Molotov, Ozomatli, Fill., SF, Sun., December 6, 1998
I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect from this show having never heard of either band. This was a sight unseen show, but at first glance, I thought with a name like Molotov, maybe they’re a punk band, maybe even Russian. But I was wrong, for they were from Mexico City, though their music did have some punk elements to it. They even did a surprising cover of “Anarchy In The U.K.” by the Sex Pistols near the end of their set. Molotov did an interesting mix of rap and rock, singing both in English and Spanish. They were still pretty new, having released their second album “Donde Jugaran Las Ninas?”, meaning “Where will the girls play?”, the year before and an album of remixes of those songs called “Molomix” earlier that year. The album cover of the former showing a young woman’s legs in a school uniform raised a few eyebrows back home and some stores wouldn’t sell it. Apparently, the name of the album is a humorous homage to fellow Mexican rockers Mana who had an album called, “Donde Jugaran Los Ninos?”, ninos meaning boys for y’all who don’t know.
Not that I have any grasp of Spanish other than some key words and phrases. I took German in high school and French in collage. Naturally, being a Californian, Spanish would have been much more useful especially at this show, since both bands spoke to the crowd in that language mostly. They did have one song halfway through their set called, “Chinga Tu Madre”, which I did know the meaning of the title. If you don’t know what it means, let’s just say it’s a song about the Oedipal Complex and leave it at that. They opened their set with an interesting re-working of Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody” which they called, “Rap, Soda Y Bohemia”, rapping verses between snippets of the original.
Though I really enjoyed Molotov’s rowdy set, I was particularly impressed by the opening act, Ozomatli, and I dare say that they even stole the show a little. Their name is a Nahuatl word from their astrological symbol of the monkey, which also serves as a god of dance, fire, the new harvest, and music. They were brand new back then, having just released their debut self-titled album that June. Ozomatli had been a bunch of guys trying to organize a worker’s union in L.A. before that who didn’t receive recognition, but were given the the lease of an abandoned building for one month in consolation. There they formed this band and before you know it, they were touring with everybody, even Carlos Santana. In fact, they had just played The Fillmore two nights before this opening for Los Lobos, a show I’d have liked to have seen, but was working across town at the Maritime recording The Black Crowes.
Incidentally, it had been a hell of a week, this night ending a six concert in a row run. Quite a variety of acts that week. Like Los Lobos and Molotov, Ozomatli would change seamlessly between genres and make it their own. There are few bands that new which would make that kind of impression on me. Naturally, I didn’t know their songs or their setlist, but I do know the second last song they played in their set was “Super Bowl Sundae”. At the end of the set, they slowly marched single file into the crowd with percussion instruments, jingling bells, and the trumpet player and did a sort of second line thing like they do in New Orleans. They got the crowd to dance and clap along as they snaked their way through everybody for a couple minutes and eventually ended it, going backstage. They would do this ending many times that I would see them in the years to come. Speaking of which, it wouldn’t be for another five years until I’d see them at The Warfield opening for the All American Rejects, but only two months later, I would see them headline their own show at The Fillmore. They would play there often, almost every year, and even released a live album recorded there in 2005, though sadly I wasn’t there to attend that one.
Billy Bragg & The Blokes, Corey Harris, Maritime Hall, SF, Sat., December 5, 1998
SETLIST : The World Turned Upside Down, St. Swithin’s Day, She Came Along To Me, I Guess I Planted, The Milkman Of Human Kindness, Eisler On The Go, Christ For President, Tank Park Salute, Must I Paint You A Picture?, A Lover Sings, Another Kind Of Judy, All You Fascists Are Bound To Lose, My Flying Saucer, California Stars, (encore), Waiting For The Great Leap Forwards, Hoodoo Voodoo, A New England, (encore), There Is Power In A Union, The Saturday Boy, Ingrid Bergman, Song About A Bear That Ain’t Got No Name, Way Over Yonder In The Minor Key
This would be the first time I’d see Billy play with a band, having seen him once before in 1996 playing solo opening for Robyn Hitchcock at The Warfield. Robyn was solo on that one as well. Mr. Bragg was riding high on the success of the “Mermaid Avenue” album, his collaboration with Wilco doing unpublished songs of Woody Guthrie. Relations between Billy and Wilco had soured by this time over the mixing and sequencing of the album leaving them to part ways and sing the songs they did together separately on the road. More likely the rift was over money as usual, but what’s done is done. At least “Mermaid Avenue” was such a hit that they released a sequel album in 2000 of the tunes they hadn’t used in the first one, then a complete recordings release afterwards. We were lucky to hear nine of Woody’s songs that show.
This occasion was actually a benefit for the Neptune Jade Committee, raising money for the legal fees of those opposing the unloading of a cargo ship trying to use non-union labor. The band Chumbawamba, also renowned left wing activists, did benefit shows in support of the workers as well. The story goes that the protest at the port of Oakland was in solidarity with 500 striking dockworkers in Liverpool who had been sacked. ILWU Local 10 refused to unload the ship and global shipowners represented by the Pacific Maritime Association who then sued the activists. But thanks partially to the efforts to support the union guys that night, the suit was eventually dropped. The Neptune Jade left Oakland for Vancouver, but the dock workers there also refused to unload the ship. They then tried Yokohama, Japan, same deal. The ship finally ended up in Taiwan where it reportedly was finally unloaded. Though the dispute was thankfully resolved by the time of this show, they donated the proceeds to help out the dockworkers in Liverpool.
Billy was touring with Ian McLagan from the Small Faces on keyboards which must have been a treat for Billy since the his band was a big influence on him. As luck would have it, I accidentally stumbled into a pub in north London when I was studying overseas in 1992 and there was Ian with his band playing a free set, so this would be the second time I’d see Ian perform live. Billy would go on to play one of Woody’s songs, “Way Over Yonder In The Minor Key”, on Letterman ten days later accompanied by Natalie Merchant, who sang the song with him on the album. Opening that show was a blues and reggae musician from Denver named Corey Harris. He had performed on both of the “Mermaid Avenue” albums, playing guitar, lap steel guitar, backing vocals, and handclaps on the first, and acoustic guitar on the second. I recall it was just him on stage solo that night and the crowd listened to him politely. Billy did mention later something about fireworks going off over on Treasure Island during Corey’s set, but I didn’t see them, nor knew what the occasion was for them.
It wasn’t that well sold since the balcony was closed off, but the floor was pretty full and his fans were certainly enthusiastic. Liz Farrow was there helping me in the recording room, but for some reason, they wouldn’t allow us to film video that night. It is rare when an artist allows us to do one, but not the other. I was able to find a bootleg of his set on line and I think there had been a DVD release to boot, suggesting that somebody was filming that night, but I haven’t found any footage of it anywhere. I’m just glad somebody else got it and was able to listen to Billy’s set again. He started things off singing the first two songs acoustic on his own before inviting some “beautiful blokes” on stage to join him. One thing about Billy, like Robyn Hitchcock, is that he has the gift of gab, talking a lot between songs. He praised the Maritime saying that the “last time two times I played in the bay area, it was in shops or football stadiums” that were “not conducive to rock & roll shows”.
He educated the audience plenty that night about what was going on with the Neptune Jade and the history of Woody Guthrie, pointing out that Woody was a member of the Maritime Union during World War II, making Billy playing there at the Hall all the more poignant. He then told the story of Hans Eisler before the tune “Eisler On The Go”> Hans was an anti-fascist activist in Germany during the rise of Hitler who had to flee to America in 1933. His warnings unheeded in America until it was too late, our government added insult to injury by having the House Un-American Activities Committee try him for being a communist. Hans was so disillusioned by this, that he fled the US in 1947 and ending up in East Germany. Billy joked that Eisler had “less a sense of irony than Alanis Morisette” choosing such a place to end his days.
Billy continued talking politics joking that he recently did a gig in Minnesota supporting “the separatist movement led by Jesse Ventura”, who had recently just been elected governor to everyone’s surprise. He then chimed in making wisecracks about the ongoing proceedings in Washington of which Bill Clinton would be impeached exactly two weeks after this show. Billy posed a “personal question” to the audience asking them “If the president ejaculated on an item of your clothing, you’d keep it, wouldn’t you? Even if it was accidental, like if he wiped his dick on your curtains or something.” Seriously, it did make one think. He admitted Clinton was wrong for “putting fingers in the intern”, but said the “only real victims were Hillary and Chelsea”. Billy then got a laugh quickly adding, “Woody wrote a song about it”, introducing “Jesus Christ For President” and saying that if Jesus was the president, the Republican congress would impeach him for healing the sick and feeding the multitudes. He finally added that prosecutor Ken Starr was “nothing more than a sheet sniffer” and going after Clinton “turns him on” and “steams up his glasses”.
Billy mentioned that he and the band had been in the country since the previous Thursday and that he had watched the Vikings play the Cowboys on TV in Chicago. It was getting his mind off England getting booted off the World Cup that week. Being just after Thanksgiving, he went on saying in 1621, the Pilgrims left England for being too stuck up, first going to Holland, but then “couldn’t handle it”, and made the unwise decision to try their luck enduring the winter in Massachusetts. Billy laughed that the local natives thought we were pathetic and had to explain to us that “this is a turkey. It’s like a chicken. C’mon, we’ll give you a hand.” Billy then complained that we were paying too much attention to the Founding Fathers and wondered, “What about the Founding Mothers?” He then digressed into the current mindset of folks in Chicago wondering if Michael Jordan was going to continue playing with The Bulls there, saying it was a bit like Schrodinger’s Cat, wondering if he was in or out. Coming back to England getting out of the running in the World Cup, he told a story about how he found comfort in a bakery in Philadelphia that made rhubarb crumble, describing that he considered rhubarb to be the “celery of the gods”. That night, Billy said St. George appeared in a dream dressed as a “West Ham fan” and told him that there was “more to life than football” and to “get a fucking life”.
Before playing “All You Fascists Bound To Lose”, he spoke of how The Clash used to write antifascist slogans on their guitars like Woody famously had scribing, “This machine kills fascists” on his and claimed Woody would have been a fan of The Clash. He introduced the song saying that it was from Woody’s “Sandinista period”. He also celebrated the recent arrest of Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet in London that October saying he was longer welcome to “do his Christmas shopping there”. Pinochet died eight years later almost to the day in Chile under house arrest for a mountain of his crimes. He joked that “if you know any fascists, send them to England” and scolded Secretary Of State Madeline Albright for not arresting him herself. Billy lightened the mood introducing “My Flying Saucer” saying that Woody hadn’t written music for its lyrics, but had made a note for its tempo saying it should be “supersonic boogie”. Billy pointed out that although Woody was mainly known for being a country and folk singer, that he actually had spend a good portion of his life in New York City and appreciated all kinds of music.
Billy mentioned that the BBC would soon air a documentary about the making of “Mermaid Avenue” called “Man In The Sand” and hoped that PBS would air it soon as well. I admit that I still haven’t seen it yet, but definitely want to now after revisiting this show. They ended the set with the hit song, “California Stars” which Billy arranged to sound more like a cajun zydeco song opposed to the country rock ballad that was recorded on the album. When he came back for the first encore, he joked that he was looking in the crowd and seeing the look in their eyes as if it was ok for them to dance to it. Billy said it was ok referring how lamely he dances, saying “I dance the way I dance because I’m somebody’s dad.” He went on to observe that most rock & roll stars don’t write songs for kids anymore, but that Woody did and then sang the whimsical, “Hoodoo Voodoo”.
For the second encore, he introduced “A Song About A Bear That Ain’t Got No Name” talking about the expansive archive of songs Woody still had to offer. Billy said if you combined this song with “This Land Is Your Land”, you’d have a complete picture of Woody, the former showing his “mischievous toe rag” side. It indeed was a randy one, sung to the tune of “For He’s A Jolly Good Fellow”, which Woody’s daughter Nora claimed was his intention, but filled with his ribald lyrics about sparks coming out the bear’s asshole and a few digs at Republicans. They wrapped up the evening with a fast paced, hillbilly version of “Way Over In The Minor Key”, an even more radical departure from their version of “California Stars”, since it was a melancholy ballad on the album. It was a fun night altogether and for a good cause and I would get to see them perform again a year later when he returned to town and played The Fillmore.
The Black Crowes, Maritime Hall, SF, Fri., December 4, 1998
SETLIST : Remedy, Sting Me, Go Faster, Thick N’ Thin, High Head Blues, Ballad In Urgency, Wiser Time, My Morning Song, By Your Side, Stare It Cold, Blackberry, Kickin’ My Heart Around, Jealous Again, No Speak No Slave, (encore), She Talks To Angels, Hard To Handle, Twice As Hard
I was frankly a little surprised when this one was added since the Crowes had always played BGP venues before. But it figured with the Hall’s history with bay area hippies that they’d hear about the Maritime and would be amenable. It was a good fit really, especially with the psychedelic oil projections and stuff. It had actually been a few years since I’d seen them, the last time being on the bill for the H.O.R.D.E. Festival at Shoreline with the Allman Brothers, Blues Traveler (as always), and others. The Crowes had been quite busy that summer, co-headlining a tour with Lenny Kravitz, then doing another tour opening for Aerosmith. They were just on the cusp of releasing their fifth studio album, “By Your Side”, which would come out a month after this gig. So, we were fortunate to hear three of their new songs live for the first time, “Go Faster”, “By Your Side”, and “Kickin’ My Heart Around”.
As fantastic as a show as it was, the one memory that sticks in my head to this very day was something that happened early before the doors were even open. I had just gotten the mic list from the stage guys and was up in the balcony setting up the single video camera covering a wide shot of the stage when the Crowes’ road manager stormed in and started to berate people. I was next to our front of house sound engineer, Kevin, when I heard the guy’s booming voice demanding, “Where’s the fucking gack!?!” Apparently, they were expecting access to cocaine. His demand echoed in the Hall’s cavernous room and Kevin and I looked at each other with a sort of “is this guy serious?” look at each other. Whoever the road guy was talking to tried to reassure him that they had plenty of weed, but he was inconsolable, screaming, “WE already have weed!!!” This was also a strange situation considering the band had just gotten through some line up changes partially because of drug addiction. Their guitarist, Marc Ford, had just left the band due to his debilitating heroin habit and went into rehab. They had just replaced their bassist, Johnny Colt, as well.
But like I said, it was a great show as they always did and it was a full house, a sharp contrast to the sparse crowd that was at the Hall for Goldfinger the night before. It was an evening with, so it was easy to mix for Pete. I wished he would have given this one for me to do, but he was wise enough to know how important this band was and as always he mixed it better than I ever would have. They never used anything we recorded from that show sadly, but even stranger, there seems to be no bootlegs from that show to be found anywhere as well. The Crowes, like the Dead, had allowed their fans to tape and there had always been at least a handful of guys showing up to their gigs with their professional grade recording gear, setting up their tall mic stands in a section in the back of the dance floor. I’m pretty sure they were there that night as well, but like I said, I’ve come up empty trying to find this show online. On a final and unfortunate note, guitarist Rich Robinson had a bit of bad luck three months later when they were doing a show in Grand Rapids, Michigan. His prize vintage 1963 Fender Esquire was stolen and despite all efforts to find it again, the guitar was never recovered.
Goldfinger, Let’s Go Bowling, Betty Blowtorch, Liars Inc., Maritime Hall, Thurs., December 3, 1998
Though I was glad to see Goldfinger headlining the Hall, I had a feeling they would’t big enough to fill the place and I was right. The dance floor had probably about 300 people and of course the balcony was closed in an effort to make the floor look more full. Not that they weren’t talented or deserved to have a full house, but they had made a name for themselves primarily as an opening act since they formed four years before this show. I in fact had seen them three times by then opening for Primus at the Bill Graham Civic Center, then for No Doubt at The Fillmore, and again for the Sex Pistols reunion at Shoreline, all in 1996. I knew they were busy that year, but I was pleasantly surprised to discover that they even made it into the Guinness Book Of World Records for playing a mind boggling 385 shows in a single year, the most of any band in one year, a record they held until 2010. Some orchestra in Germany called the Kurochester Bad Kissingen did 727 in a year, but it’s probably safe to say Goldfinger still holds the record at least in America.
Like I said, Goldfinger had been around a few years and had always a dependable opening act. They were from L.A. as all the acts were, or at least from the area. The singer/guitarist, John Feldmann, actually met the bassist when they worked together in a shoe store. They had released their second album, “Hang Ups”, a year before this show and though it wasn’t a successful as their debut album, the single “Superman” made it onto the film soundtracks of the Farrelly Brothers’ comedy “Kingpin” and “Meet The Deedles”. Goldfinger was starting to steer their music away from ska by this time and was gravitating more into straight on punk music. Feldmann had also taken up producing other artists that year, including Showoff, Mest, and The Used. One band that was clearly sticking with the ska sound who was there was Let’s Go Bowling. I’d seen them many times by then and even knew them a little, they having toured with my brother’s old band, the Dance Hall Crashers. Hell, they were just at the Maritime a month before this opening for Men At Work. I was spoiled being able to see them so often back then and especially for being able to record them twice there in such a short period of time. Liars, Inc. was there too, but I don’t remember much about them, since they were first, playing to practically no one there, and for such a short set. They would go on the following year to play on the Emerging Artists Stage at the infamous Woodstock ’99 disaster alongside Moby and Bijou Phillips.
But the opener Betty Blowtorch made quite an impression on me. They were an all girl punk band with a penchant for raunchy lyrics and stage names. The singer called herself Bianca Butthole, the rhythm guitarist was Sharon Needles, and the lead guitarist was Blare N. Bitch. It figures that three of them were ex-members of Butt Trumpet, a band with one of the funniest names I’ll ever hear. I remember they had a short punk song called “I Left My Gun In San Francisco”. Betty Blowtorch were still brand new and wouldn’t release their first six-song record, “Get Off” until a year later, sporting such memorable song titles as “Shut Up & Fuck” and “Party Till You Puke”. One can’t help giggle at the lyrics for the former, “I don’t want conversation! I just want penis penetration!”. Bianca cracked me up with her stage antics, sporting pig tails, and wearing shin guards and knee pads. For the song, “I Wanna Be Your Sucker”, their other singer Mia X strutted about the stage holding a giant sucker prop with the song’s title written on it, occasionally straddling the sucker’s long stick in a suggestive manner. They also did a cover of the Beastie Boys’ “Fight For Your Right To Party”, getting folks up front to sing along. Fun stuff.
Betty Blowtorch met a tragic end in December 2001 though. While on tour and having just finished a show opening for Nashville Pussy in New Orleans, Bianca was killed in a high speed car crash on Interstate 10, a passenger in a car going over 100 m.p.h. and her driver intoxicated. Their set at the Maritime would be the only time I’d see them perform. The band had just appeared in the comedy “Bubble Boy” with Jake Gyllenhaal that year and had been slated to play New Year’s Eve weeks later in L.A. That year, former L7 bassist Jennifer Finch was touring in the band, replacing Sharon on guitar when she abruptly left the band with drummer Judy Molish mid-tour. Afterwards, Blare went on to form The Blare Bitch Project and a Black Sabbath cover band called Black Sabbitch, both also hilarious band names. The others went onto various all female cover bands as well. Sharon and Judy joined a AC/DC cover band called Hell’s Belles and Judy also played in Cheap Chick. Incidentally, this gig was the first show of the month and I was happy to see the Maritime’s new monthly poster was a good one and Boots somehow managed not to misspell anything this time.
Tricky, Whale, Fill., SF, Wed., December 2, 1998
I was more than familiar with Tricky by this time, having seen him four times already, first opening for P.J. Harvey at The Warfield in ’95, then twice at Lollapalooza in ’97, then a mere four months before this night headlining at The Warfield. So, Tricky had been getting around a lot, even playing a small role in the science fiction film, “The Fifth Element” the year before, playing Gary Oldman’s henchman, with the appropriate name of Right Arm. Gary’s character, Dr. Zorg, ended up blowing Tricky to smithereens when he failed him. But Tricky was no failure as an artist to be sure and he was there doing his songs while maniacally trembling for me and the crowd that night and performed well as always. It was nice to finally see him in a smaller venue than before and I was glad that this show got a decent poster at the end of night. He played mostly the same stuff as I saw him perform in August as one would expect, including an dreamy trip-hop cover of Blondie’s “Heart Of Glass”, the chorus sung by Carmen Ejogo again. She had recently taken over for Tricky’s original female singer Martina Topley-Brid, who was the mother of his daughter, Mina Mazy. Tricky and Carmen had gotten married that year in Las Vegas, but they eventually broke up too.
Opening that show was a rock band from Sweden called Whale. They were a funny bunch of folks and as luck would have it, that night was the lead singer Cia’s 35th birthday. They had the crowd wish her a happy birthday and one of the other members declared that “she’s a rockin’ bitch!”. That guy also gave a shout out to Dog Beaver, the band that was playing upstairs in the poster room between acts. He asked, “Anybody been upstairs to see Dog Beaver? Now that’s a show!” He then dedicated their next song to them, calling them “our new friends”. Dog Beaver, a local freeform improvisational band, would often play up in the poster room and I would occasionally tape them when I could get a break to go upstairs and watch them, though I didn’t that night. Like I said, Whale had a sense of humor, claiming on their website that their name was actually Southern Whale Cult 1987, though they later admitted that it was just a joke. But sadly, this would be the only time I’d see them perform since they would disband the following year. I would however go on to see Tricky a few more times though, three times in 2001 alone, playing two separate shows at The Fillmore again, once in April and once more in August, then opening for fellow Lollapalooza ’97 alumni Tool at Shoreline that November.
Deicide, Skinlab, Vile, Infestation, Maritime Hall, SF, Sat., November 28, 1998
SETLIST : When Satan Rules His World, Bastard Of Christ, Blame It On God, Lunatic Of God’s Creation, Serpents Of The Light, They Are The Children Of The Underworld, Oblivious To Evil, Dead But Dreaming, This Is Hell We’re In, Sacrificial Suicide, Deicide, Father Baker’s, Behind The Light Thou Shall Rise, Tick Or Betrayed, Once Upon The Cross, Dead By Dawn
I’ve said it before, but when I witness death metal bands perform, I make sure to look upward and give the big guy upstairs reassurances that their opinions don’t necessarily represent me and to ask politely not to send me into everlasting perdition for being there. Well, that went double or maybe triple for this one. I don’t know exactly what was this band’s bone to pick with the Almighty, but they definitely have it in for him. Their very name literally means “god killing”. Formed in the late 80’s in Tampa, Florida, they along with fellow grind-core heshers, Cannibal Corpse, had been freaking out Christians ever since. In their inception, Deicide’s singer/bassist, the hulking raven haired brute Glen Benton, reportedly stormed into the offices of Roadrunner Records, slapped his demo on the desk and growled, “Sign us, you fucking asshole!”. They took the bait and were signed the next day.
Like I said, these guys made enemies of the followers of Christ everywhere they went, even overseas. Deicide was banned in Valparaiso, Chile of all places after they made a promo poster with Jesus sporting a bullet hole in his forehead. Speaking of foreheads, Glen was also notorious for repeatedly branding an inverted cross into his own. If that wasn’t enough, he received the ire of animal rights activists as well, for expressing his interest in burning live rodents to death. Five years before this show, he freaked people out during an interview with NME at his home when he shot a squirrel in front of them with a pellet gun, complaining that they were messing up the electrical system up in his attic.
Blasphemy and animal cruelty aside, it still was a lively evening. Can’t say I remember much about the first opener, Infestation, and can’t even definitively say who they are or where they’re from since there at least four metal bands that claim that name. Chances are it was wither the one from London, since they formed that year, or the Swedish one, who had been around since 1990. I did, however, know both Vile and Skinlab, having recorded them both recently before this gig at the Maritime. Vile played with Cannibal Corpse in August and Skinlab opened for D.R.I. that July. Vile, a local band from Concord, would return the following March with Morbid Angel and use the recording I did that night to put four of the songs on their “Rare Tracks 1996-2004” album. Skinlab would also play the following January opening for Fear Factory. Unknown to me, Deicide had just released a live album, “When Satan Lives”, the month before this, recorded at the House Of Blues in Chicago, which pretty much derailed any chance of them using my recording that night for anything sadly.
It wasn’t sold out, but the dance floor was full at the Hall and those who were there were loud and aggressive as you might imagine. Glen and the band were dressed mostly in black leather, a couple of them sleeveless, and Glen was sporting an imposing, spiky armored shoulder plate, a Pauldron as it is known to those who make armor. They had somebody come out on stage in introduce them, saying that they were “from parts unknown!” Before they played “Bastard Of Christ”, Glen shouted, “What the fuck! We’ve never been here before! You know who we are, right? We’re Bastards Of Christ!!!” They ripped through their set pretty quickly, playing 17 songs in only an hour. After “Father Baker’s”, Glen joked, “We have a few more for you, then we’re going to Salt Lake to entertain some Mormons!” Just before they wrapped it up, he reassured the crowd that “there’s another record on its way. We’re halfway there and I think you’ll be surprised… Not let down, but surprised.” That album would eventually be “Insineratehymn” that would come out a little over a year afterwards.
Outkast, Black Eyed Peas, Melky Sedek, Headquarters, Most Chill Slackmob, Esinchill, Maritime Hall, SF, Fri., November 27, 1998
The dirty south returned in force at the Hall. Outkast and the Black Eyed Peas had both played there that year, Outkast in February and the Peas in September headlining the Lyricist Lounge tour. I was glad to have the Most Chill Slackmob back in the house too. They played at the 4/20 show there the previous April. Melky Sedek was back again, the brother and sister of Wyclef Jean who had also played the Hall in January. It was the day after Thanksgiving and I suppose all the dancing helped the audience work off the former night’s gluttony. Yes, it was an all star line up and the crowd reflected that. It was sold out, very sold out. It takes a lot to fill that place to the point of it being uncomfortable, but they certainly pulled it off that night.
Outkast had just released their new album, “Aquemini”, just two months before and it already was a resounding success. By this time, it had already gone platinum and by the following July, it would go double platinum. Incidentally, they got the name as a combination of Big Boi and Andre 3000’s astrological signs, they being Aquarius and Gemini respectively. They did get some heat from their new single, “Rosa Parks”. Apparently, the real Rosa Parks didn’t appreciate her name being used and objected to the obscenities in the song as well. The case was tried in Ann Arbor, Michigan, coincidentally where my future wife grew up, and the judge ultimately accepted Outkast’s argument that it was a homage and settled in their favor.
The Black Eyed Peas were getting bigger and bigger as well, still touring in support of their last album, “Behind The Front”, released that June. They brought along some of the “Dungeon Family”, the artist collective both bands belonged to in Atlanta. I know for sure that Witchdoctor was one of them. They had set up the bands in front of a big banner hanging high above on the front of the DJ’s riser and turntables with Outkast’s logo which what looked like a giant silver grill of a car. There were even small replicas of the front halves of vintage cars flanking both sides of the stage as well, making it feel as if it was some sort of drag race party late at night in an abandoned parking lot or something. I didn’t keep the recordings from that show, but I know that the Peas played “Fallin’ Up” and “Joints & Jam” for sure. I remember distinctly at the end of the show meeting Taboo, giving him the tapes from their set, and how friendly and thankful he was to me, despite his wearing some rather scary war paint on his face that night. Finally, Boots kept his reputation for misspelling band’s names on the monthly poster, listing Outkast as “The Outkast”.
The Offspring, Unwritten Law, Limp, Maritime Hall, SF, Wed., November 25, 1998
SELIST : All I Want, Session, Walla Walla, Gone Away, Kick Him When He’s Down, The Meaning Of Life, Have You Ever, Pretty Fly (For A White Guy), Bad Habit, Cool To Hate, I Choose, Smash, Intermission, Come Out & Play, Mota, Genocide, Self Esteem, Gotta Get Away, Nitro (Youth Energy)
The Offspring were brand new when I first saw them at The Fillmore four years before this, but by this time, everybody knew who they were. They had just released their fifth studio album, “Americana”, literally a week before this gig and they already had a hit with their hilarious single, “Pretty Fly (For A White Guy)”. The song is a biting mockery of “wiggers”, (an abbreviation of which I don’t care to explain), that infest the Huntington Beach area where the band is from. In fact, Weird Al Yankovic would go on to parody the tune, recording his own “Pretty Fly (For A Rabbi)”, making it the second song he’d remake of theirs, the first being “Laundry Day”, a parody of “Come Out & Play”. Kurt Cobain once said that you know you’ve made it show business when Weird Al does one of your songs, but you definitely have made it if he’s done two. Unfortunately, The Offspring were touring with their own monitor board, so we couldn’t get a hook up in the recording room, so I had the night off. At least I was able to hang out, watch the show, have a few beers, and record it on my own tape deck, but I was disappointed not to have them or the other two bands in my roster of stuff I taped at the Hall.
I hadn’t seen the first opener Limp before, but I thought they were a fun band. They finished their set with a cover of “Holiday Road” by Lindsey Buckingham of Fleetwood Mac, made famous by being the theme song for “National Lampoon’s Vacation”. At the end of the song, they did the chorus faster and faster until it ended at breakneck speed. I had however seen the second opener, Unwritten Law, once before opening for Bad Religion at The Warfield in 1996 and thought highly of them and was glad they were there. Unwritten Law had just signed to Interscope records the year before and had just released a self titled album from them that June. They did an interesting cover of “Guns Of Brixton” by The Clash, starting it off normally as it was a reggae tune, then switching to a punk style in the middle, then reverting back to reggae to finish it. Between songs, the singer bantered with the crowd saying, “Wow! There’s a lot of people in this room! Where the girls at?!?”. The women cheered and he responded, “Yay! People with vaginas!” At the end of their set, they did a song called, “C.P.K.”, which stood for “Crazy Poway Kinds”, not “California Pizza Kitchen” as some might have presumed. They were from Poway, a conservative suburb of San Diego, and the song was named after a bunch of bored white kids at Abraxas High School who started a gang as a joke. I’d see Unwritten Law perform again four years later opening for Sum 41 at The Warfield and they would frequently perform on the Van’s Warped Tour in the years to come.
It was a jam packed house that evening, sold out I believe. The young audience made a lot of noise and there was no shortage of action in the mosh pit, as well as crowd floaters and stage divers. Their fans knew their songs very well and they particularly sang loudly to the tune “Bad Habit”. It would be a couple years until I’d see them again in 2000, but I’d catch them twice that year, once at Live 105’s B.F.D. at Shoreline, then again at The Warfield with Cypress Hill opening, who also was on the bill at the B.F.D. that year, an eclectic pairing if there ever was one. Recently, my young cousin Nate gave me bottle of hot sauce made by The Offspring’s singer, Dexter Holland, called “Gringo Bandito”. I have to say that it was pretty good stuff, (pretty spicy for a white guy as it were). The headquarters that produces it is actually located next door to their recording studio down south. Dexter also recently received his PhD in molecular biology, which would explain one reason why his hot sauce is so well crafted I suppose.
Sunny Day Real Estate, 764-Hero, Track Star, Maritime Hall, SF, Sat., November 21, 1998
SETLIST : In Circles, Pillars, Guitar & Video Games, The Blankets Were Stairs, 100 Million, Every Shining Time You Arrive, Waffle, The Prophet, Song About An Angel, How It Feels To Be Something On, Rodeo Jones, (encore), J’nuh, Roses In Water, Days Were Golden
I was coming in dry as a bone for this one, having not heard a thing of Sunny Day Real Estate before that night. I did see their frontman, Jeremy Enigk, open for Sebadoh at the Great American Music Hall in 1996, but I didn’t make the connection at the time. I did however know the first opener, Track Star, for having seen them twice, once also at the Great American opening for Stereolab also in ’96 and the following year opening for Cornershop at Slim’s. At least this time I was able to record them properly at the Maritime. They actually weren’t on the tour originally, but were filling in for The Rapture who had to drop out for some reason.
Sunny Day were from Seattle and had made a bit of a splash when they started, being one of the pioneers of the new emo movement, but quickly broke up. They broke up so fast that they didn’t even finish recording their second album, the appropriately named “LP2”, before they all just threw in the towel. In fact, a few songs had no lyrics put down at all, so Jeremy just made up gibberish for them. He said later that he got a kick out of when the Japanese tried to translate them. Their bass player, Nate Mendel, and drummer, William Goldsmith, joined the Foo Fighters. Goldsmith came back for their reformation in 1997, but Mendel didn’t, being replaced by Jeff Palmer of The Mommyheads, then later by Joe Skyward. They would make two more studio albums and also a live album before breaking up again in 2001. I was a little pissed to learn of their live album, simply called “Live” which was recorded in May of 1999 at a show they did in Eugene, Oregon, less than six weeks before they returned to the Maritime. Certainly, I would have liked them to use some of my stuff, especially since it turned out that the band ended up hating their live album, which is one of the reasons they left Sub Pop records.
This show they were promoting their latest record, “How It Feels To Be Something On”. They were a simple drum, bass, and two guitar quartet with no fancy lights, bells, or whistles, though they had a road guy come out frequently between songs to change out Dan and Jeremy’s guitars.Their lead guitarist, Dan Hoerner, did however wear a full brown suit on stage, but eventually took off his coat after the fourth song, “The Blankets Were The Stairs”, saying “this is all too much”. Jeremy was more modest, wearing a plain white T-shirt. It was Dan’s the first time he’d ever been in San Francisco and he cheered, “I think I like it!” Jeremy had an interesting singing style, a high pitched, but focused voice, really unlike anything I had heard before that. Their music was truly original as well, dreamy and beautiful for rock music, definitely influencing many to follow like Fall Out Boy, The Get Up Kids, Dashboard Confessional, and The Shins.
Dan introduced the title track of the new album near the end of their set, then before they finished with “Rodeo Jones”, people up front were yelling out requests. He thanked them, then noticed a few were peeking at the setlist taped to the stage at his feet and he joked, “That’s no fair! You can see the list!” Thankfully, there’s a YouTube video from a fan recording up front and he grabbed the list and showed it to the camera. I had transcribed about half the songs before that, so it was just the thing to fill in the gaps. The show itself wasn’t sold enough to have the balcony opened up, but the floor was pretty full and I have to hand it to their fans. They were pretty enthusiastic and cheered loudly between every song. When they came back for the encore, Jeremy thanked the crowd for “making them feel very welcome”. They finished the show with the placid “Days Were Golden”, and at the end of it, he and Dan took off their guitars and simply walked off stage, leaving the drummer and bassist continuing. The bassist eventually stopped and walked off, leaving William on drums still thumping away, and then eventually he stopped. I was impressed with them for sure. It also was a thoughtful juxtaposition to the knucklehead stoner scene at the Ganja Skateboard Party at the Hall the night before with the Kottonmouth Kings and Papa Roach and I was glad when Sunny Day returned the following July.
Ganja Skateboard Party : Kottonmouth Kings, Insolence, Carcinogen, Papa Roach, Maritime Hall, SF, Fri., November 20, 1998
I can’t say I remember too much from this night, since as the party was advertised, there was copious amounts of marijuana around. Pete had left this one to me, being a young person’s show, and I plundered his Altoid’s tin of leftover roaches to match the ambiance of the evening. The Kottonmouth Kings had already played the Hall twice already that year, once opening for Eek-A Mouse in April for the 4/20 Festival show and again only two months later opening for The Urge so, yeah, I got to know those goofy stoners pretty well that year. This would also be the third time I’d record Vacaville’s own Papa Roach at the Hall. They had literally had just played there the week before opening for Soul Brains : The Bad Brains Reunion and earlier that March with Salmon. Little did people realize that they’d soon be signed to Dreamworks and make more money than everybody they ever opened for, but back then they still the first band out of four playing to the nearly empty cavernous walls of the Maritime. I’d record them for a fourth and final time the following June when they opened for Zebrahead and then they moved on to bigger and better things. As also advertised, there was plenty of skateboard products and clothing vendors around, sponsored by companies like Real Stereo, Anti-Hero, Spitfire, Thunder, and Lucky.
John Lee Hooker, Charlie Musselwhite, Zakiya Hooker & Blues 4U, Fill., SF, Sat., November 14, 1998
This was a show I couldn’t pass up. Yes, I’d seen John twice before, once at the Good Road Festival at Shoreline in 1992, then again at the Tibet Freedom Concert in 1996, but only for a short mid-day festival set and at a considerable distance from the stage. At The Fillmore, I’d be much, much closer and this time he was there headlining and playing a full set, the second night of a two day stint there. I left veteran reggae band, The Abyssinians, for Pete to record at the Maritime, knowing full well he’d be head engineer that night anyway. Luckily, The Abyssinians returned to play there only four months later and from that recording, the Hall released a live album. Everybody wins. Mr. Hooker was getting his just due around this time after decades of touring and recording.
That year, Chess Records released a 50th anniversary collection of his songs and he had additional commercial success putting out an album of duets called “Best Of Friends” then too. His flyers for the show advertised that this tour was in support of that one, in which he collaborated with such renowned artists as Eric Clapton, Van Morrison, Ike Turner, Ry Cooder, Jimmie Vaughn, members of Los Lobos, as well as locals Bonnie Raitt and Carlos Santana. John himself had become a local, taking over the bar across Geary from The Fillmore the year before and christening it “John Lee Hooker’s Boom Boom Room”. There, a regular stream of local funk, soul, and blues acts would perform every week, with the occasional DJ party and still so to this day twenty years after the bar’s namesake would pass on. It’s a very cool place and would naturally be the site of several post-Fillmore after parties, announced and improvised. Yes, the man known the world over as the Godfather Of Blues also bought residences in Los Altos, Redwood City, and Gilroy to boot. And if that wasn’t enough, that album had just followed his release of “Don’t Look Back” which won him Grammies for Best Traditional Blues Album and Best Pop Collaboration With Vocals for the title track duet with Van Morrison. Not bad for a man in his 80’s, or approximately that age. His exact date of birth has never been determined.
Another special thing about this show was the fact that the first opener was none other than John’s daughter Zakiya and her band Blues 4U. She had been performing for a few years by then and had just put out her second album, “Flavors Of The Blues”, the year before. She had changed her name from Vera after the break up of her first marriage, her new name meaning “Pure” in Hebrew, but coincidentally also meaning “Intelligence” in Swahili. Zakiya was rebounding from a pair of tragedies in her life, her youngest son John killed in car crash at the young age of 20 and her other son Maurice put in jail three years after that. You would have never known of her heartache that night when she was performing alongside her new husband, Ollan Christopher, who played bass, co-wrote their songs, and was her producer as well. They had clever banter between songs, playfully ribbing each other and trying to get the “ladies” and “fellahs” to take their respective sides. I didn’t get a setlist, but I knew one song was “Let’s Do Something (Even If It’s Wrong)” and a soulful cover of Bob Dylan’s “Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door”.
Next up was the venerable blues harmonica genius Charlie Musselwhite and his band. Charlie would join John and his crew, the Coast To Coast Blues Band, after his set too. He had played a bit that year in the “Blue Brothers 2000” reboot movie playing in a band that called themselves the Louisiana Gator Boys which had a who’s who of blues greats like B.B. King, Bo Diddley, Eric Clapton, Koko Taylor, Jimmie Vaughn, and Dr. John. You know, I’ve never seen that movie in its entirety, though I am still a big fan of the original. Shame on me. I’ll check it out sometime. Likewise, I didn’t get a setlist from him either, but I do know the second song of his set was, “Gone Too Long”, followed by “38 Special”. A couple songs later, he did “Voodoo Garden”, “I’m Going Home”, and “Blues, Why Do You Worry Me?”
There was a brief set change and then Lisa from KFOG introduced his band and things got rolling. They did about five songs before John came out, showing off their chops and warming up the crowd. I would meet John’s guitarist, Rich Kirch, years later when he’d play with the Farlow-Kirch Band with bassist Dave Tolmie, a buddy I worked with for years in Local 16. Dave used to play bass with Commander Cody and Huey Lewis briefly and was a hell of guy, God rest his soul. I’d see Rich again in 2004 when Pete was recording stuff at The Plant in Sausalito with Nick Gravenites. Talented guy, Rich. Hell of a guitar player. I could really only recognize a couple songs from John, though. Unlike many blues singers, whose tales of heartbreak and hard times usually lend themselves to clear diction, John’s vocals are actually kind of hard to decipher. But that voice is unmistakable. He did his big hit, of course, “Boom Boom” and before that did a tune called “Rockin’ Chair”. The band tore it up that night, a class act show start to finish. I’m glad I caught John when he did, since he was nearing the end of his life. The last recording he’d make was with hippie keyboard impresario Pete Sears that January for a song called “Elizebeth” which they recorded at Bayview Studios in Richmond across the bay. And then I’d see him perform one final time for a short set at the Guinness Fleagh in Golden Gate Park with his buddy Van Morrison the next year. Sadly, John at long last would pass away two years later. But he left behind an respected legacy and one hell of a Fillmore poster which was passed out at the end of the show.
Soul Brains, Missing Link, Papa Roach, Maritime Hall, SF, Fri., November 13, 1998
SETLIST : Attitude, Sailin’ On, Coptic Times, On Like Popcorn, At The Movies, Right Brigade, Pay To Cum, House Of Suffering, Re-Ignition, Sacred Love, Voyage Into Infinity, Soul Craft, Tongue Tee Tie, Rally ‘Round Jah Throne, I & I Survive, How I Love Thee, Day Tripper, She’s A Rainbow, Youth Are Getting Restless, (encore) I Against I
This was a very important show for me, probably the most of all the shows I recorded at the Maritime. Their set that night would be used for a live album, the first entirely recorded by yours truly. Maybe if Pete knew it would have become an album, he’d of stuck around for this one, but he didn’t know Bad Brains from Adam, so finder’s keepers. Even if they hadn’t have used it for an album, just the honor and privilege of recording them was good enough for me. But this album was a crowning achievement for me and listening to it now to this day makes my heart swell with pride. It had been three long years since I’d see them open for the Beastie Boys, who I’d just coincidentally played two months before this again at the Oakland Arena. Since then, singer H.R., an abbreviation of “Human Rights”, though it was listed on my album as “Hunting Rod” which it originally stood for when he was a kid, clearly had cleaned up his act, or at least was on the good pills. He and his brother, Earl Hudson, and the rest of the band had patched things up since his schitzophenic meltdown on that 1995 tour and were now on the road calling themselves “Soul Brains”. I think they did it partially for legal reasons, probably wrangling with their record company of money or something.
The first to open that night were the ever-present Papa Roach, who were just on the cusp of getting huge, bigger than Bad Brains or anybody else they ever opened for at the Hall. They had just released their “5 Tracks Deep” EP which would eventually catch the attention of big shot record executives, first by Warner Brothers, but then ultimately getting them signed to Dreamworks. Their “Infest” album they would then release a year later would explode in popularity, quickly going triple platinum and earning them a Grammy nomination for Best New Artist. Two songs from that previous EP, “Revenge In Japanese” and “Thrown Away”, would also be on that new album. But back then, they were still our humble warm up act from Vacaville, playing so often, they were practically the house band. It would only be a week before they would perform there again opening for the Kottonmouth Kings at what was billed as a “Ganja Skateboard Party”. Following them was a band called Missing Link, which I can’t say I remember, but I do know they share the name with a German pop band from the 80’s hailing from Monchengladbach, a suburb of Dusseldorf.
My buddy Tom Murphy was on monitors that night, dutifully manning his board in his trademark sleeveless black shirt. Dan Rubin was once again skillfully operating the lone camera in the balcony and this would be the first time Liz Farrow would assist me in the recording room, just me and her. Like I said, H.R. was on good behavior, all smiles, swaying and spinning about in his dark sunglasses and long white scarf. They ripped though the first half of the set pretty fast doing their punk stuff before chilling out and doing reggae songs for the last half, including a truly stony cover of “Day Tripper” by The Beatles. I’m sure the reggae tunes came to the relief of the long suffering security guys trying desperately to wrangle all the crowd floaters and stage divers that night. Bad Brains pumped up the house one more time for the encore, doing an intense rendition of “I Against I”. Before H.R. walked off stage, somebody threw him a joint and he held up up saying that “I heard marijuana was officially legal now in San Francisco, California now. Is that true?”, then thanked everybody holding up his flaming lighter. After the crowd cleared out, H.R. even helped sweep up the stage and when I gave him the tapes, he gave me a surprisingly affectionate hug, though we had just then met. It was the kind of hug that went on a little longer than one would expect and he rested his head sideways on my shoulder when he did it. I gave him a polite pat on the back and was thinking to myself, “Uhhh… OK…” I can still feel the weight of his boney dreadlocked skull in memory to this day. That one is for life.
So, being the fan as I was, you can imagine my exaltation when I learned that my recording would become an album and the glowing satisfaction I felt when I held it in my hand for the first time. As usual, though it was mine, Pete was still listed as Head Engineer and I as 2nd Engineers, mistakenly listed in the plural. Typical of Boots to misspell that on such an important album. They had also used some songs from the show Bad Brains did at the Hall in 2000 after Pete and I departed, engineered by a fellow named Andy Stackpole, who I don’t believe I’ve ever met. Sadly, the album doesn’t list which songs he or I did, but part of me doesn’t care or even wants to know. Reviews of the album were mixed, mostly complaining about H.R.’s singing that night, but I couldn’t see what the beef was. He sounded at least as good as any of their other live stuff, but then again, I am understandably biased. For some reason, I only have the last half of their set from the original recordings in my collection, starting off halfway through “Soul Craft”, so the setlist listed above might be out of order, but I know they played all those songs.
Before I wrap it all up, I’d be amiss if I didn’t give a short eulogy to Lee “Scratch” Perry, who I just learned ascended to join Jah this morning at the age of 85. Yes, the Bad Brains live album might be the one I’m most proud of, but Lee’s was the first we did with Mad Professor and the Robotix Band. It is a forgone conclusion that Bad Brains and any other band, obviously the ones who play reggae, owe him many thanks for his expansive body of work and influence. Sure, H.R. was eccentric and maybe a little mental, but Lee was from another dimension. I am grateful for seeing him as many times as I did and especially for that first album and Jah willing, I will make it Valhalla some time in the distant future and thank him personally.
Galactic, Robert Walter’s 20th Congress, Fill., SF, Thur., November 12, 1998
This would be the third time that year I’d have the pleasure of seeing Galactic, the second time headlining at The Fillmore. Continuing a long tradition of funky talent coming out of New Orleans, these guys made a big splash in a short time. They would go on to play The Fillmore plenty of more occasions to come and rack up more posters than any other band to play there. By this time, their second album album, “Crazyhorse Mongoose” was out, only a couple months old. Their singer, Theryl DeClouet, announced it proudly at the beginning of their set declaring that “The Goose is loose!” Opening that night was Greyboy Allstars keyboard virtuoso Robert Walter and his new band the 20th Congress. Where he got that name is a mystery to me, but I like it still. Sounds official. Robert had played with Galactic drummer Stanton Moore with his old trio along with guitarist Will Bernard, who I’d seen a few times on his own and with T.J. Kirk. Robert is a charming fellow, quietly and politely introducing himself and the band and a few of their songs. I wasn’t able to get a setlist, but I do know he played a cover of Ronnie Foster’s “Funky Motion” as well as his originals, “Vegetarian Bake Sale” and “What Goes Around”.
Galactic played a long and fun filled set as they did six months before there and what little I saw of them at the Mountain Aire show after that up in Angel’s Camp, when they played a late night set in a tent after midnight. These guys are true workhorses. It’s exhausting just witnessing one of their shows, so one could only imagine how they feel at the end of the night. Theryl dedicated one of the songs to all the ladies and went into a long story about “funky love” while the band backed him up playing a mid-tempo groove behind him. He went on about two people “in the bay area” who were “so in love, they couldn’t let it go” and how they would argue, but “then go home and get it on!” Theryl asked for a show of hands in the audience if they knew what he meant and continued talking about how the guy would jealously follow her around town to a “Thai restaurant, to the House Of Nanking, and even to The Fillmore”. That story went on for about five minutes before they actually got to the song. Like Robert Walter, I didn’t have a setlist for these guys, but I knew they played “Change My Ways” and “There’s Something Wrong With This Picture”, which I had heard them play before. Additionally, they did a couple covers, “Tippi Toes” by The Meters, which I knew from Primus’ covering it on their “Miscellaneous Debris” EP and the Lee Dorsey soul standard, “Get Out Of My Life”, which Jerry Garcia Band played all the time.
Cypress Hill, Orixa, Fill., SF, Sun., November 8, 1998
SETLIST : We Ain’t Goin’ Out Like That, Real Estate, Hand On The Pump, Checkmate, Pigs, Looking Through The Eye Of A Pig, Lick A Shot, Cock The Hammer, Insane In The Brain, (unknown), Dr. Greenthumb, I Wanna Get High, Stoned Is The Way Of The Walk, Hits From The Bong, Steel Magnolia, I Remember That Freak Bitch, Riot Starter, Funky Bilingual, Hole In The Head, Illusions, When The Shit Goes Down, How I Could Just Kill A Man
Though this would be the seventh time I’d see Cypress Hill perform in only six years, this would be only the second time I’d see them headline their own show. Every other time was at Festivals, twice in a row on the second stage of Lollapalooza ’92, then twice again on the main stage of Lollapalooza ’95, then once more at the Smokin’ Grooves tour gig in ’96. This would be the second time they would play this hallowed venue, having been there once before in ’95, but it certainly wouldn’t be the last. They were already huge, but with the release of their fourth album, the aptly named “IV”, dropped a month before this show, they would soon become the best selling Latin rap group of all time. Cypress Hill even recently became the first hip hop group to get a star on the Hollywood Walk Of Fame. We got to hear seven of the new songs that gig. They had a hit with their single, “Dr. Greenthumb”, which they performed at the end of their set. The origin of the name of that tune is still in dispute, but it may have been culled from a villain in the 1970’s cartoon, “Josie & The Pussycats” who ruled creature plants. Anyway, any musical act that plays The Fillmore already is elevated in the concert experience just by being there, but for some reason Cypress Hill felt like they truly belonged there. I mean, they could be the house band or play stints for weeks like Tom Petty did in ’97. They have certainly returned a number of times since this night and even released a live album from their show there in 2000, which I was unfortunately out of town for.
I had also recorded B-Real earlier that year in May when he toured with Psycho Realm, opening for Funkdoobiest at Maritime Hall, the only time to my knowledge that ever performed up here with that crew. Somehow during his busy schedule or touring and recording, B-Real found time to contribute his voice to the song “The World Is Something New To Me” which was in, believe it or not, the animated children’s film “The Rugrats Movie” that year. Yes, he was part of an all star ensemble who did a few lines each, playing newborn babies in adjacent cribs in a maternity ward. Seriously, the talent on that song was formidable, consisting of Dawn Robinson from En Vogue, Lisa Loeb, Patti Smith, Lou Rawls, Laurie Anderson, Gordon Gano from the Violent Femmes, three members of the B-52’s (Fred Schneider, Kate Pierson, and Cindy Wilson), Pfife Dawg from A Tribe Called Quest, Lenny Kravitz, Beck, Jacob Dylan, and Iggy Pop. I think perhaps since the filmmakers got Mark Mothersbaugh from Devo to do the music and write that songs, it helped recruit such an armada of stars. B-Real only had two lines in the song, the second one in the tune, “How did I get here?” and later on “This world is way too big!” Anyway, back to the show.
I was very impressed by the opening act, Orixa, a Latin alt-rock group who employed a full band. I think their sound help influence Cypress Hill in the next few years to come when they would tour with a full band for a while. Public Enemy did too. Lots of rap acts were doing this in fact, probably seeing the popularity of the nu-metal movement and wanting to get a slice of that pie. Cypress Hill didn’t have a full band by then, but they were touring with a drummer along with their percussionist, Bobo. I would enjoy Orixa again three years later again at The Fillmore when they opened for legendary Mexico City rock band El Tri. It didn’t take long after Cypress Hill took the stage that the air was thick with marijuana smoke. No fog machine was needed that night for sure, the whole house being hotboxed, which is no small feat. The Fillmore is small, but not that small. I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again, there are very few acts that helped bring about mainstream acceptance of herb than these guys.
They went through the first few songs pretty fast, going straight from “Real Estate” right into “Hand On The Pump”. After they did a bit of “Pigs” and the new “Looking Through The Eye Of A Pig”, B-Real asked the crowd, “you know what I want to do when I see a pig?… Can you guess?” then they went into “Lick A Shot”. They all joined in an extended drum and percussion solo between “Cock The Hammer” and “Insane In The Brain”, getting everybody in the house to clap along to the beat. Then B-Real introduced “Hits From The Bong”, praising the “sticky, green, northern Cali weed” saying they should toss him up some since ours was so much better than everybody else’s and entreated everybody to light up and pass it around. B-Real praised KMEL a couple times and dedicated “I Remember That Freak Bitch” to all the freaks in the house. But at the end of the song, Bobo pretended to disparage the amount of the audience’s freakiness and B-Real countered by saying what he’d do if he were us in the crowd and then did “Riot Starter”. Just before “When The Shit Goes Down”, B-Real asked us to remember this day, November 8th, and rambled on about writing the weed national anthem to be recited every 420. At least being mashed to the gills, I had my disappointment eased a little when we didn’t get a poster at the end of the night.
DJ Shadow, Latyrx, Blackalicious, Maritime Hall, SF, Sat., November 7, 1998
I had the pleasure of recording DJ Shadow twice before at the Hall the previous year, once opening for De La Soul in April and then again during the epic Electronica Hanukkah festival that December. So, I got to know his music pretty well, but this time he was there as the headliner, the first occasion I’d see him as such. He had formed a collective of artists at the time in the city called Quannum Projects and the openers that night were both part of that. They would all put out the works from their Solesides Records label, which is still totally independently owned and operated. By this time, Shadow had released the “Preemptive Strike” record, a compilation of his singles and stuff he’d recorded since his groundbreaking “Endtroducing…” album. He had plenty of friends and fans in the house that night and for the rest of us, the honor of seeing the openers for their maiden shows in San Francisco.
First up was Blackalicious, a rap duo consisting of Gift Of Gab and Chef Xcel. They were brand new, the two of them meeting it Sacramento while going to school at UC Davis. I was blown away by their sound, especially the brilliant, rapid fire vocal style of Gift Of Gab. I’d see them quite a few more times in the years to come, but I’m sad to say that Gab passed away two months ago from kidney failure at the all too young age of 50, just a year older than me. But I and all who got to hear him spit can count themselves lucky, especially that night when they were so new to the scene. They wouldn’t even release their first album, “Nia”, for another nine months. Second, up and also brand spanking new were Latyrx, friends of Blackalicious and also from the Sacramento area. They also were a rap duo, made up of Lyrics Born and Lateef The Truthspeaker. They likewise were very talented and I’d see them a number more times as well, both as Latyrx and Lyrics Born’s solo work. Once again, Boots the owner, screwed up on the Maritime’s monthly poster, putting the bands out of order and spelling Blackalicious as “Black Delicious”. He’d done so many typos on his posters, by then it was like a tradition.
Men At Work, Howard Jones, Let’s Go Bowling, Maritime Hall, SF, Mon., November 2, 1998
(HOWARD JONES) : You Know I Love You Don’t You?, New Song, Love Is A Good Thing, No One Is To Blame, Like To Get To Know You Well, Tomorrow Is Now, Everlasting Love, Pearl In The Shell, Let The People Have Their Say, What Is Love?, Things Can Only Get Better
(MEN AT WORK) : Touching The Untouchables, Dr. Heckyll & Mr. Jive, Catch A Star, Blue For You, I Can See It In Your Eyes, No Sign Of Yesterday, Overkill, Everything I Need, The Longest Night, Lifeline, Underground, Helpless Automation, No Restrictions, Down By The Sea, Who Can It Be Now?, Can’t Take This Town, Down Under, (encore), Waiting For My Life To Begin, It’s A Mistake, Be Good Johnny
It had been a year since I was treated to the return from the boys from down under when they had played their show at the relatively tiny venue of the Great American Music Hall. With the impending beginning of the new century, the music of the 1980’s was just on the cusp of returning to popular culture as golden oldies and Men At Work was one of that decade’s finest bands. I had hoped that Pete would give me the whole show to record on my own, but he was no dummy. He knew how big Men At Work were and it was just as well, since clearly he was and always will be the superior engineer and his mix sounded perfect that show as always. This would be the first night my friend Liz Farrow would sit in with us in the recording room, learning the gear and the routines we did. She would go on to assist me for several shows in the next couple years I served at the Hall and her friend Christine Ogu would as well from time to time. My buddy Dan was also in the house that evening dutifully manning the video camera in the balcony.
A unexpected, but welcome bonus to the gig was that they had Let’s Go Bowling as the first act. They had played with my brother’s band, the Dance Hall Crashers, a number of times and it was a delight to record them. Pete let me have that one since he knew I was a fan. Their ska sound went well with the bill and honestly, they would be a good opening act for practically anybody. It’s hard not to love those guys. Also accompanying Men At Work on this tour would be fellow 80’s music impresario and Live Aid alumni Howard Jones from Wales, who frankly stole the show that night. He got the crowd worked up so much that they were singing along to almost every song he did, especially “Everlasting Love” and “Like To Get To Know You Well” the tune I knew from the soundtrack of the hilarious film comedy “Better Off Dead”. Seriously, there are only a handful of concerts in my lifetime I’d hear a crowd sing along that loudly. Not to be outdone, Men At Work’s frontman Colin Hay did his best to get them to sing along to a couple of their songs like “Who Can It Be Now?” and “It’s A Mistake” as well, with almost as much success. Speaking of celebrities from the 1980’s, that evening had the added tinge of weirdness in that Jesse “The Body” Ventura had been elected governor of Minnesota that night.
Men At Work played a solid set as they had when I saw them at the Great American and Colin was his hilarious and charming self. He cracked up the crowd clarifying a bit of the lyrics of “Overkill” saying of the song’s chorus, “that’s ‘ghosts appear and fade away’, not ‘goats appear and fade away’ which is what many people think it is. When goats appear they very rarely fade away I find.” Their flute/sax/keyboard player Greg Ham also made some giggles introducing his tune, “Helpless Automation” calling it new wave music and asking, “Anyone remember new wave music? Those tight red pants, white shoes, geometric designs on top? Very, very nice.” Then Colin joked, “If you don’t like it, we’ll play it again.”
Near the end of the set, Greg finished his sax solo finishing “Can’t Take This Town”, then pretended to wheeze and asked the audience, “What’s the matter? Doesn’t emphysema turn you on? This is a song about where we come from!” The people cheered knowing what was coming next, then Greg said, “It’s not up here, it’s DOWN THERE!” and then they finished the set with their smash hit, “Down Under”. For their encore, just before they did “It’s A Mistake”, Colin said, “thanks for waiting for us for 15 years. We had a very long coffee break”. Sadly, this would be the final time I’d see Colin and Greg perform together. They would have a falling out in later years, predictably over royalties, and then Greg would die unexpectedly at the all too young age of 58 from a heart attack in 2012. Colin continues to tour under the name Men At Work, but he’s currently the only original member.
Frontline Assembly, Switchblade Symphony, Spahn Ranch, Kevorkian Death Cycle, Galaxxy Chamber, Maritime Hall, SF, Sat., October 31, 1998
SETLIST : Vigilante, Circuitry, Resist, Predator, Mindphaser, Surface Patterns, Plasticity, Comatose, Liquid Separation, Gun, Millennium, Bio-Mechanic
I have always savored doing shows on Halloween, probably tied with New Year’s for the best night to be at a show. This year at the Hall, I was treated to a five band line up of electronic industrial acts headlined by Frontline Assembly, a radical departure from the Hooker’s Ball the year before. Such melancholy and theatricality lent itself nicely to the holiday, especially with the copious amounts of stage fog permeating the air. It had been a memorable holiday weekend, starting with DJ Spooky at the Hall on Thursday, then The Residents at The Fillmore the night before. I was missing The Residents playing there again as well as The Cramps at The Warfield and that stung a bit, though I’d had the pleasure of seeing them both before a couple times. Although I was working, I wore my latex skull mask for most of the night and never forgot a prank that Bones, the Maritime’s stage manager, pulled on me with it. I had taken it off for a bit while I was away from the recording room and he snuck in, put it on, and when I returned, leapt from the corner with it on, scaring the dickens out of me. Being startled easily as I always have been, I let out a blood curdling shriek which amused him no end. Rest assured, he went back upstairs and told everybody in the crew about it and I took the mild humiliation in stride. At least everybody got a good laugh and heck, isn’t that what Halloween is all about anyway?
Opening that night was local weirdos Galaxxy Chamber, the one act who had been at the Hooker’s ball the year before who was also on this bill. They were dressed appropriately again for the occasion in their ghoulish goblin attire and make up which they wore to every one of their shows regardless. Following them were Kevorkian Death Cycle from Riverside who had played the Hall earlier that July on the second of the two day stint with Front 242. The one opener of the evening that had yet to play the Hall were Spahn Ranch from Los Angeles, named after the infamous compound that the murderous Manson cult holed up in before doing their monstrous deeds in 1969. They had just released their “Beat Noir” album less than two weeks before this show with the help of Love & Rockets and Bauhaus bassist David J, who I’d just seen do two shows at the Warfield with Bauhaus that August.
The last opener of the night was San Francisco’s own Switchblade Symphony who actually was the opener for the very first Maritime show I helped record when they played with Christian Death, back in September of 1996. I was touched that singer Tina Root remembered me and even addressed me by my name. I always liked that band and thought they were were underrated, not to mention a perfect opener for Frontline Assembly. They would return with them as well as Spahn Ranch the following April, but would disband later that year sadly. I discovered that they put out a live album a few years after that called “Sweet Little Witches”, but didn’t use any of the recordings we did at the Hall, instead using stuff from shows that they did at the Trocadero in Philadelphia in 1996 and the Ventura Theater in 1999. That makes me sad since, like I said, they were from here and between the three times they played the Hall, they had a lot of stuff we taped to choose from. But what’s done is done.
I knew the name of Frontline Assembly, being one of a handful of so-called Electronic Body Music or EBM bands making beats around that time, but hadn’t heard their music before this night. Their frontman, Bill Beeb, had worked previously with Skinny Puppy until parting ways with them in 1986 to start this band, and I talked to him briefly before the show began. He was a tall, lanky man with cropped blond hair from Canada and was very polite to me, as his countrymen were renown to be. I thought he bore a striking resemblance to veteran English actor Terrance Stamp who played General Zod in “Superman II”. In hindsight, it would have been awesome if he dressed like him that night and entreated the crowd to kneel before him. The real General Zod and his Kryptonian buddies, Ursa and Non, probably would have enjoyed his music. Seriously, even if it wasn’t Halloween, they would probably fit in with that crowd anyway. A year later, Siouxsie Sioux played Halloween at the Hall with her band, The Creatures, and let’s just say Ursa in the movie took a page from her look, but I digress.
Bill did ask that on the monitor mix for the evening that his voice be layered with his special vocal effects, partially because it was their style, but I think also because he was a little self conscious about his singing ability, or at least that was the impression I was getting from him. I reassured him that any effects could also be added to the multi-track mix later, but told him I’d do it anyway. I soloed his vocals during the show and thought he actually had a nice voice on its own. I was impressed by his music and thought it was easily as good as such contemporaries of theirs as Nine Inch Nails or Front 242. They had released their album, “[FLA]vour Of The Weak” the previous November, but the only song off that album they played that night was “Comatose”. They had brought a few of their own lights with their gear that night, helping to cut through the clouds of stage fog and giving Bill some creepy backlighting. It was a fun end to a long month, having a whopping 18 shows in only 31 days under my belt, probably a record for me, at least up till then. I’d get a slight reprieve in November, only doing 12 of them.
The Residents, Fill., SF, Fri., October 30, 1998
SETLIST : Jesus Christ Superstar, In The Beginning, Kill Him!, How To Get A Head, Hanging By His Hair, Mr. Misery, Tent Peg In The Temple, God’s Magic Finger, Dinah & The Unclean Skin, Cain & Abel, Burn Baby Burn, Fire Fall, The Seven Ugly Cows, Melancholy Clumps, Bathsheba Bathes, Bridegroom Of Blood, They Are The Meat, I Hate Heaven, Judas Saves, Revelation, Jesus Loves Me, (encore), Smelly Tongues, Moisture, Picnic Boy, Walter Westinghouse
I went from the far out frying pan of DJ Spooky the night before at the Maritime into the true fire of the bizarre with The Residents at The Fillmore. This was Devil’s night, but I can think of no other band apart from The Cramps which is more appropriate to see on Halloween and they were playing at The Warfield. It was a tough call all around, since I had to work at the Frontline Assembly show at the Maritime for Halloween this year. I was just glad I could catch one of these three shows that The Residents did. They were in fact beginning their tour with these shows, having just released their new concept album, “Wormwood : Curious Stories From The Bible”, so we all had the honor of hearing this stuff for the first time live. As the name of the album suggests, each song was a musical exploration of some of the Bible’s more gruesome stories, all from the Old Testament as far as I know.
Many were of ones most people commonly knew like Cain & Abel, Noah’s Ark, and King David and Bathsheba, and the decapitation of John The Baptist, but there were also ones more obscure and a few that only a real student of the good book would have even heard about. One particular song was about King Belshazzar and how a floating, severed finger appeared at one of his parties and wrote a message on a wall in blood saying his days were numbered. Another, “Burn Baby Burn” told of Jephthah who burned his daughter alive as a sacrifice to God for helping him win a battle. It was particularly haunting as it was told from the perspective of the daughter, who the Bible didn’t even have the courtesy of revealing her name, and had the unforgettable ear worm of a chorus, “Soon I will be burning for my, soon I will be burning for my daddy! God digs my daddy!” Yeah, that chorus is in my head for life. For each of these stories, the guy in the Black Skull mask would introduce the songs, giving a brief and humorous synopsis of each as he did the year before at The Fillmore for the “Have A Bad Day” and “Freak Show” songs. Likewise, Mr. Skull would put on different masks and sing, as well as guest vocalist Molly Harvey and drummer Toby Dammit, who also took turns singing, all the while backed up by the band in their traditional Eyeball masks and top hats.
They would produce all manners of stage props, giant wooden heads on sticks, and the lights would change to alter the mood of each tune, taking the audience on this wild biblical journey. This show was coming at an opportune time in my life intellectually, as I was becoming increasingly interested in theology and higher ethics. This was partially because of my friendship to Liz Farrow, who I had met through my brother and was a devout Jehovah’s Witness. We’d talk about Bible stories and such and after this show, I made a point to buy another copy of this album to give to her. Hearing these dark stories hammered home to me the power of the Bible’s imagery and moral quandaries that it posed upon its readers. Indeed, the good book, well, wasn’t so good until Jesus showed up and let’s just say that his death wasn’t pretty, even though he came back and was in a forgiving mood.
The “good news” as it were that night was that there was an excellent poster for the occasion. I was so thrilled about what I witnessed, that I even bought one of their tour shirts. After that night, I was a fully fledged Residents fanatic and took it upon myself to find absolutely every possible album and DVD of theirs that I could lay my hands on. As luck would have it, Boots at the Maritime tried to book The Residents to play Zellerbach Hall in Berkeley at the end of their tour the following year, but had to cancel it due to low ticket sales. I was naturally disappointed, but figured that it would have been hard to sell enough for such a large venue, about twice the capacity of The Fillmore, and all those who had seen them at these three shows, probably wouldn’t shell out the loot to see them again so soon, though I would have. I would have to wait another four years until I got the chance to see them again when they played The Warfield, touring with the “Demons Dance Alone” album. I was able to find a half decent bootleg of the audio from the show they did at The Fillmore the night before this one on Youtube, but thankfully The Residents released an excellent DVD of their show from this tour that they did in Bonn, Germany. That one included previously unreleased songs, “David’s Dick” and “Attitude Is Everything”, about King David’s lewd and exhibitionist behaviors before he straightened himself out and wrote some Psalms.
DJ Spooky, Plastilina Mosh, P.J. Olsson, Maritime Hall, SF, Thurs., October 29, 1998
I suppose it was appropriate that this show happened the day John Glenn went into space again. Mr. Paul Miller AKA DJ Spooky is a pretty far out guy, a real thinking man’s DJ and his education was a testament to that. He has a double degree in philosophy and French Literature from Bowdwoin College in Brunswick, Maine, not the typical credentials of your average turntable jockey. This would be the first time I’d see or hear of him, but I was impressed. One could lump him into the whole trip hop movement that had taken root in the UK, but his sound was different, moodier, ambient, and dark. He had just released his “Riddim Warfare” album which featured fellow hip hop weirdo Kool Keith, but also had a jam with Sonic Youth guitarist Thurston Moore, a telling reflection of his eclectic tastes. I appreciated that he also went by the moniker of That Subliminal Kid, a reference to “Nova Express” by William S. Burroughs, one of my favorite writers. Spooky has since become a professor of music himself.
In a way, his live show was conducive to the Maritime’s atmosphere. There was lots of room and it seemed to meld well with the visuals on the walls, the oil plate projections, and stuff. I could see Spooky being an opening act for hippie shows even, he’s that far out. Likewise, the openers Mexican electronic group Plastilina Mosh and P.J. Olsson also brought beats to the Hall that night which made you think as well as dance. It would only be four months later until I would see Spooky again, opening the SnoCore show at The Warfield alongside Soul Coughing who I had coincidentally just seen there only a month before this show. I was glad Pete was gone for the night as well, giving me this gig since he had been at the helm of the recording room for the previous three shows. This was a good one and I remember distinctly how friendly he was to me at the end of the night when I gave him the tapes from his set. The world needs more DJ Spooky’s out there.
Gregory Isaacs, The Skatalites, Filibuster, Maritime Hall, SF, Wed., October 28, 1998
Mr. Isaacs had played the Hall twice before, once in October of ’96 and then again in April of this year, and we had already released a live CD/DVD from our recordings, the second one we’d put out, just following our debut release of Lee “Scratch” Perry. Though there were likely no plans to release another, especially since he was performing practically the same stuff as before, we were there nonetheless to document the proceedings of the night. I had hoped however, that we’d get to put out a live album for the second opening act that night, the legendary ska band, The Skatalites. It ultimately wouldn’t happen, but I kept my hopes up all the same. I’d seen them a couple times before, once on the Skavoovee bill at The Warfield in 1993 with The Special Beat, The Selecter, and The Toasters and once more for the massive Tibet Freedom Concert in Golden Gate Park in 1996. Having grown up in the midst of the third ska wave in the bay area, especially around my brother’s band, the Dance Hall Crashers, I considered them to be ska royalty and it was a supreme honor to help Pete record them that night.
It would turn out to be crucial to see them at this time since their esteemed founding member, tenor saxophonist Roland Alphonso, would die suddenly just three weeks after this gig. Poor guy suffered a burst blood vessel in his head, which had happened to him once before in 1983, and he would pass away from it at Cedar Sinai in L.A. If that wasn’t bad enough, they had just lost their other saxophonist, Tommy McCook, to pneumonia and heart failure only that May, but at least the two made it to relative old age, being 67 and 71 respectively. Sadly, I never saved the recordings they made that night, nor the time they returned to play the Hall the following July when they opened for Michael Rose, but I did find a decent quality bootleg of their show in Detroit from that year and it was basically all the same songs. They had just released their “Ball Of Fire” album, and I know they played their lively cover of the James Bond theme song, the first track from that new album that show.
The Skatalites opened their set, as they always did, doing their countdown from ten to one and it took no time for them to get the crowd skanking. They had always been primarily an instrumental band, known mostly for their cover of the theme to the old action film, “Guns Of Navarone”, but they did bring out singer Doreen Shaffer to do a few songs. Doreen is now the only surviving founding member incidentally. She would sing “You’re Wondering Now”, a song later made famous by The Specials, as well as the reggae classic “Simmer Down”. The Skatalites in fact had been the band that backed up The Wailers on the original recording of that song way back in 1963. As luck would have it, Bunny Wailer had just performed at the Hall only eleven days before this show with Andrew Tosh, celebrating his late father Peter Tosh’s birthday.
The Murmurs, Paradise Lounge, SF, Mon., October 26, 1998
SETLIST : Don’t Lie, Underdog, Sucker Upper, I’m A Mess, Big Talker, Genius, La Di Da, Misfit, You Suck, Smash, X-Song, (encore), You Suck, One & Only
Purveyors of music in San Francisco around this time would be remiss not to mention the Paradise Lounge, a multi-room brick building on the corner opposite of Slim’s down in the south of Market area. Though I didn’t spend much time seeing shows there, it was adored and respected by locals. It was hard not to feel like you were at home when you were under that roof. Everybody was so nice and the atmosphere was so relaxed that it felt more like a house party than an event when you were there. One would stroll between the main room to the smaller rooms and there would be people about talking casually and the sound level from the bands would seldom be too painful. Sadly, the Lounge went the way of the Dodo years ago like so many venues and I haven’t the foggiest of what the building is used for now, probably a dance club or dot-com start up.
This was likely the last time I set foot in that venue, though I can’t be sure. I can’t even tell you exactly what brought me to see The Murmurs there that night, though I think it was a safe bet that my friend Matt was able to get free tickets at the last minute which would explain why I didn’t tape the show that night. It was a informal night out, but I had seen The Murmurs before opening for Joe Jackson at The Warfield in 1994 and I liked them, so I was glad to be there. The two of them had been music students in New York before that, breaking themselves in busking in the subways. But with their hit song “You Suck” and their cover of Jefferson Airplane’s “White Rabbit”, they soon found themselves signed to MCA and touring. By this time, they had expanded their acoustic duo to a add bass player Sheri Ozeki and drummer Sherri Soliger. The two singers, Leisha Hailey and Heather Grody, had also since reverted their hairstyles from the fright-wig, Rainbow Brite look they had before to simply dark hair, almost black. Only they and their stylists would know if it was their natural color, but they looked nice regardless.
I do remember distinctly talking to both of them, the Lounge being so small it was easy and almost irresistible to approach artists there, and was delighted and even a little surprised how friendly they were to me. I told them that I was at The Warfield show and how much I was impressed by their talent and they were all smiles. I even got them both to to sign their setlist for me, Heather writing, “Thanks for everything! See Ya’!” In hindsight, I can’t imagine what she was thanking me for, other than coming out to see them and appreciating their music, but what the hay, I’ll take it. They had a new album out then called “Blender” which had been co-produced by Leisha’s then-girlfriend, singer K.D. Lang. They would break up three years later though. Also, that album had a song called “Smash” that had been co-written by Jane Wiedlin and Charlotte Caffey of The Go-Go’s. I didn’t know any of this at the time and didn’t even know they were lesbians, not that I would have cared. In fact, Leisha would go on to star in the Showtime series, “The L Word”, among other film, TV, and commercial roles in the years to come. It had been so many years passed, that I didn’t recognize her when she was in the HBO series, “Silicon Valley”, in 2017 where she played the wife of one of Richard’s business partners. Richard would have an impulsive sexual encounter with her and she would later complain to him how bad it was, specifically repulsed by their teeth clumsily hitting each other when they kissed. But this would be the last time I’d see The Murmurs. Leisha and Heather parted ways soon after this show, though briefly reunited to form the band Gush in 2001.
Jon Spencer Blues Explosion, Add N To X, Bob Log III, Fill., SF, Sat., October 24, 1998
It had been over a year and a half since I saw Jon rock The Fillmore for the first time with Sleater-Kinney opening and I was eager to hear more. He had just released his fifth studio album, “Acme”, with the help of legendary producer Dan “The Automator” Nakamura, and just started the new tour, playing the first gig of it in Las Vegas only four days prior to this one. It was easy to love this band, as Beavis & Butthead did, praising their video of “Dang”, Butthead declaring, “I didn’t know something could kick this much ass!”. And speaking of videos, Jon had just made a video for the new single, “Talk About The Blues”, which starred none other than Winona Ryder, Giovanni Ribisi, and John C. Reilly, playing the band members Jon, guitarist Judah Bauer, and drummer Russell Simins respectively. It was quite a sight to see Winona then in her pixie cut doing her manic impersonation of him, yet another reason I’m in love with her… and her talent of course. On top of that, Jon had recorded a cover of Dr. John’s “Right Place, Wrong Time” which would be in the soundtrack of the horror film, “Scream 2”, released the previous December. He also had a memorable appearance on the “Canal+” show, where in the middle of his performance, he ran into the audience, then jumped on the host’s desk, and finally shook the hand of fellow guest, martial arts film legend Jackie Chan, handing him a copy of the new CD.
I had seen Bob Log III once before when he was with his old band, Doo Rag, when they opened for The Cramps at The Edge in Palo Alto back in 1995, but didn’t know his name, or at least his stage name, when this show was booked. It was a treat to see him again, but this time as a solo act, a one man band, playing his slide guitar with his hands, hitting a kick drum pedal with one foot, a high hat with the other, and singing through a CB mic attached to a space helmet. It was quite a spectacle to see for only one guy and for such a short set. This was his first year playing as a solo act and had just released his first album as such, “School Bus”, that year. Fat Possum, his record company declared that Bob had a monkey paw grafted to his left wrist after a childhood boating accident took his human hand off, but Bob denies it, insisting that his hand is just “very, very hairy”. Some guy introduced him that night when he came on stage as “Bob Log III from Tucson, Arizona and he’s gonna kick your ears in the ass!” I’d see Bob quite a few more times in the years to come and especially enjoyed whenever he would invite young women to dip one of their bare breasts into a glass of scotch, then pass around that glass to people in the front row to take a sip while he played his song, “Boob Scotch”. I admit that Bob is correct when he says that scotch tastes better after having a boob dipped into it.
The second opening act was Add N To (X), an electronic or “electroclash” band from England. They apparently had to add the parenthesis to the X in their name for legal purposes, though I find the idea of someone claiming a mathematical formula legally for their own a little strange. Add N To (X) were a bit of an odd departure from the manic blues rock of the rest of the bill, but they at least shared one thing in common with Mr. Spencer in that they were LOUD! I have often said that English acts of all kinds of genres were notoriously loud, but these guys were up there, I mean like Motorhead loud. God help anyone there who didn’t wear earplugs for their set or for Jon’s for that matter. Jon was his usual hyperactive, brilliant self and though his lyrics are practically indecipherable, I did know that the second song was the aforementioned, “Dang” and he ended his set with “Blues X Man”. Unfortunately, my tape deck ran out of batteries that night and I only got a little over the first half of his show. Also, there was no official poster this time, though I found an image of what I assume was an official flyer of this show on line and it looked pretty cool. But worst of all, I didn’t hear about Jon playing a full set for free at Amoeba Records the following day and missed it. That and I had to wait another six years until I had a chance to see him again when he would play at Slim’s.
Little Feat, Legion Of Mary, Maritime Hall, SF, Fri., October 23, 1998
SETLIST : Hate To Lose Your Lovin’, Honest Man, Loco Motives, A Distant Thunder, Spanish Moon, Skin It Back, Rock & Roll Everynight, Dixie Chicken, Eden’s Wall, Sailin’ Shoes, Voices On The Wind, Home Ground, Oh Atlanta, The Blues Don’t Tell All, Let It Roll, (encore), Willin’, Don’t Bogart Me, Willin’ (reprise), Fat Man In The Bathtub
I was really pleased to see Little Feat was added to the calendar at the Hall that month, having been really impressed by their set at The Fillmore three years earlier. I knew Pete would be in the house taping the show, being one of the more respected hippie acts out there. Though they had plenty of live material out since their inception way back in 1969, I still hoped that they’d use the recording we did that night, but to no avail. It still was an enjoyable experience nonetheless. Little Feat had been long associated with New Orleans funk music and I had, as am sure many others did, assumed that they were from there, although they originally formed in Los Angeles. Still, they’re sound undeniably served as inspiration to many southern acts in the years to come like the Black Crowes, Steve Earle, and the Allman Brothers.
Another blast from the past would open that night, The Legion Of Mary. They were hippies through and through, being a very short lived Jerry Garcia side project formed in 1975, along with Jerry Garcia Band’s bassist John Kahn, the ever present veteran keyboardist Merl Saunders, and Martin Fierro, the saxophonist from Zero. Jerry had of course past away three years earlier and John the year after, but there was Merl and and Martin to represent the original line up. This would be the only time I’d see this band together, an even rarer occurrence than the original who actually played less than sixty shows back in the day, so I guess I was lucky. Like I’d written before, Pete and I had long since given up recording Zero at the Hall, but it was still good to see Martin again, being his usual wise guy self on stage and performing different material for once.
PJ Harvey, The Rachels, War., SF, Thur., October 22, 1998
SETLIST : I Think I’m A Mother, Joy, Joe, Civil War Correspondent, Taut, Electric Light, A Perfect Day Elise, Hook, Meet Za Monster, City Of No Sun, Angelene, Missed, Dress, Snake, Heela, To Bring You My Love, (encore), The Wind, Down By The Water
It had been three long years since I had seen the one and only Madame Polly Jean Harvey play not one but two non-consecutive shows at The Warfield in 1995, the first in May, the second in September. I was itching to see her again, especially since her latest album, “Is This Desire?” had just been released a little over three weeks before this night. I picked it up right away and I found the music of the new album was an interesting and alluring departure from her previous work, and though it wasn’t as commercially successful, it still racked her up up a Grammy nomination for Best Alternative Music Performance. Clearly she was branching out into new directions and I was eager to hear the new songs live. This show was important enough for me to leave the duties of recording at the Maritime to Pete, who did Arlo Guthrie there that night. I was sad to miss Arlo, especially if I had been there and Pete left it for me to tape alone, but to me, P.J. was more important. Besides, I’d already seen Arlo at The Fillmore twice in the last two years then. I suppose it was fitting that Pete did that show, since missing Bunny Wailer the night before, leaving that one to me. Both Bunny and Arlo talk incessantly between their songs, and I suppose it was wise to split them up between us to avoid being burnt out.
I had just seen P.J.’s last boyfriend, Australian goth icon Nick Cave play on the very same stage a month before and the experience of their break up and recording the new album took their toll on her mentally and physically, speaking of being burnt out. Probably burnt Nick out too, but he was always so gaunt and vampirish, who could tell? It also didn’t help that P.J. received the ire of animal rights activists that year when she was quoted in an NME interview tacitly supporting fox hunting, saying “Seeing the hunt out on the fields is just so natural to me.” She would tour with The Dirty Three, fronted by Warren Ellis, Nick’s violin player and musical collaborator, later in the year in the U.K., for which I was jealous. We had a group from Houston there that night called The Rachels and they were nice all the same, coincidentally having a couple string players of their own in the band. Nick’s music was also taking a quieter turn at the time, his hauntingly beautiful ballad, “Into My Arms”, clearly inspired by her.
Yeah, she was a lot more subdued than her maniacal performances I saw before there, but the new material was quieter, especially the four songs she played from the “Dance Hall At Louise Point” album she made with John Parrish in 1996. Then again, the song “Taut” as the name suggests was a tense, ranting one, no doubt about that. Still, hearing those and the new songs, edged out older tunes like “50 Foot Queenie” and “Oh My Lover” which I adored, but I will always take hearing a new song for the first time live over an old one for a second time. Still, I’m glad she played, “Dress”, always a favorite.
P.J. had a new look that year as well, drastically cutting down the amount of make up she wore and cutting her hair to a sort of Raggety Ann shape. More or less every time I’ve had the pleasure of seeing her perform, she had a new look. I always thought she had remarkable taste in her aesthetics, personally and with the art in her albums. She even did a brief stint acting around then, playing in a film called, “The Book Of Life” by indy film director Hal Hartley. She played Magdelina in a sort of modern day biblical parody, though I can’t really speak about it, since I still haven’t seen it. I should check it out. Sadly, unlike the last Warfield shows she did, this one didn’t get a poster, though I saw that they made a really cool one for her show up in Seattle at The Showbox that tour two days before this gig. And like before, I would have to wait another three years to see P.J. play the Warfield yet again, but that one would get a poster. My tapes came out alright, but I was delighted to find an excellent bootleg of this set on YouTube.
Bunny Wailer, Andrew Tosh, Lasana Bandele, Maritime Hall, SF, Sat., October 17, 1998
SETLIST : Benediction, Bald Head Jesus, Rasta Man, Blackheart Man, Armagideon, Fighting Against Conviction, Dreamland, Love Fire, Crazy Baldhead, No Woman No Cry, Legalize It, Rockers, Rock N Groove, Dance Rock, Rootsman Skanking, Cool Runnings, Rule Dance Hall, Rock Stone, Simmer Down, Walk The Proud Land, Jailhouse, I Stand Predominate, I’m The Toughest, Hypocrites, The Specialist, Keep On Moving
Bunny had just played the Hall a mere five months before this show and that night was a long one. We had plenty of material recorded from the May show to make an album and Boots had even booked time at The Plant in Sausalito to mix it down with Pete and legendary engineer Tom Flye. For some reason, that album was never released, but the good news was since Pete already had that one in the can, he let me have this night. Frankly, I was surprised he gave it to me regardless, it being reggae royalty with Bunny, one of the original Wailers and the son of his partner in music, Andrew Tosh. That and the fact that he’d been there the night before to record Jimmy Cliff with me. The show this night was billed as the “7th Annual Peter Tosh Birthday Celebration”, though in reality, Peter’s birthday was two days later on the 19th. Peter would have been 54 years old that year. This would be the fifth show in a row for me at the Hall that week and by the end of it, I was a little limp. Reggae shows at the Maritime almost always went late and this one did, big time, especially because it was a Saturday.
Andrew did his father proud, singing all his dad’s hits like “Legalize It”, which Bunny also played, “Equal Rights”, and “Stepping Razor” as well as a few originals of his own. Yes, he was a talent in his own right, and was nominated for his first Grammy in 1989 when he was only 22 for his album, “Make Place For The Youth”. Andrew didn’t have any new material that night, but would eventually release another studio album two years later called, “Message From Jah”. It was easy to like him. For starters, his voice was uncannily similar to his father’s and I mean naturally. I could tell if he was trying to impersonate him, at least I think. Often, many sons of famous singers have good voices, but don’t nearly sound as similar as Andrew did to Peter. One funny, random thing he and his father shared was their love of the unicycle, though I didn’t see if he had it with him that night. Bunny once again played a few of the songs he shared with Peter and that other guy… Bob Marley, I think his name was, “No Woman No Cry”, “Crazy Baldhead”, and “Simmer Down”.
I know it’s not nice to say, considering Bunny’s immense talent and impact on the genre of reggae, but I think half the reason Pete gave me that show to do was so he didn’t have to listen to Bunny drone on between songs. I said it before in the May show, but Bunny’s set would be an hour shorter if he didn’t ramble on as he did, but then again, he wouldn’t be Bunny if he didn’t. Besides, Pete went on five days later to record Arlo Guthrie at the Hall while I was at P.J. Harvey at The Warfield. God knows, Arlo could talk as long as Bunny. It would have been hilarious to record a conversation between the two. It probably would have gone on for days or until the first one would succumb to laryngitis. All kidding aside, it was a supreme honor for me to tape Bunny and Andrew and I was certainly willing to listen all night need be. After both their sets, I gave the tapes to both Bunny and Andrew and I remember each of them being very friendly to me, especially Andrew. Both of them would return along with the other opener, Lasana Bandele, a year later to do the birthday celebration again and once more, Pete allowed me the honor to do that one too. That year, they did it on the 10th, nine days early of Peter’s actual birthday, but who cares? I’d celebrate all month recording music like this.
Jimmy Cliff, Derek Trucks Band, Reggae Angels, Maritime Hall, SF, Fri., October 16, 1998
This was an unexpected, but welcome show to come to the Maritime. Originally, Banyon, the musical collaboration between Jane’s Addiction drummer Stephen Perkins and bass wiz Rob Wasserman, was supposed to play this night. But for some reason, they cancelled and Jimmy Cliff, a very different musical act, took their place. What made it stranger was that the original opening act, The Derek Trucks Band, was kept on the bill. Now this wasn’t the first time the Hall had paired a “deadhead” act with a “dreadhead” act. They all love weed and tended to get along as they did that night. Jimmy was sight for sore eyes, I having not seen him in five years, and it being the Maritime, was the rightful place for such a reggae legend to do his thing. Like Willie Nelson, Jimmy had that strange aura about him that made you feel as if there could be no harm that could come to you while you were in his presence. His music can melt the heart of even the coldest music critic.
Opening that night were the ever-present Fenton and his Reggae Angels band. I can’t even say how many times I saw them opening for reggae people and I don’t care to count. Derek was still a kid, just 24 at the time, two years younger than me, but already had a stellar reputation as a guitar hero, playing alongside the likes of Buddy Guy when he was only thirteen. He was the nephew of Allman Brothers Band drummer Butch Trucks and would join them as a member himself the following year, as well as touring with Phil Lesh & Friends. We had recorded Derek once before that January at the Hall when he opened for Zero, and though we skipped taping Zero for a host of reasons I’ve gone into plenty of times, we did get his set. Like that night, Pete recorded this one as well. I didn’t expect him to give me Jimmy and I didn’t mind. As reggae guys go, Jimmy was too important. He played all the old hits that show and I’m pretty sure he was doing his reggae cover of The Beatles’ “Ob-La-Di, Ob-La Da” back then. He had just released the “Journey Of A Lifetime” album that year, his 26th album in just over 20 years, depending on which ones you’re counting. Once again, he danced and sang up a storm all through his long set with the energy of a man half his age.
Though it had been five years since I had the honor of seeing Mr. Cliff, I was happy to see him make a hilarious appearance on the Adult Swim animated talk show “Space Ghost : Coast To Coast” the previous year. There, Space Ghost asked Jimmy, “Do you think I’m Irish?” Zorak corrected him saying, “Irie”. Space Ghost then asked, “Do you think I’m Irie?” Jimmy graciously responded, “You’re very well on your way, yes.” Space Ghost then cheered, “Hey Zorak, guess what? I’m Irie!” which Zorak coldly replied, “Guess what? You’re an idiot.” Anyway, Jimmy would thankfully return to headline at the second One Festival the Maritime put on at Pier 30/32 the following year, but that would be the last time I’d see him. Derek would return to play the Hall opening for John Lee Hooker on New Year’s Eve in 1999, but Pete and I had left by then and Wade got to record that one. I would get to see Derek again personally opening for Eric Johnson at The Fillmore in 2001, then have the honor to actually help set up his gear at Outside Lands in 2014, when he was touring with his wife, singer Susan Tedeschi, in their group, the Tedeschi Trucks Band. I regret not mentioning the nights at the Hall to him then, but while working, I was too busy anyway and didn’t want to bother him.
Hieroglyphics, The Earthlings, New Born Sun, Maritime Hall, SF, Thurs., October 15, 1998
This would be the fourth time in just over a year I got to record the Hieroglyphics crew. Their breakthrough debut album, “3rd Eye Vision” had been out for half a year and they were home once again after a busy year of touring. Del Tha Funkee Homosapien had finished his third solo album, “Future Development” the previous November, but was unceremoniously dropped by Elektra a month later. The guys from Hiero released it themselves, though only on cassette tape at first, on their homegrown label, Hieroglyphics Imperium Recordings. They would later give it a proper full re-release in 2002. They would go on to play at the Phoenix Theater in Petaluma, a venue the Hall was also booking, two nights later.
It was strange to revisit the opening act, The Earthlings, for this entry, since I discovered, or rather bothered to check, that a few tracks on their live album, “Dues Paid”, were recorded by yours truly on this very night, three of them in fact, “Soujourn Response”, “Three MCs”, and “That’s How It Goes”. Furthermore, five tracks came from the show they did with the Mystik Journeymen five months later, though they gave credit to Pete for recording those, though I was at the helm on that occasion as well. Pete did however record one of the tracks, “Indie Fest”, when they played again with the Journeymen the following July. In addition there were another two live tracks on it for when I recorded them opening for Ol’ Dirty Bastard three months before this show. They even threw in Top Ramen’s freestyle at the beginning of the Lyricist Lounge the month before this show, when he came up on stage with a bunch of other random rappers to spit for three minutes. I know that wasn’t multi-track recorded on the ADATs, so I have to assume they simply used the DAT monitor mix.
Upon re-listening to the album again, I felt a tinge of nostalgia for these suburban white hip hop knuckleheads. Sure, they weren’t Hiero, but as I always said, they got better as the years went on. BOAC, Safari, Top Ramen, and the others clearly took a page from the Beastie Boys, but hey, everybody loves the B-Boys. They chose wisely who to emulate. And I have to face the fact that I saw these guys a lot back then, recording them a whopping seven times opening for all manner of hip hop royalty during my tenure at the Hall. Now that I think about it, I saw them there more times than anybody, easily. I especially am thankful for their meticulous detail in the liner notes of their album, documenting each and every song, where and when it was recorded. I’ve complained time and again about bands releasing live albums without so much as a year or location it was recorded, much less a specific date, venue, or who actually was running the tape decks that night. This pisses me off tenfold when it is with stuff that Pete and I recorded.
And like Hiero, The Earthlings themselves were having the time of their lives performing to the home crowd. It was hard not to like them when they were up there, all smiles, with a bunch of their cheering friends and family in the audience. I doubt they got a better reception anywhere else in the country. On “Sojourn Response”, you can hear one of them goading the crowd saying they can get “louder than Albuquerque!” Yes, they were only on these bills because little Boots, calling himself DJ Bootleg, the owner’s son and stage manager at the Hall was in the band and they all knew it. But seriously, no one can blame them for taking advantage of the situation. Show biz is cruel and fickle enough. I appreciated that they performed with a live bass player and little Boots’ samples were actually clever from time to time. He was a fan of the early “Transformers” cartoon as I was and used bits from the series. They definitely got their folks in the audience pumped up that night during their song, “That’s How It Goes”, getting them to chant and fill in the blanks for some of the lyrics. This would be the last time I’d get to record Hiero at the Hall, though Del and Casual would play there doing their solo stuff later the following year, and I’d see all of them together again twice at The Fillmore and once at The Warfield in years to come. I’d definitely see Del plenty of times in the future as well, playing solo, doing the Deltron 3030 project, and once with the Gorillaz.
Cradle Of Filth, Enthroned, Sadistic Intent, Impaled, Maritime Hall, SF, Wed., October 14, 1998
SETLIST : Cruelty Brought Thee Orchids, Summer Dying Fast, Funeral At Carpathia, A Gothic Romance (Red Roses For The Devil’s Whore), The Forest Whispers My Name, Queen Of Winter Dethroned, The Twisted Nails Of Faith, Desire In Violent Overture, Malice Through The Looking Glass, Dusk & Her Embrace, The Black Goddess Rises, (encore), Black Metal, The Eve The Art Of Witchcraft
The bands coming to the Maritime continued to come at a steady pace, bringing every manner of genre through, including a lot of metal, in this case, black metal. The broad genre of metal was splitting farther and farther leaving this one branch of dark, theatrical types to be led by such bands as Cradle Of Filth. Carrying on the vampirish makeup and overt anarchic and confrontational theatricality of such predecessors as Alice Cooper and King Diamond, the band from Suffolk in the UK had made a name for themselves in a very short period of time.
The first band on the bill was Impaled from across the bay in Oakland. Their name is actually a “backronym” which is to say it is a word that is an acronym of an already existing word. Their name mean “Immoral Medical Practitioners And Licentious Evil-Doers”. I guess they have a well deserved bone to pick with the American health care system. They were going through a lot of line up changes during that time, having guitarist Jared Deaver and bassist Ron Dern leave, then adding from Exhumed vocalist Leon Del Muerte and bassist Ross Sewage. Next was Sadistic Intent from L.A, then Entroned from Belgium. They had just released their third album, “The Apocalypse Manifesto”. Their lead guitarist Nornagest was the cousin of the lead singer of Venom, Conrad Cronos. Venom was supposed to play the Hall that July, but the show was cancelled.
It didn’t take long for Cradle Of Filth to make an impression when they began their set. I mean, God, OK, they get points 10 out of ten in effort, but I guess that was the point especially since they were so new, this being their very first US tour. They looked as if their tailor was Pinhead from “Hellraiser”, head to toe in bondage gear, white face make up, and black painted fingernails and lips. They had brought, as many metal bands did those days, an array of lights of their own, theirs being ones on the deck in the back of the stage lighting them from behind. The Cradle had just released their third studio album “Cruelty & The Beast”, a concept album based on the legend of the Hungarian “blood countess” Elizabeth Bathory. They hated the mix on the album and eventually re-released it in 2011 remixed. On the album, there was narration by actress Ingrid Pitt whose first film role was that of her in the Hammer film, “Countess Dracula” in 1977. Well, there was one obsessed fan who thought she was the reincarnation of Bathory and that lead singer, Dani Filth was her prince, and as luck would have it, Dani had an encounter with her recently dumped boyfriend, who was supposed to drive him to a local Walmart on the tour. I can’t report exactly how that encounter was resolved, but one can assume there are some remaining hurt feelings.
I learned that Cradle’s drummer was almost had the same name as me, being Nicholas Barker, just one letter off. He would eventually leave Cradle to join Sadistic Intent, the opening act from that night, in 2011 and ten years later, have planned to return to the band to tour playing the “Cruelty & The Beast” album in its entirety. The first thing that I imagine most people notice about this band is Dani’s voice. Renowned for having a five octave range, which I’m sure he has, one can’t help but notice that he primarily stays between two particular voices. Like Golem, he seems to be one having a discourse between one high pitched scream, similar to that of Billy Corgan when he’s screaming at his loudest. But this voice for Dani, is one that starts at that level of screaming and just remains there. God, he must have a sore throat every time he does that. The second voice drops precipitously down low, being a guttural growl, like a person barely a level above consciousness. I liked that he was backed up by soprano Sarah Jezebel Diva, singing with their country’s Union Jack flag draped above the drum kit.
All their theatricality that brought them attention, so much so, ultimately in fact produced the most controversial band T-shirt in music history. Around this time, they got it in their head that making a shirt with a nun masturbating on the front and the words “Jesus Is A Cunt” on the back would be a good idea. Yes, maybe after a minute or so, they realized that it might raise a few eyebrows, and even after the first couple printer’s declines to make the said T-shirt, gave them pause to think that this might anger a few people, but they pressed on. They finally found one printer who would do the job, and after paying him discreetly in cash in the back of the shop, they had a bunch and started selling them.
It didn’t take long for that T-shirt to piss people off, especially the Catholics. Fans in several countries were arrested for wearing it and New Zealand banned it altogether. It didn’t help that when the band was visiting the Vatican then, they were arrested since their keyboardist, Lector, was dressed as a priest, a crime there if you weren’t actually one, and another member was wearing a “I Love Satan” shirt. They had machine guns pointed at them and everything, but when they found out that they were supposed to perform that night in town, they released them to avoid an international incident. Anyway, as you can imagine, the more people talked about it, the more the T-shirts sold, at least 25,000 of them.
Still, I’m happy to report that their show at the Hall that night went off without much ballyhoo. Dani came out in his leather regalia and grabbed his mic with fingers adorned with strange rings and an index finger claw and did his thing without incident. He dedicated the third song of the set, “Funeral At Carpathia” to Jake Beckora from Possessed, the Oakland death metal band which Larry LeLonde from Primus used belong to. Being the top story of the day, Dani also took the time to dedicate the song, “Gothic Romance (Red Roses For The Devil’s Whore)” to Monica Lewinski. Dani described the song, “Desire In Violent Overture” as a “musical excretion” and “Dusk & Her Embrace” as a song about the “retribution of the soul”. You get the idea. The darker these metal bands get, the longer the song titles.
Sevendust, Clutch, Stuck Mojo, Ultraspank, Maritime Hall, SF, Tues., October 13, 1998
I was seeing a lot of Sevendust back then at the Hall, this being the fourth time in only ten months, not to mention their second time with Clutch as well. They had come through headlining on their own that January, then opening two months later with Clutch who headlined that night since Limp Bizkit dropped out of that tour, and then once more that April opening for Coal Chamber. Between those shows and the one Clutch did opening for Slayer that May, there is little much more I can tell you about either of those bands from this show. Sevendust would end up joining Limp Bizkit to play at the disastrous Woodstock ’99 show the following year.
But this time, they brought with them the rap metal band Stuck Mojo from Atlanta. Stuck Mojo had just released their third studio album, “Rising”, which had the title track accompanied by WCW wrestling members Diamond Dallas Page, Raven, and The Flock. That song would go on to be played on WCW Nitro for some time and the image of their champion belt would grace the cover of Stuck Mojo’s album. I had since lost interest in pro wrestling since Wrestlemania 3, but I do respect the economic and social power it continues to amass to this day and their album would be a tiny part of that. Also on the bill was Ultraspank from Santa Barbara who had just put out their first self titled album that March. I would go on to see Sevendust one more time at the Fillmore in 2002, but this would be this last time I’d see Clutch live. They would end up touring together again exactly twenty years later, playing at the Regency, but I didn’t see it.
23rd Annual International Comedy Competition, Maritime Hall, SF, Sun., October 11, 1998
After seeing the testosterone fueled extravaganza of the Family Values tour the night before at the Cow Palace with Korn, Rammstein, and Ice Cube, it was a relief to lighten up with some stand up comedy. Like the year before, it was an easy one to tape, there being only a couple microphones to wrangle. But like the previous time, I didn’t save the tapes for myself, nor can I find any of the footage on line, though I did find some bits from some of the comedians who played that night performing elsewhere and naturally, they all were funny guys. This competition was going into it’s 23rd year, just three years younger than myself at the time and had such notable past entries as Robin Williams, Michael Winslow (the sound effects wizard from the Police Academy movies), SNL alumni Dana Carvey, Rob Schneider, and A. Whitney Brown, as well as Patton Oswalt, Louis C.K., Kevin Pollak, and Ellen DeGereres.
The competition was once again hosted by veteran San Francisco comedian Will Durst and the winner on this occasion was James P Connolly, a local from San Mateo. He had also tied with comedian Dan Friesen for the win the previous year. James had served in Operation Desert Storm in Iraq where he helped write jokes for his Colonel before coming home to make comedy his profession. I liked his bit where he said if you’re ever late to work, tell your boss that you’re technically not late since you never intended to show up in time in the first place. Though James didn’t go on to the type of fame and fortune as the others I listed earlier, he continues to crack people up to this day performing stand up and appearing on the syndicated “Bob & Tom Radio Show”. Incidentally, I thought it a strange coincidence to see Will Durst the night after seeing Fred Durst of Limp Bizkit perform. I suppose there’s no relation between them, but who knows? It’s a small world.
Family Values Tour ’98: Korn, Rammstein, Ice Cube, Limp Bizkit, Orgy, Cow Palace, SF, Sat., October 10, 1998
(ORGY) : Dissention, Gender, Pantomime, Fetisha, Stitches, Blue Monday, Revival
(LIMP BIZKIT) : Cambodia, Pollution, Counterfeit, Thieves, Nobody Loves Me, Let The Attack Begin, Stuck, Faith, Jump Around
(ICE CUBE) : Natural Born Killaz, The Nigga You Love To Hate, Check Yo Self, Fuck Dying, Dow Down, We Be Clubbin, Straight Outta Compton, Fuck The Police, Wicked
(RAMMSTEIN) : Rammstein, Tier, Bestrafe Mich, Weisses Fleisch, Sehensucht, Asche Zu Asche, Du Hast, Buck Dich, Engel
(KORN) It’s On! Twist, Chi, Wicked (with Chino Moreno), A.D.I.D.A.S., Shoots & Ladders – Justin – Predictable – Ball Tongue – Divine – Kill You, B.B.K., Blind, Got The Life, Dead Bodies Everywhere, Faget, (encore), All In The Family (with Fred Durst)
Like I had written about the swing movement recently with the previous Royal Crown Revue show at The Fillmore, the nu metal scene was also in its heyday back then, though with much bigger numbers. Korn had brought the genre to its highest level of commercial popularity when they launched this brief but successful tour, bringing it to the Cow Palace, a venue that can easily hold over 16,000 people . They would make even more money with the Family Values tour the following year at the same place, but for some reason, I missed it, even though Primus was also on the bill for that one. Most likely, I had to work. Sort of the antithesis of the Lilith Tour, this one didn’t have a single female performer on stage all night and let’s just say the men that did perform, with the exception of one or two of the Rammstein guys, were a little butch.
I have made no secret for my hatred of the Cow Palace, despite the talent I’ve seen perform there. The acoustics are atrocious, the atmosphere positively toxic, the neighborhood it’s in is a war zone, and getting in and out of there always would prove tedious at best. All that and the fact that I had to get there for the show to start at 6:30 PM during rush hour traffic all added up to an unpleasant experience on a logistical level. I went with my friend Drew and yes, we got stuck getting in and missed not only Orgy, but Limp Bizkit before we finally made it inside. I wasn’t as upset as Drew, who was a die hard Limp Bizkit fan and I didn’t know Orgy from Adam, but anybody who knows me knows that I never miss opening acts if at all possible, even if I don’t like them and/or have a comp ticket, which was the case on this occasion. I had at least seen Limp Bizkit before also opening for Korn at The Fillmore in 1996 and I’d get to record Orgy the following year at the Maritime. As a sort of consolation prize, I was able to find bootleg recordings of everybody’s set on YouTube including theirs.
Orgy were brand new back then, but already had a hit doing a nu metal cover of New Order’s “Blue Monday”, which they of course played that night. Their guitarist, Ryan Shuck, had previously been in a band with Jonathan Davis, the singer of Korn, called Sexart, when they lived in Bakersfield, before Davis left the band to form Korn in 1993. Orgy’s debut album, “Candyass” was released a couple months before this on the same day Korn put out their “Follow The Leader” album, though they were signed to different labels. Their singer, Jay Gordon, yelled, “Make some noise Oakland!” between songs. Maybe he was giving a shout out to the city across the bay or maybe he really thought he was there at the time. They had a DJ spinning records between acts called DeeJay Punk-Roc, though he mostly spun hip hop songs.
Next up was Limp Bizkit with their already infamous frontman, Fred Durst. His boorish behavior alienated them off Faith No More’s tour the previous October, causing them to be replaced by Lowercase when they came to The Warfield. They went on to tour with Soulfly on their first European tour, then joining the bill on Ozzfest. Lynn Straight, the singer from Snot who would tragically die in a car crash that December, was arrested for indecent exposure during Limp Bizkit’s set at one of those shows when he emerged naked from a prop toilet they had on stage with them. Let it not be said that Fred couldn’t get the crowd’s blood up though, something he had infinite talent for good or for worse. Borrowing the old hip hop trick, he had the crowd split down the middle competing for which side was louder. They did an interesting instrumental interlude called “Let The Attack Begin” which included samples from what sounded like an old science fiction movie before playing “Stuck”.
Fred asked the crowd, “How many people in San Francisco like Suicidal Tendencies? How many people in San Francisco like Primus? Primus is in the house! Do you guys know I used to live in Fremont?” The audience cheered but gave him a less than lukewarm response when he asked “How many people here like George Michaels?” They all knew their cover of “Faith” was coming next and he responded to them, “That’s fucked up. He’s still young man.” At the end of their set, Fred reminded everyone that it was a general admission show and that everybody could come down to the dance floor which he said earlier was “the biggest floor I’ve ever seen!” before finished with a truly cringeworthy cover of the House Of Pain’s “Jump Around”. Their cover of Ministry’s “Thieves” earlier in the set was at least slightly more tolerable. Now, as you might have gathered, I’m not the biggest fan of Fred or his band, but my friend Drew was and there are plenty of others who feel the same about them. However, I did appreciate their guitarist, Wes Borland, who had a unique style and always dressed up in absolutely bizarre costumes and face paint. Wes had just gotten married to his long time girlfriend Heather McMillan that April, though they would divorce three years later.
Thank God we arrived in time to see Ice Cube. It had been two years since I saw him at The Warfield and a full five years since he had released a new album, this one being, “War & Peace Vol.1 (The War Album)”, which wouldn’t even hit stores for over a month later. His DJ was set up on a giant riser shaped like a skull and Cube came out looking like a steampunk undertaker in a black top hat, dark goggles, and long coat and opened appropriately enough with “Natural Born Killaz”. Cube then pretended to be offended saying that that “the people in the back don’t wanna see Ice Cube. I’m outta this motherfucka’! Peace!”, and walked off stage. His DJ predictably worked up the crowd until he came back and used the frustration to egg them on to raise their middle fingers and chant, “Fuck You, Ice Cube!”, which continued as it always did when he played, “The Nigga You Love To Hate”. Afterwards, Cube admonished the crowd who chanted that, telling them that they had better “Check Yo Self”, then going into that song.
Korn and Cube had collaborated with each other recently, Cube contributing vocals to the song, “Children Of The Korn” on their new album, and Korn backing up Cube for “Fuck Dying” on his new one. So, it made sense that they would tour together, making it a perfect opportunity for one of Korn’s guitarists, I think it was Munky, to come out and play with him for the latter song. There was a strange interlude with a deep, English voice going off about Cube’s crew, the Westside Connection, before they went into their single, “Bow Down”. Cube then did the song, “We Be Clubbin”, a tune that was on the soundtrack for “The Player’s Club”, a movie Cube wrote and directed that came out that March. I never saw it actually, but was mightily impressed with his acting in “Three Kings”, that would come out the following year.
Yes, Cube would do a great deal of acting work in the future, but we were treated to a couple jams from his past when he dusted off N.W.A.’s “Straight Outta Compton” and “Fuck The Police”. Like Limp Bizkit, he divided up the crowd with the other guy rapping with him to see which side was the loudest, even betting $300 that he’d win. He taunted the audience saying, “You all don’t smoke Indo, you smoke Pretend-O”. Taunting aside, I appreciated that Korn had brought him on the bill, exposing the predominately white, suburban crowd to some real hip hop, some there probably for the first time live. Those kids may have not run home and started reading “The Autobiography Of Malcolm X” right away, but it was a start. Cube finished his set with “Wicked” opening it up with the theme song from the movie “Jaws” which I learned researching this was his favorite movie. He joked before walking off stage that he was going to collect his $300 because his side of the crowd was the loudest. We were lucky to see Cube, especially since he would leave to tour ultimately to continue working on his film, “Next Friday”, and be replaced two weeks later by Incubus to finish the tour’s last four dates. I’d see Cube one more time at the Warfield two years later, but sadly haven’t seen perform live since then.
Hip hop music might have been foreign to some of the kids at the show that day, but they would all soon be in for a particularly jarring experience when Rammstein came on. I had already experienced their unique brand of insanity at the Maritime six months before, so I wasn’t surprised to see their singer, Til Lindemann, emerge out on stage in his heavy silver jacket with arms outstretched and engulfed in flames. Like Incubus would be, they too were a replacement on the tour, taking over for Rob Zombie. There were conflicting reports to why Rob dropped out or was dropped, some saying he didn’t think hip hop acts should be on the bill, others citing the exorbitant amounts of money it took to get him and pay his production costs. Either way, he and Korn made amends and toured together later the following year and then again in 2016. Rammstein pretty much played the same stuff as when I saw them, setting off their pyrotechnics again and again, much to the delight of the mosh pit. Til didn’t say anything between songs, but politely thanked the crowd at the end, even saying, “Danke Schon”.
When the tour ended that Halloween in Worcester, Massachusetts, there was a bit of a dust up when Rammstein played on stage in various stages of nudity except for guitarist Richard Kruspe who was wearing a wedding dress. Near the end of their set that night, Til had grabbed keyboardist Christian “Flake” Lorenz by his leather leash, bent him over, produced a fake plastic dick from his pants, and pretended to sodomize him with it, finally ejaculating some unspecified fluid all over the stage, crowd, and both of them. They got dragged away by the cops and charged with “lewd and lascivious behavior”. Not the kind of stuff people are used to in Worcester I suppose, but a typical Saturday night for the folks on Folsom Street out here. To this day, Til has to explain this incident to customs officials each and every time he enters the country.
At long last, Korn came out to finish the bill. They had erected a giant steel cage next to the band called the “Korn Kage” which held several of their fans who were lucky enough to be selected through a radio contest. Like I said earlier, their new album, “Follow The Leader”, had just come out and Drew and I were hearing the new songs live for the first time, including their hit, “Freak On A Leash”, a song I’m sure Rammstein could identify with. The video for that song, directed by “Spawn” and “Spider-Man” comic book artist legend Todd McFarlane, would be so successful, it would win Korn a Grammy for Best Short Form Music Video as well as two MTV Video Music Awards for Best Editing and Best Rock Video. The album itself would eventually go platinum five times over. There had been no shortage of sex, alcohol, and drugs for the band leading up to this tour, but they were starting to clean up their act. Jonathan Davis got sober just before the tour and married Renee Perez, though they divorced two years later. Also, guitarist Brian Welch and bass player Fieldy would each become fathers to their second daughters, Brian’s daughter Jennea born that July, Fieldy’s daughter Olivia born later that December.
As always, Davis busted out his bagpipes to introduce the song “Blind”. I learned he was inspired to play them after seeing Scotty play them for the funeral for Spock at the end of “Star Trek II : The Wrath Of Khan”. Strangely enough, Korn also played Ice Cube’s song, “Wicked”, that night joined on stage by Chino Moreno from The Deftones. One more cover, or at least part of one, they sang a verse of Cypress Hill’s “We Ain’t Goin’ Out Like That” before going into “Got The Life”. For the encore, Fred Durst came out to do “All In The Family” with them, a song comprised of he and Jonathan ripping on each other playfully. Light hearted as it was to them, the song did piss people off who considered their banter homophobic and Davis later confessed that this song was “dumbest fuckin’ track Korn ever did”. At least Drew and I got some consolation being able to see Fred do one song that night.
Continuing their reputation of inspiring controversy, Korn, Limp Bizkit, and Ice Cube would all take part in the disastrous Woodstock ’99 festival the following year, Durst getting more than some of the blame for inciting that immense crowd to riot. But on the lighter side of the news, Korn did however take part in a hilarious episode of “South Park” aired later that October titled, “Korn’s Groovy Pirate Ghost Mystery”, a clever parody of the old “Scooby Doo” mysteries with guest voices. I would see Limp Bizkit headlining Live 105’s B.F.D. festival at Shoreline two years later and then once again opening for Korn for my third time at The Warfield in 2003. Finally, in a strange coincidence, the comedy competition I would record at the Maritime the night after this show was hosted by veteran San Francisco comedian Will Durst. I wonder if he and Fred are related…
Agnostic Front, Dropkick Murphys, Maximum Penalty, One Man Army, Maritime Hall, SF, Fri., October 9, 1998
I was a little familiar with Agnostic Front from my friend Hefe, who had been a fan of theirs since we were kids in high school. The New York City band had been one of the pioneers of hardcore punk music since 1980, providing the soundtrack for the (non-racist) skinhead movement. Agnostic Front had disbanded briefly in 1992 and reformed in 1996 and they had just released their fifth studio album, “Something’s Gotta Give”, three months before this show. In a strange coincidence, I had just seen Royal Crown Revue at The Fillmore singing the Louis Prima swing standard of the same name as well as the Beastie Boys a few weeks before that singing their own song of the same name. The good lord was trying to tell me something maybe.
The first opener was One Man Army, a local punk band that had been recently discovered by Green Day’s Billy Joe Armstrong. Their frontman, Jack Dalrymple, had been playing guitar for the Swingin’ Utters and had just dropped their first album, “Dead End Stories”, just ten days before this show. They were good, definitely taking a page from The Clash. Next up were Agnostic Front’s fellow New York hardcore punks, Maximum Penalty, who had been taken under their wing. The Front gave them their first matinee show opening for them at CBGB’s and took them on their first European tour. Maximum Penalty were some pretty tough looking guys, especially the singer James Williams, a big, bald mountain of a man. But I was impressed by the quality of his voice. That guy could really sing. US Bombs were listed on the bill for the Maritime’s monthly poster, but they didn’t make that show for some reason.
But the band who stole the show would be the last opening act, the celtic punk band, the Dropkick Murphys from Quincy, Massachusetts. They derived their name from an alcohol detox center in their hometown, which is ironic considering their hard drinking fans. It would be the first time I’d be seeing them. The Murphys had just picked up their new singer, Al Barr who had spent the previous decade as the singer of a band called The Bruisers. He had replaced singer Mike McColgan only months before, who had left the band to become a fireman and later sing in the band, the Street Dogs. They were rowdy and fun, Al crooning and growling in his wife beater shirt, taking the sound of Pogues and adding a heaping spoonful of machismo. I would see them five years later opening for the Sex Pistols at The Warfield with the Reverend Horton Heat and later headlining there in 2005. They would forever be known for their song, “I’m Shipping To Boston”, which would be used as sort of the de facto theme song for Martin Scorsese’s Oscar winning film, “The Departed”, in 2006. But back then, they were brand new to folks on the west coast and I was proud to get to record them before they got big. In typical Maritime Hall fashion, Boots screwed up the monthly poster at least once, having them listed as the “Dropkick Murphy’s” with an apostrophe.
Sepultura, Vision Of Disorder, Earth Crisis, Maritime Hall, SF, Fri., October 2, 1998
SETLIST : Spit, Choke, Rumors, Slave New World, Attitude, Cut-Throat, Old Earth, Floaters In Mud, Biotech Is Godzilla (with Jello Biafra), Forkboy (with Jello Biafra), Arise, Dead Embryonic Cells, Troops Of Doom, We Who Are Not As Others, Boycott, Breed Apart, Refuse/Resist, Territory, Inner Self/Beneath The Remains, (encore), Tribus/Kaiowas, Lookaway (with Mike Patton), (encore), Roots Bloody Roots, Against
It had been six long years since I’d seen Sepultura when they opened for Ministry at that unforgettable night at the Bill Graham Civic. As you might remember if you read the stuff I wrote about that one, I had accidentally taken a tab of acid a day early, showed up to the venue to find it empty, panicked, then collected myself and went to cool off at the Castro watching “Casablanca”. The show the next day and when they headlined the Warfield two years later were the only times I’d see Sepultura with their original singer Max Cavalera, though I’d seen him only five months before this show at the Maritime with his new band Soulfly. Sepultura was now touring with their brand new singer, Derrick Green, and I had to admit he was an impressive replacement for Max. He was tall, muscular, and handsome with a head of immaculate dreadlocks and not only had a powerful voice, but could also play guitar and percussion. He had a set of congas on stage with him which he pounded with mallets for a song or two.
Opening that night were two bands from New York, Earth Crisis from Syracuse and Vision Of Disorder from Long Island. Earth Crisis was a straight-edge hardcore punk band that were vegan and promoted animal rights. They had named themselves after the reggae band Steel Pulse’s album from 1984 and had just released their first major label album that September called, “Breed The Killers” and had just finished a tour alongside Hatebreed earlier that year. Rob Flynn of Machinehead who had just played the Hall three weeks to the day before this show had contributed to the album, lending his vocals to their song “One Against All” and he being a local from across the bay in Oakland, did them the honor of joining them on stage that night to sing along to that tune. In another strange coincidence, guitarist Logan Maher had left Soulfly to join Machinehead that year. Vision Of Disorder was also on the Roadrunner label with Sepultura and Earth Crisis and had just released their second album, “Imprint”. I liked their singer, Matt Baumbach, who covered in an impressive array of tattoos and screeched like Ad Rock from the Beastie Boys all through their set.
Sepultura had brought their own stage lighting with them, a rack above and behind the band and a couple triangular truss racks on the deck on stage in front of their guitar amps with up lights attached to them. With their new singer, they were touring with a new album called, “Against”, which they had recorded in their native Brazil and it would hit the stores a week after this show. The mosh pit was predictably cray-cray sending up stage diver after stage diver, so much so, that by the end of the show there were at least one or two “redcoats” up front with their baseball hats on backwards, stationed there catching and dispatching them as fast as they could.
We were treated to not one but two special guests that night, the first being Jello Biafra from the Dead Kennedys. As you might remember, I was all too familiar with Jello, having been an intern at his record label, Alternative Tentacles, a couple years before this when I was still in college. He would pop by the Hall and practically every other punk show that came to town, still does, and either hang out and/or join the band for a song or two. This time, he joined Sepultura wearing a Tribe 8 shirt, a hardcore dyke punk band Alternative Tentacles represented, to sing their song, “Biotech Is Godzilla”, then they did a song called “Forkboy” from Jello’s band Lard, which was basically Jello with Ministry as his band. That was one of my favorite Lard songs and I never tire or hearing it.
The second guest that night was none other than Mike Patton from Faith No More, amongst other musical projects. In fact, one of the guitarists that night was wearing a T-Shirt from his band , Fantomas, a super-group which Mike formed just earlier that very same year with Buzz Osborne from The Melvins, Dave Lombardo from Slayer, and Trevor Dunn From Mr. Bungle. I’d see Mike play with Faith No More for their last bay area performance at the Warfield, before they split up the following April, though they’ve had reunions since. He joined them for the Sepultura song, “Lookaway”, opening the tune by making his voice sound like a didgeridoo, then singing in his usual voice, and then did a bunch of vocal tricks, tapping his throat with his fingers,finally finishing exchanging shrieks with Derrick. The crowd was loving it and chanted, “Sep-Ul-Tur-A!” over and over again during the encore breaks. Unfortunately, Sepultura wouldn’t let us record that night, though I was able to get the openers. Often, when a band is new or is breaking in new members they are a little skittish about being taped. Thankfully, there was somebody in the balcony that night who got their whole set on a video camera and posted in on YouTube.
Soul Coughing, War., Wed., September 30, 1998
SETLIST : Screenwriter’s Blues, White Girl, Collapse, (unknown), (unknown), Maybe I’ll Come Out, (unknown), (unknown), (unknown), Circles, I Miss The Girl, Bus To Beelzebub, (unknown), (unknown), (encore), Mr. Bitterness, Rolling, Super Bon Bon
I had a few days off between shows to rest for which I was grateful. September had been a doozy, me doing 17 shows in only 30 days and 11 of those shows were in a 12 day period. Soul Coughing was a good way to end the month for a couple of reasons. First and foremost, on an emotional level it helped me further closure with my grief over the untimely death of my friend Casey the year before. Soul Coughing playing The Fillmore that August was the last show I saw before he was tragically hit by a car and killed while riding his bike in downtown San Francisco the next day. David Byrne was the first show I saw after the accident and eventually seeing him as well at The Fillmore in 2001 also helped coming to terms with my grief. But on a happier note, seeing Soul Coughing at the end of this month was relieving since they were such a unique and talented band and because there was only a DJ opening, ushering the night was a breeze.
Like so often when a band is going through turmoil, I was blissfully unaware. The frontman of the group, Mike Doughty, was in throws of heroin, opiate, and alcohol addiction and he wasn’t getting along with anybody, especially his bandmates. They had literally just released their third and final studio album, “El Oso”, the day before this show, which is one of the reasons I only knew about half of their setlist. Nobody could have guessed the personal hell Mike was going through that night since he and the band were in perfect form and amongst a full house of devoted fans. I liked how they would splice in ransom samples between songs this time around. As I mentioned in the show four days prior to this, Royal Crown Revue at The Fillmore, that the opening act that night, The Crosstops, coincidentally also had a “Beelzebub” song which I thought was eerily strange.
At the end of their set, Mike said, “We are Soul Coughing and we bid you adieu!” They came back and Mike joked, “Ah yes! Spontaneity, thy name is encore!” and they did three more songs, finishing with their hit, “Super Bon Bon”. For that song, he had the crowd repeatedly shout “Candy Bar!” a bunch of times after he did and also had them yell out “Through!” when he did the line, “Move aside and let the man go – Through!” It was a brilliant show and like the Revue four nights before, I was pissed there was no poster. I’d see Soul Coughing one more time also at The Warfield, five months later, playing alongside Everclear, Redman, and DJ Spooky at the Snocore tour show, but shortly afterwards, they broke up for good.
Royal Crown Revue, Fill., SF, Sat., September 26, 1998
(THE CROSSTOPS) : Nasty Dan, Beelzebub, I Was Drunk, Let’s Truck Together, Truck Drivin’ Man, Road Boner Blues, Bill Clinton’s Got A Boner, I’d Like To Fuck Your Brains Out, Sadie Divine, UFO & The Trucker
(ROYAL CROWN REVUE) : The Good, The Bad, & The Ugly Intro, Zip Gun Bop, The Walkin’ Blues, The Contender, Who Dat?, Work Baby Work, Walkin’ Like Brando, Big Boss Lee, Spanky’s In The Kitchen, Something’s Gotta Give, Hey Pachuco!, I Live The Life I Love I Love The Life I Live, Morning Light, Salt Peanuts, There’ll Be No Next Time, Barflies On The Beach, Beyond The Sea, (encore), Hot Rod, Medley – Flintstones – Rumble
The swing music revival was having its heyday back then, though it is difficult to determine exactly when a musical trend comes and goes. Often musical movements have a significant death or series of deaths like that of Kurt Cobain in 1994 or of Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, and Jim Morrison in quick succession in 1970 that one could mark the end of their genres era. The music never really dies, but it’s not quite the same. Swing music never got stadium big, but it was prevalent enough back then to embed itself into popular culture of the time with movies like “Swingers” in 1996. It was seeing the Royal Crown Revue’s residency at The Derby in L.A. which inspired Jon Favreau to make that 1996 comedy and both the Revue and Big Bad Voodoo Daddy played songs in it. Also, the Revue had a prominent role in the Jim Carey film, “The Mask”, playing their hit song, “Hey Pachuco!” as he and Cameron Diaz danced to it. This would be the second band that I’d see within a month that was in a movie with Jim, the other being Cannibal Corpse who I recorded at the Maritime, a very different band indeed. They played their song, “Hammer Smashed Face” in “Ace Ventura : Pet Detective”. I suppose if those bands ever meet, they’d at least have that in common and trade stories.
Swing music does have some things in common with punk and metal though. Back in the 30’s and 40’s, there was no shortage of repressed religious types to declare the genre as the devil’s music. Whoa, would they be in for a shock as the years went on. But the swing acts of the 90’s had quite a few ex-punks among their ranks and the Royal Crown Revue had a few of their own. Mark Stern, drummer of the Hollywood punk band Youth Brigade, helped found the band along with his brothers, Adam, Shawn, and Jamie, playing bass, guitar, and alto sax respectively. Although they were doing well, obviously as they were headlining The Fillmore for the second time in two years, they were mired in legal wrangling, first with the band The Amazing Royal Crowns. They sued them claiming that the similarities in their names was causing confusion with their fans and promoters. They relented eventually and agreed to change their name to simply, The Amazing Crowns. Also, they in turn were sued over their name by Royal Crown Cola of all folks. What a mess. At least Royal Crown whiskey stayed out of it. But the Revue were signed to Warner Brothers and had just released their second major label album “The Contender” for this tour that year, so things were otherwise looking up for them.
But as usual, I was blissfully unaware of it all when I saw this show. I was just glad to hear some real organic music played by folks with instruments after recording the electronic rave stylings of The Crystal Method the night before at the Maritime. A real highlight of the evening for me was the opening act, The Crosstops, a rockabilly band with a penchant for drinking and womanizing. Their first EP, just released the year before was called, “Drinkin’, Fightin’, Fuckin’, & Truckin’” for crying out loud. Like swing music, rockabilly was also considered the devil’s music in it’s day and likewise was populated often by ex-punks during this time. The frontman of The Crosstops was Barry Ward, one of the founding members of Rich Kids On L.S.D. Last time I saw him, he was throwing up on stage opening for Gwar at The Warfield in 1994. He was calling himself “The Wooper” in this band and was joined on stage by a fellow named Porkchop and another called Chatty.
I initially mistook their song, “I’d Like To Fuck Your Brains Out”, as a song done by Michael Shelley who opened for They Might Be Giants at The Fillmore the month before, since the recording of them playing it at their soundcheck mysteriously ended up on that show. I thought it suspicious since it didn’t sound like Michael, but didn’t figure it out until I eventually got to this show. I loved the hilarious chorus that went, “I’d like to fuck your brains out doncha’ know, I’d like to eat your pussy, lick your titties to and fro, you make my body tingle, you make my peeter grow, I’d like to fuck your brains out doncha’ know!” It’s vulgarity was only matched by its catchiness.Trust me, once you hear it, that chorus is in your head for life. But it wasn’t the only raunchy tune they would play that night for sure.
As most people remember, our president at the time was embroiled in an embarrassing sex scandal and well, it didn’t go unnoticed by The Crosstops. They did a real quick number for as The Wooper described “our pervy president” that went, “Bill Clinton’s got a boner that just won’t go away. Seems like there’s another story every other day on how he’s getting blow jobs and how he’s sportin’ wood. He might be a pervert but to me that’s good cus’ I’d rather have a president that tries to bust a nut than hear the Reaganomics fuckin’ us up the butt.” Pure poetry. Between songs of sex, trucking, and fornication, they made time to sing one song about the guy downstairs called “Beelzebub”. Coincidentally, I would see Soul Coughing four days later at The Warfield where they would play their song, “Bus To Beelzebub”. Alas, this would be the only time I’d see The Crosstops, but their set was one of the most entertaining openers that I’d ever see.
It was a pretty well sold crowd by the sound of it and as always, there were plenty of swing enthusiasts dressed to the nines in vintage clothing ready to party like it’s 1949. They took to the stage to the recording of Ennio Morricone’s theme from “The Good, The Bad, & The Ugly” and immediately went into their first song, “Zip Gun Bop”. I liked their slick, fast talking singer, Eddie Nichols. The palooka was like a time traveler beamed there from The Copa. He introduced the song, “Who Dat?” saying it was “about a speakeasy where you can smoke”. After playing a bunch of their original stuff, they got to a few covers starting with the Johnny Mercer swing standard “Something’s Gotta Give”. I thought it ironic since I’d just seen the Beastie Boys at Oakland Arena less than two weeks before this and they have a song with that title as well, though quite a different one stylistically. There was also some excellent drum and bass solos for “Hey Pachuco!”, extending the tune almost ten minutes long.
From there, they did covers of “I Live The Life I Love, I Love The Life I Live” by Willie Dixon and “There’ll Be No Next Time” by swing icon Louis Prima. The Revue had just released a live album the previous year called “Caught In The Act” where they debuted their song “Barflies On The Beach” which was their second to last song of their main set that night. The melody was actually a reworking of Prima’s hit “Sing, Sing, Sing”. They finished the set with Bobby Darin’s “Beyond The Sea” then came back for the encore starting it with the feverish instrumental, “Hot Rod”. It eventually morphed into a medley ending with a bit of the theme from “The Flintstones”, finishing it with Link Wray’s “Rumble”. I was disappointed that the show didn’t get a poster at the end of the evening, as I always am when that happens, but I was especially pissed since their show at The Fillmore they did they year before did get one and it was a real good one at that.
The Crystal Method, Taylor, Lunatic Calm, Maritime Hall, SF, Sun., September 25, 1998
Like the Goodie Mob who had played at the Hall a few days before, I got to see The Crystal Method on quite a few occasions in a short span of time. They had played the Maritime at the Electronica Hanukkah the previous December and they came back and played the Warfield just three months later. They brought along an impressive array of lights with them this time, blasting the living shit out of the retinas of anybody up near the front of the stage for sure. Their set was basically same as before, obviously playing their big hit at the time, “Busy Child”. There was another DJ named Taylor and a band from London called Lunatic Calm. They were pretty new then, their debut album “Metropol”, released the year before. I appreciated that Lunatic Calm had a live drummer, a tight one at that, and singer in the band. Their music would be used a few years later in movie soundtracks like “The Matrix”, “Charlie’s Angel’s”, and “Mortal Kombat : Annihilation”.
Though I didn’t save the tapes from this night, I did find a humorous video on YouTube of Lunatic Calm at various stops on the road during that tour with The Crystal Method, mostly between New Mexico and Texas. During their show in Albuquerque, there was a rain storm that caused a leak onto the stage at the ironically named “Sunshine Theater” and they joked that they needed to play while holding umbrellas. It was a little funny to see the fans lined up to get into the venues since the kids back then at those shows used to sport and show off pants with enormously wide pant legs, borderline clown sized. Coincidentally, at one moment in the video on their tour bus, they were listening to Soul Coughing, who’d I see at The Warfield five days after this gig. Though I never saw Lunatic Calm again, I got to see The Crystal Method a couple more times at The Warfield in 2004, one in March and then again in July of that year, yet another close grouping of shows with them.
Goodie Mob, Xzibit, Maritime Hall, SF, Sun., September 20, 1998
I was lucky to see these guys as often as I did back then. The Goodie Mob had just played at the Hall four months before this opening for fellow Atlanta “Dungeon Family” contemporaries, Outkast. Also, they had opened for De La Soul there in 1996, who had just played the Hall only days before this show at the Lyricist Lounge. But this would be the last time I’d see them perform, though I’d get to see CeeLo on his own a couple of times, once opening for Musiq at The Fillmore in May of 2002, then again later that July at the Smokin’ Gooves tour at Shoreline, also with Outkast again. They also collaborated with Outkast for the hit single “Black Ice (Sky High)”. This was a prosperous time for CeeLo and the group, but on an emotional level, he was sinking into a bad place then. After his mother passed away, he fell into depression and ultimately left the band. He got through it eventually and went onto superstardom a few years later when he hooked up with Danger Mouse to form Gnarles Barkley and make a fortune with their hit songs “Crazy” and “Fuck You”. Still haven’t seem yet. Listening to him again made me appreciate not only how clever he was with his lyrics, but the speed and clarity of his diction, all with a thick Georgian accent. Very few rappers can perform that clear and fast, Sir Mix-A-Lot is the only one that I think can match him.
Like most hip hop shows at the Maritime, it was totally sold out and one hell of a party. One of the highlights of this show would definitely be the opener, Xzibit. This would be the only time I’d see him before he blew up and got famous, though he was pretty new then. He had recently moved to Los Angeles from New Mexico and had just put out his “40 Dayz & 40 Nightz” album less than a month before this show. I too was impressed by his intelligence, speed, and diction. It doesn’t surprise me that his star rose quickly either. But I wouldn’t have guessed he’d eventually find new fame and fortune from his work on television and in the movies. Most people remember him as the host of the “Pimp My Ride” show on MTV and for a role on the TV series, “Empire”. I admit I never watched either of them, but I knew they were popular as hell, the former running for six full seasons, the latter for five. I did however see Xzibit act in the film “8 Mile” and for one music video that is very, very dear to my heart.
Seven years after this show, Xzibit acted in a video for the song, “Twisted Transistor” by the heavy metal band, Korn, that my brother Alex also had a key part in. Basically, Korn got four rappers to play the members of the band in a mockumentary about making the video and Xzibit played the bass player, Reginald “Fieldy” Arvizu. Snoop Dogg, (who toured with Korn in Lollapalooza the year before this show), David Banner, and Lil’ John playing guitarist James “Munky” Shaffer, drummer David Sylveria, and singer Jonathan David respectively. Alex was playing the part of the erudite British tour manager of the band called “Little Sterling Assoff” who struggles hilariously to keep things running smoothly, having the funny line that he was the “buffer between Korn and reality.” Alex said that Xzibit was good at improv and that when he “threw stuff at him, he could return service you could say”. It figures that hip hop guys would have improv skills, having training doing freestyle and rap battles.
Xzibit berates Alex in the beginning over being given a pink colored bass guitar, then vomits into a bowl of potato chips. The band is being interviewed afterwards and Xzibit said that Korn was “like BBQ, different types of meat, but smothered in the same sauce”. Later, he’s woken up in the tour bus covered in empty, crushed beer cans and accidentally opens the bus bathroom door to find Alex sitting on the toilet. Xzibit pukes again during a video within the video shoot and there’s an epilogue at the end with the caption for him, “Fieldy won the first gold medal in Extreme Projectile Vomiting at the X Games with a record 12 meter hurl”. I guess Fieldy had a reputation for vomiting a lot, but he’s cleaned up since and is a Born Again Christian now. Anyway, it’s a very funny video, directed by veteran music video virtuoso Dave Meyers and frankly, I think it is one of Korn’s best songs. And lo and behold, as luck would have it, I got to see Korn three weeks after this show at the Cow Palace headlining the Family Values tour along with Ice Cube and Rammstein.
Dee Snider’s Strangeland Tour : Soulfly, Snot, Hed (PE), Day In The Life, Maritime Hall, SF, Sat., September 19, 1998
One not need be a fan of heavy metal to know of Dee Snider, whose nightmarish harlequin visage as lead singer of Twisted Sister was burned into the memory of all who had so much of a glance of it back in the 1980’s. Though I didn’t think Twisted Sister was the best metal band around back then, I did appreciate his theatrical flair and the fact that he was freaking out the Moral Majority no end back then. I especially admired Dee’s contribution to the fight against music censorship, his efforts adding to a respectable and diverse roster of artists ranging from John Denver to 2 Live Crew. It was hard not like Dee, he is a natural showman and his gravitation towards the silver screen would not come to anyone’s surprise. He and his band had already made a famous cameo in the seminal film comedy, “Pee Wee’s Big Adventure”, but this time he had gone so far as to pen his own script, produce, and star as the villain in his slasher flick, “Strangeland”.
The film hadn’t even been released in the theaters, coming out 13 days after this show and I suppose it was a good thing since by all accounts, it was a stinker. Rotten Tomatoes has it listed with an anemic 6% rating, citing its terrible direction, laughable make up effects, and bad acting, despite having such notable thespians as Linda Cardellini, Elizabeth Pena, Amy Smart, and Freddie Kruger himself, Robert Englund. I haven’t seen it and have no desire to after learning about it, but I have to give Dee credit for having the vision to do one of the first films to address the dangers of meeting strangers via Internet chatrooms. It also helped bring about the trend of “torture porn” horror films such as “Hostel” and the “Saw” movies to follow. No offense to Dee or any of the talented people who made them. I like horror films as much as the next guy, but watching people being tortured, especially innocent people, really doesn’t do anything for me other than make me queazy. But hats off to Dee for making it happen and one couldn’t help but be impressed at the look of his character, Captain Howdy, meticulously adorned with numerous tattoos and an baffling amount of body piercings. It took about 10 hours in the make up chair to make him look like that, a patient man Mr. Snyder. There had been rumors of a remake in the works a few years ago, but as of today, all plans have been scrapped.
But this isn’t about the movie, it’s about the show. Dee had premiered this tour with an opening show in L.A. at the Key Club, but Static X was the headliner instead of Soulfly. The show at the Maritime would be the first show of the promotional tour to follow starting a couple weeks afterwards. Soulfly had just played the Hall the previous May, also with Snot and Hed (PE) opening and this tour was essentially the same all around, with the exception of the addition of the first opener, Day In The Life. They had played the Hall the previous April as well opening for Coal Chamber, so I was familiar with all of them. Each band had a song on the film’s soundtrack and Dee being Dee, was able to “scare” up quite an impressive amount of talent to add to it such as Sevendust, Megadeth, Pantera, Anthrax, Kid Rock, System Of A Down, and Marilyn Manson. One can easily see that Dee was a big influence on Marilyn, his look and his music.
It was a rowdy night, lots of action in the mosh pit just like the last time and they pretty much played all the same stuff. I really have to say it was an honor to meet Dee, who was there to emcee the show. He was very polite and friendly to me and I’ve never forgotten that. Dee was the belle of the ball and there were no shortage of fans and friends orbiting around him the entire evening. Speaking of “Strange”, in a strange double coincidence, Soulfly’s disgruntled recently ex-guitarist, Logan Maher, had just been at the Hall playing with Machinehead eight days before this show and less than two weeks later, frontman Max Cavalera’s old band, Sepultura, would also play there on their first tour with their new singer, Derrick Green. Small world, eh? Got to hear a lot of those songs twice. But this show will forever remain a bittersweet memory to me since it would be the last time I’d see Lynn Strait, the singer of Snot, alive and thus the last time I’d see them perform as well. Lynn would fall victim to a car crash less than two months later along with his dog, Dobbs the boxer, who had graced the cover of Snot’s debut album, “Get Some”. They were a great band, one of the founders of the “nu metal” genre, and still don’t get the credit I feel they deserve.
KVHW, Maritime Hall, SF, Fri., September 18, 1998
SETLIST : (Set 1), Bad Hair, Slumber, Hillbillies On PCP, Spring Water, Why Can’t We All Just Samba?, Pandora’s Box, I’m So Lonely I Could Cry, (Set 2), Shotgun House – High Heeled Sneakers – Shotgun House, Boom-Digi-Di, Cissy Strut, Tangled Hangers, City Of Tiny Lights, It’s Impossible, (encore), It’s Up To You
My exhaustion from the countless shows with guitarist extraordinaire Steve Kimock’s other band, Zero, has long been documented, so I won’t go into that. But this time he was playing with a new group called KVHW. As you might have guessed, the name is an abbreviation, each letter the first initial of each member’s last name. Obviously, the K is for Kimock. Joining him was Bobby Vega on bass, Alan Hertz on drums, and Ray White also on guitar as well as vocals, they all being the VHW. Though along with Vega, the band was already half Zero, the others were just enough to tweak it out of the hippie zone to make them interesting. Alan had played drums with a number of jazz fusion acts like Garaj Mahal and Ray White had been a longtime collaborator and touring musician with Frank Zappa during the 70s and 80s. Ray would continue to honor Frank’s legacy after his death, touring with his son Dweezil in the Zappa Plays Zappa band.
Together, these guys played a variety of original songs, Steve’s songs, covers of Zappa and others. They did a spot on rendition of The Meter’s “Cissy Strut” that night. It was the first and one of the only times the Brotherhood Of Light guys up in the balcony busted out a third oil plate projector and aimed it dead center on the stage, blasting their psychedelic projection onto a large sheet draped along the back wall. On top of that, they had a third video projector splashing stuff on it as well. Being a fairly new project, having only formed that January, people weren’t really familiar with them and the show wasn’t that well sold, hardly at all really, but being a hippie show, Pete was there to do the recording. Pete was showing up less and less as time went on, doing only two shows out of the ten the Hall had that month. Since it was just the four musicians on stage playing two sets with no opening act, it was easy as pie.
I liked Ray’s voice and thought he was a pleasant guy, cracking jokes with the band and the audience between songs. After “Pandora’s Box”, he chuckled, “if that doesn’t deliver you from childhood angst, nothing will”. He also wished somebody in the crowd named Jason a happy birthday at the end of the first set. Steve was his usual subdued self, doing most of his guitar work sitting on a stool, but he did stand for a couple songs to play on a slide guitar, one of my favorite instruments to hear live. The tinge of funk and fusion was a welcome departure from the sounds of Zero and I had the honor of recording KVHW again personally when they played with Jazz Is Dead at the Hall the following April. Having recorded them both by then, Pete let me have that one. But this musical project was a short lived one. They would also do a couple gigs each at the Great American and The Fillmore in 1999, but they all went their separate ways at the end of the year. But being hippies, there remains plenty of bootlegs of their stuff around including an amateur video of their set that night on YouTube.
Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds, 16 Horsepower, War., Thur., September 17, 1998
SETLIST : Far From Me, Do You Love Me?, Lime Tree Arbour, Red Right Hand, Tupelo, Brompton Oratory, Let Love In, From Her To Eternity, West Country Girl, The Mercy Seat, The Weeping Song, Nobody’s Baby Now, Into My Arms, Henry Lee, Where The Wild Roses Grow, Deanna, (encore), Plain Gold Ring, Stagger Lee, (encore), The Ship Song, Your Funeral My Trial
The gaunt, melancholy, Gothic idol Mr. Cave was booked for two sold out shows at The Warfield and as much as I’d have liked to have seen them both, I could only catch the second night, since I was at the Maritime the previous evening, recording the Lyricist Lounge with the Black Eyed Peas, De La Soul, and a fresh faced young man by the name of Eminem. Though an entirely different scene altogether, Nick Cave had been familiar with touring with hip hop acts, having spent the summer of 1994 touring with acts like Tribe Called Quest and the Beastie Boys on Lollapalooza, which had been the last time I’d see him and The Bad Seeds play. Most people agree that his playing that tour in broad daylight in the summer heat was incongruous to their dark, vampirish persona and sound, but it did expose them to unfamiliar people like myself, the few there who would appreciate his work and become fans. Yes, it had been over four long years since I saw his gloomy ass take the stage, but by then I had become a true believer, snatching up every album of his I could find, including his former band, The Birthday Party. By this show, his previous album, “The Boatman’s Call” had been out for a year and half and he’d just released a “Best Of” compilation that May and this time, I’d be seeing him indoors and in the cool of the evening.
On the first night, Clovis De La Floret with Vudi, the guitarist from American Music Club, opened, but on the second night was 16 Horsepower an Alt-Country band from Denver, who I’d seen open for Shane MacGowan & The Popes at The Fillmore two years before. 16 Horsepower’s sound fit well as an opening act for Nick Cave and one could clearly see and hear his influence on them. They had just replaced guitarist Jeffrey Paul Norlander with their touring guitar tech, Steve Taylor. It’s surprising how often touring tech guys would fill in and even replace members of bands, but as they say, necessity is the mother of invention. I liked 16 Horsepower and most bands that would play with an accordionist, reminding me of gypsy music or sea shanties. Mr. Cave was going through a transitional phase then personally since the time I saw him last. He had divorced his wife Viviane Carneiro in 1996, followed by a bit of a romantic fling with P.J. Harvey. Nick dedicated the song, “Do You Love Me?” to Viviane that night and one could gather that the brooding ballad “Into My Arms” which he finished his set with had plenty to do with both her and P.J. But thankfully, he would soon meet Susie Beck, a Viviane Westwood model who had been the lady on the cover of The Damned’s goth rock classic album, “Phantasmagoria”. She would go on to model on the cover with Nick of the Bad Seeds album, “Push The Sky Away”, in 2013, naked as a jay bird. Susie and Nick would marry a year after this show and they would have twin sons, Arthur and Earl, together a year later. Tragically, Arthur would later die at the age of 15, accidentally falling off of cliff near Brighton, UK.
It was good to see Nick after such a long time and to get close up front on the dance floor. The addition of violin virtuoso Warren Ellis from the Dirty Three to the band was a stroke of genius and he still plays with him to this day, even collaborating with him in a number of film soundtracks such as “The Assassination Of Jesse James By The Coward Robert Ford”, in my opinion one of the greatest film scores of all time. Warren did a scorching solo during the usually subdued, “Plain Gold Ring” during the encore. It was also nice to hear a handful of his newer songs, tender ballads such as “Lime Tree Arbour”, “Brompton Oratory”, and “West Country Girl”. Such tunes made the crowd shut up and listen too, which I always appreciated. They also played “Where The Wild Roses Grow”, a tune that had been a sultry duet he had recorded with fellow Australian, pop diva Kylie Minogue, an unlikely, though musically beautiful pairing. But it was wishful thinking at its worst to hope that Kylie would be there that night to sing it with him and she wasn’t. Mr. Cave is mostly all business on stage, though never rude, merely saying a polite thank you or thank you very much between songs. They did, however, do a funny bit for the encore before “Deanna” where the drummer, Thomas Wylder, did a few false starts of it. Nick introduced him and they eventually did it. It would be another three years until I’d see Mr. Cave again, playing for once without the Bad Seeds band at the Palace Of Fine Arts for two nights. But he would return with them the following year in 2002 to the Warfield to play another two nights and I made damn sure to catch both of those as well. Thankfully, those shows got a poster because these shows didn’t.
Lyricist Lounge : Black Eyed Peas, De La Soul, Syndicate, Rah Sun, Ras Kass, Eminem, Last Emperor, Degree, Maritime Hall, SF, Wed., September 16, 1998
(EMINEM) : Scary Movie, My Name Is, Bad Meets Evil, Role Model, Just Don’t Give A Fuck
(DE LA SOUL) : Chanel No.Fever, Ego Trippin’, Itsoweezee, Jenifa Taught Me, Buddy, Afro Connection at A Hi-5, Sh.Fe.
(BLACK EYED PEAS) : Movement, Fallin’ Up, Say Goodbye, Communication, Que Dices?, Joints & Jam, Head Bobs, (encore), Freestyle with Wyclef Jean
By this time, I’d seen my share of hip hop at the Hall, but this was a big one. The Lyricist Lounge was the brainchild of promoters Anthony Marshall and Danny Castro from New York City. From this festival’s humble beginnings as a modest open mic night there in 1991, they amassed an impressive line up of talent for their very first tour, rotating artists for every date. They would take the tour to L.A. to play the House Of Blues the day after this show, switching out headliner, the Black Eyed Peas, with Slick Rick. On this day, it happened to be Anthony’s birthday and it was quite a party indeed. The critics of artistic merits of hip hop were quickly losing ground to the undeniable truth of its commercial success. Almost every rap show booked at the Hall sold out including this one. We were lucky to get the Lyricist Lounge, this being one of only 11 cities the tour would visit. Before the show began, they had projected the words, “Hip Hop Is No Longer Homeless” on the giant screens on the sides of the Maritime’s walls.
Danny would emcee the show for most of the evening and he started it off by inviting random artists in the house to come on stage and do some rhymes for three minutes each. There were a handful I recognized such as Top Ramen from Little Boots’, the son of Maritime’s boss, band The Earthlings, members of 7 Gin, but most were new to me like Realism, Sauce, E.P.I.C., and a couple whose names I missed completely. I’d see 7 Gin open for Xzibit at the Hall the following year and it being the Maritime, had plenty of nights with Top Ramen and The Earthings. The dreadlocked Mr. Castro thanked the open mic artists and made jokes about how cold it was in San Francisco, saying having come from New York, he had brought his bathing suit and slippers “thinking it was beach weather”, but “it’s like winter! It’s gonna snow out here!” He then whipped out the crowd bringing out a large cardboard box and egging on the audience asking them to guess what was in it. Danny opened it and started throwing around Lyricist Lounge T-Shirts to whoever would scream the loudest. There was plenty of noise going around and by the time he got to the last few shirts, he had to urge those struggling to get one not to fight over them. He joked that he hadn’t slept for three days and praised the scent of marijuana in the air that night, saying that they “don’t have bud like that in NYC!”
Keeping track of the roster of talent at any hip hop show always proved to be a challenge, but for this one, it was practically impossible, except for the last few acts. So, for a long while, I didn’t even label the artists on the various tapes I was recording with in the beginning and saved the ADATs for the headliners. This would prove to be a mistake for one particular artist, a fresh faced young man, a few months younger than myself in fact, calling himself Eminem, but I’ll get to him later. Throughout the night, one artist I did know who stayed on stage most of the night was DJ Maceo from De La Soul who spun records between acts and basically was the glue holding this willy nilly cavalcade of stars together. I was quite familiar with him and his compatriots in De La by then, they having played the Hall twice before already, once in September of ’96, one of my first shows recording there, and then again the following April. They had been non stop touring since releasing “Stakes Is High” in ’96, but would eventually release new material a couple years later with “Art Official Intelligence : Mosaic Thump”. Though all three members of De La were only a couple years older than me, they were already becoming veterans of the genre, having ten years of work under their belts.
One of the opening acts that night that made an impression on me was the Last Emperor from Philadelphia, who followed the first act, Degree. Last Emperor had been a protege of Dr. Dre, as Eminem was, and he had recently signed him to his new record label, Aftermath, and his talent reflected the good Dr.’s eye for lyrical genius. He had excellent diction, was hilarious, and left me and the fans screaming for more. Danny introduced him shouting, “Let’s get ready to rumble!” and the Last Emperor recited the famous intro from The Doors, “Is everybody in? The ceremony is about to begin…” I appreciated that his songs took some imaginative turns like one of them about turning into animals and another about comic book characters battling rappers like GZA fighting Dr. Strange, G.I. Joe and COBRA battling the Boot Camp Click, Duke versus Buckshot, and so forth. I especially liked his song, “The World Of Suzi Wong”, its chorus a definite ear worm. This would be the only time I’d see the Last Emperor, but he’s still around making music and if he ever came back to town, I’d definitely check him out and encourage others to do so.
Now, to get to that fresh faced young man. Most of the people there that night like myself had no idea who Eminem was. His breakthrough album, “The Slim Shady LP” wouldn’t even be released for another five months, which would chalk up Grammys for Best Rap Album and Best Solo Performance for “My Name Is”, and catapult him to fame and fortune. In fact, when his set started, I assumed the main artist was his side man, Royce Da 5’9”, who he had met the previous December and collaborated with for his single, “Bad Meets Evil”. But I quickly saw that this scrawny, white kid waving around a white towel for the opening song, “Scary Movie”, was something altogether different. From his poverty stricken origins in Detroit, Eminem had gone from being fired from his job at Gilbert’s Lodge restaurant days before his infant daughters’ birthday in March of ‘97, to placing 2nd in a “Rap Olympics” in L.A., to having his demo heard by Dr. Dre, to the Maritime. It took him only a matter of a minute or two to drive the audience bananas with his brilliant lyrics, everybody waving their hands in the air and jumping to the beat. He then played his signature tune, “My Name Is”, which led me to believe that his name actually was Slim Shady and I labeled his tapes accordingly.
I was transfixed by his stage presence and realized about halfway through his set that it was a colossal mistake to not have the ADATs rolling for him, but I did my best on the monitor mix. He lost his baseball hat briefly and asked where the fuck it was at briefly before his last song, saying he has a “new single coming out on Interscope Records on October 4th. We want you to run out and buy it… and if you don’t… I JUST DON’T GIVE A FUCK!!!” and he began that song. He put his middle finger in the air waiving it from side to side and had everybody in the house do the same. I was so blown away by what I heard that night from him, I made a VHS copy of his set as soon as I could and was watching it over and over again, something I never did with any other artist I taped there, or at least not watching it as frequently as I did. Furthermore, I made a point to show it to all my friends and family too, something I for sure never did with any other act. I’m not saying that I was prophetic or anything, his talent was unmistakable and it came to no real surprise that he went on to be big, though I wouldn’t have guessed exactly just how big. I regret that this would be my only encounter with the one and only Mr. Marshall Mathers. He did a show at The Fillmore the following May, but I couldn’t attend because I was recording Motorhead at the Hall that night. That Fillmore show was infamous too because he stopped a few songs into his set there and got into a fight with a heckler. From then on, he was playing huge venues and rarely came to the bay area anyway.
Suffice to say, following Eminem was a tough order and Ras Kass and Rah Sun really couldn’t match up what we all just witnessed. I thought it was strange that Rah Sun kept on saying “word is bond” over and over again, but chuckled when he asked the crowd between songs, “Who likes sex!?! Everybody say SEX!!!!”. The energy in the room picked up again with the female duo, Syndicate, a welcome change to the testosterone soaked roster that preceded them. I was very impressed at the speed which they rapped, faster than anybody I had heard up until then on record or live, male or female. Being a horny young man, I was also hypnotized by their beauty and the way their buxom, tank top clad figures bounced to the beat, especially for their last song “Here I Come”. There was a funny bit when the shorter of the two women nearly slipped on some liquid spilled on stage and she said, “see me slippin’? I’m gonna bust my ass up here.” Sadly, this would also be the only time I’d see them either. But once again, De La would take the stage and played a short, but excellent set. They did a bit saying they spotted a girl way in the back by the bar, wondering if it was “Jenifa” and got the crowd cheering, declaring that they going “old school” like “Kango” or “Adidas” asking, “Where my B-Boys at? Where my B-Girls at?” before launching into “Jenifa Taught Me”, one of their oldest songs.
They had a brief intermission to change the stage set for the Black Eyed Peas, setting up their drum kit, guitar, keyboard, and bass rigs. The guys from De La introduced them on stage and I’d be seeing and even hearing the Peas for the first time that night. Anyone who knows their old music or had seen them back then would tell you that they were quite a different band than the one they’d become a few years afterward. For starters, they all dressed quite casually, looking a little like college students frankly, not the weirdos from beyond the moon they are now. The bass player was even wearing a plain, long sleeved sweater. Also, this was four years before Fergie joined the band. Back then they had a female singer named Kim Hill, who sang back ups mostly, though was featured for the song, “Say Goodbye”. Though they were brand new to me, I really enjoyed the music they played for their set, just shy of an hour long.
There was a great bit during the song, “Communication” where the three main vocalists, Will.i.am, Taboo, and Apl.de.ap., took turns doing acrobatic hip hop dancing and all of them were really spry, doing backflips, handstands, and stuff. During the next tune, “Que Dices?”, my friend Tom Murphy who was working monitors that night, had to come out on stage to fix a mic chord or something, and on his way back to his board encountered Will.i.am, who hugged Tom and they took a moment to jump up and down to the beat. I’ll never forget the sight of Tom in his cut off sleeve shirt, smiling with his toothy grin as he did that. It makes me smile even now. Before they did, “Joints & Jam”, the first major label single for Interscope, Taboo introduced it repeating in a hypnotists’ voice, “ If you hear this on the radio… I’m not going to get tired of it…” They finished their set with “Head Bobs” and Danny Castro came out again with Anthony Marshall to thank the artists and the crowd. They had more shirts to give out, but first they asked if anybody could name all the MCs who performed on the last skit on the Lyricist Lounge album. A few audience members tried, but Danny eventually gave up telling Anthony, “ahh… just give it to them!”
But nobody on stage was going anywhere in a hurry, so the band members of the Peas stuck around and they decided to have another freestyle session for the encore and they brought out none other than Wyclef Jean, sporting a Jimi Hendrix T-shirt. He and Will.i.am went back and forth for a while, dropping rhymes with manic energy. Wyclef mentioned in one of his raps that he had been in the studio with Carlos Santana and heard about the show rhyming with Santana that joining in would be “no drama”. He presumably was working with Carlos at the time for the song, “Maria Maria” that would be on Carlos’ blockbuster album, “Supernatural”, recorded across the bay in Berkeley at Fantasy Studios and released the following June. Later, some crusty looking young woman with dark dreadlocks came on stage and took one of the mics and we all thought she’d sing or rap or something, but all she said was, “What up, motherfucka’?”. Wyclef immediate shut her down rapping for her to step off, that she “looked like a gypsy”, and shouldn’t take the mic unless she was going to bring it.
From there, a handful a rando guys took turns on the mic and it looked as if security was about to shut the second to last one down until the Last Emperor took the mic, did a few good verses and ended the show for good. Danny Castro took the mic one last time to thank the artists and the crowd and then Boots, the Maritime’s boss, made sure to thank everybody and make a not so subtle request to “get home safe”. By the end there were at least 30 people on stage and Boots was understandably anxious that something violent might go down on everybody’s way out the door, but thankfully nothing did. The video recording ended with my buddy Dan, who had been dutifully operating the single camera in the balcony all night, putting up a piece of paper to the lens with the words, “HI NICK!”, written on it, illuminated by his flashlight. Dan had done it a week before at the beginning of the My Life With The Thrill Kill Kult show at the Hall and I always grin and giggle when he did it. There was an afterparty at the Paradise Lounge that night, but as you might imagine after this three hour hip hop spectacle, I was too exhausted to attend. It would be only two months later that the Black Eyed Peas would return to play the Hall opening for Outkast, another Atlanta hip hop band that would soon be hitting the big leagues.
Tori Amos, The Devlins, Oakland Coliseum, Oakland, Tues., September 15
SETLIST : Precious Things, Iieee, Corn Flake Girl, Bells For Her, Sugar, Cruel, Happy Phantom, Hey Jupiter, Jackie’s Strength, Space Boy, Spark, The Waitress, (encore), She’s Your Cocaine, Raspberry Swirl, (encore), Horses
This would be the first and only time I’d see one Miss Myra Ellen Amos, better known to her fans and friends as Tori. Hers was the music I knew in my heart that I should have been following but didn’t for some reason, probably because I hadn’t had the opportunity to see her yet, she not having played either The Fillmore or The Warfield during my tenure as usher there. I did know my friend Drew was a die hard fan of this songstress with the head of flaming, red locks and living just up the street a few BART stops away, and he would assuredly be there with bells on, so I joined him on this one. Like I had written before, I had just witnessed the first of two shows of the Beastie Boys at the Arena immediately just before this one, making it the only time I had seen back to back shows of different bands there. It was quite a departure from the the rowdy set performed “in the round” set up in the center of the Arena, to this more subdued, traditional set up on a normal stage. Tori would have her grand piano, accompanied by Steve Canton on guitar, Matt Chamberlain on drums, and Jon Evans on bass. That was it.
There was an opening act that night, The Devlins from Dublin, Ireland. They had toured with her in Europe and Tori liked them so much that she had asked the brothers Devlin, Colin and Peter, to continue along with her in the States. I thought they were pretty good, a polite couple of guys. They said at the end of their set, “thanks a million” and “Cheers!”, but I haven’t seen them since. Tori was calling this the “Plugged ’98” tour, (perhaps a dig on the recent avalanche of “Unplugged” albums being released by people around that time), and doing an impressive 137 shows in only 8 months. Also departing from the piano driven ballads she had become famous for, Tori had recently put out the “From The Choirgirl Hotel” album, highlighting her band and more electronica sounding stuff. She played quite a few new songs from that album that night, including “Spark”, “Cruel”, “Raspberry Swirl”, “Iieee”, “Jackie’s Strength”, and “She’s Your Cocaine”. But I had none of her albums and frankly couldn’t name song one of hers, so I was coming in as fresh as a daisy, making this what I like to call a “sight unseen” show.
I was impressed with not only her masterful skills on the ivories, but the calm she was able to project, despite being surrounded by thousands of her screaming fans. Such poise is the trademark of a musician who had been performing in front of people all her life. At age 5, Tori was actually the youngest person ever to be admitted to the Peabody Conservatory Of Music. By the time I’d see her there, she had been recording her own songs for nearly twenty years. It was remarkable that she could go from playing such tender, delicate piano songs to jams with the riveting intensity of a band like Tool. Before “Hey Phantom”, she took a moment to greet the crowd and waived to the folks up in the cheap seats, saying, “How’s it going back there? I was always sitting back there. I was always late” then went on saying something about it being a “good thing” and that it made her “three times as smaller than I really am”. She then went on about “Dip-see” and something about being a “religious teacher” and “the markings of purity”. You got me. Though I had but one day off after a six day stretch before seeing Tori, I would continue my grueling diet of concerts with five more in a row starting with this one. That’s eleven shows in twelve days, 17 total for a month of only 30 days. Yep, September was a whopper that year.
Beastie Boys, Money Mark, Invisabl Skratch Piklz, Oakland Coliseum, Oakland, Sun., September 13, 1998
SETLIST : Tom Sawyer Intro, The Biz Vs The Nuge, The Move, Sure Shot, Pass The Pic, The Skills That Pay The Bills, Time To Get Ill, (unknown), Remote Control, Sabrosa, Body Movin’, Root Down, Egg Man, Paul Revere, Flute Loop, Lighten Up, Ricky’s Theme, Gratitude, Tough Guy, Beastie Boys, Super Disco Breakin’, Shake Your Rump, Slow & Low, 3 MCs & 1 DJ, Something’s Got To Give, (unknown), Heart Attack Man, So Whatcha’ Want?, (encore), Intergalactic, Sabotage
It had been quite a week, but I could think of no better show to end my six gig run than with the Beasties. It had been three long years since I last saw them at this very same venue, when their music whipped the entire floor of the Arena into easily one of the largest mosh pits I’d ever witness. Between that show, the two shows I saw them play at Shoreline for Lollapalooza in 1994, and the massive Tibetan Freedom Concert in Golden Gate Park, the injuries that must have been sustained by those rampaging crowds had to have kept the staff at Rock Med busy. But this time the Boys were touring with a special “in the round” set up, placing their gargantuan, round stage smack dab in the middle of the floor, making it next to impossible for those down on that level to whip up any mosh pit of more than a couple dozen at a time. Now, I can’t say if this design was a reaction to the previous tours, attempting to calm the crowds a bit, but it worked. These Boys were gradually morphing into the Men they would inevitably become. All three of them were married by this time, MCA tying the knot as well as becoming a father that very year. Ad Rock would divorce his wife, actress Ione Skye the following year, but would soon rebound, falling in love and eventually marrying Kathleen Hanna from Bikini Kill.
Though I wasn’t aware of it at the time, the tour had already lost Tribe Called Quest as their opening act. The fellow Lollapalooza alumni were at the end of their rope with each other and broke up mid tour the month before, just weeks shy of the release of their new album, “The Love Movement”. To replace them, the Beastie’s enlisted the help of the Invisabl Skratch Piklz, the DJ collective led by their new turntable wizard, Mix Master Mike. The addition of Mike to the band was already a match made in heaven. One could hardly think of a DJ more suited to join their ranks. The Piklz rotated several DJs through their roster over time including virtuosos of the 1s and 2s like Q-Bert and DJ Apollo, but this time around Mike had Shortcut and D-Styles by his side. Incidentally, I just saw Shortcut only yesterday spinning records between sets for the Thievery Corporation show at Stern Grove, almost 23 years later. Mike had an impressive rig on stage, surrounded by 18 giant video monitors, shaped in a U-Shape, 6 monitors each side, 2 rows of 3 stacked horizontally. Their set, though short, was truly a master class in the art of scratching.
Also opening up that day, culled from the Beastie’s band, was Money Mark, their keyboard player. Mark actually had met the band years ago working as a carpenter, tasked to repair a wooden gate at the property where they were recording the “Paul’s Boutique” album. He helped them finish putting their studio together and lo and behold, they roped Mark into going on the road with them. Mark eventually started doing studio work with other acts, even making the unforgettable keyboard riff used by Beck for his hit song, “Where It’s At”, and then went on to make his own albums. But he had a hard time keeping the attention of the crowd with his jazzy jam music, especially after we had just been floored by the jaw dropping skills of the Piklz. He did give a shout out to hip hop, saying that all music like jazz and funk, “all the noises in the world”, make up the genre. But we were here to see the Beasties one and all and I for one was excited to hear the new songs live.
Since I’d seen them last, they had taken their time releasing their new album, “Hello Nasty”, a day before my birthday that July and it was worth the wait, a master work easily as good as their last few albums. It would chalk up a couple Grammys for them, Best Alternative Music Album and Best Rap Performance By Dup Or Group, and the single “Intergalactic” would get them the Best Hip Hop Video trophy at the MTV Video Music Awards. They would also be one of the first bands to make MP3’s of the songs available for download on their website. The Boys were at the top of their game and part of me felt that despite this, that the tour would be sort of an end of an era for them. They would continue to make excellent music, but I got the feeling after this show, that they had nothing left to prove and they would play smaller venues from then on out. Not that they were phoning it in, not in the slightest, but it was if they were in a good place commercially and critically and no longer needed to struggle as hard to succeed. That and I imagine the logistics and effort involved to put on such a grand spectacle year in and year out would take its toll on anybody. MCA would continue his good work fighting for the rights of Tibetans with his Milarepa Fund and $1 of each ticket this tour would be donated to it.
But they were having the time of their lives that night as we all were, the first of two shows at the Arena. As luck would have it, I would return to that very venue two nights later to see Tori Amos, a very different act indeed. I believe this was the only occasion where I would see two different shows there back to back. The set started with Mix Master Mike scratching up an intro bit with Rush’s “Tom Sawyer” before going into the Beasties’ other signature intro song, “The Biz Vs The Nuge”. For there, the rest of the band ran on stage with their matching orange jumpsuits and went right into one of the new songs, “The Move”. As usual, Mike D would take time to banter and joke with the crowd. Before “Time To Get Ill” he mused, “What goes on in Oakland Coliseum?… We got questions, you got answers… Q & A? It’s back to school time… Must annunciate and answer.” Some folks were raising their hands hoping to ask him something. He praised the “nice, warm evening in Oakland” before they played “Remote Control”, then asked if it was “better to say Oakland or Oak-Town?”
They would switch between rapping with just Mike on the turntables to picking up instruments, joining and trading places occasionally with other members like Money Mark again, Amery Smith on drums, and Alfredo Ortiz on percussion. Ortiz did an impressive solo leading into “Lighten Up”. As I had heard them do on previous tours, they did a long instrumental intro to “Gratitude” and Mike D did a spoken word intro to “Tough Guy”. For “Paul Revere”, they had the lights turned up and encouraged everybody, “if you know the words, please sing along”. Before the new tune, “Super Disco Breakin’”, they used the intro from “Check Your Head” where the singer for Cheap Trick announced, “This is the 1st song on our new album!”. They played mostly the same stuff both nights, though this show we got “Egg Man”, “Beastie Boys”, and a couple punk songs I still don’t know, but the second night got “Alright Hear This”, “Egg Raid On Mojo”, “The Maestro”, and the new songs, “Putting The Game To Shame” and “Unite”. MCA made a plea for non-violence before “Something’s Got To Give” and dedicated it to such peacemakers as Ghandi.
After ending their set with “So Whatcha’ Want?”, they returned to the stage via trap doors below, rising up hydraulically before launching into “Intergalactic”. While they performed, the center of their stage rotated slowly like a turntable, spinning the entire band around, a little trick they were obviously saving for the encore. But the night ended with what had become their signature showstopper, “Sabotage”, ending with confetti cannons blasting out streams of multi-colored, paper ribbons high and low. Funny that I had just seen another show, They Might Be Giants at The Fillmore, with confetti, but this was at least five times bigger. The clean up must have taken forever and I even found some pieces around the Arena when I returned two days later for Tori Amos. My good friend John was with me at that show and it would be over nine years until we’d both see them play again, one final time for me at The Warfield in 2007. But I’m glad I caught them there, having been out of town when they played Bill Graham Civic in 2004, since that would be the last tour before MCA would succumb to cancer five years afterwards. I was lucky to see them as many times as I did and this Oakland show was unforgettable.
My Life With The Thrill Kill Kult, Cirrus, Beatmistress, Maritime Hall, SF, Sat., September 12, 1998
SETLIST : And This Is What The Devil Does, The International Sin Set, Mr. & Mrs. Bottomless Pit, Fangs Of Love, Dope Doll Jungle, Disko Flesh Pot, Blue Buddah, Final Blindness, Kooler Than Jesus, After The Flesh, Ride The Mindway, Sexy Sucker, (encore), Rivers Of Blood, Days Of Swine & Roses, Lucifer’s Flowers
This was already my fifth show in a row and I had more to go the following night with the Beastie Boys in Oakland, but it’s never a dull moment with the Thrill Kill Kult. I remember seeing them with The Lords Of Acid at The Warfield three years before for the “Sextacy Ball” and let’s just say, that was one I still can’t forget. But this time I was recording them and getting to know them up close and personal. I was pleasantly surprised that their singer and leader, Groovie Mann, was not only amenable to us taping him, but he was downright nice to me. Strange how some of the members of musical acts that people would find the most disturbing to watch are some of the kindest and above all most professional people you meet in this business. He did however warn me not to turn up the vocals for the female singer in his band, saying that she was suffering from a sore throat. I obliged him, leaving her off the monitor mix, but kept her vocals on the ADAT masters just in case, though they never used anything we recorded that night for an official release. I soloed her vocal during their set, and he was correct. She sounded like hell, but she kept a smile on her face and danced anyway, swishing about her see-through shawl like Stevie Nicks.
The Kult had been around for about ten years by this time, joining an impressive roster of talent in Chicago on the Wax Trax! Record label, including such notable industrial acts as Ministry, KMFDM, and Front 242, the last one had just played back to back shows at the Hall that July. Groovie Mann and Buzz McCoy had been touring members of Ministry before striking out on their own and in those years had a whirlwind rotation of weirdos coming and going from the band’s line up. In fact, one of their old singers, Shawn Christopher, had just played at the Hall the month before, recently having joined the Chicago soul band, Sonia Dada. The Thrill Kill Kult had been also steadily making a name for themselves pissing off all the right people including the PMRC, led by Tipper Gore, the vice president’s wife, fruitlessly trying to censor popular music. I guess they had objections to the Thrill Kill Kult’s shall we say attitude towards Satan, Jesus, sex, and well… the various combinations of those things, which they would refer to in their songs. Didn’t harm their career, though. Despite the nay sayers, the band had been touring non stop, releasing their seventh studio album, “A Crime For All Seasons” the year before, and even landing songs on the film soundtracks of such mainstream movies as “Cool World”, “The Crow”, “Showgirls”, and believe it or not… “The Flintstones”.
Opening that night was a side project by the Thrill Kill Kult’s drummer Linda LeSabre called Beatmistress and following them was another band called Cirrus. The Thrill Kill Kult was one of those rare bands that had brought their own lighting gear with them on the road and it was pretty sophisticated stuff for the time. Computerized controlled lights were still in their infancy back then and it made a big difference, especially because of the Maritime’s primitive in comparison array of old school par cans and such. We at least had Steve and Chris upstairs with their hippie oil projections and the big video screen stuff to compensate. Speaking of video, I laughed watching their set again, seeing at the beginning of it my friend Dan taking a lighter in front of the balcony cam and illuminating a piece of paper with the words, “Hi Nick!” on it. Put a smile on my face.
They had a fun set and there was plenty of boogying on and off stage, strobe lights flashing, and copious clouds from the fog machine. With all the hoopla and burlesque antics of the band, people sometimes overlook how good they were musically. Their songs were catchy, danceable, and the samples they mixed in were clever. I loved during “Disko Flesh Pot” when they dropped in lines from that MILF lady in the middle of the film “Midnight Cowboy” going off, “In case you didn’t notice it, I’m one hell of a gorgeous chick!” Funny, both Ministry and Faith No More do great covers of the theme song from that film as well. And for the classical music enthusiasts out there, the Thrill Kill Kult used a few bars from the climax of Orff’s “Camina Burana” for their tune, “Ride The Mindway”. Alas, this would be the last time I’d see them play, though God knows I’ve probably seen any number of their former members in various other musical projects since then. They have more ex-members than Menudo.
Machinehead, Spike 1000, Under, Spineshank, Maritime Hall, SF, Fri., September 11, 1998
SETLIST : Ave Santari Intro, Struck A Nerve, Take My Scars, A Thousand Lies, Nothing Left, Roots Bloody Roots, Ten Ton Hammer, The Frontlines, Old, The Trooper, Devil With The King’s Card, A Nation On Fire, Davidian, (encore), Negative Creep, Block
I had gotten to know Machinehead a little, having seen them play the Hall a couple times already the previous year, once headlining and once opening for Corrosion Of Conformity, but they were branching out and trying new stuff by this time. The singer Robb Flynn’s looks reflected that change with his new cropped, dyed blonde haircut and jumpsuit attire, making him sort of look a little like Chino from The Deftones. They were also taking a few new musical left turns that would garner them further commercial and critical success, but alienate a few of their hardcore fans. Their next album, “The Burning Red”, wouldn’t be released until the following July, but they dropped a couple new tunes at this show, “Nothing Left” and “Devil With The King’s Card”. Guess the old fans didn’t appreciate the one song on the album with the disco beat, Robb’s attempt at crooning, and their cover of “Message In A Bottle” by The Police. But one can’t blame them for trying something new and after this night, one attending surely wouldn’t accuse them of going soft, even if they might have “sold out” in some fans opinion.
Opening the night was Spineshank from L.A., who were pretty new and were just about to release their first album, “Strictly Diesel” eleven days after this show. I wouldn’t have to wait long to see them again since they would return to the Hall with Fear Factory in January then again with Sepultura less than six weeks after that. Speaking of Sepultura, the founder of that band, Max Cavalera, had just played the Hall a few months before with his new band Soulfly and was touring with Logan Maher, Machinehead’s old guitarist. Maher had quit the band after developing a meth habit amongst some other bad behavior, and was recently replaced by Ahrue Luster. This show at the Maritime would be only the second time Luster had performed with Machinehead live. During their set, Robb made a not so subtle dig at Maher after they covered Sepultura’s song, “Roots Bloody Roots”, joking “too bad the guitar player for Soulfly can’t play it that good!” He shrugged and then said that he didn’t “know where that came from… I’ve got Tourette’s”. Maher wouldn’t last long with Soulfly either, leaving that band in January after only eight months with them.
I don’t remember the band Under, but I did enjoy Spike 1000. They had a female singer named Jen who had a deep, but strong voice. They’d relocated to the bay area recently, originally from Stockton, then Bakersfield, and been playing together since 1990. Machinehead is a tough act to open for and they held their own. But the crowd went bananas when Robb and the boys took the stage, introduced over the P.A. with the theme from the horror film “The Omen”, “Ave Santari”, always a hit with the metal crowd. Incidentally, the score from that movie was the only one that composer Jerry Goldsmith won an Oscar for, though he had been nominated a whopping 18 times! Most folks remember best his theme song for “Star Trek : The Next Generation”. Anyway, can’t say if Jerry was a fan of Machinehead, but I’m sure he’d have been flattered.
Being from Oakland, Machinehead had a packed house of local, die hard fans who would tear up the mosh pit and stage dive left right and center all night, keeping the security guys on stage busy. Robb would praise the crowd’s rowdiness throughout their set between songs, including before “A Thousand Lies”. He described that one as a “long song” that they “can probably drink two beers” while they played, introducing it as “A Thousand Beers!” The levity continued after that song as Robb did a little rendition of the theme from “South Park” by Primus, which had just began it’s second season that year, substituting one line with “goin’ down to Frisco to have myself a time”. One fan yelled out later for them to play “Bodies On Bodies”, one of the earliest songs from Robb’s old band, Vio-lence, recorded on their first album ten years before this show. Robb laughed, “I don’t even know who the hell that’s by!” Coincidentally, the only time I ever saw Vio-lence was with Primus at the Omni, also the only show I ever saw at that venue.
He went on a bit of a rant later against an unnamed heavy metal magazine that was questioning if heavy metal was dead, citing that Skid Row wasn’t doing so good anymore. Well, as you might imagine, that got a bit of a groan from the audience who agreed as Robb basically went on to say that Skid Row wasn’t exactly the best band to gauge the overall health of the genre. He growled that whoever wrote it, that “this dumb motherfucker never been to a Machinehead show” and seen these “rowdy sons of bitches” with “fire burning in their eyes”. Robb then egged the crowd on yelling, “If you’re alive and well, yell Fuck You!”. That was a pretty loud “Fuck You” in response. Machinehead surprised us a little later with a few bars of “The Trooper” by Iron Maiden, but gave up after a while, Robb claiming that he didn’t know the rest of the words. Maiden was supposed to play the Hall in July, but cancelled, so perhaps he thought it as an homage or a way to compensate for them. They did one final cover that night for their encore, “Negative Creep” by Nirvana, which is probably the most metal song Cobain and them ever did, top three at least. Though this would be the last time I’d see Machinehead at the Hall, I’d see them play The Fillmore four years later. Sadly, upon doing research for this, I just learned that their drummer Tony Costanza died last year in his sleep from unknown causes at the all too young age of 52.
They Might Be Giants, Michael Shelley, Fill., SF, Thur., September 10, 1998
(MICHAEL SHELLEY) : The Pill, (unknown), Baby’s In A Bad Mood, Tonight (Could Be The Night), Think With Your Heart, Going To L.A., Surfer Joan, That Kind Of Girl
(THEY MIGHT BE GIANTS) : Whistling In The Dark, Doctor Worm, She’s Actual Size, Twisting, She’s An Angel, Working Undercover For The Man, I Palindrome I, Battle For The Planet Of The Apes, Absolutely Bill’s Mood, They Got Lost, I Am Not Your Broom, Why Does The Sun Shine? (The Sun Is A Mass Of Incandescent Gas), James K. Polk, Window, Your Racist Friend, S-E-X-X-Y, Birdhouse In Your Soul, Mr. Tambourine Man, The Guitar (The Lion Sleeps Tonight), No One Knows My Plan, Mammal, Particle Man, The Famous Polka, New York City, (encore) Exquisite Dead Guy, Spy, Lie Still Little Bottle, Istanbul (Not Constantinople), (encore), Shoehorn With Teeth, Don’t Let Start
It had been nearly four years since I saw the dynamic duo of John’s Linnell and Flansburgh, far too long for a fan like myself. I do have to admit, that the intervening years found me distracted all too much by work and other musical acts that I’d lost track of them. To my shame, I hadn’t bought any of their recent albums since “Flood” and seeing them this night was a bit of a refresher course for me. Incidentally, they used the emblem of my stagehands union, I.A.T.S.E., for their cover of “Flood”, a five sided crest sometimes referred to as “the bug”. They hadn’t released any new material themselves in a couple years and they had recently released their first (mostly) live album, “Severe Tire Damage” a day shy of a month before this show. That album did however have the single “Dr. Worm”, a new song which would become a hit and one of my favorites. Also, Flansburgh had made an appearance on the season 4 finale of “Space Ghost : Coast To Coast” earlier that year and Linnell strangely enough got nominated presumably by a few thousand of his fans to the People magazine poll for “The Most Beautiful People Of 1998”, garnering him 9th place between Madonna and Sarah Michelle Gellar. To be fair, Linnell is a fairly handsome man in my opinion, tall and slender with thick dark hair, though it’s understandable that Leonardo DiCaprio would get the top prize that year. “Titanic” had just swept the Oscars.
As luck would have it, singer-songwriter Michael Shelley was opening that night, who I had just seen only a few weeks before opening for Shonen Knife at the Maritime. Though I didn’t have the recording of his set that first time, I enjoyed listening to his stuff from this one. Funny guy, Michael, a good opener for the Giants. Michael did get intoa sort of playful back and forth with one member in the audience that night. Apparently, the guy in the crowd lost at least one of his shoes and asked Michael if he could have one of his. Michael said, “Yeah, I’ll give you my shoes for $25… I’ll even autograph them for you… Or you can just bend over, I’ll give you one of my shoes temporarily… Ok, $30”. They crowd jeered, then he quipped, “Well, they turn on you in San Francisco pretty fast… My shoes might be smelly”.
Between sets, house manager Dave Repp came out as usual to make announcements, promoting new shows coming up and he made a point to mention the band 008, who were going to open for Meters’ bassist George Porter, Jr. The drummer of 008 was a fellow named Morgan who had been working hard his way up the ranks of BGP and coincidentally had been the one time roommate of my friend Kenny, a gentle giant of a man who I’d gone to school with when I did a semester in London back in 1992. I miss Kenny, nice guy. I would get to record 008 when they opened for Indigo Swing at the Maritime the following year and I remember they were quite good actually. I’ll never forget that Morgan described our video recordings as “German Television”, which I thought was quite astute. David also mentioned that they were raffling a poster that night, which they usually did, helmed by usher and now my neighbor, Raffle Box Annie. She’s an easy one to spot, her station parked by the merchandise booth and Rock Med people, she adorned with her head of long, red hair and always dressed in a harlequinesque hippie outfit. I was disappointed to learn that the show that night didn’t have a poster of its own and they were actually auctioning off a signed copy of the poster from their Fillmore show in 1994. Those are the breaks.
The Giants got on stage soon enough, opening with an instrumental intro that morphed into “Whistling In The Dark”, followed promptly by “Dr. Worm”. Flansburgh joked that “we have a nice, long show for you. It might go on forever”. He pointed out the copious, fragrant clouds being ehhaled by their fans calling it “a different kind of smoke” than they were used to at shows and was concerned that it might be misconstrued as a “performance enhancing drug”. The Giants were touring with a full band again, the three “Dans”, Dan Hickey on drums, Weinkauf on bass, and Miller on guitar. Miller busted out some excellent slide guitar work during “She’s An Angel”. Additionally, they had a trumpet and trombone player which added an extra layer of complexity and sophistication to their songs. After I was relieved from ushering, I went down to the dance floor to enjoy myself with the other fans and they were doing their usual amount of comedic banter between songs. Flansburgh introduced one of their newer tunes, “Working Undercover For The Man” as it being a “story about a band that goes on tour and makes records. There’s something that happens in their past and they had to make a deal with the cops like ‘The Mod Squad’”. That band would go on “infiltrating illegal activities among youth culture” and that John was worried that they’d be found out, but felt it was his duty to tell the truth and wrote that song about them.
Later, they did a funny bit where they did the song “Battle Of The Planet Of The Apes”, one in a series of songs they did of the whole Apes saga on the new live album, each of those songs improvised. For this one, Linnell had the audience split up, half of them pumping their fists in the air chanting, “Apes! Apes! Apes” and then the other half following them, chanting “People! People! People!” For another one of their newer songs, “They Got Lost”, Flanburgh first suggested to the band that they “play it too fast then slow down in the middle”. Linnell then shouted to crowd quickly, “How many people want us to play it too fast then slow down in the middle again!?!?” They crowd cheered, then Flansburgh looked at the other members on stage and said, “I didn’t hear anyone in the band cheering, John… For some reason, the band was silent. I don’t know what to do, please the audience or please the band”. Linnell responded, “I say compromise and please no one”. Flansburgh later praised his road crew as the “sexiest kind of road crew” and dedicated “S-E-X-X-Y” to them.
They did a few covers that night, the first being “Why Does The Sun Shine? (The Sun Is A Mass Of Incandescent Gas)”, which being such a funny and whimsical tune, I and probably most others presumed it was one of theirs. But that song actually had been written by a guy named Tom Glazer years before for a series of educational albums for kids, called “Ballads For The Age Of Science”. That one is on the “Space Songs” album. I could see why they liked it though, sounds like one of their songs as was “Istanbul”, a song original written by a group called The Four Lads. Speaking of educational songs, they did a historical one of their own, “James K. Polk”, about the 19th century American president and Linnell introduced it saying that “the next song features a confetti cannon… If there’s one last thing you see this year, let it be the confetti cannon”. Fun as they are, the maintenance guys at concert venues despise confetti. Those little bits of paper get everywhere and take forever to clean up. I’ve found confetti bits from New Year’s shows months after they happened.
One cover they did that everybody assuredly knew wasn’t theirs was “Mr. Tambourine Man”. Flanburgh said it wasn’t on the setlist and claimed that he and the band were discussing playing it earlier, but he was lying since I got the setlist and it was listed there as “Tambo”, though the songs were out of order. But I’ll forgive him. As Mark “Chopper” Read so eloquently said, “Don’t let the truth get in the way of a good yarn”, or maybe he didn’t know. Being the Fillmore, it was an appropriate place to cover the Bob Dylan hippie anthem, but they being They Might Be Giants, they might have just as easily been honoring William Shatner’s version of it. They followed that song with a lengthy version of “The Guitar (The Lion Sleeps Tonight)”, which included a very impressive bass solo. Linnell goaded the crowd to form a conga line to the calypso beat, even singing to the beat, “I’m not fucking kidding… audience conga… everybody conga… put your hands on the hips of a stranger… go out the fire exit… until you can’t hear the band anymore…” They audience did it for a while, though I didn’t join in, having to maintain my duty recording the set.
Afterwards, Flansbugh praised the Fillmore saying, “we play a lot of stages, most stages are pretty sticky. They’re covered in stuff and you don’t know what kind of stuff it is, but it sticks to your shoes. The great thing about being here is that you can walk around like a civilized human being instead of the itinerant, loser musician that you really are.” The band then played “Particle Man”, the horns and accordion making it reminiscent of a Zydeco, Mardi Gras song from a second line New Orleans troupe. They ended their set with one final cover, “New York City”, by Canadian “cuddlecore” band, Cub. When they came back on stage for the encore, they began curiously by having two puppet dopplegangers singing their parts for the song “Exquisite Dead Guy”, something weird even for them. It reminded me a bit of The Residents. They did a noisy instrumental breakdown for the song “Spy”, but then mellowed out again with the cool, jazzy “Lie Still, Little Bottle”. The horn guys were especially handy for those songs as well as adding the extra swing for “Istanbul (Not Constantinople)” which they finished the first encore with after giving it an extra long instrumental intro, but their fans cheered for more. They obliged them and gave them a couple songs for the second encore being “Shoehorn With Teeth” and a rocking version of “Don’t Let Start”. Luckily, I wouldn’t have to wait another four years to see them again and they would return to play the Warfield the following year.
As an epilogue, I wanted to include a memory of something that happened recently as an homage to their then newborn song, “Dr. Worm”. Just as the coronavirus was taking hold of the planet last year, my wife, her parents, and I were in a middle of a vacation in New Zealand. My beloved Emily and I were visiting a cave in the south island that had iridescent glow worms in their water logged caves and we stopped by to visit. Halfway down, the tour stopped us in a cave that had a high, concave ceiling that would resonate singing with unique acoustics. The tour guide talked about how many famous people including Adele had come down into that cave to sing a song and asked if anyone in this tour wanted to sing a song and… yes, being the obnoxious nerd I was, I stepped forward. I sang, “Dr. Worm”, or at least the first verse of it, the best I could. Doing it spontaneously, I learned quickly that it isn’t that easy to sing, hats off to Linnell. After I was done, my wife as you might image was mortified, but eventually got over it. I wonder if Adele ever heard that song.
Culture, Pato Banton, Dani Spencer, Maritime Hall, SF, Wed., September 9, 1998
It was a foregone conclusion that Pete would record this show, Culture being one of the greatest reggae acts touring back then, but I was really hoping I’d get to do Pato. Ever since I saw him at Slim’s in 1994, I loved his music, his positivity, and his stage presence. No such luck, but I was glad to be part of it all the same. Besides, Pete would mix it better as always and both acts certainly deserved it. Culture was a few years behind Bob Marley and the other founders in the genre, but like acts such as Third World, Black Uhuru, and Inner Circle, they were carrying on the torch and doing it admirably. By this time, Culture had been around over twenty years and Pato well over fifteen, so they were no amateurs. The opener, Dani Spencer had talent too, having collaborated with many great artists like the Twinkle Brothers. Dani would come back and play the Hall again the following October for the Peter Tosh birthday celebration show with Bunny Wailer and Peter’s son, Andrew. I wished that Culture could have made an album from the set they made that night or that I had kept a copy of it, but I’m happy to say that Pato came back to the Hall the following February and we used the set he performed on that occasion opening for Eek-A Mouse to make a live album, one of my favorites. Culture did a magnificent set, that I do remember, playing hits like “Jah Rastafari” and “The International Herb”. And like all reggae shows at the Hall with Pete, there were plenty of joints passed between us that night.
Whiskeytown, Dean Del Martin, Maki, Fill., SF, Tues., September 8, 1998
There are rare occasions for folks who see as many shows as I do, to witness a real train wreck, be it boorish, drunk, and or drug fueled behavior, a colossally shitty set musically, and in some cases, downright hostility and danger. The time Whiskeytown played The Fillmore is one such show which was all of these things. When something like this happens, it becomes impossible for one to separate the trauma from the artist for all time. The good news is shows like this, you never forget, even when you’re rapidly on the mental decline as I am. Yep, this one’s going to my grave and probably to all the others who witnessed it.
Now, nobody died and in fact, nobody even injured, so this might seem melodramatic, but Ryan Adams, the frontman for this band had a reputation that proceeded him by then, even in his then young career. He was part of the so-called Alt Country movement back in those years, joining acts like Uncle Tupelo, Wilco, Son Volt, and such. They had played Bottom Of The Hill the previous year, but I hadn’t heard of them by then. Whiskeytown had already gone to pieces once between then and this show, breaking up after playing The Hurricane in Kansas City the year before. During that tour his own guitarist Phil Wanderscher, once hovered around menacingly and threw beer bottles at Ryan on stage during their set in Arlington, Virginia. Later on the tour, a heckler even threw tomatoes at them in Lansing, Michigan. After the break up, Ryan completed the gigs as an acoustic duo with his partner, Caitlan Cary. They reformed with new people for this leg of touring and it had become such a joke that they had so many ex members in such a short period of time, that they actually printed T-Shirts saying “I Played In Whiskeytown & All I Got Was This Lousy Goddamn Shirt”.
Ryan was clearly a sensitive artist and a bit of a sad drunk, so touring brought out the worst of him. The name Whiskeytown actually comes from an expression in his native Raleigh, North Carolina which as you can guess means really drunk. He was just a few weeks shy of his 24th birthday, making him two years younger than me. I feel that one starts truly becoming an adult when the new rock stars around are younger than you. Despite his brilliance as a songwriter, clearly Ryan hadn’t developed the mental fortitude for life on the road. He was contractually obligated by his record company, Geffen, to finish this three weeks of touring for their major label debut, “Stranger Almanac”, and Ryan was taking it out on everybody and everything. At the show they did a few days before this in Vancouver, he had smashed a valuable 1964 Gibson Firebird guitar on stage. His manager, Thomas O’Keefe, actually kept the wrecked remains and eventually sold it on line for $1,302.77. Now by the time they took the stage, I knew nothing of this saga of mayhem, other than Ryan was a bit of a handful.
Opening that night was a band from Richmond, Virginia named Maki who I thought were really good. They had members from all sorts of mid-Atlantic acts including Sparklehorse who I saw open for Cracker on that same stage a couple years before and liked them very much. Maki had almost a shoe gazer quality to their Alt Country sound and hearing them again left me no impression of the turbulence to follow. They seemed happy and upbeat to be there, though the house was barely sold at all, maybe 200-250 people tops. You know it’s a poorly sold show coming in when you see that the house guys set up cocktail round tables and chairs down on the dance floor in an effort to make it look more well sold. Between sets, Dean Del Ray was up performing solo with his acoustic guitar and harmonica in the poster room. I was able to catch one of his songs on a coffee break. Funny guy, he’d go on to have a modest career as an actor and comedian in L.A. When house manager Dave Rep made the traditional announcements between sets, telling people to check out Dean, he said that “every other song will be dedicated to Mark McGwire”. Mark had just broken the record for home runs in a single season hitting his 62nd that very day and would on to set the record that year with 70, beating out Sammy Sosa’s 66. Though both of their records would be broken by Barry Bonds three years later with 73, all of them would be tainted by accusations of steroid use afterwards.
When Whiskeytown’s set began, they were already having trouble with the monitors on stage, hitting a few bad patches of high frequency feedback. I don’t know who The Fillmore had up there this gig, but clearly they were having a bad night sound-wise, a very rare occasion for the skilled audio folks that work there. They were only a song or two in before Ryan started complaining about it and complained even more bitterly that he was not allowed to smoke cigarettes while playing. Somebody in the crowd shouted, “We can’t hear you!” for which Ryan replied, “We can’t either!” Caitlan tried to smooth things over and asked the lighting guys to turn the chandeliers back up saying that they “were so pretty”. She sweetly joked, that was of “another midset” and “you can get more bees with honey than vinegar”. There was a moment of levity when they wished band member Mike Henley a happy birthday, Caitlan laughing that he was just turning 17. I couldn’t figure out their whole set, but I know for certain they played, “Piss On Your Grave”, “Bar Lights”, and “Don’t Wanna Know Why”. Caitlan described the song “I Don’t Care What You Think About Me” saying, “this one sounds like Moby Grape combined with U2”. The first song of the encore started with “My Heart Is Broken” with Ryan first creating a lot of static plugging in his acoustic guitar, then he laughed it off saying, “Yes, that’s the sound of real punk rock” and a couple songs later they played “Houses On The Hill”. One would think hearing such a sentimental, beautiful, and very un-punk acoustic duet like “My Heart Is Broken”, that the man who wrote it would be capable of such obnoxiousness. He defied the house guys and took out a cigarette, taunting them by asking a member of the crowd up front to light it for him. Ryan had become so incensed by the end of the encore, he shoved his monitor off stage sending in thumping loudly to the dance floor, startling everybody. Thankfully, it didn’t land on anybody’s foot. The long suffering monitor engineer leapt into action and jumped on Ryan before he could knock over a second one. Multi-instrumentalist Mike Daly grabbed the monitor guy and Ryan got free, and then stormed off stage yelling, “Fuck this place!”, and that was that.
The crowd and I were understandably put off by this, some even booed, but quickly were all on our way. When a show has such few attendees and there’s no poster to be given out later, slowing people down as they are handed out at the door, the house empties quickly. So, what happened to Ryan next was something I didn’t witness personally, but was corroborated in detail by his manager Thomas O’Keefe in his book, “Waiting To Derail : Ryan Adams, Whiskeytown’s Brilliant Train Wreck”. After retreating from the stage, Ryan locked himself in his dressing room with Thomas and his drummer Steve Terry, pursued by angry Fillmore stagehands who pounded at his dressing room door demanding satisfaction. Thomas had them wait a bit until the pounding stopped and the house cleared out and then they bolted out of their dressing room and made a B-line for the side exit with the metal staircase where ushers and staff would come in at the beginning of the show. The offended stagehands caught sight of their escape attempt and gave chase, but Thomas braced his arms across the exit door holding the stagehands back as Ryan and Steve made their way down the staircase and across the street.
One of the stagehands protested loudly yelling at Ryan, “Hey man! That was bullshit what you just did!” for which Ryan retorted, “Fuck You!” Ryan and Steve went across the street to a bar to wait it out as Thomas went back inside to try to smooth things over. In spite of Ryan’s defiling of this sacred venue, Dave Rep was surprisingly gracious about it all, but did deny them their $1500 for playing that night, saying he’d take whatever the repair costs to the monitor would be out of it and mail them the remainder. Thomas found Ryan across the street later smoking a cigarette outside as the band’s gear was being loaded out, I imagine reluctantly and not with the greatest of care. He joked that when they got to their gig in L.A. they next day, he was going to buy Ryan two guns. Ryan asked why and he replied, “So you can shoot yourself in both feet at the same time”.
Suffice to say, Whiskeytown never played The Fillmore again, but the band was finished after the tour ended anyway, playing only a handful of gigs in 2000 before splitting up permanently, though they did have a brief reunion in 2005. Ryan’s rough patch continued with his subsequent split with his long time girlfriend, music publicist Amy Lombardi, and even rumored later to having a brief affair with Winona Ryder. The good news is that in the years to come, Ryan would grow up a little and have a successful solo career soon afterwards starting with channelling his grief into his first solo album, “Heartbreaker” in 2000, then releasing an even more successful one with “Gold” in 2001 which would earn him three Grammy nominations. Friend and former roommate Adam Duritz of the Counting Crows would help sing back up vocals on that album. His new efforts would earn him respect and admiration from new and old fans alike, even from the Grateful Dead’s Phil Lesh. He would go on to tour and play with Phil with Ryan’s new band, The Cardinals, and I’m happy to say would find redemption playing the Fillmore years later with them in 2001, 2004, and 2008. Didn’t see any of those though.
One final story of Ryan’s bad behavior, he would further his infamous stage persona in 2002 at the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville when one of the presumably drunk patrons yelled out, “Summer of ’69!” between songs, a reference to the hit song from Canadian rocker Bryan Adams. Well, Ryan quickly got off stage, found the heckler, gave him the $30 it cost him to get in, and insisted that security throw him out, saying he wouldn’t play another note until they did. Eventually, Ryan would meet his Canadian doppleganger and they would become friends and as an olive branch gesture to those he might have offended, in 2015, Ryan actually played that song at that venue in Nashville. Ryan has since developed Meniere’s disease making him sensitive to flash photography and at his shows now, they post flyers in the first few rows of seats forbidding it. Though he has reformed from his wayward antics, I would advise anybody to do their best to get along with him and comply.
Masta Ace, Zion-I, Nameless & Faceless, Business Mergers, Metabasin, Maritime Hall, SF, Sat., September 5, 1998
This show was billed as the second part of the “Back To School Hip Hop Celebration” on the monthly poster, though they hadn’t had any shows called this in the previous years or the years after. I wasn’t at the first day or could even tell you who played on the bill, if even if that show ever occurred, me being at Foreigner at The Warfield on that night. To me, it was always heresy to miss a show if you can make it, but Pete had been around the block to know that if there’s no money at stake, then professionally, it’s ok to let it go. Pete didn’t care about rap shows anyway and by then was leaving them all to me. Still, I was adamant and made every single one that I possibly could, except for when Zero played after this, but that’s a whole other story.
I hadn’t heard Masta Ace before and I’m ashamed that I had listed his name earlier in my records as “Master Ace”. On the surface, it doesn’t feel like a goof, but my misspelling made it synonymous with “Master Race”, which is a phrase I don’t want and I’m sure Ace wouldn’t want to be associated with. The rapper in question here was very talented and I regret that this was the only time I saw him. Masta Ace came out of Brooklyn and sort of got into rap gradually after graduating with a marketing degree at the University Of Rhode Island in the late 80’s. He got big when he was paired with Craig G, Kool G Rap, and Big Daddy Kane to make the hit single “The Symphony”, calling themselves the Juice Crew Posse. His first solo two albums, “SlaughtaHouse” in 1993 and “Sittin’ On Chrome” two years later, would influence a lot of rappers including Eminem, who played at the Hall just nine days after this show at the Lyricist Lounge with De La Soul and the Black Eyed Peas. Ace also collaborated to make the title track for the Spike Lee film, “Crooklyn”, back in 1994, which I consider one of Spike’s more underrated works. But by this show, Ace was becoming disillusioned with the music industry and had a falling out with his musical partners in his crew, the I.N.C., Lord Digga and Paula Perry. They would part ways, Perry having modest success with her following solo career, releasing her debut album, “Tales From Fort Knox” that year as well. She remains one of the more under appreciated female pioneers in rap. Shortly after this show, Ace made an effort to shift his attention to producing and put rap on hold for a while.
But another one of the reasons he sort of dropped out of sight after this show was that he was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis two years later, claiming he contracted it when his medical syringes and vials were exposed during a police stop in the Czech Republic. Though that short tour in Europe in 2000 left him ill, it was a surprising critical and commercial success and it got him back into rapping again. Though I never saw Ace perform after this show, this would be the first time I had the pleasure of seeing Zion-I and it wouldn’t be the last. The Oakland hip hop crew were just getting started then and wouldn’t release their first album, “Mind Over Matter” until two years later, but I was impressed with their skills that night.
Foreigner, Dixie Star, War., SF, Fri., September 4, 1998
SETLIST : Long Long Way From Home, Double Vision, Head Games, The Modern Day, Blue Morning Blue Day, Waiting For A Girl Like You, Women, Starrider, Cold As Ice, Feels Like The First Time, Urgent, Juke Box Hero (w/ Whole Lotta Love), (encore), Dirty White Boy, I Want To Know What Love Is, Hot Blooded
This had to have been one of the guiltiest of guilty pleasure shows I’d ever attend. We all have to face the fact that we all know the songs and probably slow danced to one or more of the sentimental numbers they did at a junior high or high school dance. Yes, Foreigner was in town and I was working all night clearing one of the main aisles during their set. I’d been getting to work all night more and more as the years went on ushering and though the money always helped, I still preferred to volunteer, so I could get let go during the main act, have a beer or two, and relax. Even during the easiest crowd, I never can quite focus entirely on the band, having to be distracted watching the herd. But this one wasn’t too hard, as crowds go.
The news with the band was the recent recovery of their singer, Lou Gramm, from surgery to remove a brain tumor the year before. The docs injured his pituitary gland taking it out and he spend years recovering from it. He clearly had gained weight and would suffer from fatigue until he finally left the band altogether in 2003. But that night he was all smiles and grateful to be performing. After the opening song, he laughed, “San Francisco! Seems like we haven’t seen you in a long time! Has it been that long? Well listen. Let’s get to know each other again!” Being the first time I was seeing them, I couldn’t say how long it had been, but it had been four years since their last album, “Mr. Moonlight”. They wouldn’t release another album of original songs until 2009.
Before they played “Starrider”, which Lou described as “kind of a cosmic song”, he recalled the first time Foreigner played in San Francisco, being the opener on the bill at the Day On The Green show in 1977. They played bright and early at 10 AM, later to be followed by Heart, Steve Miller, and The Eagles. He mistakenly said it was at Candlestick Park, though all the Day On The Green shows took place at Oakland Coliseum. We forgive him. It was a long time ago and like I said, he was recovering from brain surgery. There was a lot of love in the room for Lou that night, one could easily sense that and he felt it too, saying, “it’s nice to come home sometimes”. Speaking of blasts from the past, Foreigner did a few bars of Led Zeppelin’s “Whole Lotta Love” in the middle of “Juke Box Hero”, the last song of their set. For the encore, Lou got a handful of yeah shouts in after “Dirty White Boy” and had the entire house singing the chorus of “I Want To Know What Love Is”, myself and the other ushers included. There were plenty of lighters in the air for that one, I can tell you, and Lou praised our “mighty voices”. They wrapped it up with “Hot Blooded” and for a brief time that evening, we all partied like it was 1979.
Cannibal Corpse, Angel Corpse, Sadus, Vile, Maritime Hall, SF, Sat., August 30, 1998
SETLIST : I Will Kill You, Stripped Raped & Strangled, I Cum Blood, Fucked With A Knife, Puncture Wound Massacre, Meat Hook Sodomy, Gallery Of Suicide, Perverse Suffering, Born In A Casket, Dismembered & Molested, Covered With Sores, Headless, Monolith, Staring Through The Eyes Of The Dead, Disposal Of The Body, (encore), Devoured By Vermin, A Skull Full Of Maggots, Hammer Smashed Face
It doesn’t get much more brutal than this. Yes, one needs to look no further than the titles of Cannibal Corpse’s albums and songs to get the picture. I saw these fellow freaks from Buffalo, who had the sense or non-sense to relocate to Tampa, open for The Misfits at The Fillmore back in 1996, but this time they were back, headlining their own show on tour with their sixth studio album called, “Gallery Of Suicide”. This also would be their first tour with their new guitarist Pat O’Brien, poached from the metal band Nevermore. They still had George “Corpsegrinder” Fisher singing for them, but in a strange coincidence, the former singer, Chris Barnes, had just played at the Hall less than two weeks earlier with his new band, Six Feet Under. I couldn’t do that show since I was seeing the first of two shows of Bauhaus at The Warfield that night. Since I last saw them, Cannibal Corpse had been making a bit of a name for themselves, their albums getting banned from both Australia and Germany. Both of those bans would ultimately be lifted in 2006. Also, doomed GOP presidential candidate lost the metal vote that year declaring that Cannibal Corse amongst other musical acts was undermining the national character of the United States. That might have just cost Dole Florida.
Anyway, two of the three opening acts were local, Vile from Concord, and Sadus from Antioch. Vile, even though they been around for a only a couple years, caught the attention of Cannibal Corpse, who became big fans, even wearing their T-shirts around. They would frequent the Maritime again soon, opening for fellow purveyors of the devil’s music, Deicide in November and Morbid Angel the following March. Sadus had been around considerably longer than Vile, having formed in 1985, but this was the first time I’d be seeing either of them. Speaking of Angel bands and Corpse bands for that matter, the penultimate band that night would be Angel Corpse, who like Cannibal Corpse, escaped their native Kansas City, Missouri to the greater hell hole of Tampa. It figures that these Corpses would get along and tour with each other eventually.
I learned a couple interesting tidbits about Cannibal Corpse while putting this together, first and foremost, their appearance in the Jim Carrey breakthrough comedy film, “Ace Ventura : Pet Detective”. God help me, I had seen that movie at least once, but totally forgot about their appearance in it. Apparently, Jim Carrey was a big fan of theirs and other metal acts like Napalm Death and asked for them specifically to be in his movie. At first, once they confirmed that it wasn’t a practical joke, they had to decline since they had already booked themselves for touring during the time they were to shoot. But Jim was adamant and even rescheduled the shooting of their scene to accommodate them. It was a short, but funny scene with Jim crowd floating during one of their shows while they played “Hammer Smashed Face”, pursued by bad guys who also crowd floated, but there was also a deleted scene with them where Jim actually sang with the band. Check out YouTube sometime. It’s pretty funny.
Secondly, I learned “Corpsegrinder” was the inspiration for the singer of Dethklok, Nathan Explosion, on the Adult Swim cartoon “Metalocalypse”. One needs only to watch Corpsegrinder swing his long head of hair around with that massively muscular neck of his and hear his cookie monster growl to know that they are practically twins. Finally, was the bizarre story of Pat O’Brien’s run afoul with the law recently. Two years ago, Pat broke into a house in Tampa, pushed some lady down, and hid in their backyard. When the cops came, he charged one of the deputies with a knife and was put down with a taser gun. Then it gets weird. Immediately before this, Pat had set fire to a house he was renting and when the fire was put out, the authorities found a truly impressive arsenal of weapons inside of it. For starters, he had not one but TWO flamethrowers. Now, one can understand wanting to own one flamethrower, but when you feel the need for an extra, that should be a red flag. Then for the main course, there were 50, count em’, 50 shotguns, 10 assault rifles, 2 Uzis, 20 handguns, thousands upon thousands of bullets, and for dessert… 3 human skulls. But, it being Tampa, he was given only 150 hours of community service and 5 years probation. They probably wouldn’t have been so lenient in Buffalo.
Any-who, back to the show. It was loud and rowdy as one might expect. There is a half decent video recording form the crowd on YouTube of their set. Somebody threw something on stage early on and Corpsegrinder, wearing a “Stalker Wear” T-shirt, scolded whoever did it yelling, “Don’t be fuckin’ throwin’ shit at me! If ya’ see people throwin’, bust their ass!” There were no shortage of stage divers and Little Boot, the stage manager had his hands full trying to keep up snagging them and dragging them off into the wings with the other security guys. For the encore, the crowd chanted, “More Corpse! More Corpse! More Corpse!”.
But the strangest event of the evening was something I actually didn’t witness unfortunately. The folks working upstairs swear that this happened, but in the middle of Cannibal Corpse’s set, an attractive young, Asian woman emerged from the women’s bathroom and strolled onto the dance floor… stark naked. Of all the shows to do this at, this woman chose this one. Sheesh… Perhaps she had some macabre fantasy about being tackled, raped, and torn to bloody pieces by a horde of sweaty, long haired, muscle bound heshers, but they weren’t having any of it. Maybe they were just stunned in disbelief, but the security guys scooped her up pretty fast and that was the end of it. I’ve seen my share of naked folks at places like the Folsom Street Fair, but it’s sort of expected there, even kind of obligatory. Well, I can safely say that I’ve never seen or even heard of some fine lady pulling a Lady Godiva at any metal show since, or any other kind of show for that matter.
Yellowman, The Congos, Maritime Hall, SF, Fri., August 29, 1998
Pete and I had already recorded Yellowman a few times at the Hall and the live album we made was in stores by the time he came to play this one, so why we recorded him again, I can’t say, but it was a good thing we recorded The Congos. Between this show and the one they did opening for The Abyssinians the following March, the Maritime was able to release a live album from their sets in 2000, though I can’t say precisely which songs from which shows or both were used for that album. I’ve said it a million times, it frustrates me no end when live albums are released and there’s little to no information in the liner notes about the recordings. Half the time, one would be lucky just to get the year or city it was taped. So, just in case, I’m including the images from The Congos album this time. As for the show itself, I can once again report that it was a safe bet that plenty of joints were smoked between me and my partner and Pete’s mix was perfect as all his reggae mixes were. I do know for a fact that we didn’t have a video crew that night, so they were spared the nauseating task of tracking their shots of Yellowman as he would incessantly pace back and forth across the stage while he sang. Many a poor cameraman over the years had to endure the land based equivalent of sea sickness trying to stay with him. This would, however, be the final time I’d see Yellowman myself, though having seen and recorded him three times at the Hall and having the live DVD and CD of his under my belt, gives me the satisfaction, pride, and bragging rights that I maintain to this day. He turns 65 years old this year. Wherever he is, I wish him well and hope he is enjoying a well deserved sit down.
Brian Jonestown Massacre, Dura Delinquent, Maritime Hall, SF, Thurs., August 28, 1998
This is sort of a Bermuda Triangle kind of show, since both these bands had played the Hall the previous November. Not having the recordings handy of this time around makes me even question my memory of it happening. I have always feared something like this occurring which is why I have been so steadfast of late to get these “confessions” down pat before my grey matter finally and inevitably turns to mulch. One would think that seeing a band like BJM would stick in your mental craw, considering their frontman, Anton’s, penchant for hair brained idiocy on stage, but I can only assume that he was good behavior that night. Same goes for Dura Delinquent, who’s behavior was equally as wild, though funnier and less antagonistic than the headliner here. The show was a bargain anyway, the tickets being only $7, a steal even by 1990’s dollars. Whether of not this show actually occurred, I saw it, recorded it or not, I can say for sure that I’ve neither band since. The Maritime’s monthly poster and my personal list of shows taped there confirm that this one did happen, so I’m a little stumped. Sorry to all my readers. I want to be the most reliable narrator I can be and want to resist the temptation to, you know, just make stuff up. So, let’s move on.
Alpha Blondy & The Solar System, Boukman Eksperyans, Majek Fashek, Maritime Hall, SF, Thurs., August 21, 1998
It is a distant memory, that of seeing Alpha Blondy for the first time amongst so many other artists at the Reggae Sunsplash at the Greek in Berkeley. I can’t even say exactly what year that was, though I’m sure it was in the early 90’s, but I do remember the Ivory Coast reggae superstar making an impression, enough that I went out and bought both his “Best Of” album and the “Live Au Zenith” one. I’ve always considered the Zenith album one of the best live albums I would ever own, so I was delighted at the prospect of helping record him at the Hall, especially since he hadn’t toured in over 5 years. He took some time off apparently to hang out with his family and he would need to, having sired 7 kids with 7 different women. That would keep anyone busy. Seriously, the more I look into the reggae artists I saw back in these days, the more I’m astounded at their promiscuity, even from Bob Marley. The Wailers’ bass player, the appropriately nicknamed, Aston “Family Man” Barrett, had 41, count em’, 41 kids, and one can safely deduce that they all didn’t come from the same mother. Anyway, I digress.
But Alpha was back and touring again, having just released his new album on his own record label, “Yitzhak Rabin”, named after the Israeli leader assassinated three years prior to this show. Speaking of the promiscuous Bob again, Alpha was able to employ two of the three of Bob Marley’s original I-Three’s singers, his ex Rita Marley and Judy Mowatt, for the project, though they didn’t tour with him for this one. I was disappointed to say the least that Alpha Blondy didn’t want us to record. I came into the recording room to find Boots and Pete talking to a pleasant, young woman wearing African clothes and they broke the news to me. Impulsively, I lividly protested asking that we make sure to talk it over with Alpha’s manager, but was embarrassed to be informed that she was indeed his manager. She was gracious about it and I eventually cooled off. Actually, I was surprised Boots didn’t chew me out later from my reaction, but he didn’t and was uncharacteristically all smiles. God knows why. Maybe he was just grateful that they were there in the first place and didn’t cancel. Regardless, the show went on, we got to record the opening acts, and I had the consolation of the pleasure of going upstairs for Alpha’s set and enjoying it.
The first opening act that night was singer/songwriter/guitarist Majek Fashek from Nigeria. Sadly, this would be the last time I’d see him, having just found out that he died a year ago in London from a battle with esophageal cancer at the age of 57. Following him was Boukman Eksperyans from Haiti, who I had seen once before at The Fillmore in 1995 opening for Baaba Maal who coincidentally had just headlined at the Maritime less than two weeks before this show. Small world, eh? Boukman Eksperyans were still in exile from their native country, fearing the military who they had criticized with their music before the fall of Aristide in 1991. Both openers were great and recording them helped ease the sting of losing my chance to record Alpha. Though I didn’t have enough time to run home and grab my own tape deck to get Alpha’s set myself, I would at least redeem the loss five years later when he returned to play in San Francisco at the Avalon Ballroom.
Bauhaus, War., SF, Mon., August 17, 1998
Bauhaus, War., SF, Tues., August 18, 1998
(MONDAY) : Double Dare, In The Flat Field, A God In An Alcove, In Fear Of Fear, Hollow Hills, Terror Couple Kill Colonel, Silent Hedges, The Passion Of Lovers, Severance, Boys, The Sanity Assassin, She’s In Parties, Kick In The Eye, Telegram Sam, Ziggy Stardust, Burning From The Inside, Bela Legosi’s Dead
(TUESDAY) : Double Dare, In The Flat Field, A God In An Alcove, In Fear Of Fear, Hollow Hills, Terror Couple Kill Colonel, Silent Hedges, Severance, Boys, The Sanity Assassin, She’s In Parties, The Passion Of Lovers, Dark Entries, Telegram Sam, Ziggy Stardust, All We Ever Wanted Was Everything, Spirit, Bela Legosi’s Dead
I was still a neophyte to the Goth scene, though I was a huge fan of The Damned, but I knew that these shows were important. Most Goth people would cite Bauhaus as clearly one of the founders of the genre, if not the well spring from which it was born entirely. From their humble beginnings in London, the brothers Haskins, Kevin and David J on drums and bass respectively, formed the group with Daniel Ash on guitar. He had been attending art school at the time and was friends with vampire-to-be Peter Murphy who he convinced to leave his job at the printing factory and join them. After only five short but intense years, they split up, Peter moved to Istanbul with his Turkish wife and pursued his solo career and the others with their new band Love & Rockets. They all had modest success with their endeavors, critically and commercially. Love & Rockets would also reform again and I would have the honor of recording them at the Maritime the following March.
It had been 15 long years since they had toured together as Bauhaus and were calling it appropriately enough, the “Resurrection Tour”. This would be the end of a long stretch of shows for me 5 in 6 days, though technically it was 6, since I did two shows in one day on the 15th, but who’s counting? On a funny side note, the first night was on the same day President Clinton admitted publicly to the Monica Lewinsky affair. Though as I wrote before, Monica was a fan of Sarah McLachlan who I’d recently seen at the second Lilith Fair, I can’t say whether either her or Clinton had ever heard Bauhaus. Still, impeachment for Bill must have been a real “Kick In The Eye”. (Ba-dum-boom!) Both shows were sold out and spookily spectacular. There was no shortage of fog machines those shows, that’s for sure. Like Tricky, who played there the night before, Bauhaus pretty much made up their genre from scratch and though it might not be the most complex music in the world, it is unique stylistically and their songs likewise improved as the years progressed. I was able to find a great bootleg of the first night on YouTube. That show I had an usher badge, so I worked all night clearing aisles, but I was just a volunteer for the second night, so I was let go shortly after Bauhaus got on and was able to have a beer or two and enjoy myself. My friend Dan was there ushering with me for at least one of those nights.
The sets between days were mostly the same, though they jumbled up the order a little and switched out a few songs between them. The first day got, “Kick In The Eye” and “Burning From The Inside”, the second got “Dark Entries”, “All I Ever Wanted Was Everything”, and “Spirit”. Both nights, they did versions of T. Rex’s “Telegram Sam”, “Severance” by Dead Can Dance, and “Ziggy Stardust”, the Bowie cover that was one of the main reasons they were famous. The other was for the seminal Goth anthem, “Bela Legosi’s Dead” which they ended both nights with, extending their live rendition well over twelve minutes. I’ll never forget the nightmarish sight of Peter swaying about in the fog, swirling his black cape around, and crooning out like he was Dracula announcing loudly, “Children of the night! What music they make!”. Pity neither of these shows were on Halloween. Bauhaus would in fact play at The Fillmore on Halloween in 2005, but I saw Jello Biafra play with The Melvins at the Great American that night. Tough choice, but I know I made right one. I’m happy to report that these nights got a well deserved poster and an excellent one at that.
I made it a habit to go up to the balcony for the encores at Warfield show to hover behind the front of house sound board, seeing what kind of gear they were using, as well as to enjoy the view. The sound is always best up there naturally and at the end of the encore, I would be in prime position to ask the sound guy for a setlist, schedule, or stage plot if they were amenable. These nights, I couldn’t help but notice they were recording, having two stacks of three ADAT machines, recording 24 tracks, 8 on each machine, seamlessly starting on stack after the other, so they wouldn’t lose any songs. This is the same set up we did at the Maritime. Unfortunately for the sound guy on the second night, he launched his second stack of ADATs and forgot to format his ADAT tapes ahead of time. ADAT tapes, you see, have a leader space at the beginning of them that have to be formatted at first for a couple minutes before, so they can sync up together, and this guy launched his second stack and had to wait at the encore for the leader to run its course, losing the first minute or so of “Bela Legosi’s Dead”. He knew his goof and I had the good sense not to point it out to him.
I can’t say if this goof cost the shows at The Warfield the distinction of being the ones used for the “Gotham” live double album they released the following year. They used the songs from their shows at the Hammersmith Ballroom in New York City that they performed there just three weeks later. Still, the setlist was the same, they played just as well, and I have these precious, melancholy memories to sustain me during my moments of ennui. It was a good thing I caught both shows because I would have to wait until late October 2005, a full seven years later, for Bauhaus to get back together and tour again, once more playing back to back shows at The Warfield. Those nights made up for my missing them at the aforementioned Halloween show at the Fillmore they played a a couple days afterwards. But I would be lucky enough to see Peter Murphy three more times touring solo between those years and then once more at a rare small club show at Bottom Of The Hill in 2011, though I had stopped bootlegging by then. But Mr. Murphy carries on to this day and continues to inspire his legions of Goth fans. On a side note, during the season 5 premiere of “Rick & Morty” that was just aired this week, I couldn’t help that Peter bared a strong resemblance to Mr. Nimbus. I’ll let you be the judge.
Tricky, DJ Pollywog, War., SF, Sun., August 16, 1998
It had been exactly a year to the day since I had last seen Tricky. I don’t think that has ever happened before or since. Yeah, last time he did his thing in my presence, he was on the Main Stage at the last Lollapalooza tour and now I was seeing him headline for the first time at The Warfield. Despite it being the fourth time seeing him in just three years and that I would see him quite a few more times in the future, I have always had a hard time following his music, even to this day listening to the tape again. It’s hard enough to understand anything the female singers are saying, but everything out of his mouth is practically indecipherable. Still, that doesn’t mean I don’t like him or his music, I do. Tricky is one of a kind, partially because he is mostly self taught. Bands like him, Bauhaus, who played the following two nights there, and U2 might not be the most technically proficient musicians in the world, but when you’re making it up as you go along in the beginning, you sometimes make something unique that’s actually good. He was highly prolific, and naturally got better, more sophisticated as the years passed.
Anyway, in a strange coincidence, the night before, Tricky’s old band, Massive Attack, was supposed to perform at the Bill Graham Civic opening for The Verve, but they didn’t show up. They got fed up with The Verve’s shenanigans and bolted to headline their own tour and were replaced by some mystery DJ at the last minute. And speaking of mystery DJ’s, Tricky had renowned rave veteran DJ Pollywog spinning records before he and his band came on. She’s an easy one to spot, tall and always dressed extravagantly, not to mention a hell of a DJ. I was ushering as usual and could actually hear somebody complaining during her set, “That was my spot a little while ago!”. Tough luck for her. It was a pretty full house, the biggest crowd I would ever see for Tricky for one of his own shows.
Like I said, I still really didn’t know his songs, at least not by name, but after some research and close listening, I at least determined that they started with “Bury The Evidence”. They then did “Christiansands”, a song he recently landed on the soundtrack for the hit John Woo action film, “Face/Off” with John Travolta and Nicolas Cage. And though I don’t recall the order or any songs in between, also played “Angels With Dirty Faces”, “Anti Histamine”, “The Moment I Feared”, “Tear Out My Eyes”, Carriage From Two”, and “Bad Dreams”. For the encore, he did “Vent”. This would be the first time I’d be seeing Tricky without his siren collaborator Martine Topley-Bird. Though they’d been together from the start and had a three year old daughter by then, things went sour and they went their separate ways. To fill in for the female parts, he now had Carmen Ejogo and Denis Ellington, who performed admirably. It wouldn’t be long until I saw Tricky again at Fillmore, returning to town just four months later. At least that show got a poster. To this day, whenever I think of him, the soundbite from the Playstation snowboarding game “SSX Tricky” whenever you score a on a complex trick, “TRICKY – TRICKY – TRICKY!” pops in my head. I miss that game. Spent a lot of hours on that one.
The ONE Festival : Toots & The Maytals, Burning Spear, Long Beach Dub All Stars, Young Dubliners, The Congos, Pier 30/32, SF, Sat. August 15, 1998
The Verve, BG Civic, SF, Sat., August 15, 1998
SETLIST : Space & Time, Sonnet, This Time, On Your Own, Weeping Willow, The Drugs Don’t Work, Lucky Man, History, One Day, Velvet Morning, Come On, See You In The Next One (Have A Good Time), (encore), So Sister, Bittersweet Symphony
This was one of those rare occasions where I did two shows in a single day, the first being The One Festival out at Pier 30/32, just down the hill from the Maritime. Boots, the svengali of this operation, was expanding his horizons, or more accurately trying stop the steady bleeding of money he was experiencing at the time by throwing this wing ding. I helped Pete put together a mobile recording station in the back of a box truck and parked it next to the stage, running our mic snake to the monitor board and patching in. We had the Mackie sound board, ADATs, the works, and luckily everything was functioning normally, being a bit concerned that the ADATs would seize up from the heat. Though it wasn’t sold out, maybe around three or four thousand folks out there, and probably just broke even financially, I have to give Boots credit for pulling it off. I liked seeing shows down at that pier, it having a spectacular view of the bay and the Bay Bridge stretching beside it. I’d go on to see a few shows there in the years to come, mostly the Van’s Warped Tour. There were plenty of food and craft venders, a Sony Playstation exhibit, and a couple DJ tents to entertain the kids as well, but Pete and I had our hands too full to enjoy them.
The line up that day was an impressive, though familiar one to the Maritime folks. Both Toots & The Maytals and Burning Spear had performed twice at the Hall in 1997, and the Long Beach Dub All Stars and The Congos had performed once that year as well. The only newbies were the second act of the day, The Young Dubliners, a Celtic rock band based out of L.A. They had just released a live album of their own that February called, “Alive Alive O’”, so they wouldn’t be interested in our stuff anyway. Likewise, Burning Spear had already used a couple songs for their “A(live)” double album and The Congos would eventually put out a live album from stuff we recorded at the Hall, so Pete and my efforts that day proved to be just wishful thinking. Still, always a pleasure to hear all these guys, especially Toots. That guy could get a paralyzed person to dance again with his music. I do regret that I had to bail on Pete for the aftermath of the show, but I gave plenty at the office that day. The Verve wouldn’t wait and I had to get across town to catch them in time.
The Verve were playing at Bill Graham Civic and I high tailed it up Market Street once Toots wrapped up his set at 6, grabbed a quick bite, and made it in on time. I and assuredly everybody else at that show were disappointed to discover that the opening act, trip hop pioneers Massive Attack, weren’t there to perform. Apparently, they got fed up with The Verve’s in fighting and split during that tour to headline their own tour leaving us to hear a last minute DJ replacement open the show. Guitarist Nick McCabe had left The Verve just two months prior in Germany after getting into a fight with singer Richard Ashcroft. McCabe broke his hand slugging him in the jaw and would have to be replaced with veteran slide guitarist and session player, B.J. Cole. Being 52 years old at the time, B.J. was probably the oldest person in the house that night, well, who wasn’t a stagehand anyway. Coincidentally, he had just finished touring with John Cale from the Velvet Underground who had just played two nights with The Creatures at the Maritime that June. Though The Verve were riding at the height of the popularity with their new album, “Urban Hymns” and the smash hit 90’s anthem “Bittersweet Symphony”, they would play their last gig just two weeks later at Slane Castle in Ireland. Speaking of Ireland or rather Northern Ireland, it was a somber occasion that day after hearing news of the infamous bombing in Omagh. Thankfully, the horror of that tragedy was the impetus for the Brits and the Irish to finally say enough was enough and make peace.
Certainly the news of what had happened in Omagh had added a additional weight to the emotional stress The Verve were experiencing at the time, but their set that night was a downer for sure. I mean, like most of their shoe gazer brethren, they were a melancholy bunch to begin with, but one couldn’t help but feel like their hearts were just just not in this, especially for Ashcroft. It was quite an emotional downturn from the uplifting set from Toots I had heard only hours earlier. I’d seen The Verve headline The Warfield only nine months before and I could tell the difference in their demeanor. It was almost if they were already saying goodbye to us all. Before they came out, they played a bit of a recording of Jimmy Cliff’s “Many River To Cross” adding to the funeral like feel of the night. Still, all the songs were beautiful as always and having Cole on slide guitar added an extra wrinkle to tunes like “The Drugs Don’t Work”. Between songs, Ashcroft dedicated the earlier tunes to “the old fans, the people who’ve stuck with us from the beginning” which I took pride being one of them.
Piling on to the sadness, the last song of the set, the eerily appropriate “See You In The Next One (Have A Good Time)”, was played acoustically as was “So Sister”, the first song of the encore. At least they went out with a bit of a bang, playing an extended version of “Bittersweet Symphony”, which Ashcroft introduced as “one of the greatest songs of all time”. During the explosive guitar jam near the end, he kept shouting, “California Soul!”. But that was it. The Verve were finito. They would reunite in 2008 playing a handful of festivals, including Coachella, but this would be the last time for me. Guitarists Simon Jones and Simon Tong would go on to play with the Gorillaz and drummer Peter Salisbury would do work with the Black Rebel Motorcycle Club and Charlatans UK. Ashcroft had a respectable solo career of his own, releasing his first effort, “Alone With Everybody” a couple years later, but would never achieve the level of success he had with The Verve. Sad to see them go the way they did, but like the song says, “I know I’ll see your face again”.
Shonen Knife, Michael Shelley, Maritime Hall, SF, Sun., August 14, 1998
SETLIST : Konnichiwa, Banana Chips, Flying Jelly Bean Attack, Lazybone, Catch Your Bus, Cookie Day, Riding The Rocket, Ice Cream City, Gyoza, Sushi Bar, Daydream Believer, Twist Barbie, Frogphobia, Antonio Baka Guy, One Week, (encore), Kappa Ex., Bear Up Bison, (encore), E.S.P.
Years before K-Pop swept the nation and the world, J-Pop was having its time in the sun and Shonen Knife were one of the bands leading the movement. It was a long time coming since they’d been playing since 1981, but most Americans like myself would eventually hear about them first from Nirvana’s love affair with their music ten years later. Kurt and and the gang fell under their ultra-cute spell and took them on their tour of the U.K. They would teach Kurt how to play “Twist Barbie”, a song he’d play at secret shows and Dave Grohl even helped them set up their drums on that tour. I’d first see them in person in 1994 on the side stage at Lollapalooza, but this time they were playing the Hall and I had the honor of recording them. I do remember being miffed at Beavis & Butthead for their not-so-kind review of their video, “Tomato Head”, one of the few times I didn’t agree with them, other than their cruel criticism of King Diamond, who coincidentally had just played the Hall with his band old Mercyful Fate eleven days before this show.
Opening that night was New York City singer-songwriter, Michael Shelley, who recently had members of Belle & Sebastian collaborate with him on his latest album, “Too Many Movies”. This would be the last tour bassist and founding member Michie Nakatani would be on with Shonen Knife, she leaving the band the following year. The band was arguably at the height of their popularity in America at the time, touring with their latest album, “Happy Hour”, and recently contributing a cover of “Top Of The World” by The Carpenters for the recent film remake of “The Parent Trap”. The show at the Maritime was probably about half sold, but the crowd was twice as enthusiastic as any, more than making up for it. I know it sounds like a wise crack, but Japanese shows always seem less sold because their bodies are smaller, (Sumo wrestlers notwithstanding), same goes for kids shows. Seriously, as an usher, I know, you can fit more small people on the dance floor. Obviously, the opposite is true for overfed older crowds like blues people and hippies.
The audience erupted in applause as they took the stage in their colorful, custom made outfits and played the appropriately titled, “Konnichiwa”. Early on between songs, somebody up front in the crowd handed singer-guitarist Naoko Yamano a stuffed animal. She thanked them for the “cute present”, though was unsure if it was a “lion or monkey”. Then she asked if anybody out there about the new album, asking, “Have you listened?”. They applauded loudly and she praised them saying, “You are genius!”, and then launched into their new song, “Catch Your Bus”. The new album had all sorts of songs about food items, such as banana chips, hot chocolate, gyoza, cookies, and sushi. For the “Sushi Bar Song”, Naoko first instructed the crowd how to clap for the chorus and they did loudly, very loudly in fact and kept going to the point where she said, “You are genius! Can you stop… please?” To this day, whenever I eat a cookie, I get that “Cookie Day” chorus of “Cookie Day! Cookie Day! It’s a beautiful Cookie Day!” stuck in my head. They also did a cute cover of The Monkee’s hit song, “Daydream Believer”.
Like the members of Shonen Knife, their songs were all short and sweet, leaving their set, just under an hour long. For both of their encores, the crowd’s clapping and chanting of their name was deafening. Naoko thanked them both times with a charming, “Domo arigato”. For the second encore, she told them about their merchandise booth in the back and their new book, “Shonen Knife Land”, that included amongst pictures of them, cooking recipes, how to make their custom clothes, and an original science fiction cartoon. She cracked us up, complaining that the books were “very, very heavy to carry from Japan” and pleaded for them to relieve her of some of the weight. I know I saw them at least one more time years later at Bottom Of The Hill, but it was after I stopped bootlegging, so I can’t say exactly when that was, probably in 2010. But they are still around to this day and are actually celebrating their 40th anniversary as a band this year.
Baaba Maal, Zaoli West African Drum & Dance, Telefunken, Maritime Hall, SF, Sat., August 8, 1998
I’ll never forget this show for a number of reasons, but for one in particular, which happened to be totally unrelated to Baaba Maal. I knew that Pete was going to be recording that night, so I took up an invitation from my friend Matt Riggs to see a movie under the influence of LSD early on in the day. What possessed me to do this for a screening of “Saving Private Ryan”, I can’t really say. Call it a lapse in judgement. It had just been released in the theaters two weeks before and I had seen it once already, so at least I would have been caught in there unawares of the horrific violence it contained, especially during the opening scene at the invasion of Omaha Beach. If I was to be punished for such a weird and disturbing thing to do, it came early when I met Matt before we went into the theater and he informed me that he changed his mind and decided not to dose for the movie. I had already dropped mine and was well on my way. At least I had Matt as my wingman.
Contrary to what you might imagine, I wasn’t scarred for life. In my experience, watching movies on LSD isn’t that strange. I tend to forget about it actually, becoming totally immersed in the film experience. Part of me was a little like Lance in “Apocalypse Now” when he was on acid and was watching the nighttime fighting at the scene at the bridge around the middle act of that movie. The most disorientating part of seeing a movie on LSD is actually when the movie ends and the lights come on again. Still, like anyone who has seen that war film on a big screen, upon leaving the AMC theater on Van Ness, I sort of had to regain my composure, mentally and physically. I mean, I wasn’t tripping balls by the time I left Matt and made my way downtown and up Rincon Hill to the Maritime, but I was still feeling it to be sure.
When I got to the recording studio, I did my best to act normally and concentrate on the task at hand. I labeled the tapes as always and helped Pete patch things in, but I was uncharacteristically quiet and I could tell Pete was wondering what was up with me a bit. When I thought we had everything well in hand, I confessed to Pete what I had done and he laughed about it. He knew something was up and laughed, “Wow… Nick is triiiiiiping…” By the time the show started, it pretty much had worn off and I had a couple beers to calm my nerves. I actually had seen Baaba once before in 1995 at The Fillmore, so I knew what I was in for and knowing it would be a fun and uplifting show, also helped me come down. Don’t remember much about Telefunken, named after the German radio and television company, but I as well as the crowd were impressed by the Zaoli dancers and drummers.
Baaba was a star in his home country of Senegal, but was continuing to make a name for himself in America and the rest of international stage. He had just released the “Nomad Soul” album, co-produced by Brian Eno that year as well as another album called “Djam Leeli : The Adventures”. Also, he had contributed a song called “Bess, You Is My Woman Now” to the “Red Hot + Rhapsody : The Gershwin Groove” album, raising money for AIDS research and awareness. Senegal and all of West Africa had been horrifically decimated by the AIDS virus in the 90’s, so one can appreciate his intention to help in the effort. As always, I had hoped Baaba would release some of the stuff we recorded at the Maritime, but as luck would have it, he had just recorded a live album in London called “Live At The Royal Festival Hall”. Strangely enough, KFJC, the radio station helping promote this show, also sponsored the Mercyful Fate show the week before, a musical experience different on a number of levels.
As he did when I saw him three years before at The Fillmore, Baaba brought along a band of virtuosos with him. Along with a drummer, guitar, bass, keys, and a couple horn players, he had a handful of guys with various percussion instruments, including one up on the front corner of the stage surrounded by an array of at least 7 or 8 congas on stands. They opened the show with one of them rhythmically hitting a simple beat with a stick on stage and Baaba joined him wearing a cymbal shaped straw hat, clapping along, then accompanying him with his hand drum, followed by the rest of the band. Once everybody was in playing, altogether, these guys were very tight, brilliant, and energetic. Baaba and his percussion playing back up singers all wore colorful traditional African clothes and danced skillfully throughout the set. These guys had their moves down cold, acrobatically jumping and prancing about with their lean, lanky bodies under their flowing robes, all while smiling widely. I was particularly blown away once again by the intense sound and power of Baaba’s voice.
He sang in a language called Pulaar, native to the Podor region where he was born and raised, but he did ask the crowd in English about a half hour into the set, “San Francisco! Do you feel alright!?!” Of course, they responded in the positive. He also introduced on stage between songs the legendary Jamaican guitarist and songwriter, Ernest Ranglin, who joined him and a few members for a couple acoustic songs. Pete knew about Ernest, having played with well, basically every reggae and ska artist ever, but I hadn’t heard of him before that night, though I had obliviously heard his work with others plenty. Soon be floored by his masterful skills picking his wide body guitar. During the second song Ernest played with him, Baaba put a Fez-like hat on his head during one of his guitar solos.
After Ernest left, Baaba sat in a chair in the center of the front of the stage and had his back up guys sit indian style on the floor, two each beside him, like he was telling a story to the village. The song picked up and then they all got up eventually and continued dancing as they sang. After, he did a bit of call and response with one of his drummers, singing a line and the drummer replicating it, before the rest of the band joined in full swing. The revelry would continue for nearly two hours in total, ending the night with the encore, a song about Dakar, the capitol of Senegal. Though this would be the last time I’d see Baaba perform live, but his voice would be immortalized worldwide twenty years later in Ludwig Goransson’s score for the seminal comic book film, “Black Panther”.
Mercyful Fate, Mr. Sinister, Old Grandad, The Council, Maritime Hall, SF, Sun., August 3, 1998
It had only been since April since I had my first and unforgettable audience with King Diamond at the Maritime and he was already back again, this time with his old band, Mercyful Fate. Formed way back in 1981, they had broken up and reformed twice already by this time and were touring with their latest album, “Dead Again”. Original guitarist Michael Denner had been recently replaced by another Mike, Mike Wead from Sweden. Wead would continue to tour with Kind Diamond for years to come. Hank Shermann, the other original guitarist was there and in fact had made surprise cameo to King Diamond’s show at the Hall, helping him play the Mercyful Fate song, “Come To The Sabbath” for his encore, which they played that night as well. This gig was being sponsored by radio station KFJC, who were also sponsoring the Baaba Maal show the following weekend. One could hardly come up with two more different bands in style and appearance, but good for KFJC for having eclectic taste, and good taste at that.
There had been a show at the Hall the night before with Blink 182, but knowing in advance that we weren’t being allowed to record, resigned me accepting that I had the night off. In hindsight, I should have shown up just to watch the show, but back then I had no idea who they were and was working so much that I actually wanted a night to rest. I would see them soon enough at The Warfield in 2001 and elsewhere in the future. Boots had made a first time joint effort with the production company Goldenvoice to put it on. I suppose they both considered joining forces would be mutually beneficial in their competition with BGP, who were still in flux structurally after the death of Bill Graham. Live 105 and Miller beer were there too promoting it. But back to the show at hand.
I can’t remember much about The Council, but I did recall liking local act Old Grandad immensely and made a point to see them again, once on New Year’s Eve in 2004 at a very small club in the Outer Mission called Sadie’s. They were a very, heavy-heavy metal group, much in the vein of Sabbath, Fu Manchu, or The Melvins, sludgy and dark as can be. I can’t recall Mr. Sinister either, though I do know that they are named after a Marvel super-villain who occasionally tussled with the X-Men. I’m sure they’re gone the way of the Dodo now, but there now is a different hair metal band with the same name out of Omaha, Nebraska that formed in 2011.
Though I didn’t save the recording of Mercyful Fate, I did enjoy the show and appreciated the fact that they walked on stage to one of the bits from the soundtrack of “The Omen”. I think it was from the part where David Warner got his head cut off, but it might of been the bit from “The Omen II” where that guy got crushed between train cars. Either way, it was creepy and thus perfectly appropriate for the evening. Like last April, the King once again donned his top hat and ghoulish make up, singing his unmistakable siren song of Satan through his bone cross microphone thingy. Likewise, there was again no shortage of devil hand sings elevated on high in the crowd and swinging full heads of long hair on stage from King’s fellow bandmates. Though this would be the only time I’d see Mercyful Fate perform, I would have the pleasure of seeing the King a few more times in the years to come.
Sonia Dada, Maritime Hall, SF, Fri., August 1, 1998
For some mysterious reason, Sonia Dada’s show was postponed a couple weeks along with a string of cancellations in July at The Hall. I think Boots, the owner needed to take time off around then to oversee his wife Kathy’s experimental treatment for cancer in Germany, but I can’t remember if that was the reason for these cancellations and Sonia Dada’s postponement. Sadly, Kathy would succumb to her illness eventually, but Boots did everything he could to help her stay alive. As tyrannical as Boots was, we all knew he loved Kathy very much and God help her, she loved him too. I miss Kathy. She was a sweet woman and was always kind to me. There were rumors of some kind of pollution up in Marin County causing her and a string of others’ abnormal rates of cancer, but I don’t recall if anything was proven. Kathy was always a vegetarian and never drank, smoked, or did drugs. It’s not fair to say the least.
That sad story aside, Sonia Dada was an interesting show. It was one of those rare gigs where the band had brought their own engineer down to our recording room to mix their set. I wasn’t familiar with them in the slightest and he was a nice enough guy, so I didn’t put up a fuss over it. It probably was a fellow named Scott Steiner, who was their official engineer, but he might have been on front of house duty. They never released anything recorded that night, though they would go on to release a live album the following year called “Lay Down & Love It Live”. Dada had just put out their third album, “My Secret Life”, that June and they typified the Chicago Soul sound, good drinking music. Like many soul acts, they were also a band evenly populated by black and white people. They were founded by Daniel Pritzker, their guitarist, who unknown to me and probably most people was actually a billionaire. He was heir to the Pritzker family fortune. The Pritzer’s initially made their money as lawyers, but eventually established the Hyatt hotel chain, and diversified their empire from lumber to railroads to cruise lines. His cousin, J.B., is actually the current governor of Illinois. I suppose a band has to have money to tour with their own recording engineer to begin with.
Between his philanthropic work, Daniel toured with this band and to his credit was a talented guitarist and songwriter. He actually bought Jerry Garcia’s famous “Wolf” guitar in 2002 for $790,000, but donated it to charity in 2017 for a whopping $1.9 Million. I suppose after having it around for 15 years, he didn’t really need it anymore. It for charity anyway. Good for him. His fortune surely allowed him to get the pick of the litter of Chicago musicians and Sonia Dada reflected that, especially the singers, though he discovered three of them, Michael Scott, Paris Delane, and Sam Hogan, busking in a Chicago subway. Another singer, Shawn Christopher, had just joined the band, she having spent years singing back up for Chaka Khan in the 80’s. Strangely enough, she also spent a few years singing for none other than the freaky industrial band My Life With The Thrill Kill Kult along side cult icon Lydia Lunch. As luck would have it, the Kult would play the hall only a month later, though without her and Lydia. Still, small world, huh? Sonia Dada would have modest success with their songs, “Lover (You Don’t Treat Me No Good)” and “You Ain’t Thinking (About Me)”, which naturally they played that night, but this would be the only time I’d see them live.
Ol’ Dirty Bastard, Mystic Journeymen, The Earthlings, Maritime Hall, SF, Sun., July 26, 1998
The Wu-Tang Clan had made a name for themselves long before this show, but I believe that Dirty was the first of their members that I would see perform live. He more than any of his brethren had hogged all the attention in the media, especially that year, with his, shall we say, eccentric behavior. For starters, Dirty made headlines that February for bum rushing the stage at the Grammies interrupting of all people Shawn Colvin getting her award for Song Of The Year. Really, “Sunny Come Home” is not a song one would at first associate with Dirty or rap music in general. Anyway, he was pissed that Puff Daddy had won the Grammy for Best Rap Album earlier and felt he had to protest that Wu Tang didn’t get it since they were, “doing it for the children”. OK…
Then, Dirty’s luck took a turn for the worse less than a month before this show when he suffered a gunshot wound in the back and arm during a robbery at his girlfriend’s house. He tried to grab a gun from one of the two ski masked assailants when it went off. The perps got away with some jewelry and a diamond studded bracelet, leaving Dirty to get patched up at the hospital. Always on the move, he couldn’t stay still even after being shot, and walked out of the hospital against doctor’s orders after only 9 hours, driving home in his van. Only days later, he was arrested for shoplifting a pair of $50 shoes in Virginia Beach, despite having over $500 in cash on him at the time. His frugal nature was already infamous from a recent piece he did with MTV where he went with his family in a limousine to pick up food stamps. All the while, Dirty was changing his stage name over and over again, recently trying on “Big Baby Jesus” on for size.
So, his reputation preceded him, but like most rap shows at the Hall, this one was sold out and rowdy. Little Boots, the stage manager and son of the Hall’s owner, took advantage of the captive audience to open with his band, The Earthlings. I’ve said it before, but I will at least give him and his crew credit for their steady improvement as the years passed, but as soon as the Hall folded in 2001, The Earthlings basically did too. Also opening were east bay hip hop mainstays, the Mystik Journeymen. The show was sponsored by radio station KSJS and the Journeymen made a particular point to dis on KMEL for not spinning their records, saying, “for all you out there who hate country! 106 ain’t down with the real hip hop!” The crowd was packed up front, to the point where one of their members said he felt sorry for all the people getting crushed. For one of their songs, they had the lighting guys turn off the all the lights and one of them lit up the crowd with a pair of spotlights attached to a hat. As they finished they made sure to get one last dis in, getting everybody to scream, “Fuck commercial radio!!!”
I didn’t save Dirty’s set to listen to, but like most hip hop sets, I remember it was a short one. He certainly covered his hit song, “Shimmy Shimmy Ya”, reminding everybody of how he “likes it raw”. Yes, Dirty was not shy about as Dr. Evil so eloquently phrased it, his “penchant for buggery” and declared so publicly many times, even when not asked about it. His other big hit, “Got Your Money”, wouldn’t be released until the following year, so I don’t recall if it was played that night. Kelis, who did the chorus for that famous song, would play the Hall the following year though. Dirty had also a reputation for being a drug fiend though, and sadly he would die from an accidental drug overdose six years later at the age of 35, only three years older than me, making this the only time I would see him perform live. I would see and record a few other members of the Wu Tang Clan such as Method Man and GZA, and I would finally see the Clan altogether when they played The Fillmore in 2002, but Dirty was in jail then, having skipped out on a court mandated drug rehab stint. Clearly, the treatment was seriously in need, but alas, Big Baby Jesus had to eventually be recalled home to heaven.
Morbid Angel, Incantation, Nile, Infestation, Maritime Hall, SF, Sat., July 25, 1998
SETLIST : (unknown), Bil Ur-Sag, World Of Shit (The Promised Land), Nothing Is Not, Rapture, Lord Of All Fevers & Plague, Day Of Suffering, Prayer Of Hatred, Covenant Of Death, Invocation Of The Continual One, Blood On My Hands, Heaving Earth, (encore) Hellspawn : The Rebirth, Chapel Of Ghouls
Morbid Angel is one of those bands, like Deicide and Cannibal Corpse, where I take a moment, look up to God and say, “Hey… These guys don’t necessarily represent me. Don’t send me to Hell or nothing for this. I’m just doing my job.” Yes, Morbid Angel, the bombastic death metal band from Tampa who had been rattling out teeth fillings since 1983 were there along with three other heavy, HEAVY acts, all with impressive heads of hair. Morbid Angel had just released their new album, “Formulas Fatal To The Flesh”, deliberately using three words starting with the sixth letter of the alphabet. You get the idea. This was their first album with their new singer and bassist, Steve Tucker, who had replaced Dave “Evil D” Vincent. Dave would come back in 2004, then leave again and Steve would take over again in 2015. I would see Dave soon enough when he’d play at the Hall a year later with his wife, Jennifer “Gen” Zimmerman and her band, The Genitorturers. They were a whole other kind of disturbing. I’ll get to them eventually.
We had both Incantation and Infestation that night opening. Metal bands notoriously use single word names that end with “tion”. Nile from Greenville, South Carolina was there too and they were a little more prog rock than the others, definitely taking on the mystical Egyptian angle. They were still pretty new back then. Both Nile and Incantation were signed to Relapse Records and as luck would have it both released their new albums on the same day that April. Nile’s album was actually their debut and I loved the title, “Amongst The Catacombs Of Nephren-Ka”, a reference to a story called “The Outsider” by H.P. Lovecraft. Yep, this was dark music to say the least, but I love the death metal crowd, nice people one and all, really. These guys were always on time to their sound checks and their drummers took care of their gear with immaculate care.
Like Front 242 who had played the Hall for the last two days before this show, the fog machine was getting a lot of use that night. Morbid Angel had also set up fans on stage to blow their member’s manes of hair majestically all through the show. I loved the way Steve would introduce the songs with his Cookie Monster voice saying stuff like, “You people are fucking sick! We salute you all! For the strong, this is the dawning of a new era! For the weak, this is the DAY… OF… SUFFERING!!!!” He did another one, growling, “Some pray for money! Some pray for greed! Some pray to false gods! This is a PRAYER… OF… HATRED!!!” and “This goes out to all sickness! This is LORD… OF… ALL… FEVERS… AND… PLAGUE!!!” Apart from their blasphemous lyrics, he would also do some parts of their songs singing in Sumerian. During “Covenant Of Death”, he belted out, “Zamanu Muh Lal-Li Zi-Pa-Gurud-Zuneme-E”, translating to, “Hostile ones, you soon shall reap what you earned”.
Listening to their set again, I thought my mix was pretty even, but when they returned in 1999, again with Nile opening, I was saddened to hear that they thought it was too bass heavy. I’m sure Steve Tucker wasn’t complaining. Having done so much reggae at the Hall, I tended, like Pete, to favor the kick and bass. They never used any of our stuff, unfortunately, but Morbid Angel had put out a live album in 1996 already anyway called “Entangled In Chaos”. Maybe they were just a little jittery about playing the new tunes with the new singer. They were also touring with Erik Rutan on guitar, he taking a break from his band Hate Eternal. Erik would go on to play with a number of other heavy bands including joining Cannibal Corpse just this year. We had just set up a wide shot for the video that night as usual, but somebody in the crowd did manage to get in a video camera of their own and you can find the set they played that night on YouTube in all its chaotic glory.
Front 242, Project Pitchfork, Maritime Hall, SF, Thurs., July 23, 1998
Front 242, Project Pitchfork, Kevorkian Death Cycle, Maritime Hall, SF, Fri., July 24, 1998
SETLIST : (same both days) Happiness, Masterhit, Motion, Moldavia, Melt, Soul Manager, No Shuffle, In Rhythmus Bleiben, Crapage, Body To Body, Religion, Headhunter, Welcome To Paradise, (encore), First In/First Out, Punish Your Machine
It had been five years since Front 242 toured with Lollapalooza and though they didn’t have a new album to speak of, they had remixed some of their songs and I was overjoyed to see that they were coming to play not one, but two days at the Hall. It had been a weird stretch at the Maritime for the past week before this since not one, not two, but three shows were cancelled, Venom, Israel Vibration, and Iron Maiden, all shows I would have loved to work, especially the last one. Furthermore, Sonia Dada got postponed until the first of August. Why all this happened, I can’t say, maybe bad ticket sales. I don’t remember, but at least I got a week off of shows and had some time off for my birthday. Speaking of my birthday, that weekend, Tsar Nicholas II of whom I was named after was laid to rest finally with his family in Russia in a proper funeral, 80 years after they were gunned down and buried in secret in the woods. Talk about a postponement…
Anyway, I was disappointed that we once again couldn’t raise anybody to do video camera work for either of these nights. I was hoping against hope that Front 242 would like our stuff and release it someday. But unluckily for me, they had just released a live album recorded earlier in this tour called “Re-Boot : Live ’98” featuring the exact same set they played both nights at the Hall. That album actually came out that Tuesday. Still, I can’t blame them for wanting a live recording made in their home country of Belgium, taking live songs from shows they did in Brussels at the beginning of their tour the previous September and later from their show in Marke that April. To make matters worse, the opening act, Project Pitchfork from Hamburg, Germany flat out refused to be recorded at all, so they were out. There was at least a second opening act on the Friday show, Kevorkian Death Cycle from Riverside, who I was able to tape. They were nice about it and would play the Hall again that Halloween opening for Frontline Assembly.
Like I said, we didn’t have a camera crew, leaving me to set up the wide shot of the stage up in the balcony. When I was doing it on the first day, none other than Front 242’s Richard Jonckheere, otherwise known as Richard23 or RichardJK, kind of gave me the third degree, wondering who I was and what I was doing. Nervous at first, I bluntly told him about the video projections on the immense screens on the sides of the walls and he was cool about it, even apologetic a little. I felt bad for my abrupt knee jerk reaction to his question and apologized myself, blubbering to him about how much I loved his band and I felt relieved that I broke the ice with him. They played great as usual and though most of their music was doled out by a single guy behind keyboards, they at least had a real drummer backing them up again.
The fog machines and strobe lights were in overdrive both nights. Richard did his frantic, goofy dancing, dressed in his usual tack-vest and fingerless gloves while the other singer, Jen-Luc De Meyer, growled away beneath his sunglasses wearing a striped sweater that makes him look a little like Charlie Brown. Charlie was a melancholy cartoon character, so I imagine he’d of liked their music. The new remixed versions of songs like “Religion” and “Crapage” were definitely easier to dance to, but I still like the original versions better. Despite it all, I was glad to catch these shows, especially since I wouldn’t see Front 242 perform live again until 2017, nearly twenty years later, when they came to town to play at The Mezzanine. I almost didn’t make it to that one either, barely getting there in time after running to that venue after working up on Nob Hill at a union gig at the Mark Hopkins Hotel. I already had to miss AC/DC playing at the ballpark that night, so catching Front 242 again was a blessing.
Gal Costa, Vivendo De Peo, Maritime Hall, SF, Tues., July 14, 1998
Once again, the Hall would be the host for a rare performer from South America, this time from Brazil. The singer in question would be Mrs. Maria Da Graca Costa Penna Burgos, (whew!), otherwise known as Gal Costa. Strange that this show was billed on the monthly poster as “2B1 Eye For Talent Presents”, a moniker never used before and to my knowledge never again. God only knows what that was about. It was Bastille Day, the day before my 26th birthday and I was once again left alone to record this show. Unfortunately, Gal Costa didn’t want us to tape that night, so after the opening act, Vivendo De Pao, which translates literally to “living off bread” in Portuguese, a colloquial term for just getting by financially, had finished, I was done. So, I had it pretty easy. It still was a pity that we couldn’t record Gal Costa. She had an incredible voice. Though she was only 53 years old at the time, she had already been making albums since she was 19, having 25 studios ones under her belt as well as 4 live ones. She is a member of a short list of virtuosos such as Gilberto Gil and Catano Veloso who founded the “tropicalia” genre in her native country. Her new album, “Aquele Frevo Axe” had just been released that year and all the Brazilian ex-pats came out of the woodwork to see her. Gal was well known among world music and jazz people, often playing at the Montreux Jazz Festival.
The thing I remember most about this show was indeed her voice. In fact, before I turned off all the gear down in the recording room, the front of house engineer, Jack Shaw had come down to listen a little with me. It was unusual for Jack to socialize with me at all. He tended to look down on me and my lackluster audio skills and honestly, he was right to do so. Jack was clearly very talented, even if he was a bit of a wise guy. But strangely enough, Jack was suspicious of Gal being a drag queen or transgender or something. We put her vocals on solo and listened closely to her pitch perfect delivery. I admit, Gal looked a bit mannish and her voice was a touch husky, but like I said before, she was middle aged by then. Upon further research, I can confirm that Gal Costa is indeed biologically female. As for Jack, I always wondered if he was gay. He kind of put off that vibe and often would play the song “Junebug” by the B-52’s during sound checks. Who knows…
The JGB Band, Juggling Suns, Maritime Hall, SF, Fri., July 10, 1998
Pete had left me this one, a hippie show, Jerry’s old band. I suppose he figured nothing would come from this recording since there had been umpteen zillion live ones of Jerry when he was alive anyway, but I took it in stride. It was good practice and Melvin Seals was a hell of a keyboard player. By this time, Jackie LaBranch had left the band leaving Gloria Jones and Melvin as the only original members of the group when Jerry was still pickin’. Gloria had a young lady along side her whose name escaped me, but she also had a nice voice and filled in admirably. Stu Allen was on guitar and would go on to do several other hippie projects, becoming a regular at Phil Lesh’s Terrapin Station venue up in San Rafael. Melvin also brought in his cousin Elgin Seals to play bass. Like Melvin, he had considerable musical talent and also did work playing bass for The Four Tops, another nostalgia act with an ever shrinking roster of original members. Didn’t get a set list for this one, nor for the opening act, the Juggling Suns, but I’m glad I did the show all the same since this would be the last time I’d see Melvin and the JGB Band play live. Obviously, it was never the same without Jerry, but I wish them all well.
The Jesus Lizard, Firewater, Bottom Of The Hill, SF, Sun., July 5, 1998
SETLIST : Sea Sick, Postcoital Glow, Glamorous, Gladiator, I Can Learn, Nub, Eucalyptus, Puss, Killer McHann, Boilermaker, Soft Damage, The Associate, Happy Snakes, Cold Water, Then Comes Dudley, (encore) Mouth Breather, Horse Doctor Man, Wheelchair Epidemic, Until It Stopped To Die, (unknown), Monkey Trick
The Jesus Lizard, Firewater, Herbert, Palookaville, Santa Cruz, Tues., July 7, 1998
SETLIST : Sea Sick, Puss, I Can Learn, Gladiator, Killer McHann, Horse Doctor Man, Thumbscrews, Eucalyptus, Bloody Mary, Boilermaker, A Tale Of Two Women, More Beautiful Than Barbie, Glamorous, Cold Water, Then Comes Dudley, (encore), Mouth Breather, Now Then, And Then The Rain, (unknown), Monkey Trick
It had been over two years since I saw the divine abomination that is The Jesus Lizard and I had exhausted every record shop in town finding everything I could of theirs. This would also be the first time I’d see them as a headliner, they last playing as an opener for two days with Ministry at The Warfield and as one of the early acts on the main stage at Lollapalooza at both Cal Expo and Shoreline in 1995. So, not only would I be seeing one of their own shows, but I’d be seeing them up close and personal, much, much closer being Bottom Of The Hill. I was frankly surprised that they’d be playing a venue so small considering the exposure they’d been getting and being signed to Capitol Records, their new album, “Blue”, having been just released that April. That, and the show was only $10, though I had to pay a $2.25 service fee, was still a bargain, even at 1998 prices.
This would be the beginning of the end for the Lizard, at least for a while. Their original summer, Mac McNeilly, had quit the band shortly after the tour with Ministry to spend more time wife and two kids and was replaced by Jim Kimball. I liked Jim, a worthy, hard hitting drummer who swung his arms above his lowered head like a hyperactive spider monkey, but he would quit after only a couple years, leaving just a month after these shows. Jim would be replaced by Brendan Murphy, the drummer for Wesley Willis, another, shall we say, eccentric frontman like the Lizard’s David Yow. But he too would go by the wayside when the Lizard finally called in quits the next March, playing their final show in Umea, Sweden. It would be over a decade until they would emerge once more and I’d see them return to headline at The Fillmore. As usual, I and the crowd were blissfully unaware of the goings on with the band and enjoyed the show.
Opening both gigs were Firewater, the new band from Tod Ashley, or Tod A. as he was otherwise known, the former frontman of Cop Shoot Cop, who I’d seen once before at the Great American Music Hall. Firewater was an interesting stylistic departure from his old industrial punk band, dabbling in all sorts of styles, ranging from tango, to jazz, to gypsy folk music. I fell in love with their song, “Another Perfect Catastrophe”, a brilliant and unforgettable tune and bought their latest album, “The Ponzi Scheme” shortly after these shows. Tod got the crowd at Bottom Of The Hill worked up with a rowdy gospel blues number called “Knock Em’ Down”, getting the crowd to chant “Do You Believe!?!”. Afterwards, he gave props to the Lizard saying, “David and his performing monkeys will be out to entertain you. Fun for young and old alike!”
David Yow wasted no time and started crowd floating immediately for their first song, “Seasick”. Coincidentally, I’d just recorded the band Far at the Maritime a couple days before this show and they too have a song of their own with the same title. David did his usual amounts of wisecracks, saying “I’d like to dedicate this next song… but I’m not gonna…” before they played “Nub”. He thanked the crowd, saying it was “so nice not to have those motherfuckin’ children around again. Now we’re hangin’ out with the grown ups.”, Bottom Of The Hill always being a 21 and over venue. Before they played “Eucalyptus” he pointed out a a bald friend in the back with glasses and his sound person, saying, “She kicks ass and swallows. And there’s Todd and Jeff and some other fags…” Drunk as always, David encouraged the crowd shouting, “It’s July 5th! Drinkety-drink-drink!!!”, before they went into “Boilermaker”.
Later, he asked the audience, “Is my hair OK? Do you think I have a nice body? I’m 63 years old! Wanna see my cock?” At the time, David was only 37 but he just turned 60 last year. He laughed and asked us to “please scream a whole lot louder because it gives me a hard on!” They finished their set with “Then Comes Dudley” before returning to the stage, where David declared “we planned a few songs for you, all of which one or maybe three of them really kick ass!” They played a long encore, playing six songs. I had previously thought David made the “What do you do if your girlfriend is stumbling around in the backyard all day?… Shoot her again” joke at Lollapalooza, but it actually was this show. Hi-larious.
Two days later, my friend Tory and I hopped in my car and made the trek down south the Santa Cruz to see them play at Palookaville, This would be the only time I’d see a show at this venue, or even go down to Santa Cruz specifically to see a band. Boots at the Maritime had been doing the booking at Palookaville and I in fact had put up The Jesus Lizard’s name on a suggestion page near Boots’ office door, one of the first names to go up. I remember even putting a dark square around that name so it would stand out. The Lizard never got to play the Maritime, but I wondered if my suggestion helped them land the Palookaville gig. Coincidentally, the Lizard had also just put out their self titled EP, the only album they’d released without a single word title, that was co-produced by John Cale on the Velvet Undergound who had only just played two back to back nights at the Hall with The Creatures a couple days before these shows. With our Maritime laminates, Tory and I had no trouble getting into the venue. The staff there were very friendly people. I ran into David Yow during the opening act’s soundcheck, it being early, he wasn’t drunk yet and I said hello. I reminded him of the time I ran into him two years before at The Warfield during soundcheck and I was wearing my cap and gown from graduating from collage that very day and approached him for an autograph. He signed it, “You know what, Nick? You gradu-fuckin’-ated!” It took him a moment, but the memory came back to him and we had a friendly little chuckle about it.
There was a second opening act that night before Firewater, a band called Herbert. They were more of a straight rock & roll band with a singer who sounded English. I liked them, but they were having some sort of trouble on stage with their gear. The poor singer was periodically being electrocuted from presumably a short in her mic cable and was afraid to touch her mic stand during their whole set. Firewater had a tougher time getting the crowd’s attention on this show, taunting the distracted crowd asking, “Are we boring you?” and “Somebody napping or something?” The Jesus Lizard did mince words when they got on stage though, David immediately pointing to the folks upstairs, saying “You old people in the balcony! This is your chance to come down here! What the fuck!?!? You don’t have any friends!?!” I was used to seeing Mr. Yow drunk, but at this show, he was positively wasted. Somebody said something about the late G.G. Allen between songs and he immediately snapped, “Fuck you, G.G. Allen! Son of a bitch! I’m glad he’s dead!!!” G.G., a “performer” shall we say, infamous for defecating on stage and basically ingesting as much substances as he could get his hands on, had died of an accidental, though entirely predictable, drug overdose five years earlier at the age of 36.
David continued his shirtless insanity and crowd floating, keeping me on my toes, having to have one hand free to support him in case his diminutive, sweaty body would float by while I held the mic with my other hand. He shouted “I dedicate this motherfuckin’ song to everybody in the motherfuckin’ room!” before launching into “Thumbscrews” Considering the lyrics of that song about torturing his landlord, I couldn’t help but feel a little uneasy of his intentions. He lashed out at a young man who had gotten on stage, trying to say something in his mic, and punched him square in the mouth, sending the interloper back into the crowd, shouting “Don’t fucking touch it! Put it down! I hate everyone of you motherfuckers!… Except for him… and that girl who sucked my ass earlier tonight”. I can still hear the dull thud of his fist landing that punch in my memory to this day.
He quickly forgot about the bum rush guy and was back to making wisecracks, congratulating a young woman in the crowd, joking “Hey, today’s Anna’s 15th birthday! Security, throw her the fuck out!”. I was lucky that they mixed up the set lists from this and the Bottom Of The Hill show to hear most of the new songs between the two days, as well as hearing a couple I hadn’t heard before live like “More Beautiful Than Barbie”. He introduced “Mouth Breather”, the first song of the long encores at both shows, at this one, saying, “This is a song we wrote sitting around one day thinking about astrophysics”. Another crowd floater got up on stage and honest to God, threw up a little. David taunted him, for some reason yelling, “Pow wow! Pow wow!” The band finished up the encore with “Monkey Trick” as they had done at the Bottom Of The Hill show. I’ll say it once, I’ll say it a million times, I’m always amazed that the rest of the band stays so focused as David goes on with his shenanigans, especially since their songs are so musically complicated. Maybe since the crowd’s attention is so drawn to his outlandish behavior, it actually helps them center themselves on their music.
Like I said before, I would have to wait over a decade to see this insane spectacle again, but the lads from the Lizard would find other projects in the interim. David would go onto join another band called Qui, which I would have the pleasure of seeing twice, once at Cafe Du Nord in 2007 and again at Annie’s Social Club in 2008. His antics at one of his shows in Pittsburgh, between the times I saw him, would get him a punctured lung, but he was all healed up by the time I saw him for the second time. He would continue his love of gourmet cooking, spend time with his cats, and even do some work as a graphic designer as well. Guitarist Duane Denison would join Mike Patton with his side project Tomahawk in 2001 and tour with Tool, which I regret not seeing them play when they came around to perform at the Oakland Coliseum that year. I think I was out of town for that one. I would however get to see him perform in 2007 when he was touring with Ministry bassist Paul Barker in their band U.S.S.A. They played to only a handful of people at the 12 Galaxies club in the Mission, the only time they toured as far as I know.
David Wm. Sims, the bass player of The Jesus Lizard, would also pursue other musical side projects and I was tickled to hear that he also would become a Certified Public Accountant. I suppose such work would be a welcome relief from the unpredictable, frantic life performing in the Lizard. It was a thrilling and memorable couple of shows and I still have my long sleeve shirt I bought from their merchandise guy. It had on the front the distorted face of a man in a suit with a crew cut holding up a glass of milk saying above the picture, “Thirsty?”, and on each of the sleeves, one reading, “Eat”, the other reading, Drink” and on the back simply, “The Jesus Lizard”. Besides that, all I have is the ticket stub from the Bottom Of The Hill show, the tapes, and these joyful, yet disturbing memories.
Far, The Gandharvas, Zebrahead, Born Naked, Maritime Hall, SF, Fri., July 3, 1998
As time went on, I grew to realize that the Maritime was the place to play for the newly emerging “screamo” rock bands of the era. We’d have guys like Sevendust and Papa Roach frequenting several times, but other acts like A.F.I., My Chemical Romance, and Fallout Boy would ultimately take the sound to larger crowds. This show wasn’t put on the books at the Hall early enough to make it to the monthly poster and it turned out to be really poorly sold. When the boys from Born Naked first got on stage, you could probably count the people on the dance floor with both hands. By this time as well, any people I could scare up to do cameras for the videos at the Hall had at least one encounter with Boots and his antagonism and never returned, leaving the video shoot of every show to be a single wide shot of the stage. It would remain this way until Boots finally got the message and installed the robotic camera system that went online in January the next year. Furthermore, my partner Pete was getting fed up with Boots and with my modest recording skills intact, he left me to do most of the recording for the rest of the month. Pete wouldn’t return to do a gig until Baaba Maal in August and his work at the Hall would become more and more infrequent until his final falling out with Boots in November of 1999.
This would be the final time I’d record Born Naked at the Hall, but they sounded good as ever. Listening to them one final time from the tape of the night, I’ve come to appreciate Sal and his singing voice, a sort of blend of Chris Cornell and Mike Patton. That’s hard to do, especially when playing guitar. I’d see them one more time headlining a locals only show at the Fillmore in 2001, but I’ve seen hide nor hair of them since, or even their manager and my former flatmate Patrick. Second up was a band called Zebrahead from Orange Country. They had just released their first self titled album, already signed to Columbia. Like 311, they had a guitarist who sang and a fellow along side him that rapped. The rapper was funny and energetic, an Iranian-American named Ali Tabatabee. They would come back to headline their own show at the Hall a year later, though their turnout was about as low as this gig. I don’t remember the Gandharvas, but they had an interesting name. A Gandharva is a celestial being in Hindu or Buddhist mythology who have magical musical skills, the males being divine singers and the females being divine dancers. Some of them are part animal, often part bird or horse. Far, the headliner of the night, I had seen before opening for Helmet at Slim’s back in 1996 and thought they had some talent. Still, I thought it was a tall order for them, especially since they were so new to fill the place. Coincidentally, they had a song called “Seasick” which The Jesus Lizard had a song of their own with the same title and I’d see them play back to back shows right after this one and they would play their “Seasick” on both of those shows. Far would split up shortly after this show in 1999, but they’d have a reunion ten years later.
Curve, The Dandy Warhols, DJ? Acucrack, Maritime Hall, SF, Thur., July 2, 1998
(DANDY WARHOLS) : Be-In, Ride, Nothin’ To Do, (Tony, This Song Is Called) Lou Weed, I Love You, (unknown), Minnisoter, Genius, Every Day Should Be A Holiday, Hard On For Jesus, Boys Better
(CURVE) : One The Wheel, Coming Up Roses, Forgotten Sanity, Something Familiar, Alligators, Getting Up, Sweetback, Horror Head, Beyond Reach, Chinese Burn, Dirty High, (encore), Unreadable Communication, Recovery, Turkey Crossing, Die Like A Dog, Ten Little Girls
I was overjoyed to hear that these two great bands, two of my favorites really, were playing together and coming to the Maritime. I’d just seen Curve only three months before this show headlining at Slim’s and the Dandy’s also at Slim’s the previous December. They were on the top of their games and I was looking forward to having a professional live recording of each in my growing resume. But my hopes were dashed when I arrived for soundcheck and learned that they brought their own monitor board, so the recording room couldn’t get a hook up. Still, I was glad to at least have the night off to see the show and I still got a recording from my own tape deck, for what it was worth. On my way back in after retrieving my tape deck from home, I actually ran into Toni and Dean from Curve walking down from Rincon Hill. Toni noticed I had a cup of Starbuck’s coffee and asked where she could score one and I pointed them in the right direction. Like most American cities, they could of thrown a rock in this town and probably hit one.
They had a DJ duo from Chicago called DJ? Acucrack open the show. Why they had a question mark after the DJ or where the name Acucrack comes from is anyone’s guess. The show wasn’t that well sold, maybe a little less than half, but that was fine by me. It made it easier to get around, enjoy myself, and avoid people talking over my taping. This would be the only time I’d see the Dandy’s as an opening band, actually, but they played great as always. They didn’t perform “Not If You Were The Last Junkie On Earth” that night, which was unusual, since they always had before since the second album came out. They did however played “(This Song Is Called) Lou Weed”, the singer Courtney noting that they hadn’t played it “in fucking ever”. I thought it was ironic since fellow Velvet Underground member, John Cale, had just finished played two nights at the Hall with The Creatures. Maybe that’s one of the reasons why the Dandy’s dusted off that old song. He also mumbled something later between songs that he thought he was playing The Fillmore that night, which probably made the members of the Hall a little uneasy. Hopefully, Boots didn’t overhear that. It was great to see Curve and listen to their new songs once again so soon after their Slim’s show, but little did I realize that this would be the last time I’d see them live. I suppose I was taking them for granted at the time. There were rumors of a Curve reunion in 2017, but it never materialized. Thankfully, the Dandy’s would come back to play The Fillmore, (for real this time), a year and half later and they are still together touring and making albums to this day. Finally, the Hall had a new poster out for the month of July and it turned out to become one of my favorites.
Merl Saunders & His Rainforest Band, The Toni Brown Band, Donna Jean Godchaux, Maritime Hall, SF, Sat., June 27, 1998
Seriously, it is hard not to like Merl Saunders. There is so much to like, from his talent as a keyboard player and singer, to his taste in covers, to just his overall upbeat and friendly demeanor. But this was my seventh, count em’, seventh time I got to help record him at the Hall. And I can help but feel a little miffed to find out that he released a live compilation album that year and didn’t use a single song from the stuff we recorded with him. Whatever. I’m sure he had his reasons. Not that this night was unpleasant, it wasn’t. Pete was at the helm, his third night in a row and this was hippie music, which was his wheelhouse, so he had it well in hand and there were plenty of joints passed between us to pass the time. It had been another long month of music, ending June with 15 shows under my belt in 30 days.
This show was being billed as the 25th Anniversary Party for Relix magazine, a publication devoted to all things hippie. Donna Jean Godchaeux opened the night, debuting her new band. Though she had joined Phil Lesh with a cavalcade of stars for the Philharmonia show the previous December at the Maritime, this was being billed also as “her first west coast band appearance in over 20 years”. I’ve made it no secret that I’ve never liked Donna’s voice and hated the period of when she toured with the Dead, so I was relieved when her set was over, never to see or hear her again. Following her was the Toni Brown Band, a group led by the editor of the magazine and I presume other members of Relix. She is often confused with the Toni Brown who was the singer of the veteran bay area hippie band, Joy Of Cooking. Merl played well as always, surely dusting off a Dead cover or two for the occasion. He’d return and play one final time later that year at the Hall for New Year’s Eve.
The Creatures with John Cale, Maritime Hall, SF, Thurs., June 25, 1998
The Creatures with John Cale, Maritime Hall, SF, Fri., June 26, 1998
SETLIST : Lament, Riverbank, Fear Is A Man’s Best Friend, You’re A Ghost, Hedda Gabler, But Not Them, Tattoo, Take Mine, Pluto Drive, Miss The Girl, Westward Ho, So Much For The Evidence, All Fall Down, Magazines, Leaving It Up To You, Disconnected, Turn It On, Prettiest Thing, Beside Ourselves, Exterminating Angel, (encore), Thumb, Murdering Mouth, (encore), Think Like A Gun, (encore), Venus In Furs, (encore), Pablo Picasso
As big as a fan that I was of Siouxsie & The Banshees, I was utterly unaware of the side project Siouxsie and her husband Budgie, the drummer, had with The Creatures. So, I wasn’t entirely upset that Pete would be recording this pair of shows, especially since none other than the Velvet Underground’s John Cale would be opening. This was important and they deserved to have the best taping them and Pete hadn’t taped a show at the Hall for three weeks, so I took it as a sign to take a break. I would be lucky enough to tape them myself anyway when The Creatures returned to play the Hall on Halloween the following year. Siouxie and Budgie had parted ways with the other Banshees shortly after I saw them do back to back shows at The Warfield in 1995. They hadn’t toured together as The Creatures in almost a decade and had recently started collaborating with John Cale who helped produce the Banshee’s last album, “The Rapture”, and after playing a festival with him in Amsterdam. Speaking of festivals, I had just finished seeing the Lilith Fair at Shoreline a couple days before this and was reminded that Budgie actually played drums for the Indigo Girls briefly when they toured with a band. I thought actually that The Creatures would have been an interesting choice to play that festival, certainly a stylistic left turn.
John Cale wasn’t so much an opener since he played with The Creatures’ band backing him up for five songs before Siouxsie joined them on stage and kept the set going. I’d seen John once before with the Red House Painters at The Fillmore and though I found his voice grating, I appreciated his music, especially his contribution to the Velvet Underground, clearly an influence on Siouxsie and all others in the Goth genre. I only kept the recording of the second night, but as far as I can recall, the sets were practically identical. They did a few covers that second night for sure, including the Banshee’s song, “Tattoo”, and the Velvet Underground’s “Venus In Furs” for one of their encores. John busted out his screechy violin for that one and it was ironic that Siouxsie would wail about “Severin”, an in joke referencing the Banshee’s bass player, Steve Severin.
Other than that, it was all Creatures songs. Siouxsie even joked with the crowd saying, “we’re only testing you tonight. It’s all new stuff. No comfort here, I’m afraid. You have to sit on that spike and like it!” She told us to “expect the unexpected” and they weren’t there promoting anything because they weren’t signed. That wouldn’t be for long, since they in essence signed themselves the following year, creating their won record label and put out “Anima Animus”. They did play a few songs that would eventually be on that album, such as “Disconnected”, “Turn It On”, Take Mine”, “Prettiest Thing”, and “Exterminating Angel”. Budgie was kept busy that night, taking turns between his drum kit to hit a bongo drum with small mallets for “Westward Ho” and “Prettiest Thing”. Siouxsie asked the crowd if they knew anything by Samuel Beckett for the prior, but got an unsure response from them. She teased her husband when he came up to play guitar for “Beside Ourselves”, saying she was “just waiting for my husband to strap it on”, then playfully scolding for starting the wrong song saying he had the setlist form the night before. She coyly then asked him if he wanted her “to strap it on for you?”
Siouxsie played a few things on stage as well, shaking jingle bells and hitting a percussion block for “Miss The Girl” and playing a sampler on “Exterminating Angel”. Somebody in the crowd gave her a bouquet of flowers, but she tore it open at the end of the night and passed around the flowers to the people up front. Always the fashion icon, Siouxsie wore a slinky black latex number, though she lost the top portion of it during the encores. Since summer had just begun, that outfit must have been hot to perform in. She donned a silver, sparkling cowboy hat for the encores as well. They finished the night with a hilarious cover of “Pablo Picasso” by The Modern Lovers, their fourth encore. Very seldom have I ever seen an act come back for more than three. Before they played it, a young woman got on stage and very delicately gave Siouxsie a hug. Siouxsie praised her as Little Boot, the stage manager, escorted her off, Siouxsie saying for “a stage-stormer”, she had grace.
Lilith Fair ’98: Sarah McLachlan, Natalie Merchant, Indigo Girls, Erykah Badu, Me’shell Ndgeocello, Shoreline, Mountain View, Tues., June 23
(INDIGO GIRLS) : Shame On You, Galileo, Scooter Boys (with Natalie Merchant), Diamonds & Rust (with Joan Baez), Get Out The Map, Shed Your Skin, Power Of Two, Water Is Wide (with Sarah McLachlan), Rockin’ In The Free World (with K’s Choice), Closer To Fine
(NATALIE MERCHANT) : Wonder, Life Is Sweet, Jealousy, Break Your Heart, Ophelia, Carnival, (unknown), Thick As Thieves, Kind & Generous
(SARAH MCLACHLAN) : Witness, Wait, Angel, Ice Cream, Black & White, Building A Mystery, Possession, Aida, Sweet Surrender, What’s Going On
This was the second year of the Lilith Fair, the brainchild of Canadian singer/songwriter Sarah McLachlan. Named after Adam’s first wife in Jewish mythology who after weighing the prospects of an unequal standing alongside him, decided to to leave Adam and go it alone. Sarah made a point to call it a “Fair”, so it would have multiple interpretations, being a festival, beautiful, or a step towards equality. The idea that an all female festival wouldn’t be successful in hindsight seems preposterous, especially since Sarah was riding high on the success of her album, “Surfacing” released the previous summer with it’s smash hit single, “Building A Mystery”. But rock promoters and people in the industry were at first utterly dismissive and downright cruel. Mean spirited nicknames for this festival like “Lesbopalooza”, “Breast-Fest”, “The Other Bush Tour”, and so on circulated abound. OK, “Breast-Fest” was a little funny, but come on, guys, grow up please.
After choosing Paula Cole to be her opening act on her 1995 tour, Sarah held steadfast that an all female festival was feasible and she wasn’t alone. Joan Osborne had been thinking about such a tour herself when Sarah beat her to the punch, though Sarah brought her along as a main stage act for the first tour. Tired of hitting a wall of sexism as they found commercial and critical success, other talented female contemporaries needed little convincing to join the party. Before she knew it, Sarah had such names as Sheryl Crow, Fiona Apple, Jewel, Tracy Chapman, and dozens of others stepping up and the tour left all those industry schmucks with egg on their faces. I regret not seeing that first year, but this year’s line up was equally as impressive and the size of the crowd reflected that. The Lilith Fair went from 37 dates the first year to 57 for this one, with over 100 acts over the course of this tour. And by the time the following year was over, these three tours will have been seen by 2 million people, grossed over $52 million dollars, $10 million of which went to charities. That first tour was in fact the highest grossing festival tour of that year.
I do confess, the primary reason I went to this show was because of my sister. Erica had been a fan of Natalie Merchant for years and had turned me on recently to the music of Erykah Badu as well. It is a rare occasion when I can get her to go to a show with me and I knew full well that this was one she wouldn’t have wanted to miss. Free from the filthy masses of musclebound brutish boys that permeated other summer festivals like Lollapalooza, Ozzfest, H.O.R.D.E., and especially Limp Bizkit’s Family Values tour, Erica would be amongst a very different and welcoming environment. Female acts on those icky boy tours were few and far between, if there were any at all. Not that I was unwelcome, though I was clearly outnumbered. I would say the woman to man ratio at this show was easily 20 to 1, maybe even 25. The obvious wisecrack men would make at this show would be about that they converted several of the men’s rooms at Shoreline into women’s rooms. But I wisely kept my mouth shut about it and understood that the optics of hundreds of women having to wait in line to pee while men roamed in and out of their bathrooms leisurely would have been bad to say the least. I had seen plenty of shows that the audience held a majority of females, but nothing to this size by far. I wanted to see this, not only for the level of musical talent, but as a show of support. There were plenty of fathers bringing daughters and mothers bringing sons. I like to think the Lilith Fair amongst so many other positive and constructive things it was, helped bridge the cultural divide between the sexes, even just a little.
There was a second stage at this festival, like most summer festivals, but I kept my attention to the main stage and hanging out with Erica. I didn’t want to do my usual mad dashing between stages. That would have been rude to her. On that side stage were Noelle Hampton and The Beth Lesick Ordeal, who I’d just seen open for Paula Cole at The Warfield less than two weeks before this festival. Though Paula was already committed to her own tour, riding on the success of her hit song, “Where Have All The Cowboys Gone?”, her openers were on board. Noelle had won a spot on this tour in a competition with 500 other acts for the Alice radio station and along with Beth Lisick, K’s Choice, Billy Myers, Lhasa De Sela, Tara MacClean, and Autour De Lucie entertained people all day on that stage. Amongst the usual food and merchandise vendors, there were booths for all sorts of charities, services, and businesses like Planned Parenthood and Biore Cosmetics.
But first up on the main stage was Me’schell Ndgeocello. As usual, I was a stickler for getting to the festival on time, but particularly because she was first up. I was impressed by her set when she played the Maritime the year before and was glad she was continuing to get recognized for her talent. The fact that she and Erykah Badu were the first two acts of the day also helped quell complaints that Sarah and the Fair the previous year lacked diversity both ethnically and stylistically. It would natural for my sister to be drawn to an artist that (almost) shared her name, but the music of Erykah Badu was indeed a force to reckoned with. Having just released her debut album, “Baduism” the previous year, Badu catapulted herself into stardom, that album quickly reaching triple platinum and chalking up a couple Grammy wins for Best R & B Album and Best Female Vocal Performance. She wasted no time releasing a live album, simply called, “Live”, that November, an unusual move for an artist with only one album under her belt. In her short set, she managed to talk quite a bit between songs, first getting a cheer telling the crowd to “give it up for Mother Earth!” She described “Baduism” as it “not being a religion. It is an experience, the way I feel, the way I light incense, light candles, using my power, building bridges, overstanding, understanding, destroying bridges” and so forth. She also did a great cover of Chaka Khan’s, “Stay”, making me think how good it would have been to have Khan on this bill as well.
Badu did another bit talking about what a cypher is, being a circle or completion, that 360 is 3 +6, which equals 9, the 9 months of life that a baby takes to be born. She told the ladies in the audience to put their hands on the womb and dedicated the next song, “Ye Yo”, which means mother in Swahili, to all the mothers out there. She wrote that song for her new baby, Seven, who she mentioned had coincidentally been born seven months before this show. Seven was the offspring between her and Outkast’s Andre 3000. And though their relationship ended the following year, Andre would immortalize their break up with the hit song, “Ms. Jackson”, a very public apology to her and Badu’s mother. Her music fit perfectly as a festival opener on a sunny day, soulful and cool. I’d have to wait another 14 years to see Badu again however when I caught her playing a New Year’s Eve show with The Coup at the Fox Theater in Oakland in 2012. I remember being super pissed for having to miss her show with the Dave Chappelle Block Party tour at The Warfield in 2006 because I was stuck working a gig at The Palace Hotel, a mere four blocks away from it. She finished her set with “Tyrone” which she described as a “song I made up on stage in London. This is grown folks’ music. Cover your kids ears up”.
The middle act of the day were the Indigo Girls, veterans of the first tour and would be for the tour the year after as well. I could see why Sarah wanted them on the bill. I just saw them play the Warfield in January and their fans adored them, especially in San Francisco. They would be an asset to the tour, bringing this collection of shy, introspective musicians together regularly backstage and on stage to collaborate with songs and socialize. And no other act had as manny guests during their set as they did, first bringing out the immortal Joan Baez to sing her song, “Diamonds & Rust”, afterward declaring, “Joan Baez is in the house! Our matriarch!” They then brought out Sarah McLachlan to sing, “Water Is Wide”, and side stage performer K’s Choice, to help them with their cover of Neil Young’s, “Rockin’ In The Free World”. Funny, I could hear Erica in between songs joining me with an abundance of food she got at the vendors that she couldn’t finish. She generously offered me the leftovers and then we smoked some herb. It was a little breezy, so we tried our best to cover up the lighter, but I nearly singed my eyebrows off lighting it.
Second to last was Ms. Merchant. Though she’d long left 10,000 Maniacs behind her years before, her star was continuing to rise then, she having just released her “Ophelia” album a month before this show, even having just performed weeks before as the musical guest on “Saturday Night Live”. The second to last act of most festivals is often considered a co-headliner and she proved herself worthy, though she would be the first one to dispel any notions of competitive backstabbing on this tour. Natalie would later describe her experience on the tour as being “utopian”, citing the camaraderie between her and the other acts and that “nobody was hiding in their trailers”. As luck would have it, she had just finished collaborating with Wilco and Billy Bragg on the “Mermaid Avenue” album of Woody Guthrie songs and I had just seen Wilco perform some of those songs for the first time at the Mountain Aire Festival just the month before, she singing lead on “Birds & Ships” and backing vocals on “Way Over Yonder In The Minor Key”. Sadly, she sang neither of those during her set. She was having fun on stage though as we were, even taking a moment to twirl around a ribbon on a stick. This would be the only time I’d see her live, but I’m glad I shared it with Erica.
Finally, Sarah wrapped the night. Like I said before, she was riding high with her success and her last album, “Surfacing”, would also get her a couple Grammys, one for Best Female Pop Vocal Performance and another for Best Pop Instrumental Performance. I’d seen her only once before when she played The Warfield in 1994 and was utterly entranced by her beautiful voice. Yes, I thought she was pretty too but she would soon marry her drummer, Ashwin Sood, while in Jamaica. Her new album would also have the dubious distinction of being mentioned in the Starr Report about the Lewinsky Scandal. Apparently, Monica noticed that Bill Clinton had her CD and whenever she listens to the fifth song, “Do What You Have To Do”, she thought of him. Sarah didn’t play that one that night, but she naturally did play the hit, “Building A Mystery”, which has the more pleasant distinction of being the first song publicly played on an iPod when Steve Jobs himself dialed it up at the iPod product launch in 2001.
Continuing her accolades, Sarah would be given the Elizabeth Cady Stanton Visionary Award and appointed the following year to be an Officer of the Order Of Canada. The Lilith Fair would become a cultural milestone and a moment in musical history that would never be forgotten to all those who were involved and attended. As further, though more sinister, evidence of the tour’s impact on society, a month later there was even a bomb threat phoned in for their show in Atlanta because of the tour’s support for pro-choice causes. There was no bomb and the show went off as planned thankfully. I was a little surprised to learn that this tour was initially only for three years, especially because of its commercial success. But after 1999, Sarah gave birth to a couple daughters and one could imagine the urge to take a break from it all and to spend time with them would be understandable. Sarah tried however to revive the Lilith Fair in 2010, but it unfortunately had poor ticket sales and having a bunch of acts dropping out for fear of not being paid, the tour was cancelled after only 23 shows. The tour did play in Irvine, but nowhere in the bay area. But that bad news aside, this was a perfect day and Sarah was gracious, thanking all the bands and crews, praising all the amazing women who performed that day. They finished the evening bringing up most of the main stage artists to sing a blissful rendition of Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Going On”.
The Urge, Kottonmouth Kings, M.I.R.V., The Good Life, Maritime Hall, SF, Sat., June 20, 1998
I do have to declare from the outset that this show is a little bit of a mystery to me, not because of the bands who played that night, but rather for who was supposed to play instead. The monthly poster declared that the night of the 20th was to be for Soul Brains, the triumphant return of Bad Brains, a show I was ecstatically looking forward to, but The Urge took its place for some reason. I know that Soul Brains would play the Hall that November and recordings from that show would ultimately be used for their live album, but I could have sworn that I recorded Soul Brains at the Hall twice. I know I didn’t do their shows in 2000 and 2001. Those Wade recorded. Still, I do feel a teensy bit of Bermuda Triangle stuff going on here. You’d think I’d remember a thing, being of such importance to me.
That being said, I did enjoy this show and was glad that the Hall continued to promote bands that dabbled in ska. The Urge, hailing from St. Louis had toured with fellow mid-westerners 311 back in 1996 and I caught them together at The Warfield. The Urge had just had some modest success with new album, “Master Of Styles” and their hit single, “Jump Right In” which featured 311 lead singer Nick Hexum. I would once again be recording the Kottonmouth Kings as well, they just having played the Hall the previous April for the 4/20 Benefit show. They were still new then, their first album, “Royal Highness”, to be released two months later. I was really happy that M.I.R.V. was on the bill, a delightful, goofy band I’d seen numerous times by then opening for Primus, Les Claypool, and others, and I’d be able to tape them at the Hall for once. Brian Kehoe used to crack me and the office up when he’d pop in and visit Dave Lefkowitz when I was an intern there back in ’96. M.I.R.V. had just released their “Feeding Time On Monkey Island” the year before which featured Brain on drums, who was at the time touring with Primus as their new drummer.
First on the bill that night was another band from the mid-west, from Omaha specifically, 311’s hometown, called The Good Life. It was a side project of Tim Casher, the frontman for the band Cursive. He and that band just broke up that spring, so he was hitting the road with this one, but would soon reform Cursive the following year. All played well, though it wasn’t that well sold like the King Sunny Ade show the night before. I like The Urge and appreciated that they had not one, but two trombone played in the band, and their singer, Steve Ewing, was a black man, adding much needed diversity to the all too caucasian midwest. Their sound definitely took a page from Fishbone, Sublime, and their friends in 311. Sadly, this would be the last time I’d see them. They would break up three years later, but reform and break up a few more times in the years to come. I was amused to find out that Mr. Ewing went on to open a few hot dog restaurants called “Steve’s Sausages” and “Steve’s Hot Dogs”. If I ever find myself in the St. Louis area, I might drop in for a bite.
King Sunny Ade & His African Beats, Maritime Hall, SF, Fri., June 19, 1998
It had actually been a couple weeks since I recorded a show at the Hall, probably the longest I had gone with out it since I first set foot in the place. This time I had the honor of taping the one and only Mr. Sunday Adeniyi himself, otherwise known as King Sunny Ade. Though he joins a long list of musical royalty such as King Diamond who had just played the Hall that April, Queen Latifah, Prince, and so on, King Ade in fact did lay claim to royal linage back in his home country of Nigeria, being part of the royal Yoruba family from the southwest area from there. He and his band sang entirely in the Yoruba language as well. His countrymen had fans the world over had given Sunny the title “King Of Juju”, the style of music he made popular, focusing on percussion. He’d been playing music since the 60s and in 1983, Sunny became the first Nigerian to be nominated for a Grammy award. His latest album at the time, “Odu”, would also be nominated for a Grammy.
I was pleasantly surprised that Pete gave me this night to tape myself. I thought surely he’d be all over this one, but maybe he was enjoying his time off as well, leaving me to run the place until he returned the following week to record two nights of The Creatures with me. I like to think it was a vote of confidence in my improving mixing abilities, but I had my hands full and probably could have used Pete’s help with this one, since the King had such a big band to mix. There were plenty of drummers and horn players along with a trio of dancing back up singers. Those ladies were beautiful and had voices of angels, making a handful of costume and headdress changes throughout the set. Their outfits as well as the clothes for the rest of the band were immaculate, very colorful stuff. Though the show wasn’t well sold, the folks who were there were enthusiastic and there was plenty of dancing going on down in the dance floor as well as the stage. I couldn’t find any of my recordings of Sunny in my stuff, but I did find footage of his set that he played at the Health & Harmony Music & Arts Festival in Sonoma on YouTube. He and the band most likely played that gig before or after the one at the Hall and I imagine the set was similar if not identical.
The Dirty Three, Calexico, GAMH, SF, Tues., June 16, 1998
(CALEXICO) : Milonga Del Angel, Sanchez, Return Of The Manta Ray, The Black Light, The Ride, Point Vicente, Over Your Shoulder (Never See It Coming), The Blue, Opening Aunt Dora’s Box in 6/8, Angel Of Death, Slag, Stray, Minas De Cobre (For Better Metal)
(THE DIRTY THREE) : Last Horse On The Sand, Sea Above Sky Below, Authentic Celestial Music, Hope, 1000 Miles, Sue’s Last Ride, Deep Waters, Everything’s Fucked, Dirty Equation
I’d already seen The Dirty Three four times in less than three years, including one time headlining the Great American already, but I was not and will never be sick of seeing them. That venue was a perfect fit for them, so much so, that they would come back to play there again and again for years to come and I would be at most of them, if not all. To this date, I’ve seen The Dirty Three at the Great American six times. They were gaining more attention, having received critical acclaim for their latest album, “Ocean Songs”, released three months before this show. Though they never grew large enough to play anyplace bigger, they were respected and violinist Warren Ellis would play to larger crowds elsewhere as he continued to tour, playing with fellow Australians, Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds.
But one of the shining memories of that night would be the first time I’d hear Calexico play. It is rare when an opening band makes this kind of impression on me and with ticket prices only $10, this night turned out to be quite a bargain. From Tucson, Arizona, Calexico’s sound was a perfect reflection of their name, a seamless blend of tejano Latin flavors with somber country rock. Their music was hypnotic and engaging live, literally haunting for one song, “Point Vicente”, a ghost story. Joey Burns, the singer, before the song, said it was about a lighthouse down south near San Pedro and Palos Verdes where once a woman waited there for her sailor husband to return from sea. But during a wild rainstorm, she died, and people still see her ghost at night running around the brass rail of that lighthouse.
At times gloomy and romantic, Calexico was the kind of music that was also good to drink to, which probably pleased the bartenders. They did an interesting cover of a singer songwriter named Rainer Ptacek, more commonly just known as Rainer, called “ Opening Aunt Dora’s Box in 6/8”. As the name literally says, the song’s time signature was in 6/8, giving it a swinging, almost Waltz-like quality. They were honoring their fellow musician from Tucson, who had just passed away from a brain tumor seven months before at the young age of 46. I’d have the pleasure to record Calexico twice at the Maritime the following year, both times opening for Pavement. Those nights I was able to record Calexico, but had to bail out early each time to leave Pavement to my partner, Pete. I had to go to a later night gig both shows to work a union gig at the Stanford Court Hotel on Nob Hill. I needed the money then, but in hindsight, it was a mistake. At least I got got to tape Calexico. There was another opening act at the Great American that night but I missed them, some band called Mirza. It’s not usual for me to miss opening acts, or maybe I caught them, recorded them, and somehow misplaced it. Never saw them again.
But The Dirty Three were excellent as always. I can’t say for sure, but this might of been the first time I would see Warren with his beard. It certainly would be the last, he having that Karl Marx look to this day. A little off putting at first, it would be an appropriate look for him, matching his animalistic, passionate playing style. When he gets really into it, he makes me think he’s some kind of new found, insane castaway who was trapped somewhere for years being only able to play the violin. Indeed, during the beginning of the show just before playing their new song, “Sea Above, Sky Below”, he announced to the crowd that he hoped we “don’t have a job, have a home to go to. You’re never coming back from the Great American Hall with The Dirty Three!” Warren would continue his usual ramblings between songs, later declaring that “The iguanas are going to win the World Cup!” and something about armadillos and warning us to drive slowly. One distinct memory from this night, despite the numerous nights seeing them at this venue, was something that happened near the end. I think it was during “Everything’s Fucked” when Warren came down from the stage onto the dance floor to stomp around and play. We all gave him space, but I was right up directly in from of him. Eye to eye, I even remember whispering to him, “C’mon, Warren. We’re all with you, bro”. You can hear him stomping his foot a few times, coming down on the beat, and grunting, extra loud on the tape. It was a spellbinding moment, really.
The Jesus & Mary Chain, Sixteen Deluxe, Fill., SF, Mon., June 15, 1998
SETLIST : Degenerate, Snakedriver, Cracking Up, Moe Tucker, Happy When It Rains, Teenage Lust, Stardust Remedy, Head On, I Love Rock & Roll, Sugar Ray, Dream Lover, Supertramp, I Hate Rock & Roll, Virtually Unreal, (encore), Reverence (slow version)
This weekend was shaping up to be a bit of an emotional roller coaster, going from the gloomy train wreck of a show with Cornershop, to the drunken blues revelry of Kenny Wayne Shepherd, back into the darkness with The Jesus & Mary Chain. It was a roller coaster or rather a “Rollercoaster Tour” that seemed to start me on this musical journey to begin with, having bootlegged the Chain on that tour in Amsterdam in 1992, by very first bootleg. They would also have the distinction of being another first for me, being the first headliner I ever ushered for, when they played The Warfield later that year. Seeing those shows, plus the two times at Lollapalooza also that year and their show at The Fillmore back in 1994, would leave anyone with little doubt of my devotion to this band. It had been four years since I’d seen them, but I had no inkling that they would break up shortly after this show and I’d have to wait nearly a decade until the brothers Reid would kiss and make up.
Like I said, I had gone from one extreme to the next the previous days, but unlike Cornershop, the Chain’s melancholy and standoffish stage presence felt entirely natural. Their sound seemed to fit their demeanor. One could dismiss that Scottish people are a naturally gloomy bunch, presumably from their weather and having to be ruled by England. But like so many sibling acts, like the Beach Boys, Oasis, the Black Crowes, the Pointer Sisters, and the Everly Brothers, there would be bad blood. And behind the scenes on that tour, the relationship between the brothers, Jim and William, was steadily growing sour. Jim’s drinking was a real problem by then and tensions would come to a head three months later at a disastrous show in L.A. at the House Of Blues. William was having a falling out with guitarist Ben Laurie as well as his brother before things began, but after only 15 minutes into their set, William had enough and walked off stage, dropping out of the tour for good. Jim drunkenly knocked over his mic and the show was over, leaving the management to refund the tickets. Jim and the band would continue the tour without William, but ultimately call it quits two months later, making their show in Thessaloniki, Greece their last one. William went solo for while, having already released an EP that April from a side project of his called Lazycame. But the good news is that the brothers Reid eventually cleaned up their act, buried the hatchet, and in 2007, they would triumphantly return and I’d see them play together at The Fillmore once again.
So, internal troubles aside of which I was blissfully unaware, I was free to enjoy this night and really, it was a good show. Opening were Sixteen Deluxe, who I’d seen open for Luna at The Fillmore only nine months before this show. They were from Austin, though they had recorded their last album at Hyde Street Studios in S.F., just over the hill from where they played that night. Their bass player was Owen McMahon, previously of the Butthole Surfers, and their music actually took a little page from them, blending noisy feedback laden blues rock jams with the soothing Mazzy Star-like vocals of Carrie Clark. Sixteen Deluxe would struggle to get released from their contract with Warner Brothers and would bounce from label to label until ultimately disbanding in 2000. This would be the last time I’d see them play.
The Chain had just released a new album, “Munki”, though I never actually got around to buying it, despite having everything else they ever put out. I guess I was starting to take them for granted. But upon hearing those new songs again live, I find that they were in the ballpark of their previous efforts, even though it’s not their best work. I always liked the Chain’s later works anyway when they had a real drummer. Some bands put out their best music when they’re fighting. Speaking of live band members, they were also touring at this time with Phil King on bass. Phil had been the bass player of Lush, fellow Lollapalooza 1992 alumni, and with the suicide of their drummer, Chris Acland, in 1996, Phil was a natural fit to join the Chain, especially because of his silent demeanor and undertaker-like appearance. They did about 50-50 between new and old stuff, ending the show with a strange version of “Reverence”, starting slow, almost half speed, then speeding up in the middle, then slowing again at the end. Incidentally, I was thinking of the lyrics again while listening to this night. You know, I don’t think Jesus Christ or J.F.K. particularly wanted to die. Whatever. It’s just a song. There would be no poster for this show, but at least they got another when they returned to The Fillmore years later.
Kenny Wayne Shepherd, Todd Snider & The Nervous Wrecks, Uma, War., SF, Sun., June 14, 1998
This would be quite a livelier show than the near empty Cornershop show at The Warfield that played the night before this. Blues guitar hero Kenny Wayne Shepherd would pack the house with a rowdy crowd of hard drinking party people. Kenny had just turned 20 years old when he played this show, a full six years younger than I was at the time. In fact, his birthday was just two days before, that Friday. He had already made a name for himself as a blues boy wonder, despite being self taught and not even able to read music. He’d just released his second album, “Trouble Is…” the previous October, recorded a The Plant just across the bay in Sausalito. It was such a hit, that it still holds the record for the longest running album on the Billboard Blues Charts, not to mention it went gold that year, platinum the next, and chalked up his first Grammy nomination.
There were two opening acts that night, starting with Uma. I don’t remember much from them, but I did learn that they originally wanted to be called Kiss, but as you probably know, that name was taken, so they settled for naming themselves after the Hindu mother goddess. Second on the bill was singer-songwriter Todd Snider and his backing band The Nervous Wrecks. He came on, introduced by the Booker T & The MG’s immortal instrumental song, “Green Onions” and went right into a cover of the Grateful Dead’’s “I Need A Miracle”. They were in a celebratory mood that evening, it being the last show they were doing with them on the tour and Todd even joked with the crowd asking them to “clap like they were The Beatles! Is that too much to ask!?!” They shredded on their set, particularly their guitarist Ken Shackleford.
Not to be outdone, Kenny shredded too and then some. He had already been on the road, playing night and night out for almost a year and a half, but his chops certainly reflected that. He spent part of that stretch as an opening act for Van Halen. It was mind boggling how this kid could play. He had a well rounded band too. I liked that his keyboardist did a little bit of Ray Manzarek’s riffs from The Doors’ “Riders On The Storm” during their cover of Stevie Wonder’s “Superstitious” near the end of the show. But for the finale, what better person for a blues guitarist to cover than Jimi Hendrix. They did a rousing rendition of his “Voodoo Chile”, mixing in a few bars of “Purple Haze” in the middle of it. Unfortunately, my tape deck started running out of juice during his set and it sped up the songs for the middle of the show, but I replaced the batteries in time to catch those last few numbers.
I would have to wait nearly a decade to see him play The Warfield once more in 2007. By then he’d have just married Mel Gibson’s daughter Hannah the year before. And like his future father in law, Kenny would find himself eventually in hot water for allegations of racism. Apparently, Kenny had a replica car of the General Lee from the TV show, “The Dukes Of Hazzard” and though I liked the show when I was a kid, having a crush on Daisy Duke like most boys did back then, the show didn’t age well culturally. In fact, the Blues Foundation would rescind his 2021 nomination for Best Blues/Rock Artist at their Blues Music Awards over that car. He since apologized and painted over the Confederate Flag on the roof and put the offending Dodge Charger into storage.
Cornershop, Los Amigos Invisibles, War., SF, Sat., June 13, 1998
SETLIST : Sleep On The Left Side, Wog, Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown), Brimful Of Asha, We’re In Yr Corner, Butter The Soul, Chocolat, Good Shit, 6 AM Jullandar Shere
I was seeing Cornershop a lot back then, three times within a span of only seven months, but I wasn’t sick of their music. Despite my repeated complaints about frontman Tjinder Singh’s frumpy stage presence, I loved their music and was glad to see them once again, this time headlining The Warfield. This show, however, Tjinder’s bad mood would be understandable since there was hardly anybody there to see them play. Seriously, this had to be one of the poorest sold shows I’d ever see at The Warfield, maybe 300 or 350 at the most. I was actually a little surprised that the show wasn’t cancelled or at least moved to a smaller venue. Perhaps they thought they’d get a big walk up being a Saturday night, but no such luck. Probably one of the reasons why it didn’t sell was specifically that they had played San Francisco so recently. Still, considering the new found success of their last album, “When I Was Born For The 7th Time” as well as the popular Fatboy Slim remix of their hit single, “Brimful Of Asha”, one would have thought they’d have fared better with their numbers.
The fact that there were so few people to speak of that night made ushering so easy, we hardly had to bother. To tell someone to move out of an aisle at that point would have been ridiculous to the point of being Kafkaesque. Having the break from duty helped me enjoy the opening act, a very lively bunch from Venezuela called Los Amigos Invisibles. It is a rare occasion that I would see any musical act from South America, but like Los Fabulosos Cadillacs from Argentina who I’d just seen play The Fillmore a couple months before this night, they would probably be the only act I’d ever see from their native country either. And also like the Cadillacs, they were a big band and a whole lot of fun. Actually, I thought they would have been a better headliner than Cornershop. They certainly were a lot cheerier. The Amigos had just released their new album, “The New Sound Of The Venezuelan Gozandera” that year and they rocked the house with their funky, latin disco sounds. These guys were funny too. The singer, Julio Briceno AKA “Chulius”, cracked me up when he yelled out for the crowd to buy their CDs to “help us with our visas” and to “buy new girlfriends!” This would be the only time I’d see them, but they continued to have an illustrious career, getting several Grammy nominations and winning one a couple years later for Best Alternative Latin Album.
When Cornershop came on, I couldn’t help but wonder, “are we really doing this?” Crowd or no crowd, the show must go on. Still, there were a couple interesting tidbits that happened at this show that didn’t happen at the previous ones I saw. Before they went into “Wog”, their second song of the set, there was a bit made by a disembodied computerized voice saying, “This is an announcement. Put your hands in the air. Waive them from side to side like you just don’t care.” Well, nobody did care and they didn’t do it. I did appreciate that they did sing their cover of The Beatles’ “Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown)” sung entirely in Hindi, a song I hadn’t heard them perform live before this. They did longer versions of their instrumental songs, “Chocolat” and “Butter The Soul”, showcasing some cool DJ scratching on the latter. Funny thing on my recording, I decided to take a load off after cashing in my drink tickets for beer after I was cut from ushering and went upstairs to the balcony. I kept the tape rolling as I went up and I said into the mic, “This is me going up the stairs”. At a steady pace, I could make it from the floor to the balcony in around 30 seconds, but totally could do it in about 10 or fifteen if I went at full speed. I wouldn’t do it unless I really had to though. Don’t want to give security any suspicions. At a show this slow, those guys were bored to tears and would have loved some action.
The lasting and I mean LASTING memory of this show was the final song of the night, predictably the epic “6 AM Jullandar Shere”. This was a long song to begin with, but at this gig, it was positively interminable. With the drum solo, it clocked in a little over 22 minutes, but it felt like 22 hours. Sung entirely in Punjabi, near the end Tjinder repeated the line, “Teri Aasis Chaunde”, translating to “your forgiveness is wanted”, again and again and again, probably two to three times longer than he usually repeated it. Even the most diehard Cornershop fan there there was probably not in the mood to grant him forgiveness for putting them through that endless barrage. When it finally did end, there was hardly a smattering of applause and they simply walked off stage and there was no encore, leaving us all with that “what just happened?” feeling. Thankfully, when Cornershop came back four years later to play The Fillmore, there was a full house and they were in a better mood.
Alice @ 97.3 Birthday Party: Paula Cole, Garrison Starr, Noelle Hampton, The Beth Lesick Ordeal, War., SF, Thur., June 11, 1998
The so called “Alice” radio station had been exchanging owners and changing formats for years as commercial radio stations do, but they had settled two years before this show to do modern rock stuff, leaning towards female artists and the line up at this show certainly reflected that. Why they called themselves “Alice” is still unknown to me, but from a marketing standpoint, I can at least appreciate that it made them easier to remember. Originally, the band Train was supposed to be on the bill, second to last, but for some reason they didn’t make it, (thank the fuck Christ). We dodged a bullet on that one. The less said about that band the better. This left us with an impressive line up of female artists for the night, headlined by Paula Cole. This show was being billed as Alice’s 2nd birthday, so I assumed that it marked the second year since their rebranding. The ushers were a little short staffed, so I was asked to work all night clearing aisles, but it wasn’t too hard, so I didn’t mind and I got paid for it.
The first act on was actually the only person on the bill that I’d seen before, Beth Lesick. Beth was still pretty young, only a couple years older than me, but had already made a name for herself around the bay area as a spoken word artist, poet, and author. I’d seen her at a couple open mics around town including at a bar in the Mission called the Chameleon where my brother’s buddy, Bucky Sinister, hosted the open mic there every Monday. I never forgot one of her poems called “Monkey Girl”, where she went off about being born in the Chinese zodiac year of the monkey and how she couldn’t be with a “rat boy”. I tried not to take it personally, I having been born the year of the rat myself. I thought she was clever and beautiful, but was disappointed to learn later that she swung the other way. Not that I had a chance in hell with scoring with her. I was just an admirer and I’m happy for whoever woman was lucky enough to win her heart.
Though she had performed her poetry at musical festival side stages like Lollapalooza, here she had just expanded her repertoire into the musical arena with her new band, the Beth Lisick Ordeal. They were really good, jamming out tunes as she belted out her spoken word pieces. This would be the only time I’d see her with her band and sadly, she was only allowed enough time to do a few songs, but I liked what I heard. Beth would go on to continue her career, publishing several books and even did some acting, including recently starring in an independent film called “39 1/2”, directed by Kara Herald, a woman I had worked with at Tech Services at S.F. State as well as the stagehands union for a few years.
Next up was Noelle Hampton, a local artist from Mill Valley who also was a talented spoken word artist. With her band, she managed to beat out about 500 other artists that year in a contest from Alice to secure a spot on the second stage of the Lilith Fair tour that year. Her band had a vibraphone player which is highly unusual for most bands, though coincidentally I had just seen Charlie Hunter two times in row within a couple days with hid band Pound For Pound and they had one. Following her was Garrison Starr who had a very powerful voice and I was as impressed as the crowd. She got a lot of applause. She had been signed to Geffen Records and had just released her debut album, “18 Over Me”, the year before, and had a hit single called “Superhero” which she of course played at the end of her set. Garrison also was on the bill at the Lilith Fair as Noelle and Paula Cole were, though they were on different legs of the tour, so I didn’t see them again when I saw that festival at the Shoreline two weeks later.
Finally, there was Paula Cole. She had risen to stardom quickly during those years, first singing along side Peter Gabriel, replacing Sinead O’Connor on his tour in 1993-1994. She then went on to release her album, “This Fire”, which not only won her fame and fortune with her hit single, “Where Have All The Cowboys Gone?”, but most assuredly a boat load of money in residuals when her song, “I Don’t Want To Wait” was used for the theme song to the hit TV show “Dawson’s Creek”. To top it all off, she received a Grammy for Best New Artist that year to boot. Like the Lilith Fair, there was no waiting for the Men’s bathrooms and and there would be a handful of impatient, intrepid, and/or urgently have to go young ladies who would dare skip the line to the Women’s bathroom to try their luck with us icky boys. Obviously, it’s not fair and I don’t blame those who do so in the slightest. Like most radio multi act line ups, Paula’s set was a short one and this would be the only time I’d see her perform live. But like Kraftwerk, who played the very same venue a few days before, her work would be immortalized by “The Simpsons” in an episode aired seven years later when Apu sang, “Where Have All The Cowboys Gone?” at karaoke night at Bart’s school. Unlike the Kraftwerk show, they at least gave away a poster at the end of the night.
Kraftwerk, War., SF, Sun., June 7, 1998
SETLIST : Numbers, Computer World, Home Computer, The Man-Machine, Tour De France, Autobahn, The Model, Airwaves, Tango, Sellafield, Radioactivity, Trans-Europe Express, Pocket Calculator, The Robots, (encore), Tribal Gathering, Music Non Stop
I and the other ushers knew this was an important show, even if we weren’t too familiar with Kraftwerk. For starters, it was their first tour of the U.S. since 1981, a staggering 17 years for their fans out here to wait. Secondly, the closer the show came to be, the more I started to appreciate the influence the group had on not only electronic dance music, but genres across the board. I found that Kraftwerk struck a chord with rock, hip hop, and jazz people alike. In fact, one of the most distinct memories I had from this show was spotting David Boyce, the saxophonist of the acid jazz band The Braun Fellinis, walking past me in the aisle I was working. I would have never pegged him for a Kraftwerk fan, but then again, I never thought I’d be one either. After this show, I was a convert.
I did know at least one of their songs, “Tour De France”, likely their most popular one. I feel a tinge of embarrassment having been familiar with it from my breakdancing days of my youth, or rather my feeble attempts to breakdance. It was featured in the classic 80’s breakdancing movie, “Breakin’”, way back in 1984, where one of the head dancers, Boogaloo Shrimp, did a bit doing smooth wavy dancing with a broom in an alley. Anyway, what I didn’t realize was just how long Kraftwerk had been around. They were indeed pioneers in their field, practically inventing electronic music as they went along, starting way back in 1969 in Dusseldorf, Germany. I had taken a four years of German in high school and been to Germany a couple times, so I knew at least that their name translated to “power plant”. Other than that, the only other reference I could think of was the episode from “The Simpsons” where Bart and his grandfather recovered artworks stolen by the Nazis, but had to give them back to the decedent of the original owner, a rude Baron, who complained that he was in a hurry to get “to Dance Centrum in Stuttgart in time to see Kraftwerk”. He then sped away in his sports car mocking Bart and Abe hugging on the side of the road, shouting, “Hey fun boys! Get a room!”. Incidentally, the dance music playing through the stereo in his car was a tune by DJ Keoki, who I had just recorded at the Electronica Hanukkah at the Maritime Hall the previous December.
As a live act, Kraftwerk were a bit of an anomaly, the four members standing equidistantly apart on stage in front of small stations where their various laptops and electronic devices were, and pretty much stayed there all night. God only knows what each machine did as they performed, or if they did anything at all, but the composition of their songs were as inspiring as they were hypnotic. Like The Other Ones and Zero the previous nights were a stylistic left turn from Slayer before them, Kraftwerk was a definite departure from that organic hippie music. They didn’t talk at all between songs and in fact, only a couple songs had any lyrics at all, sang by lead vocalist Ralf Hutter through a headset mic, what I like to call a “Burger King mic”. Being electronic music, there wasn’t much differentiation between their songs performed live and their songs on their albums, but I was impressed by the video projections shown behind them. They kept me and the audience engaged with appropriately corresponding images to the songs, like numbers flashing for “Numbers” in the beginning, bicyclists for “Tour De France”, trains for “Trans-Europe Express”, and so on.
Probably one of the most memorable things that would stick in anyone’s brain from seeing them live is what happened at the end of the main set. The humans on stage departed and when the music began again the were replaced by robotic counterparts, appropriately for their song, “The Robots”. The sight of these animatronic doppelgängers, being only their top halves on posts, making their stilted movements to the music was both hilarious and unnerving. It was a pity that they didn’t get a poster that night for putting on such a spectacle, especially since it had been so long since they had been in our country. I am glad to say that I didn’t have to wait 17 years to see them again, but I did have to wait for almost 6, though when they did come back, they did two back to back shows, identical to this one, also at The Warfield. Furthermore, when they came back for those shows, they used the song “Numbers” for a live double album released a year later called, “Minimum-Maximum”.
Zero, Greyboy All-Star Sidecar, Will Bernard 4-Tet, Maritime Hall, SF, Fri., June 5, 1998
Zero, 3:05 AM, Maritime Hall, SF, Sat., June 6, 1998
SETLIST : (Saturday) : Tongue N’ Groove, Berm, Cripple Creek, No Expectations, Rigor Mortis, Home On The Range, Mona, Not Fade Away, Lovelight, Mona (reprise), Out In The Woods, Roll Me Over, La Fiesta, All Blue, La Fiesta (reprise), Anorexia, Like A Rolling Stone, Gregg’s Eggs, (encore), Little Wing
I had just finished seeing The Other Ones at The Warfield the day before these shows, so I was getting a heavy dose of hippie music to balance out getting my fillings rattled out by Slayer the previous Sunday. I had recorded Zero enough already at the Maritime to the point where we weren’t going to bother doing it at all anymore, but these shows were being billed specifically as “Recording Live” shows, so it was compulsory. We were given assurances that they would indeed use songs recorded from these two shows to be put on a live album and I can report that they did so. As usual, the albums, “Nothin’ Lasts Forever” and “Double Zero” which they would go on to release listed no dates or which songs were recorded when, but Pete and I were just grateful that our efforts were finally rewarded. I admit, I have been hard on Zero in the past and it’s not fair. Indeed, every time I see a hippie show, I can’t help but think of that episode of “The Young Ones” where Vyvian’s punk friends attack Neil at their party, screaming, “Kill The Hippie!” But Zero’s fans love them and it’s hard to deny their talent musically, especially guitarist Steve Kimock. He’d just played with The Other Ones and was doing double duty these two days, so one has to at least give him credit for his work ethic.
They at least had some good acts opening for them for these two days. The first day, Will Bernard was there with his “4-Tet” and I’d been getting to know Will’s music over the past couple years, he having played recently with The Funky Meters at The Fillmore, and at the Hall a few times already with that band, as well as with T.J. Kirk. Following him was the “Greyboy All-Star Sidecar” which as the name suggests was an offshoot of the Greyboy band. That incarnation would eventually morph into Karl Denson’s Tiny Universe. They had actually just finished the film score to “Zero Effect” with Bill Pullman and Ben Stiller which had just come out that January. The second day was a particular honor since none other than Mr. Noel Redding, the bass player for the Jimi Hendrix Experience opened. Noel had recently met a fellow named Keith Dion, a musician and producer from San Francisco, at a plaque dedication by the English Heritage Society in London at one of Jimi’s old residences. They got to talking, quickly hit it off, formed the “3:05 AM” band and started touring. Keith would play guitar in the band as well as serve as their manager and musical director.
They had played Mick’s Lounge that Friday and did a set, appropriately enough, at the Haight Street fair that Sunday. Little did I know that they would eventually take the recording we made of their set that night and use it on a live album called “The West Coast Experience”. It was released in 2001, but I wouldn’t even be aware of its existence until a couple years ago, finding it and buying it online. Noel would use recordings from that tour including stuff from the aforementioned Haight Street Fair, and gigs at The House Of Blues in L.A., The Transmission Theater, and 14 Below. But like Zero’s live albums, I have no idea which songs were taken from our show and predictably Pete and I got neither credit or one thin dime from Noel. Still, it was an honor and he dusted off a couple of Jimi’s standards like “Stone Free” and “Hey Joe”. I’m just glad I got to see Noel at all before he would pass away five years later from liver cirrhosis at the all too young age of 57. But with recording ex-Band Of Gypsies drummer Buddy Miles at the Hall the year before, I can now say I have two Hendrix alumni under my belt.
I didn’t keep recordings personally of either days, but I was able to find a bootleg of the second day on line. Zero were their usual selves and Martin, the sax player did his customary wise cracks between songs. After they played “Berm”, Martin declared, “You have just entered… the Zero Zone”. A couple songs later when the audience was conspicuously quiet between songs, he joked that “this is the time you’re supposed to talk to each other. Y’all gone all quiet. The bullshit light is on now”. They actually did a pretty respectful cover of Dylan’s “Like A Rolling Stone” and as I mentioned in the previous entry, Kimock would play “Lovelight” as he did with The Other Ones two days earlier.
When they came back for the encore, Martin ribbed his fellow bandmates, telling them, “Get a grip!… Get real… Get a horse… Get a horn”, then looked down at his sax, laughed and said, “Oh yeah”. After these shows, we actually did take a break from recording Zero at Hall including two shows they did that December and the first of two shows they did the following April. It only was the the promise that the second April show was going to be the last show they’d ever play which compelled me to do that one, but it turned out to be a lie and Zero went on to play for years until Martin died in 2008. On a happier note, the first episode of “Sex In The City” debuted that weekend, which is about as far from hippiedom as a person can get.
The Other Ones, War., SF, Thur., June 4, 1998
SETLIST : (SET 1) Jack Straw, Sugaree, Minglewood Blues, Easy Answers, Loser, Goin’ Down The Road Feelin’ Bad, Scarlet Begonias, Fire On The Mountain, China Cat Sunflower, I Know You Rider, (SET 2) Box Of Rain, Friend Of The Devil, Playing In The Band, Space Jam – Drums, Preacher In The Ring, Banyan Tree, Playing In The Band (reprise), St. Stephen, The Eleven, Turn On Your Lovelight
I suppose it was fitting that I had three hippie shows in a row following seeing Slayer at The Warfield the previous Sunday, this one and two nights of Zero at the Maritime. The boys from the Dead having branched out into their own musical projects since the death of Jerry Garcia almost three years prior had finally coalesced into a band again, well, at least three of them and Bruce Hornsby. This time around it was Bob Weir, Mickey Hart, and Phil Lesh. Kruetzman had taken a pass, choosing to take some well earned R & R in Hawaii, scuba diving and such. But it wouldn’t be long until Bill would show his face on stage again. He would join Merl Saunders playing drums with his Funky Friends band opening for Toots & The Maytals at the Maritime for New Year’s Eve. After that, he’d join The Other Ones after Phil had a falling out with Mickey and went back to playing with his Phil & Friends project. Poor Phil fell ill with Hepatitis C three months after this show and would get a liver transplant that December. Mickey, being his usual boorish self, joked that “Phil might have gotten the liver of a jerk”. The falling out caused a unique dilemma in 2000 when both Phil & Friends and The Other Ones held competing New Year’s Eve shows that year, forcing their fans to make the musical equivalent of Sophie’s Choice. I was seeing Les Claypool that night at The Fillmore anyway, so it didn’t bother me, but if I had to choose, I’d probably have gone with Phil. He was playing the Henry J. Kaiser in Oakland and it also was a smaller venue than the Coliseum where The Other Ones were. Still, tough call. Alphonso Johnson, who I’d recorded doing Jazz Is Dead at the Maritime six weeks before this show, would replace Phil until they all kissed and made up and Phil returned to The Other Ones in 2002.
Anyway, the boys were together for the time being doing this benefit for the Rainforest Action Network and it goes without saying that the show was sold out. Backing up the founders were an impressive line up of young ringers. Dave Ellis, who I’d just seen the week before do a surprise cameo with his old bandmate Charlie Hunter, of whom he played in his old Trio, at The Fillmore, was on sax. He’d already been touring with Bobby in RatDog for a while along with fellow Charlie Hunter Trio alumni Jay Lane on drums. John Molo was filling in for Bill on drums for The Other Ones and would play with Phil & Friends for years to come. There was also Mark Karan on guitar and Steve Kimock would be having a busy weekend also on guitar playing that night as well as with Zero at the Maritime the next couple nights. So, there was plenty of talent there to make Bobby and Mickey look good.
Once again, the hippie crowd would prove to be a handful since I had to work through the first set, the set break, and the beginning of the second set, just like I had to for Jerry’s band. Folks were mostly cool and paid top dollar to get in, so I did my best to be polite and maintain my cool. It was a solid first set and it was nice that they later let Phil sing “Box Of Rain” and then do a verse during “Goin’ Down The Road Feelin’ Bad” and “St. Stephen” in the second set. Mickey also busted out a steel drum for “Scarlet Begonias” but Dear God, the band made the unspeakable atrocity of having Mickey do some kind of awful rap thing during “Fire On The Mountain”. Never had I missed Jerry more than at that moment. I’d never thought I’d be relieved to hear Bobby sing again, but I was when he continued singing afterwards with “China Cat Sunflower”. They had a long stretch in the second set after they started “Playing In The Band”, where Bruce did quite a bit of noodling on the piano, that went into the obligatory drum session, then into “Preacher In The Ring”, another jam session, then “Banyan Tree”, before finishing up with a reprise of “Playing In The Band”. It clocked in over a half an hour by the time it wrapped up.
I appreciated that they dusted off “The Eleven”, their song that is played in 11/4 time before bringing the show to close with “Lovelight”. As luck would have it, Zero would close the second night at the Maritime with “Lovelight” as well. I guess Kimock already had it down pat anyway. As I written before, I didn’t tape the Dead myself when they were together since so many other people did, but I would go on to record all the offshoot bands myself. My recording got a little garbled for a couple songs during the second set, but thankfully, I was able to find a good bootleg of the show on line as expected. Though this would be the only time I’d see these boys together as The Other Ones, it would be one of several times The Warfield would put on with various Dead incarnations, most of which would be benefits like this one, and thankfully there would be a poster for all of them. God knows these hippies can afford it.
Slayer, Clutch, System Of A Down, War., SF, Sun., May 31, 1998
(SYSTEM OF A DOWN) : Suite Pee, X, Sugar, Suggestions, DDevil, Mins, War?, Darts
(SLAYER) : Hell Awaits, Spirit In Black, War Ensemble, Death’s Head, South Of Heaven, Dittohead, Captor Of Sin, Die By The Sword, Black Magic, Stain Of Mind, Raining Blood, Altar Of Sacrifice, Jesus Saves, Dead Skin, Sex. Murder. Art., Chemical Warfare, (encore), Mandatory Suicide, Angel Of Death
It had been a long time coming, but I finally got to see the one and only Slayer. They had been synonymous with all things metal for years. Hell, even people at other metal shows would yell out their name. The most I knew of them at the time was their appearance in the long form music video of the Beastie Boys’ “Fight For Your Right To Party”. Rick Rubin had produced both acts back then and he once again was collaborating with Slayer on their eight album, “Diabolus In Musica”, which was just about to come out only nine days after this show. That title is derived from a musical term for the tritone musical interval, composed of 3 adjacent whole tones which medieval people forbade, thinking that the dissidence would summon the devil. Whether the devil was in the house that night, I cannot say, but I think either he or God would have been impressed by the show. I was lucky to catch this one since when their old drummer Dave Lombardo rejoined the band, they would rarely play any of the songs from this album except for “Stain Of Mind”.
Before I go any further, I must first report of possibly the funniest thing I’d ever seen that occurred before this show, easily one of the funniest things I’ve ever witnessed in my entire life to this day. While waiting to get into The Warfield to usher that night, I was in front of the entrance as always with the other ushers. While waiting, I watched as the “Jesus Saves From Hell” people were picketing the show, one of them as always berating the fans in line with a bullhorn, telling them about how much trouble they were in and so forth. It’s always a badge of honor for any metal or punk show when these Bible thumpers show up. Well, one of Slayer’s minions decided that enough was enough, took one of the “Jesus Saves From Hell” signs one of them was carrying, and proceeded to beat that guy with the bullhorn about his head and shoulders with it. Seriously, I laughed for about two weeks straight after seeing that epic bit of physical comedy. I laughed so much that it hurt. I couldn’t help but imagine even God was laughing his divine ass off in heaven watching this unfold as well. The only way it could be funnier is if the sign went through the bull horn guys head, resting like a collar on his shoulders, him falling to the ground with cartoon stars and birdies circling his head, and Edwin G. Robinson pointing and mocking him, shouting, “Where’s your messiah now!?!?” At least, security and the cops were there to break it up before anyone was seriously hurt. To this day, the memory of that beat down sustains me in my darkest hours.
This would be the first time Slayer would headline the Warfield, but wouldn’t be the last. I would see them play there a whopping four more times, including in 2001 when they recorded the “War At The Warfield” DVD. Bass player and vocalist, Tom Araya, was about to become a new father, his son, Tomas being born just two weeks later. It was a forgone conclusion that it would be a night of heavy music, but I was pleasantly surprised at the diversity of the acts on the bill. First up was System Of A down, who were pretty new back then. Their frantic, freaky punk style was original and in sharp contrast to Slayer’s, but I was impressed and I think the crowd was too. Their first album wasn’t even out then, due to be released at the end of the month, so I was caught unawares, hearing the insane ratings of their singer, Serj Tankian. He opened the show denouncing the aforementioned Bible thumpers out front, screaming, “Freedom of expression, motherfuckers!!!”.
He’d continue his cryptic rantings between songs, asking, “What killed the Kennedy’s!?! Hypnotic suggestions! Mind control at its best!”. Before their song “War?” near the end of their short set, he lamented loudly that he was “sick of seeing little children dying for profits! I’m sick of my life! I’m sick of your life! It’s time for a new war!!!” Serj did take a break from his ramblings enough once to thank Slayer. He definitely was on cloud nine, saying it was a privilege to be opening for them. I learned that they loved Slayer so much, they chose the name of their band specifically because it would put their albums close to them alphabetically in record stores. I’d see them one more time in 2000, that time as a headliner for the Snocore tour with Mr. Bungle and Incubus. After that they got so big, they would move onto larger arenas.
Unfortunately, my recording started breaking up as their set was nearing its end. I think the earbud I was using was having a short or it’s input jack was coming loose or coming out of the tape deck. This break up of the signal continued well into Clutch’s set, but ended thankfully in time to catch their last few songs. I’d already seen and recorded Clutch at the Maritime a couple times before, including a show they headlined, taking the place of Limp Bizkit there just three moths before this show, so I was familiar with them already. Like System Of A Down, they were heavy as hell, but not really a metal band. Still, the Slayer crowd liked them and moshed to their music. I can’t say what songs they played, since my recording was garbled for so long, other than “The Elephant Riders” and “Ship Of Gold” at the end when it cleared up at last.
The mosh pit exploded as one would expect the moment Slayer took the stage. I was understandably anxious at the prospect of having to usher for this crowd, but I was pleasantly surprised to discover that Slayer fans weren’t concerned about blocking the aisles. Indeed, the ones were steadfastly determined to get to the front did so without delay or apology, marching straight in without batting an eyelash. Tom welcomed the crowd announcing, “We’re Slayer and we’re here to rock your world!!!” before launching into “Hell Awaits”. I was cut from ushering soon enough and went back to the floor to witness this heavy metal spectacle. There were no shortage of crowd floaters, so many in fact, that the security guys at the barricade were having trouble keeping up with their sheer numbers. Tom even pleaded with the crowd between songs, “You guys are coming over too quickly. A guy was taken to the side of the stage, hurt pretty bad. Nobody’s saying you can’t have fun. Just be careful!” It was definitely loud enough that my recording came out clear, but I was lucky enough to find a half decent video recording done by somebody in the audience. One could hear a handful of Germans in the background between songs chatting to each other in their native language. There was no poster given out at the end of the night, but everybody not wise enough to wear earplugs got to go home with the souvenir of severe tinnitus.
Funkdoobiest, Ras Kas, Psycho Realm, Delinquent Habits, Maritime Hall, SF, Sat., May 30, 1998
(DELINQUENT HABITS) : 1 Adam 12, Lower East Side, Western Ways, Wallah, Tres Delinquentes, Here Come The Horns
PSYCHO REALM : Premonitions, Showdown, Sick Dogs, Stone Garden, Psycho City Blocks, Confessions Of A Drug Addict
I once again was given the reins of the recording room for this hip hop show headlined by Funkdoobiest. They had a couple songs from their first album, “Superhoes” and “Pussy Ain’t Shit” on the soundtrack of Ice Cube’s hit comedy, “Friday” and they had just released their third album, “The Troubleshooters”. All that and the talent backing them up that night wasn’t enough to pack the house, the crowd being conspicuously sparse. But it still was a good show, especially because of the first band, Delinquent Habits. It was the first show of this tour and they did what they could to get what few people showed up on the dance floor to get into it. One of them goaded them on asking, “Is it too hot in here? We’re trying our best!” and saying that the folks backstage who were already smoking and drinking wouldn’t come out if people didn’t start partying harder. I liked their song “Tres Delinquentes” which used the famous horn riff from Herb Alpert & The Tijuana Brass’, “The Lonely Bull”. Don’t get that riff stuck in your head. It’ll be there for a while. As usual, Boots misspelled at least one name on the monthly poster, referring to them as the singular, “Delinquent Habit”.
The real draw from the show at least for me was the prospect of recording Psycho Realm which had none other than B Real from Cypress Hill rapping with them. He had seen the brothers, Big Duke and Sick Jacken, perform at a End Barrio Warfare concert on Olvera Street in L.A. and decided to take a break from his endless touring with Cypress Hill to join these guys and produce their stuff. Sen Dog from Cypress Hill also produced the Habits first album and DJ Muggs helped produce Funkdoobiest’s first couple albums as well, making this show a Cypress Hill proxy extravaganza. I liked Psycho Realm and I could see why B Real took a liking to them, sounding a lot like Cypress Hill, and having a conga player backing them up as well. There was a predictable amount of weed smoking in the house and even they were introduced coming out on stage saying, “Excuse these guys. They’ve been smoking out all day”. At the end of their set, B Real made sure to give a plug for Cypress Hill’s fourth album, the appropriately titled “Cypress Hill IV” coming out that September. I would see them play their new stuff at The Fillmore that November.
But this would be the only time I’d see Psycho Realm because tragically Big Duke was shot in the neck only eight months later, leaving him paralyzed from the neck down, a bit of sad irony having met B Real at a benefit to end violence. Poor Duke was trying to break up a fight when he was stricken by a perp on parole. The perp would eventually be put away for attempted murder, but Psycho Realm was done for and B Real returned to Cypress Hill full time again. It’s a pity. Psycho Realm had just finished their second album.
Ras Kass was there too, always being misspelled as “Ras Kas” when he plays the hall. His real name is John R. Austin IV which is understandably not a very effective name for a rapper. He took his stage name from the Ethiopian emperor, Yohannes IV, whose real name was Rass Kasa Mircha, another fourth in his family line with the same name. He’d played the Hall already twice before, opening for the Hieroglyphics both times the year before, and would show up again at various hip hop gigs there in the future. We were having trouble scaring up people to man the cameras for the videos back then, so there was only a wide shot from the balcony that night. Nobody wants to work for free in show biz, even if it does get them into the show and get some video experience under their belt. The cameraperson shortage would ultimately lead Boots to construct the robot camera system which would come online the following January.
Bunny Wailer, Maritime Hall, SF, Fri., May 29, 1998
I suppose it was inevitable that Mr. Neville O’Riley Livingston AKA Bunny Wailer would show at the Hall eventually. Every other reggae star was. But Bunny was special, being the only surviving founding member of Wailers, Bob Marley succumbing to cancer in 1981 and Peter Tosh murdered during a home invasion in 1987. Though Bunny had left the Wailers in 1973, eclipsed by Bob’s stardom, he went on to have an illustrious career of his own, winning three Grammy awards. This show was being billed as him touring with a 17 piece band, which I thought was a bit of an exaggeration. I mean, there was probably 17 instruments involved, a horn section for sure, but clearly there weren’t 17 members of his band. Whatever. The show also billed it as it was to be a four hour set, though it clocked out as two and change.
I have to admit, it certainly FELT like it was a four hour show. As reverent as I was to the reggae royalty in the house, I was astounded at the amount of talking Bunny did between songs. He’d clock in as much as five or six minutes some of the breaks. There are only a handful of artists that can go on that long, Robyn Hitchcock and Richie Havens come to mind. Between his verbosity and the endless parade of joints passed to me by Pete over the course of the evening, it felt as if I’d been there for a week by the time it was over. Not that it was an unpleasant experience, far from it. I found Bunny to be a warm and loving person, graciously thanking the crowd from the get go, saying, “it’s good to see the reggae family together again” and declaring it “the greatest music in the world” which “brought so many races together”.
During one break, he talked of how people made mistakes, but the creator doesn’t make mistakes, creating the great garden of life and that creator lives in every living substance. He said everyone is acceptable in the sight of that creator. Later, he called on the crowd to “go back in time” to 2000 years ago speaking of a man of virtue. He said, “some call him Jesus, some call him Buddha, some call him Mohammed”, but it “doesn’t matter what he’s called, but what he stands for… unity, one love, one heart… to come together and make it right”. But then he said one thing you never do see is a bald headed Jesus and then played the song, “Baldhead Jesus”. He’s right of course, though people pretty much agree that Buddha was bald, or at least ultimately became bald. Seriously, I thought it would be fun to make a drinking game where one would take a shot every time Bunny said, “Jah Rastafari”. If one tried, they would be so drunk by the end of the set, that they’d need to get their stomach pumped.
As expected, Bunny broke out some of the classic Wailers material like “Chase Those Crazy Baldheads”, “No Woman, No Cry”, “Simmer Down”, “Hypocrite”, and finishing the night with “Keep On Moving” which he wrote personally. As lionized as Bob Marley is, people forget all the people he had around him in his band that helped write and perform the music. Coincidentally, the night before, Charlie Hunter played a cover of The Wailers’, “Them Belly Full” at The Fillmore. Small world, eh? Bunny also honored his former bandmate, Peter Tosh, covering his world famous marijuana anthem, “Legalize It”, and it goes without saying that it soon became cloudy in the recording room as well as upstairs at the show. He thanked the crowd before the last song saying it was “a pleasure and a privilege”. And as usual at these reggae nights, Rocky Allen Bailey was there to emcee, shouting out at the end, “What a show!… The reggae music!… The music with the message!… Do you get the message!?!”
Though I did’t keep a copy of the recording we did, I was able to find a half decent bootleg of it on YouTube. It was a touch overdriven, but sounded marginally better than anything I’d get on my tape deck, so I’ll take it. Speaking of tape decks, the bootleg I found was obviously recorded on one since you can hear during the recording in two places where the guy literally turns the cassette over which I found quite charming actually. Months after the show, Pete was given the go ahead to mix down the ADATs from that night to make an album which was stellar news to me, a real feather in my cap for my resume. God knows, we had enough material from that night to work with and I spent several hours with Pete at his studio in San Rafael as he painstakingly went over the songs, making them perfect. For some reason, that album was never released which came as a great disappointment to me as you might imagine. To this day, I still don’t know why that happened and it seems like a colossal waste. At least I’d get to see Bunny perform at the Hall again only five months later and since Pete had already done Bunny and mixed down the songs from this show, he let me record that one myself. The honor was doubly so, since opening that night was none other than Andrew Tosh, Peter’s son.
Galactic, Charlie Hunter & Pound For Pound, Fill., SF, Thur., May 28, 1998
I had just come home a few days before this show from the Mountain Aire Festival up in Calaveras County where both Galactic and Charlie with his new band, Pound For Pound, performed. I had only seen a bit of Galactic up there, they playing a late night set in a tent from midnight to 4 am and I was too shagged out from the trip up and the all day festival to see it to the end. I did, however enjoyed Charlie’s set, especially when he came out later during Spearhead’s set to play a Disposable Heroes Of Hiphopricy song with his old bandmate, singer Michael Franti. Charlie is a musical genius and any time seeing him play is always worthwhile. As happy as I was to be at this show, the joy of the evening was tempered with the tragic news of the death of comedian Phil Hartman. His wife, afflicted with substance abuse issues for years and facing their impending divorce, shot him and then herself. Terrible news, but selfishly my first thought hearing the news was that “The Simpsons” would be losing Lionel Hutz and Troy McClure, two of the series’ funniest characters. I still feel bad about that.
Charlie opened and closed his set with his covers of The Supremes’ “Keep Me Hanging On” and Bob Marley’s “Them Belly Full” respectively, both of which he had played up at Mountain Aire. Speaking of Marley, I would coincidentally be recording his fellow bandmate Bunny Wailer the following night at the Maritime. I was disappointed that he didn’t do his version of Steve Miller’s “Fly Like An Eagle” which had been the big hit off his new album, “Return Of The Candyman”, but it didn’t take anything away from the brilliance of everything else he played that night. Once again, vibraphone player Monte Croft masterfully hit the mallets at mind boggling speed. Lionel Hampton would have been proud. There were plenty of guests sitting in with Charlie including Galactic’s drummer, Stanton Moore, who himself had collaborated with Charlie and his contemporaries. Stanton had just released his own solo album called “All Kooked Out!” just nine days before this show and Charlie helped out on it as well. Guitarist Will Bernard also toured with Stanton’s trio and Will had been in T.J. Kirk with Charlie, playing at the Maritime the year before. Charlie also played with Stanton in Garage A Trois too and I’d see them play in that band together at the Fillmore 5 years later. John Santos showed to play percussion as he did on the Pound For Pound album and if that wasn’t enough, Dave Ellis, the saxophonist from Charlie’s old trio played too. Dave had been making a name for himself around hippie circles playing with various incarnations of the Dead, along with fellow Trio alumni, drummer Jay Lane.
Galactic played excellently as always, doing a satisfying two hour set. Charlie came out and played with them as well. The singer pumped up the crowd between songs, declaring, “We got the funk up in here!” They brought just that, a little taste from their home town of New Orleans. Though I didn’t really know their music or the names of their songs, I’m sure they played some new material that they would release four months later in their second album, “Crazy Mongoose”. I knew one song, “Something’s Wrong With This Picture”, for sure they played from their first album, but that’s only because the singer sang the title line repeatedly. Lastly, they gave out a rare horizontal poster at the end of the evening. I wouldn’t have to wait long to see Galactic again since they’d return to play the Fillmore just six months later with Robert Walter’s 20th Congress, but this would be last time I’d see Charlie play with the Pound For Pound band. At least I got to see them twice in a row within a few days to get know them.
Sonic Youth, Fuck, rRope, Fill., SF, Tues., May 26, 1998
SETLIST : Karen Koltrane, Female Mechanic Now On Duty, Sunday, Anagrama, Hits Of Sunshine (For Allen Ginsberg), The Ineffable Me, Hoarfrost, French Tickler, Wildflower Soul, Heather Angel, (encore), Stil, Shadow Of A Doubt, Death Valley 69
It had been three long years since Sonic Youth headlined the Lollapalooza festival, of which I caught them twice, once at Cal Expo and once at Shoreline. Between those shows, their set at the Tibetan Freedom Concert, and the four times I saw them at the Warfield, an early and a late show in 1993 and two shows in 1995, one would think that seven times in three years was plenty. But like I said, it had been a while and this time, I’d be witnessing them performing in a small venue for once. Likewise, they were seemingly in the mood themselves to put the big rock scene behind them for a spell with their latest endeavor, “A Thousand Leaves”, their tenth studio album, released two weeks to the day before this show. They originally called the album by its French translation, “Mille Feuille”, which is also the name of a pastry that has several layers of delicate, paper thin cakes.
The band had taken their hard earned cash from Lollapalooza and put together their own recording studio in lower Manhattan, calling it Echo Canyon, and this would be the first of three albums they’d make there. The members were starting to settle down and have kids, including Kim Gordon and Thurston Moore who had a daughter together named Coco in 1994. They said she learned to walk while on tour with them at Lollapalooza. With their own studio, they were able to monkey around and experiment with their sound again, distancing themselves from the more structured radio friendly tunes, though their stuff has never been, shall we say, top 40 material… thank God for that. After 16 years of non-stop touring, they were looking to enjoy a more leisurely life and the new album reflected that.
This was the second of a three night stint at the Fillmore and like most runs at that venue that had more than two nights, there was a poster and it was a good one. The first on stage that night was a band called rRope. Why they spelled it that way is anybody’s guess, but one might surmise that Rope, spelled normally was already taken, and their spelling had the added bonus of being easier to look up and not be confused with any other rope related subjects. They started as a couple guys from Leadville, Colorado renowned for being the town with highest elevation in America, over 10,000 feet up. They descended from that high town and settled in San Francisco and played for a few years until this show. It was a good thing I caught them when I did, since they said opening for Sonic Youth was the last show they ever did. I don’t know if they played with Sonic Youth at any other gigs on the tour, but it is at least certain that this was the last time they played in San Francisco. I thought they were alright, playing a short, but bombastic half an hour.
The second opener of the evening was a band that needs no introduction… at least around impressionable children. That band was Fuck… you heard me. One would think that this would be an obvious name for a band to choose, being short, easy to remember, and ensured to evoke and emotional response. Still, their music wasn’t as confrontational as their name would suggest. Some of their songs were downright quiet. I suppose it is appropriate that a band with such a vulgar name would meet when the members were stuck in a holding cell in Oakland, (for unspecified offenses), and even wrote a couple of their tunes while they were in jail together. They bounced around record labels until they got signed by Matador and released the album “Conduct” the year of this show. Some brain-dead dipshit marketing clown there insisted that they change their name, so they took their business elsewhere. Maybe this marketing guy was hoping that he’d get them to play kid’s parties or something. Anyway, it was a good thing these guys hooked up with Sonic Youth, since the drummer Steve Shelley took a liking to them and signed them onto his label, Smells Like Records, after this tour. Though Fuck never made it big, unlike rRope, they are still around and even did a two night stint at the now defunct Hemlock Tavern in 2018, a block from where I used to live in the Tenderloin.
It is a blessing and a curse that Sonic Youth was showcasing their new material almost exclusively that night. In fact, they played all new songs except for the last two in the set and the two songs in the encore. The blessing is that we were all getting the privilege of hearing them live for the first time and in doing so, embracing the band’s new musical direction. The curse on the other hand was that those hoping for a greatest hits set would obviously leave disappointed and as it turns out, they never or very rarely played any of the songs from this album live ever again. Lee Ranaldo got to sing in a couple songs that show, including the opening song, “Karen Koltrane” and “Hoarfrost” later that set. Lee incidentally has the same birthday as my wife, February 3rd. Sonic Youth produced only one music video from the new album for the song “Sunday”, which was the third song they played at this gig. The video was creepy as hell frankly, starring a 17 year old Macaulay Culkin making leering faces, licking his lips, and making out with Rachel Miner in slow motion and the rest was teenage ballerinas dancing in fast motion. Figures that it was directed by the guy who wrote the movie, “Kids”. (shutter!)
The fifth song they played in their set was “Hits Of Sunshine (For Allen Ginsberg)”, a sprawling 11 minute jam on the album, truncated to only five minutes for the show. From the title, it clearly was an homage to the late beat poet who had passed away the year before this show. Being in San Francisco, maybe Allen’s ghost was in the house that night. At least the die hard fans were treated to one golden oldie, when they finished their encore with “Death Valley 69”, originally recorded in 1984 with Lydia Lunch. Keeping with the band’s new leisurely attitude, it would take literally another four years and a single day before I would get a chance to see Sonic Youth again. Once more, they would play the Fillmore, that time for the first night of a two day stint, and it would also have a poster.
Actually, they did come back once in 1999 to headline their own so-called “This Is Not A Festival” festival with Sleater-Kinney, Guided By Voices, Superchunk, and other no-fi musical acts. It was at the Greek in Berkeley and though I can’t remember why I didn’t go, I do remember that tour had some very conspicuous rules for those attending. They forbade anyone attending from wearing floppy hats or having beach balls, which I have no real issue with, but I do remember being a little miffed at their rule that anybody caught playing hackey sack would be removed from the show. I enjoyed playing hackey sack back then. It was fun, creative, good exercise, and a nice way to meet people. Incidentally, the skill is also useful. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve dropped something and have either caught it with the top of my foot, or at least helped reduce the impact of the objects fall enough to prevent it from breaking. Then again, I’ve also hurt my foot instinctually trying to do the same thing with an object that was a little too heavy. Regardless, to impose such a rule in Berkeley is especially offensive when one need look no further than the flea market at Ashby BART station, People’s Park, or Sproul Plaza to find a circle of folks masterfully practicing the art. OK, kicking around the sack is probably not very punk, but I found their rule at that show rather oppressive. That’s not punk either. Maybe if the members of Sonic Youth had learned how to play hackey sack, they’d have been more tolerant of it.
Mountain Aire ’98: Ben Harper & The Innocent Criminals, Leftover Salmon, Spearhead, Charlie Hunter & Pound 4 Pound, Calaveras County Fairgrounds, Angel Camp, Sat., May 23, 1998
(WILCO) : James Alley Blues, She’s A Jar, California Stars, Hesitating Beauty, Christ For President, New Madrid, Forget The Flowers, (Was I) In Your Dreams, I Got You (At The End Of The Century), Casino Queen, Passenger Side, I Must Be High, A Shot In The Arm, Via Chicago, True Love Will Find You In The End
(SPEARHEAD) : Chocolate Supa Highway, Runfayalife, Of Course Ya Can, Food For The Masses, Love IS Da Shit, No No No, Hole In The Bucket, Piece O’ Peace, I Feel Good, No Diggity, Simply Beautiful, Da Payroll (Stay Strong), Language Of Violence (with Charlie Hunter), Rollaskate (Let The Music Move Your Soul)
(BEN HARPER & THE INNOCENT CRIMINALS) : Don’t Take That Attitude To Your Grave/Concrete Jungle, Whipping Boy, Ground On Down, Faded, Burn One Down, Excuse Me Mr., Breakin’ Down, Homeless Child, Gold In Me/Fight For Your Mind, Roses From My Friends, The Will To Live
Though I had traveled great distances and even out of state a few times for the Grateful Dead, this would be the only time I’d ever do this for a festival. This wasn’t that long of trek, Angel Camp being only about three hours and change east of San Francisco, but it was far enough. The Mountain Aire festival takes place every year up in the Sierras and had been as far back as the 70s in this place which prides itself as the location where Mark Twain wrote his breakthrough short story “The Celebrated Jumping Frog Of Calaveras County”. Story goes he wrote it after overhearing the tall tale from a drunk in a local saloon there. I knew the story well, but why I hadn’t heard of the Mountain Aire festival before this year is a mystery to me but better late than never. It took place in the Calaveras County Fairgrounds and attendees were allowed to camp in the parking lot, which I and my girlfriend Lisa did, but only for Saturday night. Tempting as it was to stick around for the second day of the show, we weren’t big enough fans of the headliner Widespread Panic, to shell out the loot, that and the fact that Train was playing the second day, a band I would actually pay money not to see. Still, I was jealous of those who got to see Ozomatli and Big Bad Voodoo Daddy who were on that line up, but one day would be enough for me. I regret not going up there again to see another of the Mountain Aire festivals. As far as I can tell, there hasn’t been one since 2010, but I hope that I am wrong and I’ll get another chance some day.
We made pretty good time getting there, but missed a couple of the opening acts including Pete Droge, a Canadian singer/songwriter who I’d seen once before at the Bridge School Benefit, and got to the stage as Wilco was beginning their third song which was “California Stars”, from their upcoming album “Mermaid Avenue” which would be released exactly a month after this show. This was a collaboration between them and the British singer Billy Bragg and was a collection of songs originally written by Woody Guthrie. Woody, nearing the end of his life was suffering from Huntington’s disease and frustrated that he couldn’t perform or record anymore, wrote lyrics to these tunes and more in the hope that someone would record them in the future. After Woody died, his daughter Nora approached Billy and he in turn recruited Wilco to be his band. Although or perhaps because the album was a critical and commercial hit, even getting nominated for a Grammy for Best Contemporary Folk Album, Billy and Wilco were soon butting heads over the royalties and never played together again.
Both Billy and Wilco would go on to play these songs separately, and we got three in a row that night, the aforementioned “California Stars” (arguably the best song on the album), “Hesitating Beauty”, and “Christ For President”. It’s easy to love “California Stars”, real sweet, catchy, and sentimental, and I even learned to play it on guitar myself. It’s pretty easy song to do actually, just three chords. Jeff Tweedy the singer joked that he hoped he got the words right” singing the new, or technically old material. Wilco also dusted off an old song from Uncle Tupelo, Jeff’s old band, called “New Madrid”. He joked between songs asking if any of the hippies in the crowd, “Anybody see Dylan in the 60’s?” I think they had trouble with their piano, Jeff complaining that it was out of tune. Unfortunately, my batteries ran out and I didn’t get the last three songs of their set, including the finale, the cover of Daniel Johnston’s “True Love Will Find You In The End”. This would be the first time for me seeing Wilco, but I’d see them a few more times in the years to come.
Next up was Charlie Hunter, who I had seen plenty of times before, though this was the first I’d see him with the Pound 4 Pound band. He’d moved to New York City and signed to Blue Note a few years back and just released his fourth album on that label called “Return Of The Candyman”. Along side him, he had Willard Dyson on drums as well as Monte Croft on vibraphone, an instrument one rarely sees in any band. It was good to see Charlie playing to such a large crowd and these being hippies, I imagine this was the first time any of them heard him. I suppose it was inevitable that he’d show his face to the hippies eventually, since many of his contemporaries like his former Charlie Hunter Trio bandmates Dave Ellis and Jay Lane had participated in various musical projects of the remaining members of the Grateful Dead. Charlie played incredibly as always, especially for his cover of Bob Marley’s “Them Belly Full” and ending the set with a cover of The Supreme’s “You Keep Me Hanging On”. I always get a kick out of people seeing him for the first time, astounded that he can play both bass and guitar lines simultaneously on his custom 8-string guitar. Though I’m used to see Charlie playing to the wee hours of the night indoors in dark jazz clubs, I thought he fit in well as a middle act in a festival, giving people a minute to relax in the sunshine. He should do more of them.
Third up was Spearhead, who I was already very familiar with having only seen them the month before at the Fillmore and they pretty much played the same set. Now Michael Franti had one of his giant feet firmly planted in the realm of hippies and would remain a favorite of theirs to this day. Before their set, Lisa and I spotted him and his band huddled in a circle in silent prayer. I clumsily pointed it out to Lisa as we walked past, though quickly realized that my voice might have been carrying and felt embarrassed. Thankfully, my thoughtlessness didn’t impact their set, for they were tip top, probably one of the best shows I’d ever see them play and I’d go on to see them plenty more times in the future. It mostly was the same set as their Fillmore show, but Franti and the band did their share of improvising.
Early on, he did a little bit of freestyle, singing, “remember in Oklahoma… You tried to blame it on an arab…”, a reference to the hysteria immediately after the Oklahoma City Bombing in 1995. Then during, “Food For The Masses”, they had a breakdown in the middle of the song where the bass player did a few bars of both “Walk On The Wild Side” by Lou Reed and “Rapper’s Delight” by The Sugar Hill Gang. They also did a little of Bob Marley’s “Get Up Stand Up” and P-Funk’s “Knee Deep” in the middle of “Piece O’ Peace” as I heard them do before. If that wasn’t enough, they did bits of “I Feel Good” by James Brown, “No Diggity” by Blackstreet, and “Simply Beautiful” by Al Green. They covered a lot of ground, that’s for certain.
Trinna Simmons, Franti’s back up, or more accurately co-singer, got a lot of applause and laughs that day. Her voice was incredible, actually reminding me a lot of Karina from the Dance Hall Crashers, lots of power and razor sharp pitch. Between songs, she strolled over to the bass player and asked, “Is there anything more sexy than a bald headed brother playing bass?” Franti countered pointing out his keyboardist, saying “Is there anything more sexy than a woman playing keys?” They would playfully goad each other further on in the set trying to rile up the crowd on their sides, she ribbing Franti, “You’re just mad cus’ my side’s louder” and he countered, “Nah, you’re side’s weak.” He later mocked people on the news declaring that the El Nino was over, saying it was just because it was Sweeps Week on TV, mentioning Seinfeld’s last episode had just aired the other day. Trinna interjected, “Coincidence? I think not” and Franti quipped, “Now, it’s El Green-Yo!”
Then what I hoped would happen, happened at last. Franti started introducing Charlie Hunter, telling the story of how he met Charlie when he was working at Subway Guitars in Berkeley, which incidentally is still in business to this day. There, Charlie had strolled into the store with a basketball under his arm and they hit it off. Franti said, “Yo! If you a ball player and play guitar, you’re alright by me”. They then formed a duo and eventually collected a couple more members to ultimately form the Disposable Heroes Of Hiphopricy. I was fortunate to see them but once opening for Nirvana in 1993 at the Cow Palace and by that time Charlie had already moved on from the band. But the two were nothing but smiles on stage and they did the Heroes song, “Language Of Violence” together. I can’t recall if I ever had the honor of seeing them play together since.
Afterwards, Leftover Salmon played, mistakenly called the plural “The Leftover Salmons” by Franti as he ended his set. This would be the first time I’d see them and was absolutely impressed by the skill and commitment to showing the crowd a fun time. One of them declared after their first song, “It don’t get no better than Mountain Aire! Man, you thought the campground was fun last night?” Not only were they an excellent bluegrass band, but they would weave in and out of all kinds of genres like rock and zydeco. They were from Boulder, Colorado and one of them commented between songs that the campgrounds and cabins around there reminded them of their home. Unfortunately, my tape deck ran out of batteries AGAIN near the end of their set, so I missed a few of their songs as well. I was using a lot of half used AA batteries from work to save money and I never could predict just how much juice they had in them. I have to admit, it’s pretty funny hearing a band like them when the recordings go faster and faster as the motors in the tape deck go slower and slower. Leftover Salmon plays their notes so fast to begin with, it’s like The Chipmunks on speed or crack or something.
I hope that some day in the future when I have time on my hands or somebody else wants to do it, that these sped up songs can be digitally slowed down and corrected. We have the technology. It can be done. I was able to find a good bootleg of Spearhead’s set that day, but was only able to find a bootleg of Salmon’s set on the second day. I still can’t find a setlist from the first day and I imagine they are the kind of band that likes to mix up their sets every night, so I can’t rightly say all what they played. I do know that for a fact that they did “Bend In The River”,“Gold Hill Rail” and “Nothing But Time”, all three songs that weren’t played on the second day. I still liked them and always will. They are one of the few bluegrass bands that play loud enough that people shut up and listen, and if they don’t shut up, I can at least hear them play.
Finally, wrapping up the festival was Ben Harper and his band, The Innocent Criminals. I’d seen him the year before headlining for the first time at The Warfield. He had just released his album, “The Will To Live” only the week before that show, but by this time, he and his band had plenty of time getting the songs down pat and they certainly did. Ben had come into his own and it felt right that he was a headliner for a festival. The guy’s a star. Like the H.O.R.D.E. tour, I appreciated that every act that day got at least an hour to play. Lots of the rock festivals, especially hip hop ones keep the earlier sets frustratingly short. After Ben finished, Lisa and I pitched our tent in the parking lot and I caught a couple songs of Galactic, who played an after hours set in a tent from midnight to 4 AM, though I didn’t tape them. I might as well have stayed for their whole show, since I didn’t sleep well and never do when camping, sadly. I love the great outdoors, I just hate sleeping in it.
No big loss since I kew I’d get my chance soon enough to see Galactic again as they played a show at the Fillmore only two days later with none other than Charlie Hunter & Pound 4 Pound. I think that show would be the last time I’d see Charlie play with that particular band, so I’m grateful I got to see him twice in short succession with them. God knows, I’ve seen Galactic plenty of times since, each time playing long sets, and there is certainly no shortage of their live material available around. One final memory of this show was when Lisa and I pulled over for a moment on our way back home to check out a river bank, probably the Stanislaus River. It was sunny and warm out, so I tried to convince her to strip down to our undies and take a dunk, but she was a little bashful about it. Lisa was wise not to because despite the warm weather, the water was freezing cold and I didn’t last long in it. At least I got a bit of bath, which after a night of camping, I’m sure I needed and it sure as hell woke me right back up. I admit, it is nice to hear Lisa’s voice on these recordings talking and laughing from time to time. That was fun trip.
Bjork, U-Ziq, War., SF, Thur., May 21, 1998
SETLIST : Headphones, Hunter, You’ve Been Flirting Again, Isobel, All Neon Like, Possibly Maybe, Immature, Come To Me, 5 Years, Venus As A Boy, Bachelorette, Hyperballad, Violently Happy, Pluto, (encore), Joga, Play Dead
It had been nearly two years since I’d seen Ms. Gudmundsdottir at the Tibet Freedom Concert in Golden Gate Park. On this day incidentally, Indo Suharto resigned after 31 years in power in Indonesia, speaking of things that were a long time coming. At that Tibet show, you might have read before, I had to cut recording her set short, having to flee from a Security Guard who spotted me taping, so this show was important, having to redeem that loss. It still haunts me to this day, since I had to ditch my friend Tory at the end of that show out of fear that the guard would spot me up near the stage where we agreed to meet at the end of gig. Thankfully, Tory found me at my car where we parked later and accepted my profuse apologies, But back to Bjork. She had released her latest album, “Homogenic” the previous September, a deliberate departure from her more danceable material, and a lot had happened to her in the intervening years, most of which was unfortunate and one particular incident, downright tragic and horrifying. First, the unfortunate. Bjork had a whole tour with the new material lined up the year before when she was stricken with a kidney infection and had to cancel it while she recovered. To make matters worse, she was supposed to go on the road opening for Radiohead, when they pulled the rug out from underneath her, saying that it would be too hard to change the bands equipment between sets. Bjork was touring with an 8-piece Icelandic string section and a drum and bass guy for this one. So, that was strike two. The final piece of bad news took a really, really, REALLY dark turn. Like most beautiful female rock stars, Bjork had her share of admirers, but one fellow named Ricardo Lopez from Hollywood, Florida clearly took it too far.
Lopez was so distraught that Bjork was having a romantic relationship with trip hop star Goldie that he plotted a murder suicide scenario with her. He had sent her a bomb in the mail filled with sulfuric acid, which thankfully was intercepted safely by the Metropolitan Police in London and safely detonated. Originally, he had dreamt up a scheme to put together a bomb that would spring out dozens of hyper dermic needle filled with HIV infected blood, but abandoned that idea when he realized it was logistically impossible. His idea was that in killing her, they would somehow be reunited in heaven. Lopez sat in front of video camera, shaved his head, painted his face red and green, put on Bjork’s song, “I Remember You”, looked into its dark lens, said, “This is for you”, put the business end of a revolver in his mouth, and pulled the trigger. To make this tragedy even worse, Bjork had just ended her relationship with Goldie just a few days before Lopez did the deed. As one might imagine, she was distraught hearing the news about all this and couldn’t sleep for a week. She sent a condolence card and flowers to Lopez’s family and got out of town. Bjork had already had a contentious relationship with the paparazzi, famously beating the shit out of one at the airport in Bangkok in 1996, so it was high time for her to skip out of town and lay low in Spain. There, she wrote and recorded the new album in peace as well as put together a short lived record label called Ear Records, a subsidiary of One Little Indian Records. Once all this unpleasantness was behind her, she was able to hit the road in earnest. There was nowhere for Bjork to go from there but up.
At the Warfield, she brought along a drum and bass artist named Mike Madadinas who called himself U-Ziq, pronounced “music”. He had plenty of other nom de plumes including Jake Slazenger, Kid Spatula, Gary Moscheles, Tusken Raiders, and Rude Ass Tinker. He had released an album called “Lunatic Harness” the previous June and like most DJs, was there up on stage all by his lonesome, leaving the crowd to meander about to his music and was consequently easy to usher. Bjork came on soon enough, dressed in a pretty white dress with angel-like wings under her arms and adorning white make up covering her forehead and extending down the bridge of her nose making her look a little like a fox. I enjoyed the new material and particularly her string players. I’ve said often that to have a single violinist in a band is rare, but to have a string section is a rare bird indeed. She still dusted off a few previous hits, though newly arranged for strings, but conspicuously left out her big hits, “Army Of Me” and “Big Time Sensuality”, from last time around. There has been a bootleg CD of this show circulating around and I might pick it up some day since it is a safe bet it is a better recording. Furthermore, during my recording, the batteries started running out, speeding up the songs in the second half of the show. Thankfully, there is a video on YouTube of her show at the Hammersmith Ballroom in New York City from that tour that took place nine days before the Warfield show and has the same set list.
The new material was still a hit, garnering her gold records, a Grammy nomination for Best Alternative Music Performance, and a Grammy win for Best Short Form Music Video for “Bachelorette”. She got “Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind” director Michael Gondry to do that one. She would go on herself to act in the disturbing Lars Von Trier film, “Dancer In The Dark”, which would get her an Oscar nomination for her song, “I’ve Seen It All”, as well as a Best Actress win at the Cannes Film Festival. At the Oscars, she famously raised eyebrows with her “swan dress”. The experience filming was so emotionally draining for her though, that she vowed never to act again. Sadly, this would be the last time I’d see Bjork live. I was happy to see later that year that Alex Borstein did a hilarious impression of her on “MadTV”, playing in a video dating parody called “Lowered Expectations”. As for her returning to play again live in the bay area, I know she did a show at the obscure Craneway Pavilion in Richmond in 2013, but I didn’t go to that one. Apart from that, I couldn’t really remember any other time she came to perform in the bay area. I was and remain a big fan of her work and usually I’m on the ball hearing about musical acts of note coming to town. I hope and pray that she comes to town again some day soon, especially since I’ve never had poster from any of her shows including this one. After 23 years, it’s been a long, long, loooong time coming.