He’s gone. Rest in peace to Jerry Garcia, a key figure on the San Francisco scene for nearly three decades, who passed away 15 years ago today. On April 12th, 1993, he, Bob Weir and Vince Welnick nailed the national anthem at Candlestick Park, before the San Francisco Giants’ season home opener. Then-Giants manager Dusty Baker grins, the crowd goes wild, and I’m proud to be an American…
Posts Tagged ‘San Francisco CA’
To keep the spirit of Record Store Day alive, here are some photos from one of the most interesting record shops in San Francisco. 101 Basement is the sister store to 101 Music, and they’re located right around the corner from each other in North Beach. Interesting deal with this shop: the ground level is packed with musical instruments and tchotchkes, while the very used LPs in the basement are all $5 apiece. The catch: none of the albums are organized in any way, so this is chaotic, dusty crate-digging at its finest. This store is not far from a couple of my former workplaces, and I’ve spent many lunch hours in its dank corners, moving piles of vinyl, searching for treasures and getting hives. Long live the basement…
[Today: A musical endurance test...]
Starship’s Knee Deep In The Hoopla is the Pet Sounds or What’s Going On of lousy albums – it may not top anyone’s list of the worst records ever released, but it has to be in every top ten compiled on the subject. Jefferson Airplane became Jefferson Starship in the early 70’s, and then turned into Starship when founder Paul Kantner left the group in the mid-80’s. Starship played a synth-heavy brand of pop schlock that featured watered-down melodies and clichéd lyrics, and except for Grace Slick (more on her later) it had no relation to the earlier versions of the band.
Lead single ‘We Built This City’ is so bad, so diabolically reminiscent of crappy 80’s FM radio, that it’s almost salmonella-inducing. It’s easily the worst song ever written about San Francisco, but because this is the 80’s we’re talking about, it of course became the first song by any version of this band to go to #1. The self-congratulatory lyrics would be hard to swallow coming from the Airplane, but from Starship this qualifies as almost psychotic self-aggrandizement. Really Starship, you think San Francisco was built on your weak synthesizer hooks and Grace Slick’s tuneless shriek? Rarely does music anger me to the point of violence, but… well, just watch yourself around me for the rest of the day.
Predictably, Knee Deep… is a wall-to-wall mess that qualifies as a musical endurance test at only 41 minutes running time. The album’s other #1 hit (of course) is the treacly ballad ‘Sara’ – a song who’s mere mention has undoubtedly lost me dozens of readers permanently. I wish I could say that tracks like ‘Hearts Of The World (Will Understand)’ and ‘Love Rusts’ are hidden gems that help balance out this album. But I can’t say that. Starship is knee-deep in something here, but what they’re calling hoopla sounds and smells a lot like horsie poop to me.
Listen: We Built This City
Last Thursday night The P and I attended a pair of events in San Francisco that were themed around rock poster art. The first event was held at the advertising agency OgilvyWest and featured the modern poster art of the Firehouse Kustom Rockart Co., which is located right here in Oakland, CA. Many thanks to Fred over at Unnecessary Umlaut for swinging us an invite to this very exclusive event…
Firehouse Kustom Rockart Co.’s posters jump off the page and have a very distinct look, in part because they use multiple layers of metallic paint. Here are some examples of what they were showing off at OgilvyWest…
[New York Dolls]
[Lee 'Scratch' Perry detail from the collage in the lobby of OgilvyWest...]
Our second event of evening was a benefit/award show at the Old Mint in downtown SF. This historic building had fallen into disrepair and reportedly become home to thousands of rats, but it’s being renovated for use as a museum of the city of San Francisco. Thursday night’s event was a sneak preview of the space and served as the introduction of seven Bay Area musical acts into the museum (for the record: Boz Scaggs, Booker T, Huey Lewis & The News, Grateful Dead, Tower Of Power, Carlos Santana, and Jefferson Starship). This formal event was sponsored by Wolfgang’s Vault, so we knew we were in for some psychedelic eye candy. I was hooked by the invite alone:
Here’s what the program looked like:
The walls of the Mint were covered in oversized reprints of vintage Fillmore
and Family Dog posters, as well as pictures of movers and shakers from the SF music scene like Chet Helms, Bill Graham, and John Cipollina. There were also some rock artifacts on display, like a swinging door from Winterland. Cool stuff…
[Much to look at...]
[Pretty crowded though...]
[Door from Winterland...]
[Ever get the feeling you've been cheated?]
[The vaults downstairs were dedicated to the poster art and sounds of the musicians being honored. The vaults also featured the grapey product of different Bay Area wineries. P was pleased...]
[Some of the vaults were dark and winding. A bit spooky...]
[Jerry Garcia keeps watch over a bartender...]
reproduction of a vintage Fillmore ticket served as our ticket into the award show/concert, which was being held across the alley in The Mezzanine...]
[We stayed and listened to Ben Fong-Torres give the keynote on the SF Music Scene of the 60's, but when the evening started dragging into a bogus award show ceremony with speeches, we hit the exit. All in all, a great evening full of colorful sights and sounds...]
The Black Crowes hit The Fillmore this week for a run of four shows that close out their current 90-city tour. The band is on the road in support of their recent release Warpaint – their first album in seven years and their best since 1994’s Amorica. Brothers Chris (lead vocals) and Rich Robinson (guitar) have a notoriously rocky personal relationship, but they were in perfect sync from the opening tune on Monday night. This iteration of the group features Luther Dickinson (
late of the North Mississippi All-Stars, and son of legend James Luther Dickinson) on co-lead and slide guitar, and it’s a band that’s obviously been sharpened by the rigors of a long tour.
I’ve been going to The Fillmore since shortly after it re-opened (after seismic retrofitting) in 1994, and every so often it’s possible to catch a glimpse of what the scene must have been like back in the day. Monday was one of those nights. If The Crowes’ pre-show burning of sage wasn’t enough, their boogie stomp rock – reminiscent of vintage Stones and Faces – did the trick and turned The Fillmore into the world’s loudest time machine. “Everyone with long hair gets to go on the spaceship first,” said Chris Robinson by way of introducing a tune midway through the evening, and with his Jesus beard and mane, there’s little doubt that Robinson himself stands near the front of that particular line.
The band played a set list short on well-known material, but they kept up a consistent groove that moved the crowd for two full hours. Highlights included a sweltering, swaggering version of Taj Mahal’s ‘Chevrolet’ and a pair of songs – ‘Goodbye Daughters Of The Revolution’ and ‘Locust Street’ – from Warpaint. They encored with ‘She Talks To Angels’ and a raucous version of The Band’s ‘The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down’. The latter was personally redemptive for me, as I had been permanently scarred in 1995 by watching the Jerry Garcia Band perform a ragged, never-ending version of the song that drove me to the brink of madness.
Cleveland can have its Hall of Fame – the real rock cathedral is at the corner of Fillmore and Geary streets in San Francisco. With its velvet curtains, crystal chandeliers suspended above a parquet ballroom floor, and upstairs bars stuffed with posters from past rock glories, The Fillmore is a remarkable building to visit anytime. Having The Black Crowes in the house just made the whole experience that much sweeter…
Grooves Vinyl Attractions is an old-fashioned record store where cds need not apply, and LPs, cassettes and 8-tracks are all the rage. This colorful shop sits at 1797 Market St, at the foot of both the Castro and the lower Haight. Even from the outside it’s easy to tell that this is a great store, and all those brightly colored LPs beckon the helpless record-buyer like so many bugs to the zapper. There aren’t many record stores left in the city, but this is the best one that’s not called Amoeba (which is a mythical beast beyond comparison anyway).
Grooves is a medium-sized shop stuffed with the inventory of a much larger store. Vintage poster art and collectible records line the walls (the current display is devoted to political and presidential records). There’s always good cheer in the air here, with excellent music on the sound system and employees involved in smart, mild-mannered discussions about musical minutia.
If there’s one (oh so minor) drawback to this store, it’s that the overflowing stock can be somewhat intimidating. Fortunately, the staff is helpful to a fault, and not above answering even the most elementary questions.
When I was in last week, Kelly (who functions as something of an assistant manager) was helping a hapless customer who was obviously new to “Rock & Roll”. It was pretty awe-inspiring to watch a seasoned record store employee patiently introduce another adult to both AC/DC (for the record, High Voltage, along with a stirring explanation of the importance of Bon Scott) and The Kinks (Greatest Hits) without flinching or descending into sarcasm. Meanwhile, Ray (the owner) was running around like a chicken with his head cut off – filing albums, changing the store music, cracking wise, and generally keeping the atmosphere light.
If The Muppets had run a record store, I’ll bet it would have felt a lot like Grooves.
Here’s what I picked up:
The Rolling Stones * Jumpin’ Jack Flash (45rpm)
Lightnin Hopkins * Lightnin’! (2-LP)
Howlin’ Wolf/Muddy Waters/Bo Diddley * The Super Super Blues Band (Checker LP)
Robert Nighthawk * Bricks In My Pillow (LP)
Pete Seeger * Clearwater Classics (2-LP)
Thad Jones & Mel Lewis * Live At The Village Vanguard (8-track)
New York Rock Ensemble * Freedomburger (8-track)
Chuck Berry * Back Home (8-track)
Count Basie * Afrique (8-track)
This little record store is tucked away amongst the bars and coffee shops of North Beach in San Francisco. Nearly every square inch of 101 Music (1414 Grant Ave) is packed with LPs, 45s, CDs, cassettes(!), posters, instruments, doo-dads and gimcracks. In terms of ambience, this is your prototypical record store from Central Casting – the kind of place where record geeks like myself enjoy hanging out and just breathing in the rarified atmosphere.
101 Music has an above average selection of bootleg LPs (along the righthand side as you enter) and the owner keeps a pretty good stash of additional bootlegs behind the register (or at least he has when I’ve been in), so be sure to ask if you’re into that sort of thing.
On the downside, this store is generally overpriced, with most LPs falling in the $10-$20 range, including a lot of stuff you could pick up at Amoeba or Rasputin for $2.95. That said, there are relative bargains to be found in their blues, folk, and reggae sections, and those bootlegs ($25-$100) are by no means overpriced.
PT Barnum would call me a sucker, but I drop twenty bucks every time I set foot in this place. I like bargains as much as the next guy, but I also like having places like this to visit, and 101 Music is one of the very last record stores in downtown SF – believe it or not.
[If you're in the neighborhood, be sure to visit their sister store/annex, 101 Basement - around the corner on Green St...]
[Editor's note: the 'Masterpiece' series is a 200 words-or-so look at some of the albums that have changed the way I hear music. This week: The Stooges' blistering Fun House]
Greta was the transvestite cashier at Bay Area Records & Tapes and s/he kept a pretty tight ship. One day my buddy Furr and I were in there browsing, and we overheard one of the funniest conversations in the history of human interaction – between Greta and a man who was the spitting image of the ‘Skipper’ from Gilligan’s Island:
Skipper: I’ll sell you this tape for five dollars and you can resell it for twice that. That’s good business.
Greta: Sorry, no.
Skipper: Listen honey, you don’t understand. If you sell this for ten dollars you’ll double your money. THAT’S GOOD BUSINESS!
And on and on they went. Furr and I continued to pretend to browse, but our attention was fully on the comedy at the front counter. Meanwhile, a disc in the RECOMMENDED section caught my eye – Fun House by the Stooges. I’d read about it just the week before, and was intrigued by its description and the swirling motion of the cover art. I decided to pull the trigger, little knowing that making the decision while a transvestite debated a freak over five bucks in the heart of Polk Gulch was probably the most perfect way to buy that particular album. I know Iggy would be proud.