’t be seeing the Ohio Players again, but Mr. Castro is alive and well and plays regularly.
The Dandy Warhols, Mover, Mumblin’ Jim, Bottom Of The Hill, SF, Wed., February 19, 1997
SETLIST : Best Friend, Ride, Minnasoter, (Tony, This Song Is Called) Lou Weed, Boys Better, Nothin’ To Do, The Dandy Warhols’ TV Theme Song, (unknown), Not If You Were The Last Junkie On Earth, Genius, Be-In, (unknown), Cool As Kim Deal, Every Day Should Be A Holiday, It’s A Fast Driving Rave Up With The Dandy Warhols
I remember distinctly the first time I heard the Dandy’s. My friend Tory had purchased their first album, “Dandy’s Rule OK”, and played it for me while we were driving in his car in Concord. From the first minute of their “TV Theme Song”, I was hooked. They were a band I was waiting to hear and didn’t even know it. It was refreshing to hear a sound with such vitality and accessibility coming from a new act and they hadn’t even hit the big time yet, so I was overjoyed to see that I’d be able to witness them perform for my first time at a club as small as Bottom Of The Hill. I’d be lucky to see them two more times that year, once more at Bottom Of The Hill and once at Slim’s, but I will of coarse get to those shows later. I can’t remember much about the openers. I only recorded one song from each of them, but I do know that Mumblin’ Jim derived their name from the 1968 cult movie, “Psych-Out”, being the name of the hippie band in the film fronted by Jack Nicholson.
Like I said, they were still pretty new. Their sophomore album, “…The Dandy Warhols Come Down”, wouldn’t be released until that July, coincidentally on my birthday on the 15th, but they played plenty of new songs that night, over half the set in fact. I was blown away. The new material was at least as good as the first album stuff if not better. Songs like “Boys Better” and “Every Day Should Be A Holiday”, both favorites of mine, would go on to be in major motion picture soundtracks for such films as “Good Will Hunting” and “There’s Something About Mary” amongst others. At the end of the show, for the “Fast Moving Rave Up” song, Joel Gion from the Brian Jonestown Massacre came on stage with his maracas and made a mess while maintaining his usual stone faced expression. The Dandy’s long and dramatic history with the Massacre was detailed in the documentary, “Dig!” That would be released seven years later, so I will also get to that another time.
One aspect of their show that really shall we say focused my attention was the keyboardist, Zia McCabe, who promptly went topless as soon as their set started and remained that way. They say sex sells and thank God for that. I don’t know how much Zia’s boobs contributed to their ultimate success as a band, but I think many talented bands that fell by the wayside over the years might have made it to the big time if they had a brave young woman like Zia to get horny young men’s attention. Being San Francisco, I’m sure a few women were taken by her as well. California law forbids showing women’s nipples at a place that serves alcohol, but every time she did it, nobody protested. Zia would actually go on to pose nude for the Suicide Girls while she was pregnant in 2004. Alas, after their third album, she stopped doing going topless on stage, but I will always cherish the memory.
Box Set, The Sunshine Club, Fill., SF, Fri., February 21, 1997
This show was sort of a locals night gig. The Fillmore was inclined to showcase local acts quite generously during those first few years after the reopening in 1994. Box Set had been around a few years, though I was unfamiliar with them. In fact, the lead singer/songwriter, Jeff Pherson, had attended SF State and was even briefly a Broadcasting major as I was. Additionally, he would play at coffee shops and cafes like The Owl & Monkey that I often frequented when it was still open back then. My friends Laurel and Alexis used to live in the apartment next to it. It’s a small town. I’d probably seen him around and didn’t know it. Jeff would also play at Simple Pleasures in the Outer Richmond which I pop into now again now that I’m living out this way. Box Set wrote good songs though and did a rousing cover of the Beatles, “Birthday” at that show, which they invited the crowd to sing along. It actually was Jeff’s 30th birthday that night and the crowd actually did sing him “Happy Birthday” to boot.
But this would be the only time I’d see Box Set or the opening act, The Sunshine Club, though I thought they were pleasant to listen to as well. Jordan Kurland, the fellow I used to intern for at the management of Primus, was managing them at the time. They had just released a CD called “Visit To A Small Planet” which I still own. Jordan was just beginning to get the Noise Pop festival on its feet back then and was managing low fi folk rock acts like Crumb, Matt Nathanson, and them. I’m pretty sure he was at that show that night. Mr. Pherson would go on to sing back up vocals for Furthur, the Grateful Dead alumni band in the future, so I probably saw him at least one more time since this gig.
Merle Haggard & The Strangers, The Geezers, The Bulls, Maritime Hall, SF, Sat. February 22, 1997
I was steadily getting into the old school so-called outlaw country guys around then, having seen Merle already once at The Fillmore, as well as a couple of his contemporaries like Johnny Cash and Willie Nelson. I appreciated that Merle was a Californian, born and raised in the central valley. Country music fans, not to mention the rest of the country in general, view this state with downright hostility sometimes and it’s good to remind them that this is this home of such a bad ass shit kicker as he. I’ve said before that horror metal guys like Marilyn Manson or guys from Cradle Of Filth don’t scare me, but believe me, one look into the eyes of Mr. Haggard when he’s in a foul mood will chill you to the bone.
Case in point, this was one of those occasions when the headlining act at The Maritime found out about our recording facility and flat out refused to allow us to tape. It wasn’t totally unusual and from time to time even expected, but that afternoon during soundcheck, Mr. Haggard personally came down to the recording room to insure that we weren’t taping and gave Pete and me the stinkiest of stink eyes. We assured him that we would only be taping the opening acts and he backed away though reluctantly. Yes, he’s wasn’t a big guy, rather skinny and gaunt in fact, but he looked like he’d been through three world wars. Sad as it was that we weren’t allowed to record, it was as it was always on such occasions a release for me to go upstairs and watch the show with my own eyes. Thankfully, Merle would return a mere four months later to play The Maritime again and I’m happy to say that we recorded him that night. Don’t know if we had permission to, but I’ll get into that again when we get to the shows in May.
The Mermen, Dieselhed, Born Naked, Maritime Hall, SF, Fri. January 28, 1997
SETLIST (BORN NAKED) : About Leary, Man Kills, Innocent, Me I Say (Minus One), F.R.I., Weeds, Instead, Sick Again, Prayer, John Henry, Reality, Bury Me
The Mermen weren’t at a level of popularity then to fill a place as large as the Maritime or even the Fillmore and most likely never will, but I suppose this was wishful thinking on the part of folks booking the show that night. They had been a steadily working band in the city and the bay area, opening for all sorts of people and remain one of the best go to bands around for an opening act. At least the city’s greatest opening act had a couple opening acts that were good too.
I’d moved out of the place I was living in the Mission with Patrick, the manager of Born Naked, but I was glad to see the gang there that night. I always liked Born Naked and thought they deserved more success and that goes double for Patrick. He was a talented and hard working manager. I remember the band coming down to the recording room before the show and smoking a joint with Pete and me, though Pete thought they should have waited until after their set to do so, as not to interfere with their performance. Probably a good suggestion to most bands, but it didn’t affect them adversely as far as I could tell. I praised the band and told them they’d knock em’ dead that night to help boost their confidence. James, the bassist, was especially thankful I recall, saying to me, “We need more guys like this around us”, or something to that effect. At the end of their set, they did a blistering rendition of Smashing Pumpkins’ “Bury Me”, one of the Pumpkins’ best songs in my opinion.
Also opening that night, was Dielselhed, another local act that had talent. I’d see them open for Cake a couple years later and after their break up the band members would go on to play with other bands like Dengue Fever and The Tubes as well as solo projects. It was a tight show and though the attendance was sparse as predicted, we heard some quality music at that gig. The oil plate projections at the Maritime always seemed to be the most appropriate for the Mermen. Perhaps the liquids were channeling the spirit of the ocean.
Zero, New Riders Of The Purple Sage, Fill., SF, Sat., March 1, 1997
Why oh why on God’s green Earth I decided to see Zero at this point when I wasn’t working one of their infinite Maritime shows still escapes me. I assume I wasn’t completely sick to death of them at this time and probably was hoping there would be a poster. There was not, at least not for the show they did at the Fillmore that night. To make matters worse, Zero would do two sets and I’d have to wait until the beginning of the second set until I was cut from ushering and finally free to enjoy myself.
At lest The New Riders Of The Purple Sage were opening, truly one of the more worthwhile hippie bands and always an enjoyable opening act. I was fortunate to see them then because after a long series of line up changes in the band, they decided to call it quits shortly after this show. By this time John Dawson was the only original member of the act dating back to the mid 60’s. They had more ex members than Menudo, including Dead alumni, Jerry Garcia, Mickey Hart, and Phil Lesh. They’d get back together a few years later with original member David Nelson, but by that time Dawson had contracted emphysema and couldn’t tour anymore. He’d eventually die from it in 2009.
After a few years of listening to hippie music under my belt, I was starting to recognize the songs, if only they were a couple covers of done by others. The Riders played “Ripple” by the Dead as their last song of their set and Zero did “The Weight” by The Band. My tapes ran out about six songs into the second set and having most of the show and no need to wait around for a poster, I called it an early night.
Snocore ’97: Face To Face, The Pharcyde, Voodoo Glow Skulls, Salmon, Powerman 5000, Fill., SF, Mon., March 3, 1997
As the name of the tour suggested, this was a festival originally intended to play at ski resorts or around skiing communities, but after the first year, they brought it down from the mountains to be with us city folk at The Fillmore. The show was originally to take place at The Warfield, but was moved because of low ticket sales. I remember going to the first Snocore show up at Boreal, but didn’t record it and had my usual luck attempting to ski, which is none. Half the reason I went to that show was that Skankin’ Pickle was one of the bands. Honestly, I don’t even remember if I saw any of Sublime, the headliner, that day. In honor of Sublime’s recently fallen singer, they played a tribute video, being labeled the Sublime “Mini Movie”, between the sets of The Pharcyde and Face To Face that night. Between acts, they would also show snowboarding videos which helped pass the time. This show was also the perfect palate cleanser for listening to Zero’s hippie shit two nights before at the Fillmore.
It was a five band evening, but they went through the bands quickly, allowing only fifteen minutes between acts to change sets. First up was Salmon, a band for Los Gatos that had a short career, but I liked very much and was lucky to see them as many times as I did back then. Powerman 5000 was second, fronted by a fellow named Spider One, who was the younger brother of Rob Zombie. They had been signed to Dreamworks around that time and were often found on festival circuits such as Ozzfest. Third, was the always dependable Voodoo Glow Skulls. They never failed to get the crowd pumped up and moshing, starting their set with their punk cover of “Charlie Brown”. I love when they do their cover of “Here Comes The Sun” as well, possibly the best cover of that song I’ll ever hear.
I know it might be borderline racist to say that The Pharcyde isn’t a band I’d normally associate with skiing or snowboarding, but that’s mostly because they’re from south central L.A., not because they are black. Not a lot of snow in their neighborhood. Nevertheless, they were great as they are always great and indeed I would go so far as to say they were the highlight of that show. Fatlip had left the group by then to pursue a solo career, but their split was amicable. Finally, there was Face To Face. I wasn’t a big fan of their music, but I did enjoy the way their frontman, Trevor Keith, would make silly faces when he sang, though he probably did it unintentionally. Everybody had pretty quick sets that night including Face To Face who only got fifty minutes to play, but no poster was given out.
Hieroglyphics, Ras Kass, Ci/Del, The Bums, Mike T, Skitzo, Fantastic Four, Maritime Hall, SF, Thurs. March 6, 1997
SETLIST (HIEROGLYPHICS) : Eye Examination, The Undisputed Champ, See Delight, Let Em’ Know, Oakland Blackouts, Make Up Your Mind, unknown, unknown, unknown, After Dark, Mistadobilina, The Last One, 93 Till Infinity
The Hieroglyphics crew were quickly making a name for themselves around this time, especially for having Del Tha Funkee Homosapien amongst their ranks. Del had made a big impression from his first album, “I Wish My Brother George Was Here” years before in 1991 when he was just a lad of 18. He got a boost with that album, it having been produced by his cousin Ice Cube, who was already huge by then. Del went on to produce his own stuff from then on out after that album, but I still consider it to be his best work. Del sang the hit song, “Mistadobilina” from that album that night. Hieroglyphics wouldn’t release their first album until November of the following year.
I’m pretty sure this was the first time I’d see the Hieroglyphics, but I would go on to see them countless times afterward. They would be ubiquitous in the bay area because of their three eyed “Have A Nice Day” symbol for their band, that would adorn T-shirts, hoodies, and stickers everywhere. I imagine they probably made at least as much money if not more off of their products as their music. I know the Wu-Tang Clan certainly did. There was a long line up of rappers that night, mostly good, but nights like these were chaotic backstage, trying to figure out who goes when and even more difficult to get the acts on stage on and off stage in a timely manner. I liked The Bums a lot and Ras Kass too, who was fairly new as well, having just released his first album “Soul On Ice” the previous October. Camp Lo was listed on the poster to play that night, but I don’t believe they were there. It wasn’t that well sold, but the crowd was comfortable. It was my sister, Erica’s, birthday that night, but I don’t think she was there, but I know I was thinking of her.
Willie Nelson, Jimmie Dale Gilmore, Maritime Hall, SF, Fri. March 7, 1997
This would be the first time I’d have the pleasure of seeing the great Willie Nelson. He was 64 years old by the time of this show and his reputation was already secure as solid stone in the annuls of music history. It was a good time for old school country guys partially because of the success of Johnny Cash’s “American Recordings” album, which helped boost the careers of other contemporaries such as Merle Haggard and Waylon Jennings during this period. The occasion was solidified in history by Boots, the Maritime’s cruel overlord, showcasing his semi-illiteracy, but misspelling Willie’s name on the poster as “Willy”. Yes, Willy with a Y, like the orca. I like to think that poster would be worth more because of it like those stamps printed long ago with the upside down airplane.
Any-who, opening that night was Jimmie Dale Gilmore, a fellow Texan and long time respected singer songwriter. He and Willie had worked together only a few years prior to record Willie’s hit, “Crazy”, for the “Red Hot + Country” album, a benefit album to raise money for AIDS research. They were a good pairing for this bill. Incidentally, it was a strange shifting of gears stylistically once again since the night before on the very same stage was the Hieroglyphics. Apart from their love of marijuana, they have little in common with Mr. Nelson.
Like I said before, Willie was already a legend by this time, with a repertoire so long, others discography, even veteran musicians would find themselves hilariously outgunned by the Red Headed Stranger. The year before, Willie released the album, “Spirit”, which would be his 44th, yes, get your head around that, 44th studio album. So, I had a lot of catching up to do getting to know him and his music apart from the hits. I knew little else about him at this time, apart from the trouble he’d been having paying what he owed the IRS just a few years before this show. I hope playing the Maritime helped a little in getting him back into the black.
And what can I say about his performance, but to say it was magical. Each and every time I’d go on to have the honor of being in Willie’s presence, the feeling is always the same. I’d like to think that it is a similar sensation with being in the room with a benevolent entity like the Dali Llama or Santa Claus. Every concert I’ve been to when Willie was there felt as is absolutely no harm could come to me or anyone there. I felt totally safe. Perhaps then that this bit I’m writing is appropriate, since it’s the first installment of Bootleg Confessions that I’m doing since the coronavirus pandemic. My wife and I had been away for over a month visiting New Zealand and Australia and got back in country by the skin of our teeth. Thinking of Mr. Nelson gives me much needed reassurance during these times and if you are reading this while this pandemic is still going on, needless to say that in my opinion, listening to his music right now would not be a bad idea at all.
The Jazz Passengers with Deborah Harry, Connie Champagne & The Tiny Bubbles, Fill., Sun., March 9, 1997
At long last, I was to finally see Debbie Harry. Like many people my age, I grew up listening to Blondie and was a big fan. She was one of those iconic beauties that transcended into cultural icon status. Of coarse, back around 1980, I was but a boy who gazed upon her knowing instinctually that I admired her, but not knowing exactly why, much like I felt about Olivia Newton-John or Catherine Bach from “The Dukes Of Hazzard”.
As luck would have it, this time around, I would not be seeing her in Blondie, but with The Jazz Passengers, a talented but obscure jazz combo who had extensive history playing with such people as John Laurie, Jeff Buckley, and Mavis Staples. Debbie had joined the band the year before, releasing the album, “Individually Twisted” with them and would go on to tour with them for a couple more years before finally reuniting with Blondie in 1999. Still, better late than never and at age 52, she still looked stellar.
Though I didn’t know any of The Jazz Passengers music, I liked it very much and saw immediately why she wanted to be associated with them. She had the feel of an elegant French cabaret chanteuse singer and if she could have lay down sideways on a grand piano in a shimmery dress, she would not of looked out of place. They did, however, dusted off a couple Blondie classics, “One Way Or Another” and their cover of “The Tide Is High”, reimagined in a jazzy rearrangement. And though I was a little let down that my first encounter with Debbie wouldn’t be Blondie proper, in hindsight I find myself extremely fortunate to have seen her in this group, being the only time I’d get the chance to see her tour with them. Pity there was no poster to mark this occasion.
Live, Morcheeba, War., SF, Tues., March 11, 1997
SETLIST : Rattlesnake, Freaks, Graze, Turn My Head, Shit Towne, Heropsychodreamer, Iris, Ghost, Century, Waitress, Love My Way, Operation Spirit, Lakini’s Juice, Gas Head, Lightening Crashes, I Alone
I wasn’t a huge fan of the band Live, but back in those days, it was hard to avoid them. Their album, “Throwing Copper” had been a big hit, catapulting them to stardom almost overnight, though they’d been together since the mid 80’s. I knew their hit, “I Alone”, through “Beavis & Butthead”, as I knew lots of music back then. I remember them making fun of the lead singer’s ridiculous faces he’d make while singing. Yes, few singers such as Ed Kowalczyk get so completely emotionally wrapped up in their performance that it transcends into comedy, the singer of the band James, Tim Booth, definitely comes to mind. But in this case, Beavis was asking if Ed was John Belushi, definitely parodying Belushi’s over the top impersonation of Joe Cocker.
Regardless, I was impressed very much by the opening act, Morcheeba. I remember my friend Drew went to that show mainly to see them. Though I didn’t get into them initially, a few years later, I borrowed their album, “Charango”, from my cousin Leslie. After that I was hooked and bought every album I could find. They were brand new in ’96, having just released their first album, “Who Can I Trust?” and it came at a good time. Trip hop stuff was just taking off and they were a little more upbeat than their sourpuss contemporaries, Portishead. Unfortunately, it would be another 11 years until I’d get a chance to see them again at The Fillmore, and by that time their original singer Skye Edwards had left the band, though she’d rejoin them a couple years later.
It was a sold out show that night and Live’s fans are definitely dedicated. In fact, tickets sold out within hours of their release. I remember there being some confusion of whether they were a Christian rock band, due to the video of “Lightening Crashes”. I recall Collective Soul had a similar problem. In the video, it took place in a hospital mostly and an old woman died and a baby was born, leading to think that they were pro-lifers or something. While the band’s stance on abortion was never made clear to me and it would be irrelevant anyway since I wasn’t that big of a fan. Besides, Ed the singer is a Buddhist. In any case, having Jesus freaks buying your stuff and going to your shows couldn’t hurt, though they probably didn’t spend a lot of money at the bar.
On a funny side note, I just learned that Ed played a bit part in the film, “Fight Club” a few years after this show. He played a waiter near the end serving Edward Norton and Helena Bonham Carter and he was clearly one of Tyler Durden’s followers, addressing Norton as such and having bruises on his face. When Norton asked that they be served “clean food”, Ed suggested not eating the clam chowder.
The Dirty Three, Low, The Sunshine Club, Bimbo’s, SF, Thur., March 13, 1997
Already a big fan of the band, this would be the fourth time I’d be seeing them. It was also a rare opportunity to see them or any show for that matter at Bimbo’s. It remains a rare occasion that they put on a gig there that I wanted to see and I wasn’t going to pass this one up for sure. Opening that night first were The Sunshine Club, who I still believe were being managed by Jordan Kurland, the fellow I interned for at Primus’ management. I’m pretty sure Jordan was there that night too. A pleasant band to listen to, but like them, Low, the second opener, were so low key, that the audience paid little attention to them. Strange, that a band with such intensity as The Dirty Three would choose either of them to open, but they would be a tough act to upstage by anybody. Low would go on a few years later to collaborate with The Dirty Three for an album called “In The Fishtank”, though I confess I haven’t heard it.
Being the fan that I was, I bought every album I could find of theirs otherwise. Warren, the violinist, had already collaborated with Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds by then and would become a permanent member to this day. Furthermore, he’d join Mr. Cave on several brilliant movie soundtracks and the band Grinderman. Thankfully, he’d still tour with The Dirty Three for years to come. If I’m not mistaken, Warren was still clean shaven around this time. He’d soon grow a beard that makes him look like Karl Marx or somebody Amish. I don’t blame him though. It’s a good look for him. They brought the house down that night as usual and I was glad to see that their latest album, “Horse Stories”, was a critical success, even being voted one of the top three albums of the year by Rolling Stone magazine.
Doug Kilmer Benefit : Gary Duncan, Nick Gravenites, Martin Laftlin, Roy Rodgers, Huey Lewis, Austin Delone, Maritime Hall, SF, Fri. March 14, 1997
The hippies of the north bay are a tight knit group and when one of their own is in trouble, they circle the wagons. It was the case with Chet Helms, the first show of the Maritime being a benefit to help get him a liver transplant. It was also the case in this instance with Doug Kilmer. Doug was a bass player of renown amongst the hippies and he unfortunately fell ill with a near fatal case of pneumonia which left him hospitalized for months. As you can imagine, the bills were beyond belief and he needed a hand.
Doug had played with practically everybody involved with the hippie scene in the bay area, but was best known for playing bass on the hippie anthem, “Spirit In The Sky”. It must be also noted that he played the funky bass line to “Right Place, Wrong Time” by Otis Rush in 1976. Many of his buddies came out of the woodwork on this one, including old members of Quicksilver Messenger Service, Commander Cody, and the one and only Huey Lewis. People forget that Huey and his band were north bay hippies before the 80’s. For more information on that, listen to Christian Bale’s monologue about Huey in “American Psycho”. Mr. Lewis popped by the recording room for a moment that night and I met him briefly which naturally was a treat for me. I saw him once more in the crowd at the Warfield in 2000 for the reunion of The Meters, but I’m afraid that I’ve never seen him perform with The News and now that he’s got permanent hearing loss, I won’t ever. God willing, I’ll see them perform in heaven some day, provided I outlive them of coarse.
They all played individually and together on stage that night, doing all the classics and all the songs that Doug himself played on. He would recover from his bout of pneumonia, but would move up north just outside Willits, performing from time to time, but mostly just looking after his children. Sadly, he succumbed to liver cancer in 2005, but in true north bay hippie fashion, his friends would hold a benefit for his family at the Sweetwater Saloon in Mill Valley.
KRS-One, The Earthlings, Asha, Trip, Maritime Hall, SF, Sat. March 15, 1997
Rap artists can be, shall we say, challenging for folks at a venue from time to time. Many are professional, punctual, and downright nice. KRS-One, it turns out, seems to be the former. Now, I didn’t know this at the time and continued to be blissfully unaware of his bad behavior for years. Even after the unpleasantness that happened between him and the Maritime after this show, I wrote it off as underhanded dealings from his management and that KRS-One had nothing to do with it.
The show was lively and I have to give it KRS-One, he knows how to pump up the crowd, especially when he gets them going “WHOOP! WHOOP!” to his hit “Sound Of Da Police”. As usual, we had little Boots’ band, The Earthlings open up and they were mostly ignored as expected. What was unexpected, was what happened the weeks and months after this show. We gave him the VHS and DAT tape of his performance as usual. He signed off on the standard release, promising that neither of us would do anything with the recording unless there was some sort of mutual agreement between the parties, yadda, yadda, yadda. Most of the time, nothing comes from these recordings and we all just move on with our lives. As you can guess, that wasn’t the case here.
Yes, KRS-One, who’s real name is Lawrence Parker incidentally, quickly took excerpts from the show, called them 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and 4th Quarter, the first being “The Commentary” and the following ones were called “Free Throws” and put them on his new album, “I Got Next”. Anyway, we were not informed at all about his use of these tracks and naturally, we didn’t get an iota of credit in the liner notes, adding insult to injury. But we had him cold, having the ADAT masters and all the paperwork, so Boots, the owner, sued Mr. Parker. Pete and I even went so far to go to a fancy law firm in the Embarcadero, coincidentally the same lawyers that represent Jerry Garcia’s family, to take preliminary depositions to go to trial. Thankfully, once KRS-One’s people figured out that the jig was up, they quickly settled out of court. We got a little chunk of change and life went on. Pete believed back then that the money was more important than the credit and in the short term, especially these days, I tend to agree with him. However, looking down at the CD of the “I Got Next” album, I still feel the sting of our work not being recognized. After all, the album went Gold and remains KRS-One’s best selling solo album to date.
Talking with other sound men years later, I passed on this story to them, but commented that I admired him for always using a microphone with a cord attached instead of a wireless one. The others went on to unload a diatribe of stories about his rudeness and that he was deaf as a post, forcing them to crank up his monitors to the point of feedback so he can hear. As the recording guy at the Maritime, I was fortunate to be locked away in the studio a floor below the stage, mostly oblivious to whatever drama was going on upstairs. Some stories I’d hear, but many would pass over me. Though I’d miss out on a good deal of interaction with these giants of the music scene, at least I would be spared from most of the ugly stuff.
On the lighter side of the story, Boots messed up the monthly poster again, misspelling “KRS-One” as “KRS-1”. He did the same thing to poor Willie Nelson who played only eight days before, spelling his first name, “Willy”. That’s two headliners misspelled on one poster. Sheesh…
Waylon Jennings, JC Flyer, Maritime Hall, SF, Sun. March 16, 1997
No sooner than ten days after I get to see the one and only Willie Nelson at the Maritime, than none other than his contemporary, Waylon Jennings, plays there. It was an honor to finally see the man who’d I heard for so many years as the narrator or “balladeer” of “The Dukes Of Hazzard”. As previously mentioned, I was in love with Daisy as all of America was. He sang the theme song as you all know as well. To go over Mr. Jennings’ entire career, from switching seats with The Big Bopper, so he could go on the plane with Buddy Holly and Richie Valens on the Night The Music Died, to the Outlaw Country movement, “Luchenbach, Texas”, and so forth would take quite a spell, so I won’t go into it too deeply.
Like Willie, Waylon was getting a boost from the popularity of Johnny Cash’s “American Recordings”, releasing his album, “Right For The Time”, the year before and even touring on a leg of the Lollapalooza tour. I wish I could have seen him on that one. Yes, I’m afraid that this would be the only time I’d get to see Waylon. Years of drug, alcohol abuse, and chain smoking would take its toll on him soon after. He’d lose his left foot to diabetes and it would ultimately take his life in 2002. He’d only live to be 64. But considering the mountains of cocaine he was ingesting and at one point, he smoked six packs of cigarettes a day, I think we can all agree that it was a miracle that he lasted as long as he did.
One of the reasons, if not the main reason he was still alive to play this show was because of Jessi Colter and it was an added bonus that she was there that night to sing along side him. She would be his fourth and final wife, having tied the knot in 1969 and she stuck with him to the bitter end. They would go on to have a son, Shooter Jennings, who would become a renowned country music musician in his own right. A beautiful woman, Jessi, and she has the voice of an angel too, having a respectable career as a solo artist. Just the year before this show, she released an album of children’s music called, “Jessi Colter Sings Just For Kids : Songs From Around The World”. It was a great show and the country crowd is always well behaved. Seriously, the drink like fishes, but you’ll never see a bar with more of a uniformly and efficient line in front of it.
Fiona Apple, Guadaloop, Fill., SF, Mon., March 17, 1997
SETLIST : Child Is Gone, Sullen Girl, Sleep To Dream, First Taste, Slow Like Honey, Shadowboxer, Pale September, Criminal, Carrion, (encore), Never Is A Promise
Fiona Apple was a big deal back then, a fast rising star to say the least. With her release of her debut studio album, “Tidal”, only a tear before, it would go on to be certified triple platinum and garner her the Grammy for Best Female Rock Vocal Performance the following year for the song, “Criminal”. I wasn’t that familiar with her music and wasn’t the biggest fan of what I had heard, but I had friends who were, whose musical tastes I trusted. That, and it was St. Patrick’s day as well as the birthday of my friend, Matt Thayer, so I was in the mood for a show.
Brilliant and prolific as Fiona was at such a young age, having released that debut album when she was only 19, it was no secret that she was marred by emotional problems and eating disorders. She was raped at age 12 leading to PTSD, that on top of depression, panic attacks, OCD, and other such ailments, would serve to make show business as obviously taxing profession to be part of. Live, I remember her stage vibe was tense to say the least. It was hard to have fun at that show because I couldn’t escape the impression that she really, really didn’t want to be there. I remember being miffed at some rambling comment between songs that she felt relieved when she got to hang out with stupid people. At least is was a short show, only ten songs, including the encore and I have yet to see her perform again after that night. I did appreciate the poster they gave out that night however.
Jon Spencer Blues Explosion, Sleater-Kinney, Fill., SF, Wed., March 19, 1997
It is a rare occasion when an opening act at a show matches in the talent of the headliner and an even rarer occasion when the opener surpasses it. This was a tough call. Both bands were pretty evenly matched and this being the first time I had seen either of them, I was floored by both. It’s shows like this that reinforce my stubborn belief that one must be on time to each and every show, to never miss an opening act. Because the one time you do, might be the show where you miss a band like Sleater-Kinney. Yes, this was one of those rare Fillmore shows that really cut ice, that really made an impression on me. And only a show of this stature could really make it to the top of the heap if it had a good poster and this one did, one of my favorites that year and really one of the best I ever got from The Fillmore.
Like I said, I hadn’t seen either band yet, but I had heard about them from plenty of sources that they were good. Jon Spencer had already made a name for himself playing with such bands as Pussy Galore and Boss Hog and Sleater-Kinney was rising fast along with other female led bands of the so-called Riot Grrl movement, mostly from the Pacific Northwest. Sleater-Kinney were just about to release their third album, “Dig Me Out”, just a day shy of three weeks after this show, which would be a critical blockbuster for them, garnering them spots of many Best album and song lists. This would also be the first tour they would do with drummer Janet Weiss, who I’m sure gets jokes about her name being the same as Susan Sarandon’s character in “The Rocky Horror Picture Show”. Not her fault, of coarse. She was born in 1965, long before the movie came out. Regardless, her energy was intense, making her a perfect match for the band and they blew me away.
Like many great bands back in that day, I’d been introduced to the music of Jon Spencer through “Beavis & Butthead” when they were watching the video of “Dang” from the “Orange” album. They loved it, a very rare thing for them, who usually pan or crack jokes through the videos. Butthead even proclaimed, “I didn’t know a video could kick this much ass!” Such a ringing endorsement was not to be taken lightly. Indeed, the Blues Explosion lived up to the hype with their frenetic energy and sheer raw power. They’d released the album “Now I Got Worry” the previous October and the music video for the song, “Wail”, was directed by none other than Weird Al Yankovic and the video for “2Kindsa Love” was directed by Mike Mills of REM, both additional ringing endorsements.
Spencer’s wild stage antics and utter emotional ferocity on stage is seldom matched. I can only think of guys like James Brown or David Yow of The Jesus Lizard who even are up to that level of insanity. I was hooked and joined their armies of admirers of Sleater-Kinney and the Explosion that night without hesitation and would be fortunate to see both bands again soon afterwards. We were lucky to have Sleater-Kinney nearby on the West Coast and they would show up to all kinds of things in the future, but I and most others would have not predicted that Carrie Brownstein would go on to additional future glory and stardom as half of the renowned “Portlandia” cast with Fred Armisen.
Blur, Papas Fritas, Fill., SF, Thur., March 20, 1997
PAPAS FRITAS : Wild Life, Small Rooms, All Night, Explain, Just To See You, My Revolution, Live By The Water, Say Goodbye, Hey Hey You Say, Sing About Me, Possibilities
BLUR : Beetlebum, Girls & Boys, Movin’ On, Coping, Stereotypes, Country Sad Ballad Man, M.O.R., To The End, End Of A Century, Inertia, Popscene, Chinese Bombs, Advert, Bank Holiday, Death Of A Party, (encore), Song #2, On Your Own, Look Inside America, Parklife, The Universal, Sing
This would be the third time I’d have the pleasure of seeing Blur at The Fillmore and I was beginning to think they would be around forever. But the Britpop movement was already fading away to low-fi bands like Pavement and bands like Blur were starting to change their sounds accordingly. Still good though, and one could argue that despite the change in tone of their music with the release of their fifth album, the self titled “Blur”, just a little a month before this show, their single “Song #2”, was solid Britpop.
Additionally, one would not have anticipated that a skinny, pale English band like Blur would be the creators of one of the most iconic sports anthems in all of human history with that song. But then again, one probably would have said the same about Gary Glitter. “Song #2” has been in countless commercials ever since as well, not to mention the episode of “The Simpsons” where Homer and his friends go to the Super Bowl. Anyway, back to the show. Opening that night was Papas Fritas, spanish for french fries if you were wondering. They were an indie rock band from Massachusetts, but I didn’t remember much about them and this would be the only time I’d see them, they breaking up only three years after this.
Blur was on point that night as usual, but as usual, I had no idea that tensions between band members were already beginning to slowly break the band apart. Indeed, I’d only get to see Blur one more time at The Warfield later that year in October and after that, band members like Damon Albarn would go on to do other projects like Gorillaz. Poor Damon’s eight year relationship with Justine Frischmann of Elastica was falling apart, not to mention that he was trying to kick heroin too. Graham Coxon, the guitarist was battling a drinking problem as well. I guess it helps explain why these guys sweated so much on stage.
Thankfully, they would all go on to live through these problems, and despite dissolving the band for a few years in the 2000s, they would reunite again in 2008. I’ll go into their future stuff later when I get to their Warfield show in October. But I will end this thing on a happy note. The poster from their show at The Fillmore that night is one of very few posters that blesses the wall to my apartment at home here and been up there for the last seven years. Waking up to the sight of that joyful boy riding a rocket ship in my bedroom every day lifts my spirits. It is a work of art to be sure.
Steve Kimock, Itchy McGuirk, Maritime Hall, SF, Fri. March 21, 1997
Kimock was a busy man around this time, playing with the many post-Jerry incarnations of the Grateful Dead, but he had one solo album under his belt. He had released “Psychedelic Guitar Circus” the year before and had enough clout to warrant a show of his own. I can’t rightly remember how well it sold or many details of the show actually. You must forgive me, between all his collaborations and the constant onslaught of Zero gigs, you can appreciate that many of his appearances blend, especially at the Maritime. Itchy McGuirk opened up, who managed to put out a few albums, but broke up not too long after this show. I learned that in 2012 however, they did do a 20th anniversary show to honor the untimely death of Mark Kafoury, one of their founding members. Kimock is still with us thankfully and as much as Zero got under my skin, I wish him well.
Donovan, Mare Winningham, Fill., SF, Sat., March 22, 1997
SETLIST: Hurdy Gurdy Man, Catch The Wind, Colours, Jenifer Juniper, Wear Your Love, Universal Soldier, Please Don’t Bend, Nirvana, Laleyna, Give It All Up, Everlasting Sea, Donna, El Dorado, Be Mine, Universe Am I, Sunshine Superman, Mellow Yellow, Barabajagel, Season Of The Witch, Atlantis, Sleep
Donovan was one of those names that really cut glass from the whole Summer Of Love scene. Like many others then, he had started very young a few years prior to then, playing folk music on an acoustic guitar solo, before donning the paisley apparel and writing such hippie anthems as “Sunshine Superman”, “Hurdy Gurdy Man”, “Season Of The Witch”, and “Mellow Yellow”, all of which he played that night as you might expect. He would be a Zelig-like fixture in the late 60s, hanging out with everybody, even accompanying The Beatles and The Beach Boys on their expedition to see the Maharishi in ’68. His songs were utterly infectious which rightly earned him a place in the Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame in 2012.
Truth be told, though I did know the aforementioned hits, I knew little else about Donovan before this show. Despite my ignorance which I’m sure I shared with most Americans, it was apparent that we all knew his work whether we knew it or not. I liked the cover the Butthole Surfers did of “Hurdy Gurdy Man”, and many of his other songs had and would turn up in movies and TV, “The Simpsons” alone using at least a few. Even the songs “Universal Soldier” and “Season Of The Witch” were used for movie titles, the first, the Jean-Claude Van Damme action movie, the second, the third “Halloween” movie.
I had heard a rumor that Donavan was gay, and whether he dabbled in homosexuality or not I cannot say, but I do know that he has been married to his wife for 50 years this year and has four kids, two from a previous relationship. Incidentally, the first two kids are actors Donovan Leitch and Ione Skye. Anyway, this show was special because, and I was oblivious to this as usual, he wasn’t in the habit of touring. After the 70’s, he put out only a few albums, rarely playing, at least not in the states.
But around the 90’s, interest in his work picked up again. Johnny Cash had found renewed success with “American Recordings” as I’ve mentioned many times before, and in a session with Tom Petty, the producer of that album, Rick Rubin, mentioned to Tom that he’d like to work with Donovan. Tom got them together and Rick eventually produced, “Sutras”, which was released the October before this show, one of only two new albums he’d release in the previous 12 years. It wasn’t a big hit like Cash’s, but at least it got him touring again. Dave Navarro from Jane’s Addiction even contributed to that album. It was a treat to see him, his charisma was undeniable and his voice still sounded golden. There was a photo taken of him that night holding one of the apples the give out to the public in the lobby of The Fillmore. That picture is framed and is still hanging in the Fillmore lobby to this day.
Though I was far from an expert in the works of Donovan, I was pleased to experience another show with Mare Winningham, who opened that night. This would be the last of only two times I’d get to see her, both times at The Fillmore, the first opening for Arlo Guthrie the year before. She has the voice of an angel. Mare had been living in San Francisco at the time and had just released he second studio album, “Lonesomers”. She was already fairly well known for her acting work, especially for her Oscar nominated role in the film “Georgia”. She played the song “Hard Times” from the soundtrack, but surprised me when she played a very sweet cover of “All Apologies” by Nirvana, possibly the best cover of a Nirvana song I’ll ever hear. Maybe she did it in honor of Donovan’s song, “Nirvana”. Who knows?
Yes, it was a show for the ages, but considering the rarity and prestige of Donovan playing the Fillmore that night, I will never understand why there wasn’t a poster made for the occasion, a tragic omission to say the least. It was a long stretch for shows this month, doing nine shows in eleven days. March and October always are the busiest.
Sheryl Crow, Dishwalla, War., SF, Mon., March 24, 1997
SETLIST : If It Makes You Happy, Hard To Make A Stand, Leaving Las Vegas, Every Day Is A Winding Road, Sweet Roselyn, Run Baby Run, A Change Would Do You Good, Good Thing, Stop Children, Baby Angels, All I Wanna Do, The Na-Na Song, I Shall Believe, Strong Enough, Treat Me Like A Fool, Not Fade Away
Before I continue with this thing, I just want to relate a quick story on the miracles of coincidence. A few nights ago, I was playing a round of trivia online with some friends while cooped up like everybody else during this coronavirus lockdown. During the music round, one of the songs was “Counting Blue Cars” by Dishwalla and between rounds the quizmaster played a song by Sheryl Crow. And lo and behold, what show is on the top of the pile of discs next to my desktop than none other than this one, Sheryl Crow with Dishwalla opening up. Now, the chances of this may not be up there with winning the Powerball, but it does make you think, if only just a little. Anyway, that’s the story. Back to the show.
By this time, I’d seen Sheryl so often in a short period of time, that it was becoming almost routine. But though this would be my third time seeing her at The Warfield, it would be my last. Her fame, commercial, and critical success from the first album, “Tuesday Night Music Club, was sustained by her second album, the self titled, “Sheryl Crow”. With songs like “Every Day Is A Winding Road” and “If It Makes You Happy”, the money and the accolades kept pouring in. The latter song, which she opened the show with that night would get her a Grammy for Best Female Rock Vocal Performance and the album would grab the Grammy for Best Rock Album.
She played all the hits and they were tight, sounding so rehearsed that live, they sound practically the same as their albums. That’s fine and I admit a hard thing to pull off with such precision. Punk rock, this is not. What did stand out that night was the couple of covers they did that night at the end of the show, the first being, “Treat Me Like A Fool”, by Elvis Presley and “Not Fade Away” by Buddy Holly. The latter was well known to all in the bay area, being a staple for The Grateful Dead to end their second sets with, but the former was special to me for the immortal serenade Nicolas Cage used it to sing to Laura Dern in David Lynch’s masterpiece of film, “Wild At Heart”. I even yelled up to the stage after the song, “Y’all have the same power E had!”.
I noticed at the end of the show that the lyrics to “Treat Me Like A Fool” were printed out and taped on the floor in front of Sheryl’s spot. Being a civilized crowd that night, The Warfield hadn’t put up the barricade in front of the stage, so I did something I had never done before that show. Unable to get one of the stagehands’ attention while they were deconstructing the set on stage, I attempted to reach up and snag the printed lyrics myself. I was quickly accosted by one of the security guards and given a “you should know better” scolding. He recognized me, being one of the regular ushers, and I knew him. Though I didn’t know his name, I remember overhearing that he used to be a sailor in the Navy and like most security guards there, he was barrel chested and naturally, not one to argue with. I backed down and skulked out discreetly thereafter.
Screaming Trees, Clawhammer, Lusk, Slim’s, SF, Wed., March 26, 1997
SETLIST (CLAWHAMMER) : Caravan, Pigeon, Gnashville, Airplant, Sugar, William, Super Things, Hindsight, Blackeyed, Sick Fish Belly Up
I had seen Screaming Trees a couple times, once on the “Alternative Nation” tour opening for Soul Asylum and The Spin Doctors at the Greek in Berkeley and once as one of the first acts on the Lollapalooza tour in San Jose the year before, and was impressed enough by them to catch them headlining one of their own headlining shows finally. During this time Josh Homme who I’d seen once in his old band, Kyuss, was touring with them as a guitarist, and he would of coarse later go on to fame and fortune as the frontman for Queens Of The Stone Age.
It was a fun show, but what made it memorable was a bit of a scuffle I had in the crowd that night. One ALWAYS remembers fights they have at shows. Those impressions never fade no matter how old you get. The tiff in question happened when I was up front and center right up against the stage at Slim’s. There was no barricade, there never is to my recollection, and it was a pretty sold out show, if not totally sold out. I can’t remember. Behind me in the pit was a handful of jocks who were all wearing, and I’m not kidding here, matching baseball shirts and baseball hats. They had no logo or anything, but they were the collarless type, white in the trunk, with black sleeves that ended just a little past the elbows. One could only assume that they belonged to some amateur team and went to this show right after a game.
Assuming that, one can deduce that they had drank a good deal of beer which only would embolden their competitive urges, so these guys were doing their darndest to muscle their way up to front. One of these “Sport-O”’s in particular was trying to wedge his way between me and another guy and was doing so with such obnoxious aggression, that I took it upon myself to thwart his efforts with all of my strength. This brute even went so far as to jam his knee into the back of my thigh to try to gain leverage, but I didn’t budge. I did so for nearly the entire set and I must say that I was proud of myself for doing so. Such bullying should not go unchecked.
Near the end, I finally decided when this fellow made one last push to get up front, I pulled a little Aikido on him, grabbed him by the back of his neck, and forcefully shoved him to the front, slamming him into the stage,ironically where he wanted to get to in the first place. Naturally, he took offense to this and he and his buddies started yelling at me, which was utterly futile since it was so loud, that I couldn’t understand a single word that they were saying, but their intentions were clear. I’ll never forget the lead bully, pointing his accusing index finger at my face, but I got his goat when I simply smiled at him while he did it. Then, much to my amusement, I lunged forward suddenly with my jaw and startled him when I went to bite his finger off. Of coarse my snapping jaw stopped short of the end of his finger, but the look on his face was priceless when he flinched.
I backed away into the pit and watched the rest of the show knowing smugly that I got under his skin, but my ego was bruised a bit as you might imagine and it distracted from the show to say the least. In a strange coincidence, the Trees played a cover of Devo’s “Gut Feeling/Slap Your Mammy” near the end of the set, whose lyrics summed up my feelings towards my antagonist perfectly. The Trees had toured with Devo on the Lollapalooza tour like I said earlier the year before, and I assume they picked that song up as a tribute to them.
On the lighter side of the show, at the very end there was a sort of amusing little tidbit which helped me feel a little less violated. The baseball hooligans had left by the end of the set and the band was doing some kind of extensive jam for their encore.There was a fellow, a middle aged guy, who for some reason was egging Josh Homme on to let him sing or talk into his mic. For a while, it felt like Josh was going to oblige him, but he never did, though this guy never let up trying to get him to hand it to him. It was a long jam too. Very persistent people in the pit that night, I guess. Maybe it was something in the water. Anyway, walking out into the cool air after the show, I contemplated finding the jock’s car, smashing their windows, and slashing their tires. Good thing I didn’t though. That would have been wrong and if I got caught, well, let’s just say I would have been outnumbered.
Marianne Faithfull, War., SF, Thur., March 27, 1997
SETLIST : Alabama Song, Pirate Jenny, Bilbao Song, Complainte De La Seine, Ballad Of A Soldier’s Wife, The Boulevard Of Broken Dreams, Falling In Love Again, Mack The Knife, Don’t Forget Me, Surabaya Johnny, Street Singers Farewell, If Love Were All, As Tears Go By, (encore), Love Is Pleasing
Marianne had been there and back again to be sure. I had heard of her, like most, from her cover of the Rolling Stones’ “As Tears Go By”, which she played for her last song of the set that night. Years of alcohol and drug abuse in the 70’s and a bad case of laryngitis changed her smooth soprano voice to one commonly described as “whiskey soaked”. Not that it was a bad thing, for it added an emotional character to her voice that was compelling. She was coincidentally in the news recently for having contracted the coronavirus. Though she is 73 and had the aforementioned health concerns, I’m pleased to report that she has made a complete recovery.
This show was an “evening with” show and a single set, making it a short one for ushering and it being an entirely seated show, made it a civilized one and silent as the grave. This was a welcome change to the tense scuffle I had the night before at the Screaming Trees show the night before, in fact the polar opposite really. She was playing that night with a single piano player, Paul Trueblood, accompanying her. Paul had been a renowned musical director and had played along side with such people as Michael Feinstein, Diane Keaton, and Matthew Broderick.
Faithfull, after a long and steady recovery from her days of addiction and homelessness, had found success once again playing Pirate Jenny in a production of Kurt Weill’s “Three Penny Opera” in Dublin, Ireland, as well as playing Pink’s overbearing mother in the famous concert of Roger Water’s “The Wall” in Berlin in 1990. I’ll never forgive myself for not convincing my friends to see that show when we were backpacking across Europe that year. I don’t necessarily blame them for being weary, since we would have had no place to stay and were exhausted from traveling for previous six weeks. We watched it on TV from my friends grandparents’ place in Switzerland instead, which I have to admit was pretty cozy.
Anyway, back to the show. With the success of her stint as Pirate Jenny, Faithfull released an album called “Twentieth Century Blues” comprised mostly of Weill’s songs. Weill made songs that most Americans knew but through other artists, most notably “Mack The Knife”, made famous by Bobby Darin and that annoying McDonald’s commercial and “Alabama Song” made famous by The Doors. I would later know the “Pirate Jenny” song from the version done by Nina Simone. She finished the night with the encore of the traditional Irish song, “Love Is Pleasing”. Alas, there was no poster for such a momentous occasion and I regret that I haven’t seen her since. I’m glad that she continued to do well for herself, even playing God and The Devil years later on the hit English TV show, “Absolutely Fabulous”. My dad loved that show, God rest his soul. Maybe when he got to heaven, God met him in the form of Marianne.
Pablo Moses & The Meditations, Maritime Hall, SF, Fri., March 28, 1997
My reggae education continued at the Maritime with Mr. Moses, a much respected figure in the genre. I knew little of him other than what I was played by my friend Hefe, a lifelong reggae enthusiast, but I liked what I heard. Like all shows of this type, it was a given that many, many joints were shared from my generous partner Pete. He had the band sounding tight, skills which he acquired from years of mixing reggae, especially recording the “Reggae On The River” albums. Pete always made it look or sound, rather, easy.
Pablo had been making music since the 70’s and his first album, “Revolutionary Dream”, was engineered by the legendary Lee “Scratch” Perry at Black Ark studios in Jamaica. As luck would have it, Lee would play his first shows in America in over 17 years at the Maritime exactly one week later. The recordings from his two shows would become the first live albums the Maritime would publish, but I’ll get into that later when we get to those shows. A few years later, the Maritime would release a live album from a later recording at the Hall that Pete and I didn’t do in 2001. That album had the unfortunate luck of being released on September 11th that year.
Like the night before with Marianne Faithfull at the Warfield being a stylistic left turn to the Screaming Trees at Slim’s the night before, this was quite a change from Faithfull’s show the next night. It was stretches like this, especially during busy months like March and October, that made my musical diet back then rich and varied. Writing about weeks like this one, brings back happy memories.
The JGB Band, Puddle Junction, Buffalo Roam, Maritime Hall, SF, Sat., March 29, 1997
Despite the death of bassist John Kahn so soon after Jerry Garcia’s death, the JGB Band were playing quite a lot back in these days. It had been a long and varied stretch of shows, this being the fourth in a row, so sunday would truly be a day of rest. Like most the hippie shows, Pete was at the wheel recording, so I was laying back, labeling tapes, and delivering them to the opening acts as usual. Likewise, being a hippie show, the joints were being passed to me by Pete with their accustomed regularity that night, so details on the show are understandably spotty. It’s sort of strange that the Deadheads who were so meticulous about recording and cataloging the Dead’s and Jerry’s shows just sort of gave up on the keeping up with the JGB Band after Jerry died. Maybe they were still mourning or maybe they just didn’t care. Regardless, they would be soon inundated with many variations of the surviving Dead members soon enough to follow and obsess over.
Morphine, Deus, War., SF, Mon., March 31, 1997
SETLIST : Potion, Free Love, Mona’s Sister, Sharks, Empty Box, Early To Bed, Thursday, Super Sex, Swing It Low, Eleven O’Clock, Candy, Honey White, Cure For Pain, French Fries With Pepper, All Your Way, I Know You (Pt. III), Wishing Well, Buena, Radar, You Look Like Rain, (encore), The Saddest Song, Whisper
The show at the Warfield that night was cool, as cool as they were. Morphine had just released their new album, “Like Swimming”, only twenty days before this show and the new songs were easily as well crafted and performed as their earlier material. This would be the last time the band would play in San Francisco, though I would get to see them play one final time on the side stage at the H.O.R.D.E. festival later that July. Sadly, that would be the last show they would play in the bay area before the untimely death of singer/bassist Mark Sandman two years later, but I’ll get into that later when I catch up to the shows in July. The good news is that the recording of the show that night would later be released as a live album, though I admit I haven’t picked it up yet. There was an interesting band from Belgium, Deus, who opened that night, who went on to play a late set at the Hotel Utah in town after this show.
For the time being then, the fans like any fans of a band before their unexpected end, were enjoying them like they would be around forever. They were on the top of their game. After years of hard work, Sandman and company were at long last enjoying the fruits of their labor, playing venues a size worthy of their talents. To this day, it still mystifies me how Dana Colley can play two saxophones simultaneously with such clear definition and skill. This gig would be the end of an exhilarating though exhausting month of music, 21 shows in 31 days. If the people at the Warfield knew that this was going to be Morphine’s last show in San Francisco, they might have sprung for a poster, but unfortunately, they didn’t. Also, it was my mother’s birthday that night and I regret not taking her to this show. Mom would have liked these guys.
Kula Shaker, Headswim, Fill., SF, Wed., April 2, 1997
(HEADSWIM) : Old Angel Midnight, Dig Down, Naive, Tourniquet, Clinging To The Wreckage, Hype, Years On Me, Burnt Out Shell Of Bliss, Better Made
(KULA SHAKER) : Baby You’re A Rich Man – Devil’s Haircut, Knight On The Town, 303, Grateful When You’re Dead – Jerry Was There, Tattva, Hollow Man, Start All Over, Go Kula, Hush, Hey Dude, (encore), Into The Deep, Smart Dogs, Govinda
I finally got through the run in March and quickly began again with Kula Shaker in April. It wasn’t as busy as March, of coarse, but 12 shows is plenty, especially since this one starts four in a row. This was an important one primarily because it was important to my brother Alex, who ushered with me that night, one of the few occasions when he did usher with me. He was a big fan and still is, so much so that he christened himself as “Kula Baker” for his name on Facebook. During the time before the doors opened, Alex even got to talk to Jay Darlington, the band’s touring keyboardist, in the lobby and I remember them musing over the picture of the old hippie band The Charlatans. They both agreed that neither of them knew any of their music, but enjoyed the music of The Charlatans UK. Jay would go on to join Oasis in 2002.
Known for their interest in Indian music and mysticism, Kula Shaker had an interesting style, meshing Brit-Pop with lyrics and melodies of the sub continent. Their name is actually derived from the 9th century Indian king and holy man Kulasekhara. Respectful and talented as they were, they were criticized for being middle class white boys culturally appropriating and got into even more hot water when frontman Crispin Mills praised the symbol of the swastika. Though Hindu in it’s origin and his swift subsequent condemnation of all things right wing, the rumors of their Nazi leanings circulated. Didn’t really register to me or Alex. We still loved them.
And a great show it was. They sort of surprised us, kicking off their set with a cover of the Beatles’ “Baby You’re A Rich Man” that ended with a little bit of Beck’s “Devil’s Haircut”. They were a huge hit in the UK, but were just beginning their rise in America, partially due to the use of their cover of Deep Purple’s song “Hush” that was used in the successful horror film, “I Know What You Did Last Summer” that year. Sadly, they would split up after the release of their second album in 1999 and I haven’t seen them since. At least they got a good poster that night. I had to miss Black Uhuru at the Maritime to catch this show, but it was worth it.
De La Soul, DJ Shadow, Jeru The Damaja, Maritime Hall, SF, Thurs., April 3, 1997
(JERU THE DAMAJA) : The Frustrated Nigga, D. Original, Da Bitchez, One Day, Ya Playin’ Taself, How I’m Livin’, freestyle, Speak Ya Clout, Tha Bullshit, Me Or The Pepes, Come Clean, I’m The Man, Too Perverted, Whatever, Ain’t The Devil Happy, Mental Stamina
(DE LA SOUL) : Sh.Fe. MCs, Wonce Again, In The Woods, I Am Be, Plug Tunin’, Supa Emcees, Potholes On My Lawn, Say No Go, A Roller Skating Jam Named “Saturdays”, Eye Know, Me Myself & I, Ego Trippin’, Oodles Of O’s, Pony Ride, Itzsoweezee, Breakadawn, Holiday, Ring Ring Ring, Stakes Is High, Too Complex, Sunshine, Buddy
By this period, I was knee deep and fanatical about the Maritime, spending a lot of my free time recruiting camera people, giving out flyers for the shows, and generally trying to spread the word. I remember distinctly going to SF State and telling the kids there and on MUNI going there and back about this specific show. This would be the first time I’d get to see De La Soul or DJ Shadow and Jeru for that matter. Pete was still at the helm mixing the recording, but since he had little or no interest in hip hop music, he would soon hand the reigns over to me, allowing me to record alone for my first time a month later.
De La had been around for a good 8 years or so and I knew my brother was fond of their first album, the seminal “3 Feet High & Rising”, though I was new to hearing them. DJ Shadow had been making music for about the same time, but he had only just released his first full length album, “Endtroducing”, the year before and it was a huge hit and still regarded as one of the greatest records done by a DJ to this day. But as much as I enjoyed De La’s and DJ Shadow’s music that night, the real treat was Jeru Tha Damaja. God, that guy was hilarious. He came out shirtless, wearing the Jamaican flag as a cape and he got the crowd pumped up and cheering, making it look almost effortless. He got them cheering, challenging them to make as much noise as a crowd for “Michael Jackson in China”. Between a couple songs, he cracked me up saying that since they were such an awesome crowd, that he was going to do just this one time… “Billie Jean”. “You want me to do “Billie Jean!?! You want me to do ‘Billie Jean”!?!?… You’d like me to, but I’m not! What the fuck is wrong with you? I’m not doing fuckin’ ‘Billie Jean’”.
Jeru apparently got into a beef with fellow New Yorker’s The Fugees over his song, “Da Bitchez”. Yes, on the surface it would appear that this song is endemically misogynist, but if one listens to the lyrics it clearly isn’t. Why, the chorus goes, “I’m not talking about the queens, the who? Da Bitchez! Not the sisters, the who? Da Bitchez! Not the young ladies, the who? Da Bitchez!” and as you might imagine, he had no problem getting the crowd to shout along. Indeed, there were only a handful of occasions in my life when I witnessed an artist to be able to get a crowd to sing along like that, and I mean everybody in the house. And though I was able to see De La and DJ Shadow many more times after this show, this would be the only time I’d get to see Jeru, but I’ll never forget it.
Lee “Scratch” Perry & The Robotics Band, Mad Professor, Maritime Hall, SF, Fri., April 4, 1997
Lee “Scratch” Perry & The Robotics Band, Mad Professor, Maritime Hall, SF, Sat., April 5, 1997
SETLIST : My Secret Laboratory, Introducing Myself, Jungle Safari, I Am A Madman, Roast Fish & Cornbread, Come Go With Lee, Heads Of Government, Bucky Skank
This was a big one, though I didn’t realize how big it was or would be at the time. Lee hadn’t played in America for over 17 years and the world was ready for his weirdness once again. The big news unknown to me at these shows was that the recordings from these shows would go on to become the first live album and DVD put out by the Maritime. I mean, we had been recording practically everything up till then and there had always been talk about releasing something, but I was so busy juggling work, ushering, and recording there, that I hadn’t given it much thought. Holding that new live album in my hand for the first time was one of the proudest moments of my life.
Lee had been living in Switzerland after burning down his studio in Jamaica, the legendary Black Ark, in 1978. Lee had said that he did it in a fit of rage, though it was rumored to also be accidental and/or a scheme to avoid paying taxes. In an unrelated anecdote, I remember Lee around this time was convinced that he should be in charge of the International Monetary Fund of the World Bank. I suppose he was eager to try something new having become Swiss. He had married a blond haired local there named Mireille and had two kids with her and they had accompanied him on the tour. Their sons were still pretty little back then and I remember thinking how cute they were as those little rascals played around the venue during the soundcheck.
Meeting Lee was quite an experience as well. After the first show, he came down to hang out in Grant’s office next to the recording room and I shook his hand and congratulated him. He gave me a big hug and said, “Love my friend”, which he also wrote on my poster when I had him sign it. I also had the Mad Professor sign it too, making it not only a one of a kind poster to me, but also probably one of the most valuable ones as well. The Robotics Band were rock solid, a straight forward, talented reggae dub combo, a steady anchor of Lee’s ramblings and Mad Professor’s out of this world effects. Lee would sing from his own mic those night, encrusted with sequins and beads, the perfect accessory to this legendary harlequin of dub. That, and he would shamble around the stage during, “I Am A Madman”, with some strange electronic handheld sampler thing that blurted out weird phrases, mostly indecipherable. I think one of the phases was, “I’ve got you now!”
If I had known these shows would have ended up becoming an album, I might of pent more time upstairs actually watching the shows, but ultimately I’m glad I stayed at my post. The setlist was the same both nights and I’m pretty sure the order went the same way on the album. Lee would gain more notoriety soon after, contributing lyrics for “Dr. Lee PhD” on the Beastie Boys, “Hello Nasty” album that would be released the following year. Thankfully, Lee would not take another 17 years to perform again and I would get other chances to see his mind bending shows in his continuing and strange history. These shows also ended a fun four show stretch starting with Kula Shaker at The Fillmore and De La Soul with Jeru Tha Damaja and DJ Shadow at the Hall the night before.
On the DVD, it had a special feature where Lee was interviewed in the nightclub area on the first floor. Pete and I were still setting up when they did it, so I was unaware it was going on. But there was one interesting bit where a reporter asked him about the nature of his creativity and Lee went on a cosmic tangent saying it was the water, that it had the power to heal you. “Then you put a stone in the water, then from the water to the fire. But the fire is very dangerous, so you don’t go playing with the fire. Fire doesn’t have to power to heal you. Fire has the power to burn you, but the water is a soft element. It cares. And if I start to cry, then it is the God, the water, the God itself showing itself in person.”
TJ Kirk, Michael Ray & Cosmic Krewe, Vinyl, Maritime Hall, SF, Thurs. April 11, 1997
Before I go any further, in case you were wondering, this is not the TJ Kirk who is a internet and podcast personality, but rather a funk/soul/ jazz supergroup composed of guitarists Charlie Hunter, Will Bernard, and John Schott, as well as drummer Scott Amendola. Together, they made fascinating renditions of songs by Thelonious Monk, James Brown, and Rahsaan Roland Kirk, hence the abbreviated name. Originally, they wanted to be called James T Kirk, but couldn’t get permission from the estate of Star Trek creator, Gene Roddenberry. They had just released their second and final album, “If Four Was One”, but would soon disband, primarily because Charlie would end up moving to New York City the following year, signing to Blue Note records.
But as luck would have it, Charlie and the gang were being managed by Dave Lefkowitz, who was Primus’ manager, whom I was an intern for only the year before, so Dave was there. Not that it was hard to spot him or his former assistant, Jordan, around town, both rock solid fixtures in the bay area music scene. The opener Vinyl, had been around SF for a while by then and were a good warm up act to any show. I always thought they had talent.
But the big deal about this show, if not on par with the headliner themselves, were Michael Ray & Kosmic Krewe. For years, I had wished to see either Sun Ra or Kool & The Gang, but never had the chance, but at least I would get to see Mr. Ray, the venerable trumpet player to both of them. He played an awesome set that night, very funky. Luckily, I would go on to see Kool & The Gang with him years later in 2017, though I regret that I will never get to see Sun Ra, since he passed away in 1993.
In a related story, a few years ago, I managed to catch William Shatner, yes THE James T. Kirk, doing his one man show in town, and who other than Dave Lefkowitz was there sitting only a few rows away from me. I should have said hello and I regret not doing it. I always thought I was a bit of a pest to him, an annoying intern, not worth paying for and really though I thought very highly of myself at the time, wasn’t. I was lucky to work for him and get all the perks that I did. Anyway, I did overhear him talking to his friends about T.J. Kirk before the show started that night.
Pete Slauson, R.I.P. 1944-2020
Before I write about my night with Machinehead, it is with a heavy heart, this being the first one I’ve written since the death of my friend and mentor, Pete Slauson. I will continue with these confessions undeterred, including the stories I intended to include all along, but I feel at this time that it would be appropriate to include this brief eulogy before I go on. Pete’s demise wasn’t totally unexpected, though what was indeed was the length of his lifetime to begin with. I truthfully thought Pete could die any day over twenty years ago when I was working beside him, considering his weight, diet, and steady consumption of Jack Daniel’s. I often thought that the marijuana played a key role in his inexplicable survival, though he does deserve credit for quitting both cocaine and cigarettes. Those two are big ones. With Pete’s final demise, the outpouring of love and grief from his countless friends has been inspiring. The man truly was loved by all and his time on Earth touched all their lives positively and there can be no doubt that was the case with me.
A few years ago, he had even offered to give me the VHS tapes he had in storage from all the Maritime shows. But the massive amount of tapes, enough to fill a 4 X 8 tool shed, made it impossible for me to keep them in my modestly sized apartment. Understanding as my wife is, she wouldn’t have it either, which is understandable. I offered to take the DAT tapes off his hands, a much smaller sized collection, but then I remembered that Boots actually had them. I offered also to go through the VHS tapes and cherry pick the ones I wanted, but he said it was all or nothing. I still feel bad that I couldn’t help him with that, though he told me later that he found an archivist who was interested in the collection, a rich hippie who was incidentally the singer for the Stones’ cover band, The Unauthorized Rolling Stones. I don’t know if that deal ever went through. I haven’t heard of any release of anything Pete and I recorded at the Maritime for years and considering Boots’ never-ending dire financial straits, any live material that could be released, would have been.
The last time I would see him with my own eyes was at the benefit for Whistlestop, called Whistlestock at Rancho Nicasio, up in Marin County a few years ago. Pete had been getting meals through Whistlestop, a group helping out people like Pete who had mobility problems. Upon hearing that they were trying to organize a benefit for their group, Pete gladly volunteered his services and connected him with all his hippie buddies. Once more, Pete recruited Tory and I to help record the event and it was quite the occasion, good food, and a handful of familiar faces from the Maritime days. It was, in fact, would be one of the last shows that Sam Andrew, one of the founding members of Big Brother & The Holding Company, would play before he passed away. The show went went technically and though I don’t know if anything came from the stuff we recorded, it felt good to be Pete’s legman one last time. I had a feeling it would be, but thankfully it wasn’t the last time we’d talk.
The last time I spoke with Pete was over the phone. He had called me to ask about a picture Tory had taken of Tom Flye while he was mixing one of our albums at The Plant. It was debatable what album it actually was at the time, but I relayed Tory’s number to him, omitting the fact that Tory and I haven’t spoken in a couple years. He knew someone who was writing a book and wanted that picture, confident that Tory would get some money, or at least some credit for it. Though I know Pete and I had spoken of my marriage before, he had forgotten apparently during this call, so I went over my love of Emily and our living situation again, which he was delighted to hear. Pete was just about to finally get the room at the V.A. in Yountville as he had been on a waiting list for some time. He joked that not only he hadn’t had a drink in months, but hadn’t had herb in over three weeks either, not that he was cleaning up his act, but that the docs had him on the good stuff… morphine. It was a pleasant call and though he had beaten the odds with his survival by the grace of God, I knew that due to his deteriorating health, that this could very well be the last call we would share and I felt a tinge of sadness at the end of that call. It would turn out to be the case.
Strangely enough, it wouldn’t be the last contact we would have, due to the pestilence of hackers roaming Facebook. About a couple weeks after that call, I saw that Pete had sent me a video in Messenger and though unusual of him to do so, our recent contact was enough that I didn’t think much of it. So I clicked it open and found that the video wouldn’t run. I went on with my life, but was horrified to discover the next day that the video was a phishing virus and it was sent on to all of my friends. I quickly warned Pete who by that time was already aware, changed my passwords, and sent out posts and emails warning everybody else not to make the same mistake I made. Turned out, those who actually could open the video discovered that it was some blurred out porn. Though I’m glad most couldn’t see it, I can’t help but wonder what it was originally. If that wasn’t enough, about a week and a half later, another video got sent via Pete’s account on Facebook, but this time I had the good sense not to open it and immediately warned Pete. He was already on it and thanked me and the last thing I wrote to him was, “Jolly good”. He would pass away just a few days after that. He was just a few days shy of his 76th birthday.
I’m relived that Pete knew I had begun writing this section of my confessions, knowing that the story, or at least my take on the story, was being told. For years, he mused about writing his own autobiography, calling it “The Truth To The Rumor You Heard”. Suffice to say, his stories would easily dwarf mine in number and outrageousness, but at least I can cover the slice of history involving our adventures. Pete was more than a mentor to me. He was my master, in the Jedi sense. I had so much respect and admiration for the man and upon hearing of his death, I couldn’t help but be overcome with a wave of regret that I didn’t spend more time with him. But looking back now, I can only focus on all the good times we had and the pearls of wisdom he bestowed upon me. I was lucky to just have met him, but our adventures at the Maritime will remain the time of my life. So rest in peace, Pete Raymond Slauson. When he shows up to the pearly gates, I hope Saint Peter knows to call him Pete. Saint or not, Pete might punch him in the face if he refers to him by his legal name. I miss the man already and the world was a better place because of him. If I ever grow up, I still want to be just like Pete.
Machinehead, Skinlab, Tribal Disco Noise, Under, Maritime Hall, SF, Fri., April 12, 1997
SETLIST : Davidian, Take My Scars, Struck A Nerve, A Thousand Lies, None But My Own, Ten Ton Hammer, The Frontlines, Old, Violate, Had Times, Blood For Blood, Block
This would be the first time I’d be seeing the great Oakland thrash band, Machinehead. They’d been around six years by then, but had just released their second album, “The More Things Change..”, just two and half weeks before this show. In fact, this show was being billed as their CD release party on the poster for that month. This would be the one of the only times I’d see Logan Mader on lead guitar. Mader would get hooked on meth, quarrel with the rest of the band, and quit while Machinehead was on the european tour of Ozzfest the following year. Though I wasn’t familiar with the band’s work, I had seen Rob Flynn, the frontman, in his old band Vio-lence, one of the old east bay thrash bands that would typify the sound, like Exodus, Death Angel, and Metallica.
Opening that night was Skinlab, a band that had been together for a few years, but was just about to release their first album, “Bound, Gagged, & Blindfolded”, that July. Back then, I believe that one of the Maritime’s staff, Ace was working with them, I think as their manager or tour manager or something. I wasn’t sure. Skinlab was one of those rare bands that when I first heard them, I didn’t think they were good at all, but the more I would see them, they would gradually improve. By the final time I’d get to see them in 2002, I thought they were tighter than ever. Sadly, they would disband the following year.
Still, all and all, it was a rowdy show and the crowd was enthusiastic. There were no shortage of sweaty heshers getting crazy in the mosh pit. The band have released live material since, but it is a pity that Machinehead never used any of the stuff we recorded at the Hall to release and album and/or a DVD. That show in particular showcased them home in the bay area and young. The release of a second album is a critical time for any band, but thankfully they are still together and have just released a new single last February. Pete wasn’t a fan of heavy metal and would soon leave those shows, along with the hip hop acts, to me to record.
Beyond Race, Maritime Hall, SF, Sat., April 13, 1997
I’m embarrassed to say that I have no memory whatsoever of this show, mainly by the fact that I wasn’t there. There wasn’t a conflicting show that night night elsewhere and I can’t account for my actions or whereabouts. Sorry! The show was billed as a free show on the poster, but the “Free” was listed above Beyond Race, suggesting that it was the English rock band, Free, from the 60’s, who were famous from their hit song, “All Right Now”. It wasn’t them, of coarse, but considering all the hippie bands that passed through the Hall those days, I’m sure a handful of people made that assumption.
Reverend Horton Heat, Vice Grip & The Ambassadors Of Swing, Bimbo’s, SF, Wed., April 16, 1997
(VICE GIRP & THE AMBASSADORS OF SWING) : Tarzan Of Harlem, Minnie’s Waiting Day, Get Your Boots Laced, All By Myself, Chicken Ain’t Nothin’ But A Bird, Ghost Of Smoky Joe, Life Goes To A Party, Geechie Joe, Calloway Boogie
(REVEREND HORTON HEAT) : Slow, Right Now, Big Sky, Baddest Of The Bad, One Time For Me, Cruisin’ For A Bruisin’, Crooked Cigarette, She’s Dangerous, $400, Eat Steak, Big Red Rocket Of Love, Marijuana,Cowboy Love, Low Flying Plane, It’s Martini Time, Rock This Joint, I Can’t Surf, Generation Why, Nuture My Pig, Psychobilly Freakout
I know I’ve said before that live shows at Bimbo’s were few and far between, but I think I won’t find a bill as appropriate for the venue than this one. The good Reverend was made for this place and so was Vice Grip. Vice Grip, AKA Larry Castle, was the ex singer of the punk band, Hard Attack, who evolved into the master of swing I saw that night with his band, as well as other local swing acts like St. Vitus Dance and the New Morty Show. He used to own a hardware store in West Portal, hence his stage name, but sold it to pursue his career in show biz.
Thanks to the swing revival around that time, he had plenty of work around in these bands including a regular gig with the New Morty show at Coconut Grove at the Claremont Hotel in Berkeley. Vice Grip dressed the part, always in an old fashioned soot suit, and would use a little hand held squeegee, a miniature version of the ones folks use to clean their windshields when they fill up for gas, to wipe the sweat off his shaven bald head during shows. He and his band were true to the genre and always played with precision and passion. There were the usual swing enthusiasts there doing their dances on the floor. With the retro decor and uniformed waiters and bartenders of Bimbo’s about, it was not hard to picture oneself magically transported back in time to the age of Cab Calloway.
Though rockabilly wasn’t as big a trend musically in the nation at the time as swing, the good Reverend was going strong, touring regularly, and earned the respect amongst his peers. Indeed, I have yet to meet anyone who has seen him live that wasn’t impressed. By this time, the “Martini Time” album had been out almost a year and I’d already seen him play four times before, so I was familiar with the show. About halfway through the set, the Reverend told a story about Alex Bennett on Live 105 called him “Reverend Horton Prick”, for canceling coming in to perform a song on his morning show. A night owl like the Rev can’t be expected to be bright eyed and bushy tailed at 8:30 in the morning, totally understandable. The crowd agreed that they didn’t give a rat’s ass about Alex, some audience members chanting “Fuck Alex Bennett” or Live 105 for that matter. Jimbo Wallace, the bass player chimed in calling them “Dead 105”.
They brought Dan “The Man” on stage later to play steel guitar with them on an instrumental tune with the Rev shouting, “Show us your tits!”, “Get us high!”, and “Vodka Tonic!” near the end in the beat breaks. I love the sound of steel guitar and wish more bands would use it. Maybe I’ll learn to play it one day myself. Like Vice Grip, the Rev played a rock solid set, ending the night as he often does with the apocalyptic “Psychobilly Freakout” if he doesn’t do “The Devil’s Chasin’ Me”. There was no shortage of venues to catch him during his tour through the bay area that week, billing it as the “First World Tour Of San Francisco” playing also at The Edge, The Trocadero, AND the Great American Music Hall as well. But I’m glad I caught his show at Bimbo’s. I appreciate that he always plays affordable gigs for his fans, this one only $12.50, which in 1997 dollars is still pretty cheap. It is that work ethic and respect to his fans that is why the Reverend’s reputation remains to this day beyond reproach.
Pavement, Apples In Stereo, War., SF, Thur., April 17, 1997
SETLIST : In The Mouth A Desert, Zurich Is Stained, Loretta’s Scars, Kennel District, Transport Is Arranged- Stereo, Starlings Of The Slipstream, J Vs. S, Painted, Shady Lane, And Then (The Hexx), We Dance, Blue Hawaiian, Cut Your Hair, Passat Dream, Old To Begin, Westie Can Drum, Gangsters & Pranksters, Stop Breathin’, (encore), Embassy Row, Spizzle Trunk, Type Slowly, Date With IKEA
This show will always fill me with a tinge of sadness when I think about it, since it was the last show I would see with my friend Casey Moe. We had been childhood friends and up until recently around then, roommates. By this time, I had moved into my studio apartment in the Tenderloin and Casey had moved in with my other ex-roommate, Kevin, to a flat in Upper Haight. Though we remained friends, we were seeing a lot less of each other, being busy young men in the city and all. Casey’s place was the place to be during the Haight Street festival that summer and I still remember fondly hanging out with him there, sniping people out of his second story window who were waiting in line at the ATM below with a Super Soaker rifle. Casey would die in a tragic collision on his bike with a van while on the job as a bike messenger downtown four months later. His ghost still haunts me to this day, but the sadness of his loss is tempered with the memories of good times we shared and this show was one of them.
It was an interesting show to follow the Reverend Horton Heat the night before, a fun, rollicking rockabilly swing fest to this, the brilliant, but esoteric lo-fi sounds of Pavement. It’s not exactly the kind of music somebody can dance to. Their complex songs always sounded to me that they were sort of thrown together and unrehearsed, which they obviously weren’t, making them deceptively original. They covered a good selection of material from all the albums they had put out by then including a couple B-Sides like “And Then (The Hexx)” and “Westie Can Drum”. They did, however, botch the beginning of “Type Slowly” during their encore and had to start it over again. I know I recorded Apples In Stereo, the opener, but it’s lost under an avalanche of discs somewhere, I think filed in a different year. It’ll turn up again someday. They had been around a few years, their second LP “Tone Soul Evolution” would be released that September, though this would be the only time I’d see them.
This would be the largest venue I’d see Pavement headline a show in and I remember it was very loud up front, so much so, that a few songs into their set, I retreated up to the balcony to hang out by the soundboard. I regret leaving Casey down on the floor that night, though we met up outside the Warfield after the show. If I knew it would be our last, I obviously wouldn’t have. But then again, if I knew then, I’d of warned him about his accident and it wouldn’t have been an issue. Anyway, like Pavement, I will associate Soul Coughing, the band I saw the night before Casey died, and David Byrne, who I saw the night after, both at the Warfield, with his passing. I will of coarse get to those shows when I catch up to August.
Zero, The Mermen, Maritime Hall, SF, Fri., April 18, 1997
Yet another Zero show at the Hall. This time at least The Mermen were opening. Once more I have little to say about Zero other than each and every time they showed up, I was growing more and more tired of hearing those hippies. We had been recording them for so long that we didn’t even record Zero that night and wouldn’t again, until they assured us that they would use the recordings for an album or if they were threatening that it would be their last show, which they did often. We did, however, record The Mermen that night, but that would be left up to Pete to handle and knowing the band so thoroughly, putting together the mix would be a breeze leaving me little to do but smoke joints with Pete. They were just a three piece, drum, bass, guitar group and an instrumental act at that. I’m sure I went topside to the dance floor plenty to fetch us drinks and for me to trip out on the liquid oil projections from our Brotherhood Of Light friends in the balcony for most of the show.
420 Hemp Festival : Long Beach Dub All-Stars, Salmon, Zuba, Natural Fonzie, Filibuster, Maritime Hall, SF, Sun., April 20, 1997
This show was a milestone. At long last, Pete allowed me for the first time to record all the bands myself, including the headliner. He stood by just in case something went pear shaped, but nothing did, at least not technically. The show started rather anticlimactically at first, since the doors to go in were so early. I think the doors were as early as 6 PM and when Filibuster took the stage, there was only a handful of people there and the Hall continued to remain mostly empty until Salmon started and they were the second to last act.
To this day, I will never forget the poor reception that the band Natural Fonzie got that night. Poor guys were getting absolutely no attention from the audience and I can still hear somebody yelling out between songs, “Yoooouuuu Suuuck!”, in my head. The singer just kept on going simply blurting out, “Oh yeah, baby”. Near the end of their set he was trying to tell the few who were there about shows they had coming up soon and even the guitarist tried to get him to stop saying, “They don’t care!”
I have to admit that I liked the band Zuba and they had a pretty decent run as bands go. They were even dubbed by High Times magazine as “stoner band of the year” in 1997, which is one of the reasons I suppose that they were on the bill. Zuba even had a couple of songs on two movies done by the Farrelly Brothers, “There’s Something About Mary” and “Kingpin”. It was also great to see Salmon again, which I’ve mentioned before to be a highly underrated band and that I miss them to this day.
The headliner was important that night being the Long Beach Dub All Stars, who are basically Sublime without Bradley Knowell on vocals, replaced by Opie Ortiz. As I had written before, they were supposed to play the Maritime the year before when Bradley was discovered dead in his hotel room, so the All Stars playing the Hall that night as their first show playing back in the bay area must have been emotionally poignant. The Voodoo Glow Skulls who were supposed to open for Sublime that fateful night were actually supposed to play at this show as well, but they didn’t make it and Salmon took their place.
Nobody could blame The All Stars for going on without Bradley. After all Sublime’s hit self titled album, finally catapulting them to mainstream stardom, would be released just two months after his death. They played admirably as always and being the 420 Hemp Festival, it goes without saying that copious amounts of marijuana were consumed on the premises, myself and Pete included. The marijuana legalization movement was clearly gaining steam, but even I wouldn’t have guess how far it would advance to where it is now. Glad I could take part in one microscopic part of it.
Zucchero, Paul Thorn, War., SF, Fri., April 25, 1997
SETLIST : Voodoo Voodoo, Datemluna, Olsmm, Diamante, Il Volo, Papa Perche, Eppure Non T’amo, Overdose, Il Mare, Menta Y Romero, Senza Una Donna, Con Le Mani, Diavolo In Me, Mama, (encore), Cosi Celeste, Chicas, Colpa Di Chi, (encore), Hai Scel To Me
It is a rare occasion when an artist or group from Europe plays the Warfield or Fillmore who aren’t from England. This night, we were visited by Zucchero Fornaciari, otherwise known simply as Zucchero, a guitar aficionado from Italy. His real first name is Adelmo. Zucchero means “sugar” in Italian and was a nickname one of his elementary school teachers gave him. He was and remains a superstar in his native country, selling millions of albums, and often referred to as the Italian Eric Clapton, which might be one reason he toured opening for him around this time. On top of that, he also collaborated with other rock stars as Joe Cocker and Stevie Ray Vaughan.
Opening that night was Paul Thorn, a singer/songwriter who had just recently discovered by a BMI agent playing in a pizza place only earlier that year. He was fast tracked to release his first album, “Hammer And Nail”, which would be released six weeks after this show. Zucchero brought all sorts of Italians and Italian Americans living in the bay area out of the woodwork that night. I heard plenty of people speaking the language around that night.
I remember distinctly talking to a woman seated near the left bar aisle where I always ushered at at the Warfield and made a bad joke wondering how many people in the audience that night were “made”. My tasteless mafia joke fell flat as it deserved to. I had visited Italy a couple times before this show and I’m happy to say that I’ve been back a few times since and I love it more each and every time. I have even tried learning the language a little, though I’d be first to admit, my proficiency in it is definitely not buono yet. Still, I try and if I had the pleasure of living in Europe some day, Italy would be my first choice. Those folks know how to live.
He played an impressive show, his reputation for his guitar chop was definitely well earned. I was pissed to find out later that there was a poster printed for that show that night, but wasn’t given out to the general public. I never understood why they did that. At the very least, when they don’t want to give it out for free, they should have the business sense to sell them at the merch table. I did however scored the setlist from the lighting guy that night which had a bunch of notes for his lighting cues for the show.
Exodus, Torque, 40 Grit, Maritime Hall, SF, Sat., May 3, 1997
SETLIST : Bonded By Blood, Exodus, Pleasures Of The Flesh, And Then There Were None, Piranha, Seeds Of Hate, Deliver Us To Evil, Metal Command, Brain Dead, No Love, Lesson In Violence, Impaler, Strike The Beast
Having recorded my first show on my own with the Long Beach Dub All Stars, Pete gave me the reins once again to do the bay area’s own, Exodus. They were thrash metal legends and had many line up changes over the years since their formation in 1979, including Kirk Hammett, who went on to join Metallica. They had just recently reformed with their original singer, Paul Baloff, and as luck would have it, it was guitarist Gary Holt’s birthday that night, or at least it was when the clock struck midnight and it was May 4th.
Exodus would release a live album that year in July called “Another Lesson In Violence” recorded at the Trocadero the previous March, which of coarse made me jealous. Their setlist apart from “Metal Command” was identical to what the played that night. Still, it being my first time recording a metal act that was headlining, it was a good start for me and I’m proud how well it came out that night. Pete always got on my case for not mixing enough high hat in my drums and in hindsight, he was right.
Opening that night were 40 Grit, who were from Concord near where I grew up and had just formed that year. I always liked them and felt that they didn’t get enough credit. After them, there was Torque, which had ex-members of Vio-lence, fellow thrash metal contemporaries of Exodus. It was a rowdy show as you might guess and I was amused by Paul Baloff, whose vocal stylings weren’t exactly stellar, sounding more like John Belushi on a weekend bender. He even looked a little like him too. Sadly, it would the only time I’d see him alive, since he’d suffer a stroke five years later, leaving him in a coma and ultimately die of heart failure at the young age of 41.
On a happier note, this being the first show I’d do at the Maritime in the new month meant a new poster and it was a good one, done by the legendary poster artist Jimbo Phillips. It was a image of a Rudolph Valentino looking fellow pro stating himself in front of a beautiful 1920’s flapper looking lady with a bob haircut. It is one of my favorites and I’m proud to say that it is one of the posters that grace the wall of my bedroom this very day.
Run DMC, Freestyle Fellowship, Aceylone, Maritime Hall, SF, Sun. May 4, 1997
SETLIST : King Of Rock, Rock Box, Sucker MCs, Beats To The Rhyme, My Addidas, It’s Like That, It’s Tricky, Ooh Whatcha Gonna Do, You Be Illin’, Together Forever, Run’s House, Walk This Way, (encore), Peter Piper, Me Myself & My Microphone
This was a big one. Not only was the first hip hop show I got to record the headliner for, but it was the first one Pete left me all by my lonesome to record. Yep, it was just me this time. Thankfully, I didn’t cock it up too badly, though I will confess that mixing live hip hop is challenging and DMC didn’t make it easier on me that night. I’ll go into that in a bit. Going from recording Exodus the night before, to this was a stylistic change, though Run DMC does have a history using rock guitar riffs in their music as everybody knows with “Walk This Way”.
Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the last 30-odd years or so, you’ve probably heard of the legendary Run DMC. Rising from Queens in the early 1980’s, they along with such hip hop pioneers as Public Enemy and L.L. Cool J helped lay the foundations for what rap music is today. With their debut self-titled album, they were the first rap artist to be certified gold and followed that with the album “King Of Rock”, which then certified platinum. They were the second rap artist to be inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame and they received a lifetime achievement award from the Grammies in 2016. Their credentials are beyond reproach and recording them that night was my privilege and honor, not to mention a touch daunting.
That being said, it wasn’t a stellar time for DMC that gig. He had begun developing depression and a conspicuous drinking habit after being on the road for so many years. To make matters worse, he was also developing a case of spasmodic dysphonia, a vocal disease which causes his larynx to spasm involuntarily. It was obvious that night that his voice was not only off, but downright grating. Still, they being Run DMC brought the house down and even though I was a babe in the woods when it came to the history of rap, I found myself knowing practically every song they performed that night.
Opening that night was Aceyalone followed the Freestyle Fellowship, of whom he was a member. The Fellowship were from L.A. and played often at the Maritime and were a worthy opener. Though I would never see Run DMC again, mainly because Jam Master Jay would be murdered five years later, I’m happy to say DMC went on the mend in the years to come. He wrote an autobiography, a graphic novel, and has done a lot of charity work, not to mention a couple solo albums of his own.
Third Eye Blind, Crumb, Fill., Mon., May 5, 1997
SETLIST : God Of Wine, Losing A Whole Year, Jumper, Narcolepsy, Semi-Charmed Life, Graduate, London, Good For You, Thanks A Lot, (encore), Motorcycle Drive By, The Background
Ugh. To go from Run DMC to this show in one night was a turn for the worse. Granted, Third Eye Blind is one of those bands people love to hate, but as an American, I have no choice to admire them for being rich. The stories of lead singer Stephen Jenkins boorish behavior went beyond assholishness. But likewise, it was such baffling confidence and arrogance that catapulted the band to stardom, having their contract with Elektra being the largest in history for an unsigned artist. There’s even one story that at a gig for record executives, they filled a piñata with live crickets and smashed it open above the mosh pit. I do admit, I have mixed feelings about that one. And no one can deny that their hit song, “Semi-Charmed Life” is one of those ear worms that gets in your head and will remain there for all fucking eternity.
Like the band Train, I think what makes me most bitter about Jenkins and his band is that they are from San Francisco. Like Train, they got so big so fast that I never had the displeasure of enduring them live before they made it big. Jenkins is hated by most of the many ex-members of his band, a few having sued him for various reasons. Jenkins is currently the only founding member left in the band and they’ve gone through five drummers in their long horrible history. And if I couldn’t hate Jenkins enough, the son of a bitch dated Charlize Theron for three years.
Last but not least, they weren’t even supposed to be the headliner that night. The band James were supposed to play and Third Eye Blind was supposed to open, but due to a recent neck injury from their lead singer, Tim Booth, they had to cancel. They were only a few gigs into their summer tour and the band was there that night watching the show. A couple members came on stage during the encore to apologize for not making it, referring to Tim as “you know, the bald one” and his injury. They even joked that he’d shaved his balls for the gig too. They had to cancel the remainder of their tour, but I would later see James play at Lollapalooza in August, but Tim was still wearing a neck brace. I like James and still do and was lucky enough to see them play Stern Grove last year. They still got it. The way Tim flails about when he’s performing, it is no real surprise that he would hurt his neck eventually.
Opening that night instead was Crumb, a band that Jordan Kurland, the fellow who I used to intern for at Primus’ management, was managing them and he was out and about that night. I liked Crumb too. Jordan always had good taste in the bands he would go on to manage such as Death Cab For Cutie. One silver lining for the evening was that it was Cinco De Mayo and all shows played on that night at least had that added touch of drunken revelry to lift the spirits. At least there was a good poster that night and since it was printed when James was still on the bill, I feel satisfaction that they stole the credit for being the headliner from Jenkins and his band.
Big Head Todd & The Monsters, Nia Lara, War., SF, Tues., May 6, 1997
SETLIST : Helpless, Dinner With Ivan, Caroline, Angel Leads Me On, Sister Sweetly, Soul For Every Cowboy, Turn The Light Out, Love Betsy, Beautiful World, It’s Alright, Resignation Superman, Broken Hearted Savior, Please Don’t Tell Her, Stratagem, Bittersweet, Crazy Mary, Circle, Vincent, (encore), Tower, If You Can’t Slow Down, Boom Boom
This would be the fourth time I’d see Big Head Todd & The Monsters in less than two years, so I was getting to know their music pretty well. I would see them yet again only two months later when they joined the HORDE tour and played at Shoreline as well. Todd and the band were getting big in their own right though, big enough to headline the Warfield anyway. They had just released their fifth album, “Beautiful World”, that February and had a couple hits with “Resignation Superman” and their cover of John Lee Hooker’s “Boom Boom”. Their cover of that song went on to be the theme song of the TV show, “NCIS : New Orleans”.
Opening that night was Nia Lara, a Cuban-American artist from Florida who was pretty new as many opening acts are, starting her career only a couple years before this. He played a traditional six string Cuban guitar called a “tres” as well as a Venezuelan four string guitar called a “cuatro”. It was a mellow show as it was before when I saw Big Head Todd do the double headline bill with Dave Matthews back in 1995. The crowd doesn’t dance much to this variety of so-called “jam” music, but that suited me fine, since it made it easier to usher. I was pretty worn out by then, being my fourth show in a row anyway.
Steel Pulse, Dub Nation, Collage Of I, Maritime Hall, SF, Thurs. May 8, 1997
Steel Pulse, Dub Nation, Dennis The Menace, Maritime Hall, SF, Fri. May 9, 1997
SETLIST (MAY 9) : Ravers, Islands Unite, Bodyguard, Sound System, Bootstraps, Taxi Driver, Babylon Makes The Rules, Love This Reggae Music, Stay With The Rhythm, Ku Klux Klan, Back To My Roots, Steppin’ Out, instrumental, Roller Skates, (encore), Nyahbinghi Voyage, Feel The Passion, Worth His Weight In Gold (Rally Round)
My reggae education continued these two evenings with the legendary Steel Pulse. Now, I’m sure I saw them at least once at one of the “Reggae Sunsplash” shows at the Greek in Berkeley, but it was so long ago and I was so hopelessly mashed on weed, that I couldn’t tell you much about it, even what year it was. I also cuaght the last half of their set at the Warfield in 1994 when I ran over there after the Diamanda Galas & John Paul Jones show at the Fillmore the same night. But I made up for it those two nights and would see them many other times in the future as well. They played at least two hours each night and were rock solid, real professionals.
Anybody who knows anything about reggae other than Bob Marley probably knows this band, or at least knows a few of their songs. They had been around since the 1970’s and I heard them first, along with many bands of note, from the rock documentary, “Arg! A Music War”, where they played “Ku Klux Klan”. I’ll never forget the image of one of their crew dancing on stage with a Klan hood during that song. Like I said, Steel Pulse had been around for years already by the time they played these shows, having won a Grammy in 1985 and nominated for an additional two others. Their new album, “Rage & Fury”, would be their tenth studio album released three months later, would also go on to receive a Grammy nomination. As luck would have it, the new album would also have a new version of “Ku Klux Klan” on it.
Opening that night was Dub Nation, a band I knew because I went to school with the drummer at SF State. He was a nice guy and a talented drummer, though I regret that I can’t remember his name off hand. I know I’ve mentioned them before, opening for other reggae acts and they were a solid opening act, getting everybody dancing and giving everybody plenty of time to smoke herb and get in the mood. Again, their name would find new found recognition years later when the basketball team, the Golden State Warriors, adopted it as the moniker for their fans when they started winning big time again.
Steel Pulse played excellently that night as they always do. In fact, they are one of those rare acts that when you see them, you are absolutely guaranteed that they will do an excellent show. Only a few acts I know I can say that about, including such ones as Tool, Los Lobos, and Stereolab. I know that the band was impressed by our recordings those nights and the front man, David Hinds, even talked to Pete for a while when they came back to play the Hall about maybe using the next ones for a live album, though unfortunately nothing came of it.
Greyboy All-Stars, Zony Mash, Maritime Hall, SF, Mon. May 10, 1997
They Greyboys were back at the Hall again, this time with the release of their second album, “A Town Called Earth”. The jam band music scene was really taking off after the death of Jerry Garcia and they were a respectable band that hippies and soul music fans could appreciate alike. Opening that night was Zony Mash, a jam band that formed in 1995 and was the unofficial house band at the OK Hotel in Seattle. I can’t say for sure what Zony Mash means, but I know they share their name with an album of B-sides that The Meters put out. It sounds like a kind of beer.
This is one of those occasions where I can’t say for certain that this show was on this specific night. I have it listed for Monday the 10th, but it shares the same night as Daryl Hall & John Oates at The Fillmore. This show wasn’t listed on the monthly poster and I couldn’t find anything on the web. It’s not a big deal, but it does happen from time to time. Anyway, it was a good show, lots of dancing and pot smoking and Pete let me do this one as well. At this point, I pretty much had passed the audition and wasn’t that spooked to record on my own. As the weeks and months passed, Pete would give me more and more shows to do to the point where he would only be doing the reggae and hippie stuff.
Daryl Hall & John Oates, Sara White, Fill., SF, Mon., May 10, 1997
SETLIST : Out Of Touch, Say It Isn’t So, How Does It Feel, Starting All Over, She’s Gone, Something About You, One On One, Every Time You Go, Sara Smile, Do What You Want, No Can Do, Maneater, So Close, (encore), Rich Girl, You Make My Dreams Come True, Kiss On My List, (encore), Me & Mrs Jones
Well, what can I say? I had heard these guys since I could remember music on the radio and such old school music shows as “Solid Gold” and even seeing them on an episode of “SCTV”, but they’d been around since before I was born. These guys had done so much work since then, by the time I got to see them, they were just about to release their fifteenth studio album, “Marigold Sky”. Though they were commonly known back in the old days as “Hall & Oates”, they didn’t have a single album with that name on it. Considering their success and notoriety, having them play at a place as small as The Fillmore was quite a rarity. Once again, I was spoiled that night. They are arguably the most famous rock duo apart from maybe Simon & Garfunkel.
Hall & Oates is one of those bands that everybody seems to like or at least I never met someone who didn’t like them. An important endorsement for them, probably the best a band could hope for came from The Fillmore’s coat check girl, Stacy. Stacy was notorious for her short temper and general lack of courtesy which made her an odd, yet strangely appropriate candidate for her vocation. She was mercilessly rude to ushers in particular and didn’t seem to enjoy live music on any level. Now, that being said, I was intrigued to overhear her say that she liked Hall & Oates and seemed to genuinely look forward to the show that night. Their unforgettable melodies and Daryl’s flawless hair and voice thawed her cold, cold heart for one evening at least in her life.
With such a repertoire, Hall & Oates had no trouble packing the setlist with plenty of old favorites and a handful of new ones. They were tight as a drum and put smiles on everybody’s faces. If I had only one complaint, and it’s not really a complaint, it would be the shock I felt seeing John Oates for the first time without his mustache! I was dumbstruck. I remember shouting out to him that he “defiled the Temple Of Oates”! After twenty years without the mustache, I still have difficulty looking at him without it. I don’t blame him. I feel the same way about Alex Trebek from “Jeopardy”.
I would have the pleasure years later to set up Hall & Oates at Outside Lands, but since we had to use their monitor and front of house board, it took a little time to get them started and they had to skip their last two songs, “Kiss On My List” and “Private Eyes”, two of their biggest hits. But I heard both of them that night in 1997 and there was a classy poster given out to boot at the end of the show. One final note, for some bizarre reason, every time I hear the chorus of “Kiss On My List”, I can’t help but replace the lyrics with, “Because George Bush, George Bush has honky lips”. Yes, both George W. Bush and his late father have thin lizard like lips, but why I would sing about it is still a mystery to me. I am weird guy, I guess.
The Toy Dolls, The Aquabats, Trocadero Transfer, SF, Mon., May 12, 1997
This was a special show me, having grown up listening to The Toy Dolls, but finally being able once and for all to see them live. My brother Alex had practically every album they had put out on vinyl and with their hilarious lyrics, manic paced punk music, and sheer brilliance of their songs made it hard not to love them. Such a band is a good introduction to punk music for kids. And in a genius pairing for the Toy Dolls’ opening act, I got to see The Aquabats for the first time. There was another opening act called Scarehead that night, but I think I missed them.
The Aquabats were still pretty new back then and were primarily a ska band. Their second album, “Fury Of The Aquabats!”, would be released that October. For those who don’t know, The Aquabats are superhero crime fighters, dressed identically in their unitard uniforms and black masks. When they’re not fighting crime, their playing gigs. Like I said, they were still pretty new and even had Travis Barker playing drums with them at the time. He’d go on to join Blink 182 the following year. Every member has an alter-ego with an exclamation point at the end of their name and Travis was known then as “The Baron von Tito!”
The single off the new album, “Super Rad!” would go on to have its music video directed by none other than Bobcat Goldthwait. That video would lead to a pilot comedy show for them that would ultimately never be aired, but would be the inspiration for their hit children’s show, “The Aquabats! Super Show!”, that would fifteen years later. It would be nominated for three Daytime Emmy awards and win one.
OK, back to the show at hand. First off, it was at The Trocadero Transfer, or just The Trocadero as I called it. This club was way downtown on 4th & Bryant, practically in the Financial District, and was hard to find and park around. Though the club been in business since 1977, I hadn’t heard of it until it was on their last legs and went under shortly therafter. To their credit, they managed to get a handful of real notable acts to play and this was one of only three or four shows I attended there, the others being Tool and Sheep On Drugs. Well, those are the only two I remember anyway. In fact, Neil Young & Crazy Horse had just performed a secret show there only four days before this one, though I regret not seeing it. Neil was doing a lot of sneaky small venue gigs around that time. The security was notoriously tough at the Trocadero and I took a big risk sneaking in my recorder that night, but I knew this was one show I would not want to lose. I used to joke that after you’ve been frisked by their security, you needed to smoke a cigarette. Thankfully, the recorder made it through.
The Aquabats did a fun set and like I said were a perfect compliment to The Toy Dolls. I only regret that I could only get a handful of their songs on tape, since I ran short during The Toy Dolls set and had to tape over the beginning of theirs to get it all. It’s regretful, but had to be done. Sorry, Aquabats, but the Dolls outranked you that night. I have seen both bands since and they still rock like thunder.
The Toy Dolls are stupefyingly good live, primarily due to their frontman Michael “Olga” Algar. Seriously, I have no idea how somebody can play punk guitar that fast and that accurately while still singing, and SMILING while he sings as well. He makes it look so easy, that it looks like he’s having fun which he probably is. Many people know the Dolls from their punk cover of the children’s song “Nelly The Elephant” and as you might have guessed they played it that night. The crowd, of coarse, joined Olga for the “Ooooohhhh” before the chorus. They also played their famous silly cover of “Blue Suede Shoes”, and likewise, they crowd joined in the mock booing of the band when they start the song tepidly, slurring the lyrics as they did on the album. One more cover of note that night was “(I Would Walk) 500 Miles” by The Proclaimers.
The Toy Dolls has had a baffling number of bass player and drummer changes over the years, 12 and 14 respectively. Each member is awarded an honorary nickname and this tour Olga was joined by Gary “Gary Fun” Dunn on bass and Martin “Marty” Yule on drums. The mosh pit was rowdy, but amiable and it was certainly loud enough to ensure the recording was at a good level. The Trocadero was about the size of the DNA lounge, maybe a little bigger, and really despite it’s location and over enthusiastic security, it wasn’t a half bad club and it was a cheap show too, being only $10, affordable by even 1990’s standards. I believe it became a dance club as so many former live venues eventually do and is now called the Glass Kat.
The Breeders, Lutefisk, Paleface, GAMH, SF, Tues., May 13, 1997
SETLIST : No Aloha, Tipp City, I Am Decided, Pacer, Flipside, Swinger, Full On Idle, Yo, Saints, Huffer, Mom’s Drunk, Head To Toe, Climbing The Sun, Drivin’ On 9, S.O.S., Cannonball, Iris, New Year, (encore), Bragging Party, Shocker In Boomtown, Empty Glasses, (encore), First Revival, Just Like A Briar
Having seen The Breeders several times in the previous four years, I was a big fan and was absolutely delighted that they were returning to SF to play the Great American and for the low, low price of only $12 a ticket. I had just moved a block away from the venue only that February and having it so close was a Godsend. The Breeders were on a sort of forced hiatus the past couple years, touring without Kim’s twin sister Kelley Deal and calling themselves The Amps. I saw them twice opening for Sonic Youth in 1995 and they only played songs off their self-titled an only album, but for all intents and purposes, people still accepted that they were basically still The Breeders. The songs off that album were at least as good as most of the songs The Breeders had put out before, especially tunes like “Pacer” and “Bragging Party”, which they played both that night.
Kelley Deal would rejoin the band the next year, but she was just getting over a rough patch, having been arrested for heroin possession and doing a stint in rehab. But luckily, she got over the hump and was on the mend, touring with her own band around then called The Kelley Deal 6000 and they were just about to release their second album, “Boom! Boom! Boom!”, that August. Nate Farley was on guitar that tour and after botching the opening song, “No Aloha”, a little, he apologized and claimed that he was “The Lost Deal Triplet”.
Opening that night first was Paleface, a singer songwriter who came out solo with his guitar which is always brave. Paleface had been Beck’s roommate when they lived together in New York City. I loved his song about smoking crack. Little did I or anyone know that he was in such ill health, that he would hospitalized for liver failure shortly after this show. Thankfully, recovered and continues to write music prolifically to this day. Lutefisk was up next and with another tie in to Beck, since their frontman, Don Burnet, used to play drums for him. Lutefisk is named after a Scandinavian fish dish where the fish is soaked in lye until it becomes gelatinous, even melting the fish’s bones, and served with butter. It is notoriously disgusting as well as difficult to prepare properly. The band had real talent, but I regret to say this was the only time I’d see them, since they would break up shortly after this, releasing their second and final album, the appropriately titled “Burn In Hell Fuckers” that year.
The Breeders played excellently as always and I was happy to hear that they were including the songs from The Amps in their setlist and they have continued to do so ever since. I enjoyed seeing them up close for once in such a small club. The smallest place I’d seen them before was at the aforementioned Warfield and I was still ushering during their set, since The Amps was the opening act that night. I’m glad I caught that show since I wouldn’t get another chance to see the perform until four years later in 2001 when they played Slim’s.
Jojo, Readymade, Static Faction, Fill., SF, Wed., May 14, 1997
SETLIST (Static Faction) : Fly Hunter, Bio – Ride, Pretential, Flour Pour, Ritual Instance, Static Faction, Super Cool Guy, New Year’s Day, She Gives Me, Transcience, Analog Girl
(Jojo) : Have A Girlfriend, Up Until Today, Nerves, Wrong Gone Blonde Miniature In F, Rebel Girl, Scorching & Clean, Aerosol, Hug Me, Dance Hit Alert, Baby Strange, Spydergirl, Murdermaid, Rock N’ Roll, Cow, Child As A Horse, Product 29, Southern Fried, Doctrine, Absolute Cloud Free, Fluffy Bunny, Tin Man’s Cur, Behind The Wheel, Not Involved, Angel On My Futon
The Fillmore was continuing their “Fillmore Sessions” with this bill. It was a well intentioned, yet ultimately unprofitable attempt to have lesser known or new bands come in and play for a relatively low ticket price. It was sponsored by the now defunct Henry Weinhard’s beer and the tickets only cost seven dollars and pints of Henry’s only cast $2.25. I’m not sure what ever happened to Jojo, though there is a young lady called JoJo who’s a singer, but as you probably guessed, it wasn’t her that night. She was seven years old at the time. Readymade were a Canadian rock band and had just released their first album, “The Dramatic Balanced”. There’s a German rock band with the same name, though I don’t know if they’ve tried duking it out over the name yet. Static Faction was a local punk band, but they were only together for a couple years.
Jamiroquai, War., SF, Thur., May 15, 1997
Jamiroquai had just released his third album, “Traveling Without Moving”, the year before and it was a huge hit with the smash single, “Virtual Insanity”. That song was ubiquitous around this time, on the radio and the famous music video. That album sold over 8 million copies, making it the best selling funk album of all time. The video would win four MTV video music awards, including Video Of The Year, and he also was nominated for two Grammy awards, winning one for Best Performance By A Duo Or Group.
It was an “evening with” show, having only a DJ opening up, so it was pretty easy to work and it was a fun one. Needless to say, it was sold out big time. He always wore elaborate hats and head dresses on stage and was a good dancer too. It isn’t hard to have a good time at one of his shows and I find that he’s one of those artists that you could play at a party or in-between sessions at a convention that most folks would like, danceable yet inoffensive. It was a long stretch that week for shows, this being the fifth of six in a row.
I would only see Jamiroquai one more time doing one of the last free rock shows done out in Union Square. I’ll never forget that show was on the Fourth Of July because the singer, Jay Kay, made a joke about us celebrating the fact that we rebelled against his native England so we didn’t have to have policemen with “tits on their heads”, a wisec
Merle Haggard & The Strangers, Rose Maddox, Maritime Hall, SF, Fri., May 16, 1997
SETLIST : Workin’ Man Blues, twinkle Twinkle Lucky Star, I Think I’ll Just Stay Here & Drink, Mama Tried, Swinging Doors, Valentine, Jambalaya, unknown, unknown, Kern River, Down Down Down, Shelley’s Winter Love, I’ll Fly Away, Rainbow Stew, That’s The Way Love Goes, Make Up & Faded Blue Jeans, Okie From Muskogee, California Blues
Merle was back again and after seeing him for the third time in two years, it was beginning to feel like he’d be around forever. But alas, this would be the last time I’d see Merle live, though he’d go on to live nearly twenty more years. Though it wasn’t a commercial success, he’d just released his 49th, yes that’s right, 49th studio album, simply called “1996”, named obviously after the year of its release. As you might remember, the last time Merle played the Hall, he was very specific about us not recording, even so much as he came down to the recording room and gave me and Pete the coldest of stink eyes I would ever see still to this day. I can still see it. But for some reason which I didn’t dare question, we had the green light to tape that night, though I believe we only had a board feed from the house since Merle’s people were using their own monitor board.
Though strangely enough, it would be the opener, Rose Maddox, who would make the biggest impression on me that night. Rose was 71 years old and very frail, having to be helped onto the stage. But with the backing of Merle and his band, she belted out a handful of songs and charmed us all. Apparently, when she was young, touring with her brothers as The Maddox Brothers and Rose shortly after World War II, she was quite the dish, once raising quite a few eyebrows back in the day when she bared her midriff while playing at the Grand Ol Opry. Her and her brothers were living in Modesto when their career started and I imagine Merle saw them play as a kid growing up in Bakersfield. Her and her brothers hired Hollywood tailor, Nathan Turk, to dress them up in outrageous singing cowboy outfits with oodles of spangles, embroidered satin shirts, bell bottom pants, shot Eisenhower jackets, and personalized cowboy boots. Tennessee Ernie Ford once proclaimed that “their costumes made Liberace look like a plucked chicken.” Rose wore one such outfit that night, a bright red one at that.
She even told a dirty joke that night on stage, claiming that in the beginning, Merle didn’t like her and thought she was a “Smart Alec”. She asked his name and he said “Cobb” and he said “You know what we do with Smart Alec’s in the city?” and she cackled and replied, “No, but I know what we do with Cobb’s in the country!” It got a big laugh, especially from Merle. They covered the gospel standard, “I’ll Fly Away” and she they sang Merle’s song, “Shelly’s Winter Love”, which still worked because Shelly can be a man’s name too, referring to Shelly as “he” during the song. Sadly, Rose would pass away less than year later from kidney failure, but he memory lives on and was an influence for such notable country women as Emmylou Harris and Dolly Parton. I believe this was the last time Rose performed in the bay area and probably one of her last public performances ever.
John Fogerty with The Fairfield Four, Fill., SF, Sun., May 18, 1997
SETLIST : Born On The Bayou, Green River, Lodi, Lookin’ Out My Back Door, Suzie Q, I Put A Spell On You, Southern Streamline, Who’ll Stop The Rain, The Midnight Special, A Hundred & Ten In The Shade, Working On A Building, Joy Of My Life, Blue Moon Nights, Big Train From Memphis, Centerfield, Down On The Corner, Swamp River Days, Hot Rod Heart, Before You Accuse Me, Long As I Can See The Light, The Old Man Down The Road, Blueboy, Walking In A Hurricane, I Heard It Through The Grapevine, Bad Moon Rising, Fortunate Son, (encore), Proud Mary, Travelin’ Band
I had seen Mr. Fogerty only once before at a great distance when he played the Bill Graham memorial show in Golden Gate Park in 1991 with the Grateful Dead as his backing band, but this night, I’d finally get to see him up close. Indeed, having such a rock & roll legend and a bay area one play the intimate, hallowed halls of the Fillmore was a treat and honor. It was especially priceless since it was his first tour in nine years and the first time he’d play the Fillmore since the late 1960’s, this being the first show of his two day stint there. John had been duking it out for years with lawsuits with his former bandmates and his former label Fantasy Records that were acrimonious at best and downright bizarre in some cases. Fantasy once sued John for plagiarizing one of his own songs. Get your head around that.
The rock legend would be joined by another legendary act, The Fairfield Four, a gospel group that had been performing before John was even born. They had sang on John’s new album, “Blue Moon Swamp”, which would go on to win Best Rock Album at the Grammys and the single, “Blueboy” would be nominated for Best Male Rock Vocal Performance. The Fairfield Four’s new album would also win a Grammy for Best Gospel Album. So, between both acts, it goes without saying that I was seeing some real talent there that night.
Like I said, John was a bay area native, growing up in El Cerrito near Berkeley, but for years as a kid, I’d assumed that he was a southerner of some kind. His music certainly felt like it, but no, he was just a few miles down the road from me. His southern influences in music certainly inspired his latest album though and even the poster that was given out that night, featuring a cartoon alligator coming out of a swamp. The Fairfield Four had a short set in the beginning, playing a handful of gospel tunes, ending with the timeless, “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot”. Having seen the country legend Rose Maddox two nights before, I was getting a look in on my musical elders that week. Like Rose, a couple of those guys needed help getting on and off the stage.
Naturally, he played a bunch of Creedence Clearwater Revival songs but did a handful of famous covers such as “I Put A Spell On You”, “Before You Accuse Me”, and “I Heard It Through The Grapevine”. In the middle of the set, he had the Fairfield Four join him to do a couple of songs, adding their haunting gospel voices, “A Hundred & Ten In The Shade” and “The Midnight Special”. John would play a lap mounted dobro for “Woking On A Building” and “Joy Of My Life” and even busted out a baseball bat shaped guitar for “Centerfield”, a song made famous in the film, “Bull Durham” and has been a staple song played at baseball games thereafter. Even George W. Bush, who had been former owner of the Texas Rangers, said it was his favorite song.
Though I haven’t seen Mr. Fogerty since, he went on to make a live album and DVD in December of that tour called, “Premonition”, so it’s there if I ever want to take a trip down memory lane. Yes, I do have my own recording of the Fillmore show, but I regret to say that halfway through the show, the batteries starting running out, speeding up the songs, including the ones with the Fairfield Four. Still, the memory of that night obviously lingers. I’m just glad I had one night off to rest before this gig, being my sixth show in seven days.
The Cardigans, Red House Painters, War., SF, Mon., May 19, 1997
Another stylistic gear change from the night before with John Fogerty. Yes, it would be the one time I’d get to see The Cardigans. Like many Americans, I had confused the band with their fellow Swedes and contemporaries, Ace Of Base. Their sounds and vocals were very similar and it was an easy mistake to make. Though I’d never seen Ace Of Base and really have no intention to, I have to say that I enjoyed The Cardigans. They made sweet, danceable tunes and I have to admit, it would make for good “getting busy” music.
One of the attractions for this show that night was the opener, the Red House Painters. I’d seen them the year before opening for John Cale at the Fillmore and was impressed. They are a great band in their own right, but they are a superb opening act, also adding a touch of mournful grit to the Cardigans squeaky clean dance music styles. They were still touring playing songs from their last album, “Songs From A Blue Guitar” from the year before, but I was amused that they did a truncated cover of Black Sabbath’s “War Pigs”. They probably did it as a homage to The Cardigans who did their own soft, sweet cover of “Iron Man”, but also because the frontman, Mark Kozelek had a penchant for 70’s metal. He would release a couple solo albums a few years later with a number of covers of Bon Scott era AC/DC songs.
The Cardigans were riding high around this time, probably the height of their popularity, at least in America. They had just released their third album, “First Band On The Moon” which had their smash hit, “Lovefool”. The album went triple platinum in only three weeks and that song would show up in the soundtrack to Baz Luhrmann’s hit film, “Romeo + Juliet” with Leonardo DiCaprio and Clare Danes as well as the film “Cruel Intentions”. To be honest, I never liked “Romeo & Juliet”. I think every character in that play was an idiot and frankly I think Luhrmann’s movies are art direction run amok. But as an American, I have to admire them for being rich and successful. That film also led to Leo getting “Titanic” and the rest his history, but I digress. Good show, and it being primarily populated by nubile, young ladies, I was a happy guy and there was no lines at the men’s room.
The Neville Brothers, War., SF, Wed., May 21, 1997
Anybody who knows me as a sound person and definitely as a concert attendee knows that I absolutely despise private company parties. That was the case seeing The Neville Brothers that night. At this particular time, I didn’t realize just how much I’d hate the whole affair since it was my first time working one of these parties at The Warfield and the project of seeing the Brothers at a party with free food and drink with a smaller crowd seemed like a win/win. It wasn’t. It was for a group called BMT, Bryn Mawr Trust, and being bankers, rest assured it was filled with a bunch of stuffed shirt, greedy honkeys. These people hadn’t a thimbleful of funk between the lot of them. Hardly anybody at these shows even pays attention to the talent much less dances, no matter how famous they are, choosing instead to meander about in their finery talking shop. Almost every time, I’d see the demoralized expressions from these ignored bands and artists as they phoned it in on stage, the light going out in their eyes.
Now that being said, I understand why many bands take these gigs. They pay far better than their own gigs, always are shorter sets, and end earlier. Many company parties also donate money to charity for the event which helps ease my total condemnation of such shows. Indeed, company shows are the lifeblood for some local party bands that do all covers such as Super Diamond the Wonderbread 5. Those guys really do need the cash. But there’s something un-democratic, un-American even about having such a talented band play, excluding the possibility of any of their tried and true fans from attending. These parties just feel wrong, even when the music is smoking. The irony that my becoming a union stagehand a few years later where I’d be setting up and running such shows on a fairly regular basis isn’t lost on me.
Still, the Neville’s played excellently as I knew they would. This would be my third time seeing them and their short but sweet set would include about half their songs and half covers that they made famous such as “Iko Iko”, “Love The One You’re With”, and “Three Little Birds”. As awful as the crowd made the show, the sting would strike years later when I came to realize that this was the last time I’d see the Neville Brothers together. Though I’d see members in bands like The Meters, The Funky Meters, and Ivan’s kids in Dumpstaphunk, we’d lose Charles to pancreatic cancer in 2018 and Art the year after. So, I don’t entirely regret seeing that show. In fact, enduring those unappreciative bunch of pricks serves as testament to my devotion to the Brothers and their music.
Suede, Longpigs, Fill., SF, Fri., May 23, 1997
LONGPIGS : Blah, Far, Jesus Christ, Lost Myself, All Hype, Happy Again, On And On, Elvis, She Said
SUEDE : She, Trash, Heroine, Animal Nitrate, By The Sea, So Young, Lazy, The Wild Ones, Saturday Night, Starcrazy, New Generation, Picnic By The Motorway, Europe Is Our Playground, Beautiful Ones, (encore), Filmstar, The 2 Of Us
I’d seen Suede once before in 1993 when they were brand spanking new, riding the Britpop wave, playing a venue as large as the Warfield even though they’d just released their first self titled album only seven months prior. They were still going strong, though not playing a venue as big as the Warfield this time and the Birtpop wave had basically crested and was beginning to recede. Though their third album, “Coming Up”, released the previous September, was a commercial and critical success, Suede was starting to hit a rough patch here.
For starters, their lead guitarist, Bernard Butler, had left the band after years of fighting with other band members and downright boorish behavior on stage. He’d been replaced by Richard Oakes. Second, only six days before this show in Boston, the band had all of its gear ripped off, forcing them to play that gig entirely with acoustic guitars. They’d gotten new gear by the time they got to San Francisco thankfully. Third, due to a lawsuit with an American soul singer who had the name Suede before them, the band was forced to call themselves “The London Suede” whenever they performed in the States, which understandably they weren’t happy about. And last but not least, Suede’s lead singer, Brett Anderson, had descended deeply into drug addiction and it was showing. I mean, he was skinny and giant to begin with, being a Britpop singer, it’s sort of compulsory. But by this show, he looked like an extra in “The Walking Dead”.
The good news was that they still put on a good show, though it would be the last time I’d see Suede and that they had the Longpigs opening for them. I liked them right away, a worthy opening act for any band and as luck would have it, I’d go on to see them two more times that year opening for Echo & The Bunnymen also at the Fillmore and for The Dandy Warhols at Slim’s. For those who are wondering, they got their name from a nickname cannibals in the South Pacific would give for human flesh. Though the band spelled their name as one long word, it was spelled as two words on the poster that night. Suede was listed by their original name on the poster as well, possibly because the poster was commissioned to the artist before the lawsuit over the name. Anyway, I loved that poster, a very groovy throwback to 1960’s swinging London. Like most Britpop shows, it was loud, brief, and easy to usher.
Eek-A-Mouse, Sister Carol, Jordhuga, Maritime Hall, SF, Sat., May 24, 1997
SETLIST : Star Daily News & Gleaner, Ganja Smuggling, Border Patrol, Terrorists In The City, Anorexed, Assasinator, Love Me, Noah’s Ark
This would be the first of several times Mr. Mouse would play Maritime Hall and by the last time I was downright sick of him. Don’t get me wrong, I think he’s great and I like his music, but he was notorious for making the shows run long and his unique scat singing style going on into the wee hours of night, begins to get on one’s nerves. That being said, this was the first time and Pete was at the helm recording since it was a reggae show, so I had it pretty easy. And naturally, since it was a reggae show with Pete, they joints were being passed at regular intervals. I’d just seen Suede the night before at The Fillmore, so this was another one of those stylistic rapid gear changes I enjoyed so much as well.
Eek-A-Mouse had actually been around for years, going back into the early eighties and by this time, he’d already had eleven albums under his belt including his most recent one then, “Black Cowboy”. He was conspicuously tall and always wore some kind of hat on stage, probably wearing one of his cowboy hats considering the title of his last album. He got his name from a race horse he always used to bet on back in his native Jamaica. Like I said, he had this funny scat style of singing reminiscent of guys like Cab Calloway and he also had the habit of sticking out his long, Gene Simmons-like tongue suggestively between lines of singing.
A highlight of the evening would be the opener, Sister Carol, who like Eek-A-Mouse, I’d have the pleasure of seeing again at the Hall a few more times, always getting the crowd warmed up nicely. Her music never got tedious. I had a feeling I’d seen her before, and I knew it later when I discovered that she’d done some acting. She had parts in three Jonathan Demme movies, “Something Wild”, “Married To The Mob”, and “Rachel Getting Married”. Originally born in Jamaica but living in the States since she was a girl, she had been performing as long as Eek-A-Mouse too and had just released her sixth album, “Potent Dub” that year. It’s a pity however that her name didn’t make it on the Maritime’s monthly poster, though the first opening band, Jordhuga, a white jam band from Chico, did. Boots was always booking guys like Jordhuga for reggae shows. At least their fans smoke tons of herb too.
Dinosaur Jr., Imperial Teen, Slim’s, SF, Mon., May 26, 1997
SETLIST (IMPERIAL TEEN) : Psych, Butch, Amps, Begin, Dino, Balloon, Crucible, Imperial Teen, Lipstick, Pig Latin, You’re One, Year Of The Tan, Yoo Hoo
I’d seen Dinosaur Jr. twice at Lollapalooza in 1993 and once at the Warfield the year after, but this would be the first time I’d see them up close at a venue as small as Slim’s. This was good thing since it would be the last time I would see them. They went on hiatus shortly after this tour and wouldn’t reform again until 2005 and they’re still around, so I might get another chance to catch them some day. I was familiar with J. Mascis’ ear splitting guitar style and made sure that I had ear plugs firmly in place that night. They had just released their seventh LP, “Hand It Over” that March. Despite it being appreciated by the critics, it didn’t sell as well as the previous two albums and subsequently has actually been hard to find. I really only know a couple of the band’s songs by name including “Feel The Pain” and “Start Choppin’” which they played both that night, but they did do a surprisingly respectful rendition of The Cure’s “Just Like Heaven” in the middle of the show.
Half the reason, and I would go so far to say that maybe even more than half the reason, I was there was to catch the opening act, Imperial Teen. I had seen them once before opening for Lush at the Fillmore and they made quite an impression. Their debut album, “Seasick”, likewise was impressive and even though their next album, “What Is Not To Love”, would not be released for nearly another year and a half, they already were playing new songs at that show. I got the setlist, but some of the new songs had different names then and I was naturally unfamiliar with them, but I do know they ended their set with “Year Of The Tan” and “Yoo Hoo”. The last one would be a hit and would end up in a couple TV shows and films including the films “Jawbreaker” and “Not Another Teen Movie” which parodied the scene from the aforementioned movie with that song. Rose McGowan, the star of “Jawbreaker”, would be featured in the music video of that song as well.
Like I said, I’m glad I caught Dinosaur Jr before their hiatus and likewise I was happy to catch Imperial Teen since it would be another four years before I would see them again. I probably said it before, but I’ve always considered them one of the best opening acts a bill could have and obviously they are a great band in their own right, especially since they were locals. There was another opening band that night, but I only caught their last song and didn’t catch their name, listing them only as “mystery band”. This was the first of their two night stint at Slim’s, but I didn’t see the second night, being at The Prodigy at the Warfield. The SF Weekly put a blurb in for these shows that week lamenting of “a world increasingly saturated with guitar-killing programmers, Euro-trash techno freaks and quasi cutting-edge journalists calling live music a thing of the past” and beseeched the “ticket buying public to save the universe from these rock n’ roll doomsayers”. I got the feeling that it was a dig at The Prodigy.
The Prodigy, DJ Alika, DJ Nikola, War., SF, Tues., May 27, 1997
Like I mentioned before, the SF Weekly put a blurb that week for the Dinosaur Jr. shows at Slim’s the night before and also this night, lamenting of “a world increasingly saturated with guitar-killing programmers, Euro-trash techno freaks and quasi cutting-edge journalists calling live music a thing of the past” and beseeched the “ticket buying public to save the universe from these rock n’ roll doomsayers”. I got the feeling that it was a dig at Prodigy, but to their defense they did bust out an electric guitar for a couple of their tunes that night. One thing that both shows definitely had in common was that they were excruciatingly LOUD. Even with ear plugs, I watched most of their set up in the balcony just to be at a comfortable distance from their sonic assault.
Though they’d been around in the U.K. for several years helping hone the sound that would earn them the nickname of the “Godfathers Of Rave” in their native country, they had just hit it big in the States with their third album, “The Fat Of The Land”. It was a huge and it’s commercial success was only matched by the controversy of their single “Smack My Bitch Up”. That tune got a lot of heat from the National Organization Of Women, or N.O.W., and others for that title which is half of the song’s only lyrics, “Change my pitch up, smack my bitch up”. As luck would have it, it isn’t even their lyric, originating from the Ultramagnetic MCs from their song, “Give The Drummer Some”, sung by the one and only Kool Keith. I’ve heard different explanations of this lyric such as it being an allegory for drug use, AKA smack or heroin, to songwriter Liam Howett explaining that it meant “doing anything intensely, like being on stage – going for extreme manic energy”. Regardless of the row the song caused, especially with it’s jarring music video featuring explicit images of fist fights, abused women, sex, and vomiting, the song remains to be one of their biggest hits and the video went on to win Best Dance Video and Breakthrough Video at the MTV Music Awards the following year.
Didn’t hurt their career none, yes, and it was the first song they performed that night. This was an unusual show having a DJ play for a half hour before the band went on and another play a full hour and a half after they were done. They were DJs Alika and Nikola, but I can’t say which one went on first or second or if they both took turns. I was just grateful being a volunteer usher having been released shortly after The Prodigy took the stage. I can assure you that the staff that had to work the whole night all the way until two in the morning weren’t pleased, especially since it was hot and muggy as hell in the Warfield for that show, a real sauna. The fog machines cranked up to full blast helped it look the part as well.
They had an impressive light show which they needed because like most techno bands, their music mostly involved Liam, standing behind his mountains of keyboards, synthesizers, samplers, and such. At least they had the singer, Keith Flint, to bounce around on stage, climb the speaker stacks, and jump into the crowd from time to time. Clearly, the “Firestarter” took a page from Johnny Rotten with his punk clothes and spiky red hair. Before that album, he had stringy, long blond hair, making him look rather like a hippy. He went from Neil to Vyvyan from “The Young Ones” in one fell swoop.
Alas, Keith died last year, having committed suicide by hanging, and so I won’t get a chance to see this band again. One notable though less tragic bummer from this show was that there was a poster given out that I didn’t get. I don’t even know if it was passed out to the public at the end of the night since I didn’t even think to stick around till the DJ was done after the band. It was one of those rare horizontal posters also which made it even more of a pity.
Forever Green Benefit: Ratdog, John Popper & Bobby Sheehan, Bob Weir & Rob Wasserman, Bonnie Raitt, Dave Ellis Quartet, Charlie Musselwhite, War., SF, Wed., May 28, 1997
(BOB WEIR & ROB WASSERMAN) : K.C. Moan, Fever, Eternity, Victim Or The Crime
(RATDOG) : Easy Answers, Blues Why You Worry Me?, Kick Those Blues Around, Queen Jane Approximately, Whoops, Saint Of Circumstance, Playing In The Band, Turn On Your Lovelight
Even the staunchest critic of the Grateful Dead and their offshoots would agree that the various members charity work should be applauded. After the death of Jerry Garcia, I noticed more and more that the former members would often do charity events, often with high ticket prices as such events often entail, supporting a range of causes, such as the Rex Foundation and Unbroken Chain. This one was the Forever Green Benefit, an event supporting several environmental groups. Environmentalism, though widely known and supported in northern California, was still gaining momentum and would soon get a huge boost from Al Gore and his breakthrough documentary, “An Inconvenient Truth”.
Ratdog was still relatively new, having only formed two years prior, but Mr. Weir was firmly behind it now, touring regularly. They would go through a zillion line up changes for the years to come, but at this time the legendary keyboardist Johnnie Johnson was still with them. He was Chuck Berry’s keyboardist back in the day, but at the age of 73, he chose this show to be his last playing with Ratdog. Mr. Johnson passed away eight years later. Jeff Chimenti was there also playing keys and though this was his first show with Ratdog, he would go on to be the band’s full time guy from then on until this very day. Jay Lane was playing full time for them as well and Dave Ellis, fellow Charlie Hunter Trio alumni, had just joined the band on saxophone. Dave would also be serving double duty that night, opening the show with his quartet.
Thank God that Bonnie Raitt was there. I’ll never grow tired of seeing her play. I’ve always had a thing for redheads. She said the fact that Johnnie Johnson was there made appearing at the event irresistible. She did five songs including “Thing Called Love”. The comedian Paula Poundstone did a short thing between acts, talking and cracking jokes. She admitted that she was unsure exactly how she fit in on the bill saying that the extent of her environmental activism pretty much was telling her kids not to run the water in the bathroom sink while brushing their teeth. Blues Traveller frontman John Popper was on the bill with his bass guitarist Bobby Sheehan. They weren’t on for long. I only got one song of theirs recorded, “The Way”. It would not end up on a Blues Traveler album until “Bridge” in 2001 and John claimed that they wrote the song in their dressing room that very night.
The good news is that John and Bobby would return to join in with Ratdog at the end of the night, along with fellow harmonica wiz Charlie Musselwhite. Everybody on the bill came out for the last song of the evening, “Turn On Your Lovelight”, the Bobby Bland song often covered by the Dead. I appreciated that I was able to see bass guitarist Rob Wasserman play with Weir twice that night, since it would be the only time I’d see them together. Bobby needs a guy like Wasserman. I know I tease Bobby and lots of people do, for his grating voice, quasi rock star body language on stage, and the fact that he’ll never in a million years hold a candle to Jerry Garcia’s guitar chops, but there’s no need to remind him of that. He’s always been a sweet guy and everybody loves him, myself included. I have to say for such an illustrious event, I was disappointed that there wasn’t a poster for that night, unusual since most Dead affiliated events often do.
Buddy Miles, The Jeff Jolly Band, Maritime Hall, SF, Fri., May 30, 1997
The Maritime gave me yet another lesson in music history that night, introducing me to the one and only Buddy Miles. I arrogantly thought I knew a lot about Jimi Hendrix before this show, but really knew nothing of Buddy’s collaboration with Jimi in The Band Of Gypsies. Most folks know about Hendrix from his hits in the Jimi Hendrix Experience. Short lived as the Jimi’s career was, the Band Of Gypsies was painfully short, lasting only a year before Jimi would be called up to Rock & Roll Heaven. But my partner Pete was well aware of Buddy and his chops and was keen on being at that show to record, more than most nights, so I paid attention.
Before the Band Of Gypsies, Buddy was the drummer for the psychedelic band, Electric Flag, fronted by Pete’s friend Nick Gravenitis. They too have a short, but notable career, being one of the bands to play at the legendary Monterey Pops Festival. Buddy was a big guy, a powerful drummer, worthy of his nickname which was honoring the one and only Buddy Rich, one of the greatest drummers that ever lived. What I didn’t know at the time, was that Buddy was the lead singer of the infamous “California Raisons”, yes, that series of claymation commercials in the 1980’s that still haunts all those who witnessed them in those years. Still, I have to be happy for Buddy since the royalties from the commercials and albums probably was a pretty penny. That, and the record company that produced those albums went on to produce N.W.A.
It was an impressive show and I was blown away by Buddy and his skills. It’s rare to find a drummer who plays that well and can also sing at the same time. One could definitely see how somebody like Questlove took a page from this man. Unfortunately, this would be the only time I’d get to see Buddy, who would die eleven years later at the age of 60, too young by most standards, but at least he lived over twice as long as Jimi did. This would conclude the month of May for me that year, a long stretch it was, 22 shows in 31 days. I don’t know if that was a record, but it was up there for sure. Thank heavens I was so young back then, working all those shows and holding down a full time job. Today, I doubt I could keep up without copious amounts of stimulants.
Rollins Band, Skunk Anansie, Fill., SF, Wed., June 4, 1997
SKUNK ANASIE: Yes It’s Fucking Political, Selling Jesus, All Note, I Can Dream, Charity, We Love Your Apathy, It Takes Blood & Guts To Be This Cool But I’m Still Just A Cliche, Hedonism (Just Because You Feel Good), Intellectualize My Blackness
ROLLINS BAND: Spilling, On My Way To The Cage, Saying Goodbye Again, Divine Object Of Hatred, Icon, Shame, All I Want, Volume 4, You Didn’t Need, Disconnect, Destroying The World, Fool, Starve, Low Self Opinion, Inhale Exhale, Hot Animal Machine
I’d seen Mr. Henry Rollins play with his band five times before, but each occasion he was the opening act, twice for the Red Hot Chili Peppers in London in 1992 and twice for Pearl Jam in 1993, the same weekend but first at the Warfield and then the Greek, and lastly at the B.F.D festival at Shoreline in 1994. I had the pleasure of seeing him do his spoken word show at the Warfield before as well, but found it strange on this occasion that although he could sell out that place just speaking on his own, he couldn’t sell out the Fillmore, less than half of the Warfield’s size when he came to perform with his band. Strange indeed, since I always loved his band and everybody will agree that Henry gives it his all each and every time. But this would be the first time I’d get to see him headline his own show with his band.
First things first, I just want to say what a relief it was to finish the previous month, being 22 shows in 31 days. June was a little less crowded, being only 11 shows in 30 days. Opening that night was Skunk Anansie and I regret that this would be the only time I’d see them play. An “anansie” is a spider character from Jamaican folklore. They made quite an impression, especially their singer, known as Skin. She was a tall, black, bisexual British woman with a shaved head and eyes that seemed ready to pop out of her skull when she screamed her lyrics. Skin and her band made a sound that made most metal bands seem downright placid, Rollins included. I would go so far to call their music jarring, but jarring in a wonderful way. It’s a disappointingly rare occasion to see black people making heavy rock music, but when they do, I always have found it exceptional, such is the case with acts like Bad Brains, Oxbow, Living Colour, Fishbone, or Body Count. I remember back in 1994 when Rollins Band played the B.F.D. festival that I was bitter that Rollins’ bassist, Melvin Gibbs, was the only black man performing on the main stage that entire show.
Henry had been signed to Dreamworks and just released his sixth solo album, “Come In And Burn”, that February and at only 36 years of age, he was already considered by most to be one of punk rock’s elder statesmen. Strange thing about this show was what was missing from my tapes. As unfortunately happens all too often, I ran out of tape and had to record over the beginning intro of Rollins’ set to get the last half of the last song of the night, “Hot Animal Machine”. Thankfully, I will never EVER forget what they played on the loudspeakers before Henry and his band took the stage. They played a recording of what I can only assume was a tape of Japanese to English phrases for travelers, playing only the English phrases, each repeated twice. They were typical phrases travelers would use, but for some strange reason, I distinctly remember the phrase, “I need a Japanese doctor… I need a Japanese doctor.” I’ve heard some weird stuff played to introduce a band before but that one that night was one of the weirdest, in the top three for sure. I remember my good friend Drew was there at that show and was equally disappointed that I didn’t have that intro on tape.
Henry kicked ass as always, strutting about on stage, shirtless, with the mic cord wrapped around his muscular forearm as he belted tune after tune. I know I have to have said it before, but there is something hypnotizing about the throbbing veins in his tree trunk sized neck as he sings. The power of that voice could bring down the walls of Jericho. Between songs in the middle of the set, Henry took a moment to mention that the first time he played the Fillmore was 16 years before this show and that he thought he must be “half man and half mule” because he never grew tired of it, and then went on to play “You Didn’t Need”, a song he and his band hadn’t performed live in eight years. And though this would be the last and only time I’d see Skunk Anansie, I happy to report that I’d see Rollins Band a couple more times after this and he continues to tour with his spoken word and hosts a weekly radio show. Pity there wasn’t a poster that night, since he certainly deserves one and I don’t think I ever have had a poster made for him and his band.
Redman, The Alkaholiks, Esinchill, Lebrantz, Thurs., June 5, 1997
My hip hop education continued that night, seeing for the first time the one and only Redman. He had just released his third studio album, “Muddy Waters”, the previous December and would on to critical and commercial success, earning him his first certified Gold record that February. The song “Do What You Feel” from that album would also be used in the video game “Grand Theft Auto : Liberty City Stories” and appeared on its soundtrack. It would be his first collaboration with Method Man from the Wu Tang Clan, though it was just Redman performing that night. I’d see them together several times in the future though. It was also another one of those stylistic gear changes, having just seen the Rollins Band at the Fillmore the night before.
It was a rowdy and fun show as most hip hop shows at the Hall often were. One of the notable acts opening that night were The Alkaholiks out of L.A. They were talented and hilarious and were just about to release their third album, “Likwidation”, that would come out that August. There’s something fun about having a act perform that sings about drinking, be it a blues band or a country band or in the this case a hip hop crew. It inspires the crowd to get wasted and I’m sure the bartenders at such shows are appreciative, though it might serve to have the security get their hands dirty later on. Esinchill was also there who would go on to collaborate with fellow west coast hip hop artists Digital Underground on their album, “Who Got The Gravy?” And speaking of Digital Underground, they were supposed to be the headliners that night, but cancelled for some reason that I never found out about. Digital Underground would do this several times, much to my frustration and disappointment, and to this day, I’ve yet to see them.
Trulio Disgracias, Thelonious Monster, Weapon Of Choice, Dirty Walt, Mary Magdolin, Maritime Hall, SF, Fri., June 6, 1997
This would be my second time seeing Trulio Disgracias, but one can safely be assured that you’ll never see the same band twice. They are a super group founded by Fishbone’s Norwood Fisher and have a rotating cavalcade of stars making up the band, mostly from Los Angeles. John Frusciante was there, but in was pretty bad shape. He’d left the Red Hot Chili Peppers and despite having recently gone cold turkey from heroin, he still was suffering from a crippling addiction to crack and alcohol. And looked the part too, poor guy was just skin and bones that night. Thankfully, he went into rehab the following year, got clean, and rejoined the Peppers and has been clean ever since.
Fellow L.A. contemporaries Thelonious Monster and Weapon Of Choice opened up that night. Members from both of those bands participated in the headliner, as well as Dirty Walt, the trumpet player from Fishbone. I can’t say I remember much from that show. Trulio’s music is frankly pretty forgettable despite the many talented musicians that fill its ranks, but I do remember that there were hardly any people attending that night. Maritime Hall can feel a rather lonely place when it’s empty, partially from the echoes from its cavernous ceiling. But I still enjoyed seeing a few of the guys from Fishbone in the house. They’re always a welcome sight. The ska band, The Skeletones, who had played with my brother’s band, the Dance Hall Crashers, and the X-rated funk singer Blowfly were listed on the poster, but weren’t there that night. Believe me, Blowfly is one I wouldn’t have forgotten, God rest his filthy soul.
Me’Schell Ndgeocello, Broun Fellinis, Maritime Hall, SF, Sat., June 7, 1997
I had heard Me’Schell’s music before and was impressed with her bass playing. Rarely does one see a woman play bass without a pick. I thought it a strange coincidence that she would be playing in town only a few days after Skunk Anansie opened for the Rollins Band at the Fillmore since I’d be seeing two bald, black bisexual women singing to me in the same week. Maybe they should tour together sometime. It would be an interesting combination. Me’Schell had released her second album, “Peace Beyond Passion”, the year before and was enjoying moderate success. It had a cover of Bill Withers’ “Who Is He And What Is He To You” which would be one of a few songs of hers that would make the Billboard Top 100 and it was briefly used in the movie “Jerry McGuire”. I always hated that movie and most of Cameron Crowe’s work in general, but at least she got some exposure from it. Incidentally, her last name means “free as a bird” in Swahili. Her real name is Michelle Lynn Johnson. She has been nominated for ten Grammies, but sadly has never won any. Still, she continues to be well respected in music circles and has collaborated with many notable artists including the Rolling Stones, and her music went on to be in several different film soundtracks.
One highlight of that evening was the opener, The Broun Fellinis, who I used to see every Monday at the Elbo Room when I was living next to it around 1992-1993. I got to know that band pretty well. As luck would have it, their sound man and manager, Keith, was working fairly regularly at the Maritime as well. He’s always easy to spot, since he’s so damned tall. Nice guy, Keith. Anyway, the Fellinis had a new bassist. I had heard that their old one, Ayman Mubarak had left the band to teach music, but I can’t say for sure. The new guy, Kirk, was good, but I don’t think the Fellinis felt as tight as they did with Ayman. That and the band members were using weird stage names. The drummer, Kevin Carnes, now was calling himself Professor Boris Karnaz and the sax player, David Boyce, was calling himself Black Edgar Kenyatta. They were also claiming that they were from the mythical land of Boohaabia, which floats off the coast of Madagascar and is surrounded by the Phat Temple, the Ministry Of Imagination, and the Oasis of Surprise, which are all at equal distances from Boohaabia. OK… I’ve heard stranger, I guess. The Fellinis are still local and they pop up to play gigs from time to time to this day.
Merl Saunders & The Rainforest Band, David Nelson Band, Freudian Slip, Mr. Ectomy, Maritime Hall, SF, Wed., June 11, 1997
More hippie stuff at the Hall. I’d get see Mr. Saunders a lot around this time and he was a such a sweet guy and definitely a talented musician, that I didn’t mind so much him being around so often. It wasn’t like all the times I had to endure Zero. Merl had such a nice smile. It was hard not to like him. An added bonus that night was that David Nelson was in the house. He was one of the founding members of the seminal hippie band, The New Riders Of The Purple Sage, and would collaborate with Jerry Garcia and the Dead a number of times. He would go on to be a fixture at the Hardly Strictly Bluegrass festivals as well. Most people know him from his hippie anthem, “Panama Red”, which he always plays and rest assured played that night. And it being a hippie show, Pete was in the house mixing the recording and there was no shortage of joints being passed between us.
New Morty Show, Blue Plate Special, Acme Swing Co., Work That Skirt Dance Lessons, Fill., SF, Fri., June 13, 1997
As I’m sure I’d mentioned before, this was the height of the swing music revival in the 90’s and the folks at the Fillmore took advantage of the trend to put together this night of swing. Headlining that night was the New Morty Show which had Vice Grip singing in the band. I’d seen him earlier with his band, The Ambassadors Of Swing, that April opening for the Reverend Horton Heat at Bimbo’s and this was the other band he played with at the time. They would go on to released their first album, “Mortyfied” the following March and got some props for their brilliant swing rendition of Metallica’s “Enter Sandman” and a medley of Billy Idol’s “White Wedding” and “Rebel Yell”. It was being billed as the “Lucky 13 Ball” which I assume was a shout out to the bar of the same name on Market Street where many swing enthusiasts would congregate. Between them, Blue Plate Special, and the Acme Swing Co., there was some excellent music that night. These days, people look back at that trend with some derision, but I always admired the musicianship, style, and downright escapism of swing music. EDM, it is not. You got to do better than just press buttons to perform music like this.
Adding to the fun of the evening, the dance instruction group, Work That Skirt, was there to teach the crowd how to do some swing dancing before the show began and between the sets of the bands. There, they taught such moves as the “Bring Me In”, “Basic Turn”, “Roll In”, “Reverse Turn”, “Back Stabber”, “Pretzel”, and the “Pretzel Kick”. They were dressed as you might imagine in vintage clothing and the ladies had their hair up in “liberty curls”. They would teach dance every Wednesday at 330 Ritch Street, a dance club I’d know from the Britpop “Popscene” shows they played there. They managed to get a few intrepid couples out on the dance floor, but most of the folks there were already into swing music and had moves of their own. I, being an usher, couldn’t go out and dance with them even if I had a partner that evening.
U2, Oasis, Oakland Stadium, Oakland, Wed., June 18, 1997
U2, Oasis, Oakland Stadium, Oakland, Thur., June 19, 1997
WEDNESDAY & THURSDAY : Acquiesce, Supersonic, Morning Glory, Roll With It, D’You Know What I Mean?, Some Might Say, Cast No Shadow, Wonderwall, Be Here Now, Don’t Look Back In Anger, Live Forever, Champagne Supernova
WEDNESDAY : Mofo, I Will Follow, Even Better Than The Real Thing, Gone, Pride (In The Name Of Love), I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For, Stand By Me, Last Night On Earth, Until The End Of The World, If God Will Send His Angels, Staring At The Sun, Daydream Believer, Miami, Bullet The Blue Sky, Please, Where The Streets Have No Name, (encore), Discoteque, If You Wear That Velvet Dress, With Or Without You, (encore), Hold Me Thrill Me Kiss Me Kill Me, Mysterious Ways, One
THURSDAY : Mofo, I Will Follow, Even Better Than The Real Thing, Gone, Pride (In The Name Of Love), I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For, All I Want Is You, Last Night On Earth, Until The End Of The World, If God Will Send His Angels, Staring At The Sun, San Francisco (Be Sure To Wear Flowers In Your Hair), Amazing Grace, Miami, Bullet The Blue Sky, Please, Where The Streets Have No Name, (encore), Discoteque, If You Wear That Velvet Dress, With Or Without You, (encore), Hold Me Thrill Me Kiss Me Kill Me, Mysterious Ways, One, Unchained Melody
Oh boy, OK. This was a big one. U2 had been big for a while now, stadium big. In fact, they were the first band I would see in a stadium, the very same one in Oakland five years before at the very last “Day On The Green” show. But this time, there was no going on the lawn. They’d set down teraplast panels on it and rows of plastic seats. But to all who were there or were aware of this tour, it was obviously one of the biggest rock & roll spectacles one could imagine. The steel and stages set up for their monstrous set must have taken days to construct and the semi trucks of gear transporting it all must of been in the several dozens. Their video wall they had erected was 150 feet wide, being the largest that I or probably anybody on Earth had seen, and without a doubt cost quite a few million dollars to design, build, transport, run, and maintain. And the ticket prices reflected that, being around $50 which was a bitter pill to swallow back then. Suffice to say, U2 made out like bandits on this tour. Thankfully, I was able to get a comp for the first night since I was an usher.
Speaking of things that were costly and difficult to maintain, Oasis was the opening act for these shows. I kid, but they were one of the big draws for me to see these shows, especially since I’d never seen them before and they were at the height of their popularity. They had just finished recording their third album, “Be Here Now”, though it wouldn’t be released until two months after these shows, though the songs “Be Here Now” and the single, “D’You Know What I Mean?” would be the only new songs they’d play from that album. This new album of theirs would initially be a smashing commercial success partially because of the hype built up from the successes of their first two albums and their elevation to rock gods in their native Britain, but it would soon fizzle out. Still, the added bonus to their appearances in Oakland was the fact that these shows were the only shows they would be appearing alongside U2 for that entire tour.
Returning to the subject of their difficulty, it was no secret that the was explosive infighting between the brothers Gallagher. Both brothers were becoming more unhinged from copious amounts of cocaine and alcohol. Their fights spilled over into their work all though the previous year. One shining example was the occasion when Liam had refused to sing for their show at the Royal Albert Hall in London, claiming to be suffering from a sore throat, but stayed up in the balcony for the show, mercilessly heckling his brother below while smoking and drinking. Each brother would quit and rejoin the band a few times, so it came to no real surprise to find that they wouldn’t be on the U2 bandwagon for long. Not that their sets were bad, on the contrary. Often bands would play well and write their best songs together when there was infighting as a means of escape from their personal tiffs. In fact, they were a perfect opener for U2 in my opinion. I’m just relieved that I got to see this leg of the tour with them instead of the shows U2 did with Smashmouth or Third Eye Blind. (shutter!) Though I do admit, seeing one of the shows where Rage Against The Machine open for them would have been impressive.
U2 were on the top of the game as well. The new album, “Pop” had just been released, though it came a little late, having just came out that March when they’d hoped to get it out by the previous Christmas. Their drummer Larry had suffered a debilitating back injury was part of that, but he was all better and played well these nights. Although the new album’s songs weren’t that great, I appreciated that they were trying out a new sound and doing a bit of meta-humor in their presentation, embracing commercialism while parodying it simultaneously. I suppose the electronica angle they were taking was inspired by the rave scene that was growing larger by every year and the fact that they were without a drummer for a while. I remember one reviewer joking that U2 was trying to sound like the Norwegian band A-ha while at the time A-ha was trying to sound like U2.
Unlike Oasis, both nights sets were not identical, giving them some play time to do covers and few alternate songs. On the first night, The Edge did a karaoke version of “Daydream Believer” and in fact, when they played it later in Los Angeles, none other than the Monkees’ own Davy Jones came out to perform it with them. On the second night, The Edge covered the hippie anthem “San Francisco (Be Sure To Wear Flowers In Your Hair) and though they were in Oakland at the time, the gesture was still appreciated. Also on the second day, they ended their last encore with “Unchained Melody”. Yes, that damned song from the pottery making scene in “Ghost”. Whatever. It’s still a pretty song. Through their sets they would do little snippets of songs in the middle of their songs like on the first night when they did “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For”, Bono sang a verse from “Stand By Me” and on the second night when they played “Mysterious Ways”, Bono sang a bit of “Funky Town”.
Speaking of encores, one of the highlights from the show was at the encores when the band would emerge from a giant lemon shaped mirror ball at the end of a runway jutted out into the center of the stadium. The lemon would open, accompanied by a DJ remix of their new song “Lemon”, mechanically revealing them and thankfully it worked both nights. On a couple other occasions on this tour, it would malfunction trapping them inside ala Spinal Tap, much to amusement of everyone. This tour would go on well into the following year and it and the band would be immortalized by “The Simpsons” 200th episode where Homer crashed one of their shows to promote himself becoming Springfield’s sanitation commissioner. Hilarity ensued. All and all, both nights were quite the experience and though I still have mixed feelings about U2’s music, no one can deny their talent, relevance, and not admire Bono’s charity work.
Finally, I end this by the recounting of how I spent my night after the end of the second show. I was living in San Francisco as always at the time, but was still working in Oakland doing audio visual at the Oakland Marriott and had to be there at 6 AM the following morning. Knowing that by the time I got home from the show on BART to the time I’d have to get up to get to work on time, I devised the idea to go to work and sleep in the office instead as to maximize the amount of sleep I’d get. I laid out a stack of pipe and drape panels on the floor and fashioned it into a bed. In hindsight, it was not a smart idea since these panels were coated in a fire retardant that was known to cause cancer. Thankfully, I’m still alive and healthy, knock on wood.
It went according to plan, albeit one funny tidbit. Just before midnight, the phone in the office rang and out of instinct, I answered it. I was Assistant Director of the AV guys there at the time, so it just was a reflex. Much to his surprise it was my friend and boss, Eric, who was just calling to remind himself of something business related for the following day. He asked what the holy hell I was doing there so late and I respectfully told him the truth which he laughed about and simply told me to just be discreet about it. To this day, I think that was the only time I ever slept at work, well, at least not overnight.
Marisa Monte, Maritime Hall, SF, Sat., June 21, 1997
Once again, the Maritime would expand my musical horizons by bringing an act in town like Marisa Monte. My only experience with any acts from Brazil had been at the Hall, namely being Gilberto Gil and Jorge Benjor. And like those shows, the Brazilian contingent and all those who love that country and culture in the bay area showed up and were as enthusiastic as ever. I know the bar had no shortage of customers that night. I do remember her having a sweet voice and the lo-fi musicianship and presentation was a stark and welcome contrast to the bombastically huge stadium shows I had just witnessed a couple days prior with U2 in Oakland. This also was one of those rare shows where the Maritime split the audience between floor seats and balcony seats. And though, Marisa remains relatively unknown to Americans, she is revered in her native Brazil having sold tens of millions of albums and given several awards for her work, including four Latin Grammies. She was touring then promoting her third album, “Barulhinho Bom” which had been released the year before on EMI and her previous album, “Verde, Anil, Amarelo, Cor De Rosa E Carvao” made the list of Rolling Stone’s Top 100 Brazilian music albums of all time.
Ali Akbar Khan, Maritime Hall, SF, Sat. June 28, 1997
One of the nice things about my stint at the Maritime is that it afforded me exposure to many musical styles from around the globe. Only a week before this show, we were taken on a little trip to Brazil with Marisa Monte, but this time, we were getting a little something from Bangladesh, though it was still part of India when he was born in 1922. Ali Akbar Khan was legendary for decades in his home nation and the whole subcontinent, but chose to spend his last years in the bay area. At the time of this show, he was already 75 years old, but would live for another 12 years before passing away from kidney failure in San Anselmo where he lived.
Khan was one of the performers at the historical Concert For Bangladesh in 1971 at Madison Square Garden, the benefit put together by George Harrison. He also was the first Indian to receive a genius grant from the MacArthur Fellowship and was nominated five times for a Grammy. That, coupled with a music school in his name founded in San Rafael, and you can imagine that he was well respected in musical circles in the bay area. The show was inspiring. I mean, really, it was civilized, like a classical show. Everybody was seated in the audience and Mr. Khan and his fellow musicians sat Indian style on stage on pillows, calmly, and methodically, playing their traditional instruments with mind bending skill. Khan was a virtuoso on a guitar like instrument called a sarod, a fretless lute looking thing, similar to a sitar. It was a tranquil show, very unusual from my usual diet of highly amplified music. I wish I could see more music like that, uplifting and soothing, as it was inspirational.
D.R.I., Fang, The Idiots, Skinlab, Maritime Hall, SF, Thurs., July 3, 1997
Taking yet another stylistic sharp left turn from the placid Ali Akbar Khan show the previous Saturday, I had the unique pleasure of recording the punk thrash stylings of the one and only D.R.I. For those who don’t know, it is an abbreviation of Dirty Rotten Imbeciles, a named derived from singer Kurt Brecht’s father, who would periodically insult he and his brother, original drummer Eric Brecht, when they rehearsed at home. Though originally from Houston, they relocated to San Francisco in the mid-80s and worked tirelessly to play and make a name for themselves.
The one thing D.R.I. will probably be known for forever is their logo, a street sign silhouette of a figure doing a sort of skanking dance move, surrounded by a circle, appropriately known by them as the “Skanker Man”. Apparently, Eric made the design for a high school art project to make a “corporate logo” and got an A on it, deservedly so. In fact, the elder brother of a high school classmate and neighbor of mine, a fellow named Joe Anderson, had that logo tattooed on his upper arm. I believe he even appeared in one of their music videos, though I can’t say which one. I do know at least that the video for their 1992 song, “Acid Rain”, got on “Beavis & Butthead”. I also distinctly remember the one time I actually saw the Ringling Brothers Barnum & Bailey Circus at the Oakland Coliseum, that one of the fellows following the elephants around, sweeping up their droppings wore a T-shirt of their with that logo on it. Funny, that was really the most distinct memory I have of that circus.
Anyway, it was good to finally see these guys for the first time along with fellow bay area punk thrash legends, Fang. They too had been playing around the bay area for years and were respected, having such notable bands like Green Day, Metallica, and Nirvana covering their songs. It was a fun and rowdy show as you might expect, lots of mosh pit action. The ever-present band Skinlab opened up. They were still pretty new back then, but as I had said before, they were one of those acts that improved as years went on. It being July, meant a new monthly poster and I liked the new one that came out for that month, a haunting cartoon image of Burt from “Sesame Street” holding a decapitated doll of Ernie who was naked from the waist down. I recall seeing it for the first time and joking that the artist that made it made a habit of putting cartoon male genitalia in his art, not knowing that Boots, the Maritime’s fearsome owner was standing next to me. Thankfully, he was in a good mood and laughed about it, saying something like, “Yeah, he’s always putting dicks in these things”.
Sugar Minott, Joe Higgs, Frankie Paul, Critical Youth, Maritime Hall, SF, Fri., July 11, 1997
SETLIST (FRANKIE PAUL) : Fire De Musk Tell, Gunman Friends, 100 Ways, Aleshia, Broken Hearted, Only You, Funny How Time Flies, When You’re Making Love, Major Companies Them Singing, Old Dog, Gangsters Paradise, She Walk And Model, The Pick, Miracle A What, Da Girls Dem Want, Market Basket, Mood Is Mood, I Know The Score, End Of The Road, Gonna Make Her My Girl, Casanova, Head To Toe, Word Up, Only Just Begun
Another all star reggae show at the Hall that night. I was glad to see the legendary singer and mentor to Bob Marley, Joe Higgs as well. Poor guy passed away two years later. The big news about this show, or what would turn out to be big news, was the set from Frankie Paul would later be used for the live album we’d put out of his in 1999. Frankie was smooth as glass that night, a real class act. He’d been born blind as a boy, but had some of his sight partially restored in surgery. Frankie had sang for Stevie Wonder when he visited his school in Jamaica and was impressed by his talent and encouraged him to pursue his singing career and would be known in his country as “The Jamaican Stevie Wonder” Unfortunately, Mr. Paul also passed away at the too young age of 51 just a few years ago.
Not to bring everybody down or anything, but Sugar Minott actually passed away at a relatively young age as well. He was only 54 when he died in 2010. Though Frankie’s set was used like I said for that album we put out, for some reason, Sugar Minott didn’t get his tapes that night. One of the last shows I’d ever record for the Maritime in fact was Sugar Minott when he returned to play the Hall in 2000. I talked to his managers about the recording and had no idea that he’d been taped the time before, not that they were upset about it, quite the contrary. They were even musing that they were looking to record a live album for him at the time. But then they went and talked to Boots about it and things went downhill quickly from there. Boots stormed in the recording room, chewed me out for talking to them at all, then pulled the plug on recording the whole evening, which was sad, since we missed out not only on recording Sugar, but Zulu Spear who were opening. I always liked that band.
Still, Sugar was prolific and recorded albums with several record companies and collaborated with lots of great people. Notably, he sang with the Easy Star All-Stars with their reggae cover albums “Radiodread”, covering Radiohead’s “OK Computer” and “Easy Star’s Lonely Heart’s Dub Band”, covering the Beatle’s “Sgt. Pepper’s”. So, like the others, I’m happy to have seen them when I did. It goes without saying for concert junkies like myself that the longer you live, the more dead musicians you know. One typo on the Maritime monthly poster, and there always was at least one, was the band “Dig Youth” was billed to play and I bet that was meant to be reggae artists Big Youth, who wasn’t there, but a band called Critical Youth was.
Horde ’97: Neil Young & Crazy Horse, Morphine, Primus, Ben Folds Five, Leftover Salmon, Squirrel Nut Zippers, Sky Cries Mary, Big Head Todd & The Monsters, Toad The Wet Sprocket, Shoreline, Mountain View, Fri., July 11, 1997
(PRIMUS) : John The Fisherman, Groundhog’s Day, Duchess & The Proverbial Mind Spread, Those Damn Blue Collar Tweekers, Puddin’ Taine, My Name Is Mud, Jerry Was A Race Car Driver, Shake Hands With Beef, Seas Of Cheese, Over The Falls, Pudding Time, Here Come The Bastards, Tommy The Cat
(MORPHINE) : Early To Bed, Honey White, Mona’s Poem, Sharks, Wishing Well, Swing It Low, Every Night Around 11 O’Clock, Buena, Radar
(NEIL YOUNG & CRAZY HORSE) : Cinnamon Girl, Sedan Delivery, Throw Your Hatred Down, Hippie Dream, From Hank To Hendrix, Helpless, Slowpoke, Like A Hurricane, Powderfinger, Roll Another Number (For The Road), Slip Away, Hey Hey My My (Out Of The Blue, Into The Black)
The H.O.R.D.E., or Horizons Of Rock Developing Everywhere, tour had returned once again to Shoreline, but this time with the notable absence of Blues Traveler, who founded the tour and always been on the bill all the previous years. Why they weren’t there, I can’t say, but they had just released their fifth studio album, “Straight On Till Morning” only ten days before this show and maybe that and planning for future tours was keeping them too busy. Regardless, Neil Young showed up to headline with Crazy Horse and a stellar line up of other artists were in tow to make this one of the more unique festival shows I’d ever see. Blues Traveler would come back anyway and play at Shoreline with Neil that year at the annual Bridge School Benefit.
I had just seen Big Head Todd & The Monsters only two months before this show at the Warfield, so I was familiar with their set and sound and they played well as always. They’re a good band to hear in the afternoon. I was really impressed with the Squirrel Nut Zippers, a old time swinging departure from the more jam band sounds that this tour was known for. The swing music fad in America was already dying down at the time, but I thought they stood on their own, taking more of a ragtime jazz angle than some of the big band sounding ones that were around back then.
Sadly, this would be the final time Morphine would play in the bay area and consequently the last time I’d ever see them play. Mark Sandman would die unexpectedly of a heart attack while touring in Italy, just a few days shy of two years after this show. Poor guy was only 46 years old. Morphine played on the side stage that was erected in Shoreline’s parking lot, so I was able to get up pretty close for this last set of theirs while they changed bands on the main stage. At least I got see fellow bass guitar virtuoso, Les Claypool, play on one bill with them.
Speaking of Les, at long last he and Primus were on stage as well on the same bill as Neil Young. I always had felt that they were birds of a feather and would go well together on a bill, particularly since Neil had a thousand acre ranch in La Honda up in the Santa Cruz mountains and played around the bay area for years, including the aforementioned Bridge School benefits. I thought it strange that Primus never played one of the Bridge shows, though Les did play bass for Tom Waits’ band when he performed at the Bridge show in 2013.
I’d seen Primus many times by then, even having worked as an intern for their manager for a time, but this show was a first for me, being the first time I’d see Primus play with their new drummer, Brain. They parted ways with longtime drummer, Tim “Herb” Alexander, who went on to play with his band, Laundry and even do a stint with the Blue Man Group. I always could sense a strange tension from Herb and the others and his departure was a long time coming. I remember when I was that internship and hearing a story how Herb had been accidentally left behind when the band got on ferry boat going from Europe to England or vise versa and he was understandably pissed about it. Brain was an excellent drummer, having been with The Limbomaniacs, and though his style was similar to Herb’s it felt alien at first, having been so familiar with Primus and their sound with Herb.
Primus had just released the “Brown Album” a mere three days before this show and I was just getting acclimated to the new material. Frankly, I didn’t like it as much as their previous works, but I chalk that up partially to adjusting to the new drummer and to their defense, as the years have passed, a couple of those songs like “Over The Falls”, “Fisticuffs”, and “Duchess & The Proverbial Mind Spread” have really grown on me. But clearly, Primus was veering more into the jam band circles around this time, which was commercially a smart idea, opening them up to fans in those circles, even if it temporarily alienated them from some of their early punkish fans.
Last but not least, there was Neil or as the Pollard brothers liked to refer to him, “Uncle Neil”. Yes, I’d seen the venerable rock legend with these boys so many times by then, he was beginning to feel like one of the family. Notably missing from this show was brother Jeff, who was traveling in Europe at the time on his honeymoon with his lovely wife, Christine. It was a great show I saw, granted, but I’d be more than happy to miss it for Europe, especially if it was my honeymoon. No brainer there. But brothers Mike and Brian were there to accompany me on this one and I appreciated their company as always. Anyway, Neil and the band played a terrific set as always including “Throw Your Hatred Down”, a song off the “Mirror Ball” album Neil did with Pearl Jam.
Unfortunately, this would be the last of the H.O.R.D.E. festival shows I would see. They discontinued the tour the following year, but revived it like other festival tours that ended like Lollapalooza with making it a single weekend show at one location instead of a tour. They did one show for sure in 2015 in Clarkston, Michigan, but I haven’t found any others they have done since. Maybe they’ll do more in the future. We’ll see. Say what want about the so-called jam band scene, I still miss this tour.
Helmet, The Melvins, Skeleton Key, Slim’s, SF, Thur., July 17, 1997
(THE MELVINS) : Boris, It’s Shoved, Bar X The Rocking M, Interstellar Overdrive, Magic Pig Detective, Lizzy, Antidioxidote, Tipping, The Bloat, The Bit, Honey Bucket, Revolve, Hooch, With Teeth, Mombius Hibachi, Sacrifice.
(HELMET) : Like I Care, Wilma, Pure, Driving, Birth Defect, It’s Easy To Be Bored, Milque Toast, Turned Out, Broadcast, Just Another Victim, Crisis King, In The Meantime, (encore), Role Model, Bad Mood, Ironhead
This was an interesting match up pairing Helmet with the Melvins. I’d seen the Melvins a few times by then as an opening act and this would be my fourth time seeing Helmet, the second time headlining at Slim’s, so I knew their music pretty well by then, though I was more familiar with Helmet. I didn’t appreciate then just how long the Melvins had been around and the extent of their catalogue. That, and frankly their songs were more difficult to remember, though they did play a couple interesting covers in their set that night, “Interstellar Overdrive” by Pink Floyd and ending their set with “Sacrifice” by Flipper. I know I’ve said it before, but they are one of those rare acts that consistently improved every time I saw them and though I didn’t like them the first time I saw them opening for Primus at the Greek in ’93, by this time, they were really growing on me. I know I got the Melvins’ and Helmet’s set lists that night, but I’ve since misplaced them.
This was the first of a two night stint at Slim’s and I could only catch this one since I had to work the following night at the Maritime for ELO Part II, quite a different show indeed. Opening this gig was Skeleton Key from New York, headed by Erik Sanko. Erik had worked with John Laurie with the Lounge Lizards, as well as other Empire State notables as They Might Be Giants, Jim Carroll, and Yoko Ono. His eclectic musical chops also lead him to collaborate with the Melvins, which is why I assumed he and his band were on that bill that night. It was a heavy bill, loud as hell as you might imagine. Helmet whipped through the first six songs without even taking a rest. I was really glad I caught this show since this would be the last time I’d see the band with their original line up. They’d just released the album, “Aftertaste” that March, and the band would have an acrimonious break up the following year. Frontman and guitarist Page Hamilton would go on to other projects, even touring as David Bowie’s guitarist for a while. Helmet reformed with Page as its only original member, in 2004, but it would take another 15 years for me to see them again when they did their 30th anniversary tour in 2019. At least that night at the Independent, I made up for lost time since they played 30 songs in honor of the anniversary. At the end of that show, I shouted to Page, “30 more songs!!!”
ELO Part II, Maritime Hall, SF, Fri., July 18, 1997
SETLIST : Turn To Stone, Don’t Wanna, Evil Woman, 10538 Overture, Wild West Hero, Hold On Tight, Rock & Roll Is King, Telephone Line, Showdown, Whiskey Girls, Strange Magic, Calling America, Twilight, Shine A Little Love, Last Train To London, Standin’ In The Rain, Mr. Blue Sky, Ain’t Necessarily So, Eldorado Overture, Can’t Get It Out Of My Head, Livin’ Thing, Sweet Talkin’ Woman, Confusion, Do Ya’, Rockaria
This was a doozy for me, though I knew I wouldn’t dissuade Pete from being at the helm recording this one, though I was happy to assist. ELO, or Electric Light Orchestra, were one of those rare bands that I was into before I was even into music. Along with only Kiss and the Beatles, my brother Alex and I had some of their vinyl albums when we were just boys and it had been so long since I’s listened to their music in 1997, that frankly, I’d forgotten most of their songs. That being said, there was a reason why I hadn’t listened to their music in a long time. Like Kiss, their lyrics were corny to point of being laughable, but unlike Kiss I will say that the quality of their songs were excellent. The soundtrack to “Xanadu” is a perfect example of that. My musical education had a long way to go in so many other directions that forgetting ELO for a time was understandable. So as you can imagine, hearing them again so many years later revived those memories and relit my appreciation for their music.
Now this time, the band was being billed as “ELO Part II”. The original ELO, fronted by Jeff Lynne, had been disbanded since 1986. Jeff had struck a deal with original drummer Bev Bevan to allow him to tour, playing their songs under this new name, though Bev would be sneaky and just call it ELO for some of the gigs, no doubt to drum up attendance. Jeff didn’t appreciate it. Apart from Bev, who was the only original member, the only long time members on the bill were bassist and vocalist Kelly Groucutt and violinist and keyboard player, Mik Kaminski, both who had joined ELO in 1973 and 1974 respectively. With a handful of other ringers, apart from Jeff Lynne, one seeing them for the first time would hardly notice the difference between them and the original band.
Notably missing at this show however was the “Orchestra”. Yes, the Maritime’s monthly poster advertised that they would be playing with a 26 piece band. ELO Part II had done a number of shows by then with such an orchestra, often employing a local orchestra to accompany them. They had even recorded a couple live albums with an orchestra, one in Moscow, the other in Australia. My guess is Boots at the Hall found out how much it would cost and nipped that one in the bud immediately. Just as well. Like I said they’d already done a live albums with an orchestra and honestly, such an orchestra would stand a prayer in hell of fitting on that stage. Keyboardist and string arranger Louis Clark managed to cover the string parts from his synthesizers convincingly enough. It was an evening with the band that night, so they played quite a long time, covering most of the hits.
Back then, ELO was still sort of a golden oldies band, but they would find renewed nostalgic interest soon, having the song “Livin’ Thing” as the final song of the film “Boogie Nights” that came out in theaters that October. “Do Ya’”, though a song predating ELO, would show up in “The 40 Year Old Virgin” and “Mr. Blue Sky” would be in “Guardians Of The Galaxy, Vol. 2”. Eventually, ELO would be recognized for their efforts in 2017 by being inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame. The whole name wrangling between Jeff and Bev would go on, forcing Jeff to call his tour a few years ago as “Jeff Lynne’s ELO”. I wanted to go really. It was at the Oakland Coliseum and I know they would have an orchestra backing them up along with an impressive light show, but the ticket prices were atrociously expensive. Also, apart from Jeff, the only original members were Roy Wood singing back ups and Richard Tandy on piano.
One anecdote which I “Can’t Get It Out Of My Head” (ba-dum-boom!) was the story of the untimely death of ELO’s cello player, Mike Edwards. He wasn’t at the Maritime show, but I can’t help but to share it. In 2010, Mr. Edwards, was in jolly old England, driving on the A381 road between Harbertford and Halwell when a gigantic cylindrical hay barrel weighing almost a ton and a half, rolled down a hill and collided with his van killing him. He was a pretty weird guy in life, dressing in bizarre costumes on stage, playing his cello from time to time with an orange or grapefruit, and even blowing up his cello with pyrotechnics. So I suppose such a fear accident would be an appropriate manner for him to shuffle off this mortal coil.
Yellowman, Sister I-Live, Maritime Hall, SF, Sun., July 20, 1997
SETLIST : Comin’ In From The Cold, You Yellowman, Nobody Move Nobody Get Hurt, Oh Carolina, Holy Mount Zion, Poco Jump, Yo-Yo, Bombastic (Use Your Rubber Rubber), Girl Watcher, Two To Six Supermix, Operation Radication, In A Dis A Time, Lost Mi Love, Me Believe, Summer Holiday, Love Letter, Blueberry Hill, Mister Chin, Yellowman Getting Married, Bam Bam, The Good The Bad & The Ugly, Mad Over Me, Girls Can’t Do What The Guys Do, Still Be A Lady, Zungguzungguguzungguzeng, Romie, Yellow Like Cheese, One Scotch One Bourbon One Beer, Keep On Moving, Jamaica Nice
The set from this show was used to make our third album at the Maritime, “Yellowman : Live At Maritime Hall”, later renamed “Yellowman : Live In San Francsico”. I didn’t know it at the time, like practically every concert that we recorded at the Hall that went on to become an official album and DVD. Our first album with Lee “Scratch” Perry wouldn’t be released until months later, and though there was talk about these recording we were doing ultimately becoming albums, I was skeptical. I’m not from Missouri, but I was waiting for somebody to “Show Me”. The show was billed on the monthly poster with Lady Saw as the headliner, but she wasn’t there for reasons I don’t know.
Yellowman had played the Hall before and was touring again with the Sagittarius Band. Opening was the lovely and talented Sister I-Live, a reliable performer who would open for many of the reggae bills at the Hall and around the bay area. She was born in Jamaica, but came to our neck of the woods in 1984 and has been performing ever since, and is known as “The Dancehall Diva”. Whether she was given that title or if she gave it to herself, I can’t say. Anyway, it was a fun show and as you can see by the setlist, Yellowman covered a lot of ground, doing many songs in a row at a time without stopping. He had a long list of album credits up till then already, but had just released a new album in France called “Freedom Of Speech” with collaborations with several notable reggae stars Junior Reid, Anthony B, Gregory Isaacs, Frankie Paul (who had just played the Hall and his set was also used to make an album), Silver Cat, and Beenie Man. He didn’t play any of the new songs that night though.
I like how the album packaging came out, but am still wary of how Boots mixed it. He had the habit of taking out the natural acoustics of the show recorded through the audience mics and replaced them with studio reverbs and stuff trying to replicate the live experience artificially. It was his Hall and he was in charge, but clearly Pete or Tom Flye should have mixed it and Boots should have stayed focus on running the Hall. But hell, try telling Boots that. Like every dictator, he thought he could do everything himself. Regardless, I was proud of that album. Being the third released, it solidified my resume with album credits to a point where I was feeling real satisfaction from it.
David Grisman Quintet, Mike Marshall & Andy Navell, Maritime Hall, SF, Sat., July 21, 1997
I had seen Mr. Grisman once before playing with Jerry Garcia at the Warfield, but I do believe this was the first time I would see him headlining a show of his own. He had a long list of albums he’d made over his already long career by then, but was just about to release the “Doc & Dawg” album that August, a collaboration with Doc Watson, performing traditional bluegrass songs and a handful of Bill Monroe covers. David admired Monroe so much, that he named one of his sons Monroe. He also had released a compilation album of the Quintets hits the year before called “DGQ20”, commemorating the twentieth anniversary of the band. Grisman had been in the bay area since the 60s and would show up at the Maritime that December for the “Philharmonia” show as well. Like the members of the Dead, folk in the bay area were spoiled to see him play in the neighborhood so often.
We weren’t allowed to record that night for some reason which is strange. Most hippie acts not only allow, but encourage taping from their fans and we had a professional level operation there. It’s a pity. It would have been a good album. The Yellowman show the night before at the Hall actually did go on to become an album and DVD. Still, not being able to record allowed me to relax for the evening and go upstairs and watch the show. Additionally, I was able to get my cassette recorder and tape it myself. Though as you know the quality of these recordings are a far cry from the quality we were doing at the Hall, they were a recording nonetheless and it’s better that it exists than not. There are only a handful of my personal recordings of shows at the Hall, this being one, also others like Curve with The Dandy Warhols and the Sisters Of Mercy. The former had their own monitor board, so we couldn’t tap in with the studio downstairs, the later flat out refusing to allow us to tape. The good news about this show was that there was a special poster made for just this show done by Jimbo Phillips, one of the best poster artists around.
Ben Harper & The Innocent Criminals, Coolbone, War., SF, Thur., July 24, 1997
SETLIST : Glory & Consequence, Burn One Down, Jah Work, Ground On Down, Voodoo Child (Slight Return), Homeless Child, Gold To Me, Fight For Your Mind, Forever, Faded, The Will To Live, Like A King, I Rise, (encore), Widow Of A Living Man, I Shall Not Walk Alone, (encore), Mama’s Trippin’
Ben had graduated to the big leagues. Headlining a venue as big as the Warfield is a milestone for any artist. He had just released the album, “The Will To Live”, that June and though his band, The Innocent Criminals, had toured with him before, now they were being billed along side Ben for the first time. I thought it was a good move. I like that name. Ben was 27 years old at the time and had just gotten married to his first wife. This would be the first of a two day stint at the Warfield for Ben, but I could only go to the first night since I had to work at the Maritime for the String Cheese Incident the following two nights. As luck would have it, both Ben and String Cheese would cover Jimi Hendrix’s “Voodoo Child”.
A real treat opening that night was a band called Coolbone. Hailing from New Orleans, they came up with the rather ingenious idea of merging hip hop with the brass jazz stylings of the Big Easy. OK, maybe it wasn’t their idea originally, but they were the first I’d hear doing it and they did it well. The tuba made for interesting alternative to the bass line. They would a couple covers, like “Movin’ On Up” from the TV show, “The Jeffersons”, and “Use Me”, a funk standard written by Bill Withers, but they had plenty of their own songs and they rocked the house. Coolbone was an easy band to like and though they were an ideal opening act and their debut album, “Brass Hop” was just released on a major label that year, they never got the attention I thought they deserved.
Ben continued from this point on at about the same level of popularity and still retains it to this day. It’s always a pleasure to see him play. The batteries of my recorder were starting to run out near the end of his set, causing the last encore song, “Mama’s Trippin’” to speed up. Thankfully, I got that song during Ben’s soundcheck before the show. That’s one of the reasons I always got as much soundcheck recorded as I could from then on out. Sometimes an artist will even play a song during the soundcheck that they don’t play at the show itself.
Merl Saunders & The Rainforest Band, String Cheese Incident, Maritime Hall, SF, Fri., July 25, 1997
String Cheese Incident, The Mermen, Maritime Hall, SF, Sat., July 26, 1997
SETLISTS : (STRING CHEESE INCIDENT)
FRIDAY : How Mountain Girls Can Love, Mouna Bowa, Lonesome Fiddle Blues, On The Road, Wake Up, ‘Round The Wheel, (encore), Boogie On Reggae Woman
SATURDAY : Lester Had A Coconut, Black Clouds, Rhythm Of The Road, MLT, Little Hands, Dudley’s Kitchen, All Blues, Voodoo Chile, Blackberry Blossom, Born On The Wrong Planet, Land’s End,Drums, San Jose, (encore), Big Mon, Blues Walk, Texas, Johnny Cash
I am technically counting these two shows as the same bill, as it has the String Cheese Incident playing the Maritime both days, the first as an opening act and the second as the headliner. Though the whole jam band invasion had been rising steadily since the death of Jerry Garcia two years before, I had never heard of the String Cheese Incident before these shows. Hailing from Colorado, they had just released their first album, “Born On The Wrong Planet” and also a live album, simply called “A String Cheese Incident” that very year. It was a strange coincidence that both String Cheese and Ben Harper, who played at the Warfield only two days prior to these shows, played a cover of Jimi Hendrix’s “Voodoo Child”. Let’s face it. Everybody loves that song.
One the first night, like I said, they were the opening act for the ever present Merl Saunders and his Rainforest Band. They were a good team, The Incident, who among many influences certainly taking a page from the Dead, and the hippie elder statesman, Merl, who played with the members of the Dead all the time. The second night was also a good combination for different reasons, having the always dependable local band, The Mermen, opening up for them. The Mermen were an interesting contrast in sounds, doing their traditional surf rock, though both acts were undisputedly master instrumentalists. Anyway, one thing they all had in common was that the oil plate projections from the Brotherhood Of Light guys in the balcony went well with all the music.
I was especially blown away with the Incident’s Michael Kang, who played mandolin, guitar, and violin. It is rare to see violin’s in rock bands, and frankly it is tragically rare to see Asian people. I’m not saying that there aren’t many great Asians in rock, believe me there are. I just think there should be more of them in America. I was really impressed by String Cheese and unfortunately wouldn’t see them again until seven years later at the Warfield. They were supposed to be one of the headliners at the doomed Lollapalooza 1998 tour, but I’ll bring up that whole debacle when I get to Lollapalooza ’97, which I attended a month later.
Radiohead, Teenage Fanclub, War., SF, Sun., July 27, 1997
SETLIST : Lucky, My Iron Lung, Airbag, Planet Telex, Exit Music (For A Film), The Bends, Bullet Proof… I Wish I Was, Let Down, Paranoid Android, Karma Police, Nice Dream, Electioneering, Climbing Up The Walls, No Surprises, Talk Show Host, Bones, Just, Fake Plastic Trees
This was an important one, though I failed to realize it at the time. Radiohead had just released “OK Computer” two months before and people were still digesting it. Little did I realize that this album would be considered by so many as the “Sgt. Pepper’s” of the 90’s. Impressive and influential as the album was, I still like “The Bends” better. I got a feeling that if anybody ever reads this, I might get an earful about that comment. People often bicker over what band is better than who, but it takes a real fan of Radiohead to argue with another real fan over which of theirs is better. I don’t know, really. I just think the songs off “The Bends” are catchier. Regardless of how I feel, this would be the last time they’d play a venue this small and have been arena sized ever since and “OK Computer” made them a fortune, as well as bagging them the Grammy for Best Alternative Album.
Opening up were Scotland’s own Teenage Fanclub. Their sixth album, “Songs From Northern Britain”, would be released just two days after this show. Suffice to say, there were plenty of U.K. ex-pats and an entire legion of Britpop people, everyone from Popscene to be sure. Unfortunately, my tape deck ran out of batteries during the show, allowing me to only get Radiohead’s first half of their set and the sound grew progressively faster as the recording went on, the motors going slower and slower. Still, I got all of Teenage Fanclub’s set. I suppose it was appropriate for this tour since Radiohead had a famously disastrous set only a month before when they headlined the Glastonbury Festival for the first time. Apparently, they’re sound was so bad, that they almost abandoned stage completely. When they played the first Outside Lands in 2008 out here, though I wasn’t there, they lost power completely.
Luckily, the sound at the Warfield for them that night was perfect and a good time was had by all. At the end of the show, as I was walking out in the lobby, I was talking to a friend about how expensive shows were and it was becoming more difficult for working class folks like myself to afford them. When I nearly made it to the front door, the members of Metallica walked beside me from the walkway that led to the backstage entrance. I blurted out compulsively, “Except for guy’s like them. They can afford it.” I caught the eye of Kirk Hammett and immediately felt ashamed of myself. Kirk was big up into the shoegazer sound back then and I’d seen him before at shows like Curve and Slowdive. He even got the Cocteau Twins on the main stage for a leg of the Lollapalooza tour the year before. Of course, I’m just jealous of them.
I was furious to discover for such a momentous show that we wouldn’t be getting a poster that night, though one had been made for the show to be given out to the bands and BGP people. I hate it when they do that. They’re foolish to do so as well, since they could have printed more and sold them at the concessions and made a fortune. I certainly would have bought one. And since they don’t, the ones that do turn up for sale on line and at Amoeba cost a bundle. At least Radiohead’s show at the Fillmore the year before had one. And on one final sad note, this would be the last time I’d see Radiohead live, though they still are together and I might get another chance someday. I like Radiohead. I really do and I was lucky to see them three times, once as an opener before the hit it big. But I’m not so big a fan to shell out the money it takes to see them now. Still, I’m happy for them.
The Dandy Warhols, Red Planet, The Radar Brothers, Bottom Of The Hill, SF, Mon., July 28, 1997
SETLIST : Boys Better, Ride, Good Morning, Minnesoter, The Dandy Warhols TV Theme Song, Grunge Betty, I Love You, (Tony, This Song Is Called) Lou Weed, Nothin’ To Do, It’s A Fast Driving Rave-Up With The Dandy Warhols, Genius, Cool As Kim Deal, Not If You Were The Last Junkie On Earth, Be-In, (encore), The Last Time, Every Day Should Be A Holiday
The Dandy’s hadn’t hit the big time yet, but they were about to, so I was glad to catch them play a venue as small as Bottom Of The Hill one last time. Shows like these are particularly gratifying to me. They had just released their second album, “…The Dandy Warhols Come Down” on my birthday less than two weeks before, and like Radiohead the night before touring with their new album, I was still digesting the new material. But that wasn’t hard for this new album. It was excellent and the songs were easy to remember. I’m pretty sure by this time or at least by the next show, Zia had stopped going topless on stage. It broke my horny little heart, but we must move on.
The Radar Brothers were a new band back then just releasing their first album that year. It’s always nice to see a show at Bottom Of The Hill and like Bimbo’s, I don’t go there often enough. The Dandy’s are a good fit for that venue too, maybe even the best fit. The new songs translated well live, especially “every Day Should Be A Holiday” which they ended the show with. That song would be in the soundtrack for the comedy “There’s Something About Mary” the following year. “Boys Better” would also be used in a number of movie soundtracks, including “Good Will Hunting”. That night, they even played a cover of the Rolling Stones’ “The Last Time”, the first time I’d hear them play a cover. One could see the influence the Stones’ early years had on their sound and their fashion sense. So, like Radiohead the night before, this would be the last time I’d see them at a venue this small, though they didn’t get as big as Radiohead. But unlike them, I’d have the pleasure of seeing the Dandy’s many more times since and I’d only have to wait until that December to see them again when they played Slim’s.
The Specials, Undercover SKA with Stark Raving Brad, Fill., SF, Thur., July 31, 1997
SETLIST : Guns Of Navarone, The Dawning Of A New Era, When You Call My Name, Do Nothing, I’m Not Afraid Of Being Afraid, Hey Little Rich Girl, It’s You That I’m Talking To, It’s Up To You, The Man At C & A, unknown, It Doesn’t Make It Alright, Stupid Marriage, unknown, unknown, A Message To You Rudi, Too Much Too Young, Monkey Man, Concrete Jungle, Night Club, Gangsters, Enjoy Yourself, Ghost Town, You’re Wondering Now
This was another important show for me, obviously a “special” one indeed. I grew up listening to ska, primarily because of my brother Alex, and The Specials was clearly one of ska’s greatest bands of all time. Unfortunately, up until this time, I had only seen them once since the first time three years before when they played The Fillmore. The original singers Terry Hall and Neville Staple, along with original keyboardist Jerry Dammers left the band long ago way back in 1981 to form the Fun Boy Three. Staple and a couple others did collaborate with members of The English Beat to make the supergroup Special Beat, and I was lucky enough to see them. But it took all the way till 1994 before Staple got the band back together as The Specials, though they still were missing Terry Hall. He wouldn’t rejoin the band until 2008 and I wouldn’t see him perform with them until 2016, quite a long time to wait.
Opening that night were the bay area’s own Undercover SKA, a reliable ska band that turned up opening for ska acts a lot back then. This time they had percussionist and one man band extraordinaire , Brad Kopp, otherwise known as Stark Raving Brad, in their band. Brad was the son of San Francisco politician and state senator Quentin Kopp and his name was well earned. Brad would prance around his various percussion instruments, occasionally jump into the crowd at gigs, and every once and while get naked doing so. He didn’t this night, but he was also known for being one of the few people who actually jumped from the balcony of the Great American Music Hall to the stage without being injured. I doubt he would have had as much luck jumping from the balcony of the Fillmore. It’s a little higher and I doubt security there would have failed to restrain him.
To finally see The Specials again came as a welcome relief, especially since they played a wide range of their songs that night. Though Terry Hall wasn’t with them, Roddy Radiation on guitar again sang his parts just fine. They opened with a cover of The Skatalites instrumental ska masterpiece, “The Guns Of Navarone”, and also did covers of Toots & The Maytals’ “Monkey Man” and Tommy Dorsey’s “Enjoy Yourself”. There was plenty of skanking about on the dance floor and I was all smiles. Sadly, there was no poster that night to mark the occasion and that was the second time The Fillmore left me empty handed with this band. July was a good month though and this was a great show to end it on.
Mahlathini & The Mahotella Queens, Yacine, Fill., SF, Wed., Aug., 6, 1997
It was one of those rare occasions where The Fillmore hosted music from around the world, this time the venerable Simon “Mahlathini” Nkabinde from South Africa. He was a national treasure in his home country, known as the “Lion Of Soweto”, his style of music called mbaqanga, the Zulu word for porridge or steamed cornbread. Mbaganga is a fusion of traditional Zulu, Sotho, Shangaan, and Xhosa music and Mahlathini was famous for his raspy, deep baritone goading voice. Fortunately, when Paul Simon released “Graceland” in 1986, there was a surge of interest in South African music and demand for his kind of music overseas exploded.
I was impressed by their joyful music, skillfully played and their bright colorful traditional native apparel. One look at these guys would make anybody feel underdressed. He wore a leopard skin over his chest, fur amulets and leggings, and a skirt of animal tails and beads around his bald head. The Mahotella Queens were equally impressively dressed and they kept the energy level high all night with their impeccable dance moves and voices. It wasn’t a big crowd, so it wasn’t a complete surprise that there was no poster that night, though I thought they totally deserved one. Seriously, anybody who comes to play The Fillmore from that far away should get one just for making the trip. Sadly, Malathini suffered from diabetes and this would be the last tour he’d do, making this his final bay area appearance before he died in 1999. Poor guy was only 61 years old.
Jean-Luc Ponty, Go Van Gogh, Maritime Hall, SF, Thurs., August 7, 1997
It was only a few shows before this when I saw another talented violinist at the Maritime, Michael Kang of String Cheese Incident. So rare to see acts with violins and I got two in two weeks. Jean-Luc Ponty had been around for years, but in my profound ignorance of jazz, hadn’t heard of him until this show. Though like Kang, had played an eclectic variety of styles, so really jazz is often used as a blanket term for guys who can pretty much play anything. Unfortunately, Mr. Ponty had just released a live album in Detroit the year before, “Live At Chene Park”, so it wasn’t a shock that nothing came of our recordings that night. Still, it was a classy, mellow show, “quiet storm” kinda stuff, and it went smooth and it also was an interesting juxtaposition from seeing Mahlathini at The Fillmore the night before.
Zen Guerilla, Born Naked, Transmission Theater, SF, Fri., August 8, 1997
SETLIST (BORN NAKED) : Wonka, Man Kills, All I Say (Minus 1), Weeds, Instead, Leary, Prayer, John Henry, Reality
I mainly went to this show because of Born Naked, the band my former roommate Patrick managed. Though I had moved away from the Mission to the Tenderloin that February, I was still in touch with Pat and the others and I’d seen Born Naked a few times by then. And they were good as always. I think this was the only time I saw a show at the Transmission Theater, or at least the only one I can remember. It was a space across the street from Slim’s, next to Paradise Lounge. And like those venues, it was a modestly sized, but cavernous, warehouse kind of place.
This would be the first time I’d see Zen Guerilla and I was very impressed. They were just signed on Alternative Tentacles label a few years after I was an intern there, but I hadn’t had the pleasure of checking them live before this. I really dug their sound, the sort of thrashy blues-punk stuff that only a few bands like The Jesus Lizard, Butthole Surfers, John Spencer Blues Explosion, and Turbonegro can pull off. Likewise, they were loud as fuck as well. Sadly, I only have the first two songs of their set. I think I just meant to record Born Naked, since I rarely leave a show before it’s finished, even if I hate the last act. It’s a pity Zen Guerrilla broke up in 2003. Though I know I saw them at least a couple times after this show, I’m pretty sure this was the only time I recorded them.
Toots & The Maytals, Strictly Roots, Benejah, Maritime Hall, SF, Sat. August 9, 1997
SETLIST : Overture, Get Up Stand Up, Pressure Drop, Pomp & Pride, Time Tough, One Eye Enos, (Take Me Home) Country Roads, Bam Bam, My Love Is So Strong, Sweet & Dandy, Funky Reggae, Broadway Jungle, (encore), Roots Rock Reggae, 54-46 (That’s My Number)
I believe this was the first time I’d see Toots for sure. I think I caught him at one of the Reggae Sunsplash shows at the Greek in Berkeley once, but it was so long ago. I was so young and presumably high as fuck. But this one is the real thing for sure, the first of a few times Toots would play the Hall and I would see him a number of other times in the years to come. Writing about this show comes at a somber time concerning Toots, since he died from COVID only two months before I’m currently writing this. He made it to 77 years old and I was lucky enough to catch his last bay area show at Stern Grove last year and I am happy to report it was a joyous occasion as he always delivered.
Indeed, after that show and comparing it to the one at the Maritime, one would wonder if Toots aged at all. He always looked the same and gave the same warmth and energy each and every time he performed. For those who don’t know who Toots is, he is one of the founders of reggae music, even coining the word “reggae”. The story goes that in Jamaican patois, the word “streggae” means dressing poorly and when he was just getting started as a singer, Toots had a song called “Do The Streggae”, singing about a poorly dressed woman. It eventually got abbreviated to reggae and the word stuck as a description of the style of music he and his contemporaries were playing. Toots would go on to find fame, especially with the film score for “The Harder They Come”, which used his songs, “Sweet & Dandy” and “Pressure Drop”. Ironically, I’d just seen The Specials at The Fillmore a week and a half before this show and they did a cover of Toots’ “Monkey Man”, though Toots didn’t play that song at his show. At least I got to hear it from one of them.
Opening that night was the ever present Strictly Roots, a reggae act from Sonoma County fronted by a guy called Ras Jahson. Though Jahson was white, he had an impressive head of golden blond dreadlocks and a beard. Seriously, the guy looked like Chewbacca. They would open for practically every reggae act that came to town over the years. Toots would ultimately steal the show. There’s no way to upstage this guy. I saw researching this that Dave Matthews would have Toots as his opening act on some of his gigs the next year in 1998 and I thought that was brave, if not foolish. God bless Dave for his taste in his opening acts, even selecting fellow reggae contemporary Jimmy Cliff to open for him on some gigs, also one that is impossible to upstage. Toots’ energy was infectious and impossible not to dance to, earning him his reputation as Jamaica’s equivalent to Otis Redding.
If I would have one complaint about Toots and I think we’d all agree that this is a small and forgivable complaint is the way he holds his microphone. He has the terrible habit of holding his mic at least a foot away from his mouth when he’s singing, swinging the mic back and forth as he dances on stage. As this might not be a problem to us recording guys downstairs, it is a nightmare for the monitor guy. We can compress the mic and turn it up, but the poor stage monitor guy can only turn it up so high before it starts feeding back. This habit of Toots’ has always been a mystery to me, since it’s a foregone conclusion that Toots knows this and does it anyway. On that last show at Stern Grove, I saw to my relief and no doubt to Kim, the monitor engineer on that show, that Toots wore a headset mic for part of the show when he was also playing acoustic guitar, keeping the mic close and immobile on his face. At least at that last show, we would get a break from the feedback. Anyway, the Maritime show was a great one to end a four show run that week and as usual, Pete’s mix on the recording came out flawless.
Monaco, Closer, Fill., SF, Mon., August 11, 1997
I was a little familiar to the work of Peter Hook, having heard some of his music in the bands Joy Division and New Order. Of course, I had no chance to see Joy Division, since the band’s singer Ian Curtis, hung himself in 1980 when I was only eight years old. I wouldn’t get to see New Order play until four years after this show in 2001 when they were at Moby’s Area One festival with Billy Corgan from Smashing Pumpkins joining them on guitar.
Monoco was a natural extension of New Order, their songs would often be mistaken for New Orders songs. Peter was playing bass slung down low on his body as always and sang as he did in New Order. They walked on stage with a funny meditation instructional recording playing over the PA as they got ready. One couldn’t help themselves but follow along, closing their eyes, taking a deep breath, and such. Not many bands play weird stuff before they get on stage, mostly just having the lights go out and get on stage in silence. I think more bands should do it. It adds an extra little something for the audience to remember from the show and is an insight to the humor and mindset of the artist.
They opened their set with the single “What Do You Want From Me?”, from the band’s debut album, “Music For Pleasure” which had just been released that June. Monoco would go on to make one more eponymous album, but this would be the only time I’d see them. Tensions in the band between Peter and his guitarist David Potts would cause them to part ways three years later, though Potts would rejoin Peter in 2013 when started his new band Peter Hook & The Light. There was one hiccup that night when my recorder ran out of batteries during the opening act, Closer, (an odd name for an opening act), but I replaced the batteries in time for Monoco and was able to get their set in its entirety. It was a short set that night, since Monaco only had one album at the time, just eight songs in the main set and two songs for the encore.
Sinead O’Connor, Screaming Orphans, War., SF, Tues., August 12, 1997
SETLIST : The Emperor’s New Clothes, You Made Me The Thief Of Your Heart, I Am Stretched On Your Grave, A Perfect Indian, This Is A Rebel Song, John I Love You, This Is To Mother You, Petit Poulet, Thank You For Hearing Me, In This Heart, Fire On Babylon, The Last Day Of Our Acquaintance, Redemption Song, He Moved Through The Fair
I had only seen Sinead one time before and it only counted halfway since she was just singing along with Peter Gabriel at the WOMAD festival in Golden Gate Park back in 1993. This would be the first time I’d see her headline her own show and it was a long time coming. She was originally supposed to be on the line up for Lollapalooza in 1995, but she quit the tour and was replaced by Elastica. The reasons for her departure still seem unclear. Some say she was at odds like most people were on that tour with Courtney Love, who was the second to the last act on that tour with her band, Hole. Sinead claims that she left because of a chronic illness that kept coming over her during the tour, which she would later find out to be caused by her pregnancy which she hadn’t even known about. That pregnancy would become her daughter Roisin.
In the years after, she would have a falling out with Roisin’s father, irish journalist John Waters, and they would battle it out in a long, bitter custody fight, which ultimately left Roisin in Ireland with her father. It had been five years since her controversial appearance on Saturday Night Live where she ripped up the picture of the Pope, but she was still getting shit about it. It would take another few years for the defenders of the Catholic church to eat their words when all the sexual abuse allegations started coming out, vindicating her. So, suffice to say, Sinead was in a difficult transition in her life during this time.
She already had a change in style as well as appearance by this time. Sinead had just released her “Gospel Oak” EP, a collection of songs, quieter and more acoustic than her previous work. In appearance, she decided to grow her hair out a bit, not long, but enough for a pixie cut. This was a big deal since her shaved head was such an iconic look for her and a revolutionary fashion statement when she was new. Back in the 80’s, that was considered a big deal. She would eventually go back to her shaved head, complaining that she was tired of being mistaken for Enya. So, in a way this was a special show, seeing her for the only time with a head of hair. She wore a pretty blue Kimono dress that night and preformed barefoot as well.
This was an extra special show since I was accompanied ushering by my sister Erica. I knew she was a big fan and I’m glad that she could come along. It is a very, very rare occasion when I’m able to get her out to a show. This was the first show of a two day stint of sold out shows for Sinead. I couldn’t do the second day since I was working that night at the Maritime for Black Uhuru. The opening act was the Screaming Orphans, an irish rock band with a quartet of female singers. They would go on in the show to be Sinead’s band and the singers harmonies melded exquisitely with her voice.
Sinead played four of the six songs from the new EP and a variety of her old tunes, but conspicuously omitted her cover of Prince’s “Nothing Compares 2U”, the one that made her famous. She dedicated the new song, “Petit Pulet” to a boy who gave her a teddy bear that day. Her voice was the real star of the show, haunting and etherial. I’ll never forget that night. My recording came out pretty good, but I was relieved to find a bootleg of it as well of much better quality. The icing on top of the evening was the poster, one of my favorites now, all green with a celtic symbol. Erica had hers framed and put it up at her place. I’m glad my sister and I made it to that show, since we’d have to wait another ten years before she’d come to town and play the Symphony Hall and you better believe we were at that one with bells on.
Black Uhuru, Maritime Hall, SF, Wed., August 13, 1997
I’d had the pleasure of seeing Black Uhuru for the first time two years before this at The Edge in Palo Alto, but now I had the honor in assisting with recording them. It being a reggae show, Pete was at the helm that night, perfectly in his element. These were turbulent years for the band. The frontman Derrick “Duckie” Simpson had been feuding with other band members Don Carlos and Garth Dennis to the point where the band splintered. They were going their separate ways, both using the name Black Uhuru, until it finally came to head and they went to court. Duckie won in the end and got the name, but this Black Uhuru was the version with Don Carlos. I was lucky to catch them playing the Hall again so soon, after just being there four months before, but I had to miss that one since I was seeing Kula Shaker that night at The Fillmore.
He was touring with the legendary Sly & Robbie, playing drums and bass respectively. I’d always hoped that we’d make an album from this show, but no such luck. Still, we would eventually put out albums for Michael Rose, Junior Reid, and the aforementioned Don Carlos. All three sang for Black Uhuru separately for a time. This was turning out to be a busy month, this show being the seventh in eight days and I would go on to do two days of the Lollapalooza festival two days after this. I don’t recall any opening act for that night. None was specified on the monthly poster, but my friend Matt who was there that night assured me that it was a late one, going to 3 AM. Reggae shows usually ran late at the Hall, but that one was a doozy.
Lollapalooza ’97: The Orb, Tool, Snoop Doggy Dogg, James, Tricky, Julian Marley & Damian Marley with The Uprising Band, Failure, Demolition Doll Rods, Orbit, Concord Pavilion, Concord, Fri., August 15, 1997
SETLISTS (JULIAN & DAMIAN MARLEY) : Mr. Marley, Rastaman Vibration, Jr. Gong, Chase Those Crazy Baldheads, unknown, I Shot The Sheriff, unknown, Get Up Stand Up, Exodus
(JAMES) : Five-O, Say Something, Laid, Tomorrow, Jam J, Honest Joe, Greenpeace, Waltzing Along, Sit Down, Come Home
(TOOL) : Hooker With A Penis, Stinkfist, 46 & 2, Undertow, Eulogy, H., Sober, Third Eye, Opiate, Aenima
Lollapalooza ’97: The Orb, Tool, Snoop Doggy Dogg, James, Tricky, Julian Marley & Damian Marley with The Uprising Band, Failure, Orbit, Shoreline, Mountain View, Sat., August 16, 1997
SETLISTS (JULIAN & DAMIAN MARLEY) : Same as Friday
(JAMES) : Same as Friday
(TOOL) : Hooker With A Penis, Stinkfist, 4 Degrees, 46 & 2, Eulogy, Pushit, Sober, No Quarter, Merkaba, Opiate, Aenima
There are many who consider this year of Lollapalooza to be the weakest line up of its history, but I think that such an opinion is a gross oversimplification. Granted, it was the last year Lollapalooza continued as a touring festival with the exception of 2003. Since then, it has been anchored firmly in Chicago’s Grant Park as a single weekend festival like Outside Lands. It is also true that this year was clearly unsuccessful commercially, selling less than half of available tickets at practically every venue it visited, the Pavilion and Shoreline included. I enjoyed these shows and I think the talent involved was comparable to other years, but the tour had a couple notable disadvantages.
First and foremost, The Orb was slated to be the headliner. I love The Orb and they certainly deserve credit for their talent and innovation in the early days of rave music, but to have them follow Tool was a big mistake. After Tool finished on both days, the crowd evacuated just about as fast as they could leaving just a comparative handful of fans left over to watch them, myself included. Both shows were already less than half full, but by the time The Orb got on stage, I figure there was less than a thousand people left at both shows. It was one of those rare occurrences where there were so few people left over, that the ushers gave up and just let people from the lawn area come down front to the seats. Don’t get me wrong, this wasn’t entirely a bad thing. Having these entire amphitheaters to be enjoyed by such a few people is a rare occurrence and having The Orb to ourselves sort of felt like an after party. Still, it couldn’t have been a boost to The Orb’s ego.
One other disadvantage this tour had was the loss of Korn, who were on the bill in the beginning of the tour, but had to drop out. Munky, their guitarist came down with a case of viral meningitis which he thankfully recovered from eventually. Korn wasn’t a huge draw, despite the success of their most recent album “Life Is Peachy”, but their performance would have elevated the tour’s standing and definitely would have got the mosh pit livelier. Their withdrawal had been so recent, that they were still listed in the ads when the tickets went on sale. To make matters worse, to compensate for their absence, the other acts before Korn were bumped up a time slot ahead and the first band to play instead was Failure, being promoted from their spot on the second stage. As you might of read, I’m not the biggest fan of that band and having them as the first act of the day felt a poor choice, especially when other tours had such strong openers previously like Rollins Band, Lush, Rage Against The Machine, and Green Day.
Third, was the choice of second stage acts. They had some other interesting acts on other legs of the tour like Porno For Pyros, Beck, and the Eels, but the ones on this leg where underwhelming, especially the Demolition Doll Rods. They are one of the few rock bands that I actually hate. Other years, there had been excellent side stage acts like Cypress Hill, Stereolab, The Dirty Three, Shonen Knife, and The Melvins just to name a few. On other legs of this tour, there were different acts headlining instead of The Orb, like Devo and The Prodigy, both of which would have been wiser choices, though probably still suffered the same mass exodus The Orb suffered after Tool finished their set.
Speaking of “exodus”, one inspired choice of acts on this tour was Julian & Damian Marley. Both are sons of the late reggae icon Bob Marley, though from different mothers. As most people know, Bob liked to screw around. Damian is the youngest of Bob’s kids. He was only two years old when his father died of cancer in 1980 and was only nineteen when I saw him on these shows. He had been singing for a few years, but had just released his first album, “Mr. Marley”, the year before this. He had the nickname “Jr. Gong” which a title of one of his songs, derived from his father’s nickname of Tough Gong. Speaking of names, it turns out Damian’s name was originally spelled “Damien”, but his father changed it after seeing the horror film “The Omen 2”. Apparently, he was so freaked out about him sharing the same name as the antichrist, that his dying wish was that his son’s name be legally changed so they didn’t share it.
Anyway, it was a pleasure to finally see reggae represented at this festival, to my knowledge the only time a reggae act made it to the main stage. They did a couple of their original songs, but mostly it was covers of the dad’s stuff. It was a good choice. Reggae is good music for an early spot on a sunny outdoor show, gets people smoking herb and dancing. On a side note, I actually caught the eye of the Marley brothers as I was walking into the Shoreline show. I was almost at the gate up front when I was passing by a service ramp that went backstage and they were walking up it. Instinctually, I raised my hand up and waved at them, smiling and cheering at them, congratulating them on their set from the Pavilion the day before. They returned the smile and wave and we went on our merry ways. It felt good, but I admit I felt a little self conscious about it at first, doing it impulsively.
An interesting and I dare say unpredictable pic for the next act was James. Their music is so cheerful and poppy, that it seemed almost too eclectic for such a so-called “alternative” festival. Not that it was unwelcome, it wasn’t. Indeed, I was relieved to see them, having been denied seeing them earlier that year when they were supposed to play The Fillmore. Poor Tim Booth, the band’s singer, suffered a neck injury doing his spastic dancing during a show and had to cancel that tour, but was well enough to get picked up for the Lollapalooza tour later in the year. It was interesting to watch Tim do the shows in a neck brace and black cowboy hat though, an interesting look for him. One would think that his injury would be a cautionary example to Tricky to take it easy on their neck when performing.
Unlike the brothers Marley, Tricky was a more problematic choice to go on next. I love Tricky and his music, but his stuff doesn’t exactly translate to a middle of the day slot on an outdoor festival. The Jesus & Mary Chain had the same problem. For some reason, their music feels like something you should listen to at night and indoors. Still, like I said, I love his music and can’t take my eyes of of him when he plays, his back turned to the audience and his head shaking back and forth like a nightmare out of “Jacob’s Ladder”. Tricky would go on to open for fellow Lollapalooza act Tool in 2001 on their “Lateralus” tour, one of the few opening acts that Tool chose that I actually enjoyed.
One of the shining moments of this tour was that I finally got to see Snoop. Back then, he was still known as Snoop Doggy Dogg and he had just released “Tha Doggfather”, the follow up album to his blockbuster debut album, “Doggystyle”. Snoop was still distancing himself from a murder charge which he had just been acquitted the year before, the basis of the song “Murda Was The Case”, which he played in his set. Furthermore, he was pulled over in 1993 by the cops and they found a gun in his car. He had just settled that charge that February, agreeing to record three PSAs, pay a $1000 fine, and serve three months probation. That, and the assassination of Tupac Shakur, Dr. Dre leaving Death Row records, and the increasing legal heat being brought on by Suge Knight, influenced Snoop to move on from the whole “gangsta” scene. After all, he had just married his girlfriend that June and just had his second child with her that February as well. Lollapalooza had always been a perfect opportunity for musical acts to gain a more diverse audience demographically and Snoop playing this tour was a wise career move. Live, Snoop’s sets are always fun. Everybody is wasted and nobody in the house had more to smoke than Snoop. Strange, listening to Snoop rap live. He always seems to be just a microsecond behind the beat, but somehow it just feels right.
Then there was Tool. “Aenima” had been out over a year and they had already completed a tour with it, but they still weren’t arena big yet. If only this Lollapalooza had taken place a year or two later, the attendance might have been full. Still, they were in perfect form, their musical chops already expanding into such epic extended sagas such as “Third Eye” which they played on the first day and “Pushit” and their brilliant cover of Led Zeppelin’s “No Quarter” which they played on the second day. This was also the time when their singer Maynard was starting to wear weird costumes for his performances. For these shows, he came out as sort of a freakish “Peg Bundy” look, with a giant beehive red wig, black leather bra, garters, and knee high platform boots. I would later learn that he did this partially because he was tired of people recognizing him in public and pestering him. He would in later tours extend this strategy further, but simply singing on a riser near the back of the stage next to the drummer and not be lit by a spotlight, mostly being backlit by the band’s graphic displays.
But like I said, after they were done, almost everybody filed out, leaving the rest of us to watch The Orb. It reminded me of the time Live 105’s BFD festival chose The Knack to be the final act of the night, following the Rollins Band in 1994. The same thing happened. Even I left the show early for that one, a very, very rare thing for me to do. I remember being with my girlfriend Lisa on the second day at Shoreline watching The Orb finish the festival. We were down in the seats and even though it was August, Shoreline still was chilly that night and we had to snuggle to stay warm. It was the end of the line for Lollapalooza for a while. The tour would live again in 2003 with founder Perry Farrell’s triumphant return headlining with his band, Jane’s Addiction, the band that headlined the first tour. But it wasn’t enough to keep it going and the disastrous failed attempt to get the 2004 tour off the ground is a whole other story. I leave that one for when I write about the 2003 show.
Corrosion Of Conformity, Machinehead, Fu Manchu, Maritime Hall, SF, Tues., August 19, 1997
SETLIST (MACHINEHEAD) : Davidian, Take My Scars, Struck A Nerve, Ten Ton Hammer, The Frontlines, Blood For Blood, unknown, Old, Violate, Hard Times, Real Eyes Realize Real Lies
This was a great line up that night. Doesn’t get much heavier than this. It had been since June and the Trulio Disgracias show since Pete let me have the reins for the night down in the recording room, though he let me record a number of the opening acts since then. I’d never seen Corrosion Of Conformity before, but I’d heard of them and seen their logo around. They had been nominated for the Best Metal Performance Grammy for their latest album, “Wiseblood”, but were defeated by Tool, who as luck would have it, I’d just seen at Lollapalooza ’97 the previous weekend. I had also never seen Fu Manchu before, but I was very impressed by their music, very talented guys. They really deserve more credit as a band.
The Maritime was fortunate to have Machinehead play there so often. They had just played there earlier that year in April and would play there again, headlining the show the following year in September. At this show, it would be the last tour with their original guitarist Logan Mader, but the first with their new drummer Dave McClain. They got the crowd whipped up big time, quite a mosh pit for their set. The lunacy continued into Corrosion’s set. The Maritime had a very small gap between the stage and the crowd that was only waist high for security and the camera guys. It took very little effort for guys to hop on stage and stage dive and such and security caught maybe half the guys that made it up at most shows if they were on the ball. They would use a proper portable metal barricade eventually. I’ll never forget at this show at one instance where a fan made it on and was dragged off stage. Woody Weatherman, the guitarist got super pissed about it, tried kicking the security guy while playing his guitar, followed him into the wings, and had some heated words with him.
Echo & The Bunnymen, Black Lab, GAMH, SF, Thur., August 21, 1997
SETLIST : I Wanna Be There (When You Come), Don’t Let It Get You Down, Just A Touch Away, Rescue, Bedbugs & Ballyhoo, I’ll Fly Away, Altamont, People Are Strange, The Killing Moon, The Cutter, Lips Like Sugar, Over The Wall, Nothing Lasts Forever, Back Of Love, Do It Clean
I had never seen Echo & The Bunnymen before this show, but I knew of their reputation and a handful of their songs, particularly their cover of The Doors’ “People Are Strange”. That cover was the opening song for the credits of the film, “The Lost Boys”, filmed in Santa Cruz, and we were lucky enough to hear them play it in their set that night. My good friend and neighbor Liz was with me watching the show. Liz grew up in Santa Cruz and was actually acquainted with some of the street punks who were in the background during those credits. She was a genuine fan of Echo & The Bunnymen and it was her first time seeing them live as well. Apart from that song, I only knew them from the song, “The Puppet”, which they played in the rock concert documentary, “Arrg! A Music War” and a couple of the bigger hits like “The Cutter” and “The Killing Moon”. The band hadn’t toured in 10 years, but since I’d never seen them before, I didn’t know what I was missing, though certainly their die hard fans were relieved. They had already been together for ten years since they formed in 1978, when their singer Ian McCulloch left the band in 1988 and their original drummer Pete de Freitas was killed in a motorcycle accident the following year.
The band tried carrying on anyway with new singer, Noel Burke, but never generated the same interest, being by Ian with the name, “Echo & The Bogusmen”. It didn’t help that calling somebody a “Berk” in England is, shall we say, not nice and I’ll leave it at that. Ian and the guitarist, Will Sargent, formed a band in the interim called Electrafixion and when original bassist Les Pattinson joined them, they sort of shrugged, said what the hell, gave into the pressure from their old fans, picked up their original band name, and recorded a new album, “Evergreen”. The new album had just been released only a month before that July on the 14th, the day before my birthday. The new songs were very good, but being new and their just getting their sea legs again touring, they opted to play smaller venues on this tour, leading them to play the Great American, which holds just shy of 500 people. I was lucky then to just live down the block from the venue, so I was able to get tickets in person the day they went on sale. Being so close to the Great American got me into a lot of shows there I wouldn’t have been so fortunate if I wasn’t. Not being so familiar with the band, I didn’t appreciate the momentous gravity of their return.
Opening that night was a band called Black Lab, who despite being signed to Geffen for their debut album, never really took off and I never saw them again. When Echo got on, Ian maintained his usual persona, smoking cigarettes all the way through the set, despite the indoor smoking ban that California had for a few years. He also was wearing a thick, fur lined jacket even though it was sweltering in there. The Great American gets pretty steamy during the summer months, especially when the show is sold out. Ian’s smoking and that coat emphasized Ian’s smarmy, vampirish charisma. I could see why he was such a good front man. He probably needed that big coat to help fill out his form, being always skinny as a beanpole. Between the sweat and the smoke, that coat must have reeked to high heaven. They played a lot of the new songs that night, seven out of the album’s twelve, but they played about an equal number of their old hits. Like I said, this tour was just getting the band’s collective feet wet again, but I wouldn’t have to wait long to see them again. They would come back and play the Warfield, a venue that holds over five times as many people, just three months later.
Giant Robot II, Idiot Flesh, Korean Drum Ensemble, Maritime Hall, SF, Fri., August 22, 1997
This was a very colorful and remarkably eclectic show, even for the Maritime. I had heard about the guitar virtuoso Brian Patrick Carroll, otherwise known as Buckethead, before, but hadn’t had the pleasure of hearing his music, mush less seeing him perform live. He had collaborated with a number of musicians before forming the Giant Robot II band, even auditioning to play guitar for the Red Hot Chili Peppers in 1993, losing it out to Arik Marshall. When you get past the striking visual image of this incredibly tall, lanky man with the KFC bucket on his head and the Michael Myers-like white mask and listen to him, one can’t be helped but be overwhelmed at the talent of this fellow. This is a guy who can really shred, the kind of guy who does little else all day but play guitar to reach that level of skill. In addition to his skills, he had Brian “Brain” Mantia on drums. Brain had just recently joined Primus as well, and he, Buckethead, and Les Claypool would eventually go on to form the Bucket Of Bernie Brains band years later with keyboardist Bernie Worrell.
Opening that night was a group of Korean drummers, simply called the Korean Drum Ensemble. These guys played a traditional genre of music from their native country called Samul Nori, sitting on the floor with a couple of gongs and handheld drums of various sizes. To believe that choice of opener was out of left field couldn’t possibly prepare me for what came after though. Idiot Flesh had gone under my radar up until then for which I was grateful, not because they weren’t excellent. They were. But not knowing about them at all led to one of my most potent rock & roll memories.
Pete was there that night, but by then he was allowing me to do all the openers when he was in the house. He had stepped out during the drummers and I was sitting in the recording room calmly enjoying them as the ADATs rolled. About halfway through their set I felt the presence of someone else in the room and I glanced over my shoulder to see who it was and got the shock of my life. There to my immediate left was Idiot Flesh’s bassist, Dan Rathbun, dressed up in his costume which is practically indescribable, but I’ll give it a go. His face was painted up in white with clown like designs around his eyes and he was wearing some kind of matching body stocking. Protruding from his head was a bulbous headpiece with concentric black and white, circular, horizontal stripes. That thing must have been at least a foot long dangling over his head.
So, Pete had led him into the recording room and I didn’t hear them come in. I almost leapt out of my chair at the sight of him. I apologized and he was gracious and slightly amused about it as was Pete. Anyone who knows me well knows that I am easily startled anyway, but that moment is etched into my brain for life. I may be be on my deathbed, hopefully many, many years from now, and even if was brain dead with senility, I will never get the image of Dan lurking over my shoulder. In addition to that memory, I am grateful that I got to see them, for their music was inspirationally weird and they would soon disband after this show. They had just released “Fancy”, their third and final album that year. The good news is that Dan would go on with fellow bandmates, Nils Frykdahl on vocals and guitar and drummer David Shamrock, to form Sleepytime Gorilla Museum, an equally weird and talented band that I would have the pleasure of seeing several times afterward.