Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Breaking Routine, Late Night Excursions at the Boiler Room

I work as a cook for a non-profit that requires me at work, ready to rock at 6:00 AM, so needless to say, I rarely get to attend weekday opportunity's Sunday, after an abundant Memorial Weekend barbecue , Franko and I showed up at the infamous Boiler Room, a small bar on the busy side of Broadway, Eureka. (You can't miss it, the only building that looks like a 57 Chevy painted with side flames) As I made my way past the neon signs, bar perchers and pool tables, I could see my old pal Lester belting out his own style of outlaw rock. Next to him strumming away, is the host Kingbee, with JP on Bass, Dave on drums, Rockin Rick on Harmonicas and Joe on keyboards. I wanted to get a feel for what kind of crowd was there, so I hung back in the shadows for a spell. Being a regular there, Franko makes himself at home. He walks in, sets up his amp, tunes his guitar and joins in with the boys. Its just that friendly! Really! Now, that doesn't mean any anyone can walk up and start jamming; there is a certain code of honor when attending these Open Mikes. Generally, one either asks to join in or waits to be invited. Kingbee is very good about giving stage time to others, yet, not afraid to give gentle reminders to any over-enthusiastic players. ( I believe the term is Ball Hogs)

Everyone that wants to play, gets to play. After some liquid courage a smoke, I strolled in and set my bass up in the corner. When the time was right, Kingbee approached me and gave me an idea where I stood in the lineup of players. Frank and I started out with a little number byParliment "I Just Want to Tell You", then we went through some rock standards and I even got a chance to premier my own composition, "Endless Maze". The boys joined us on stage while we rocked to some Rolling Stones, Violent Femmes, Ted Nugent and even Iggy Pop! Of course, one of the other players heckled us when we took too long to start, muttering "Blah, Blah, Blah" as he passed by the stage. I quickly shot out,"Heres a song I wrote , and I'd like to dedicate it to that guy. It's called Blah, Blah, Blah!" Turns out he was one of the two guys playing Metal Instrumental with only guitar and drums, with a surprising full sound. It wasn't too bad, but the ego of the guitarist was almost as big as his hair, while making what must have been intended as sexy moves. (I thought his guitar strap was bunching up on him, but, I could be wrong. ) He was pretty entertaining for mindless virtuosity. I think he was trying real hard to impress these two young ladies enjoying cocktails at a table up front, one of which got up and played a few numbers on the drums. She was pretty decent for such a waif, and you got to give her credit for stepping up to the stage with all that testosterone amidst.

The stage is small , but accommodating, the drinks okay, audience so-so. However, on the positive, Kingbee provides a mike and PA , Bass Amp, and usually a decent drummer or two in the house. The show starts at 9:00 PM, but get there earlier and sign up if you want to be in the early line up.

As we left the party, Kingbee was whisked away by a group of young ladies who had just missed the last song. I could see that this upset them, so Kingbee quickly apologized and became absorbed in conversation with these lovelies. I'm sure that at 1:30 AM, he will be the only band available for after hours fun. Keep on Rocking Kingbee!

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Not Your Average Dreary Documentary

SHINE A LIGHT provides a welcome glimpse into the Stones' world at this advanced stage in their career, and continues Scorsese's obsession (see also: NO DIRECTION HOME and THE LAST WALTZ) with documenting some of the most influential characters in rock & roll.

The music of the Rolling Stones has lit up the soundtrack to so many Martin Scorsese films ("Gimme Shelter" has appeared in no less than three of his features--GOODFELLAS, CASINO, and THE DEPARTED) that it's little surprise to find the director teaming up with the legendary rockers for this concert recording.

SHINE A LIGHT begins with a few glimpses of the preparation that went into the recording of the show, which was staged over two nights in 2006 at New York's Beacon Theater Broadway ( opened in 1928) Scorsese makes the ritualized concert play like an opera, beginning with 10 minutes of behind-the-scenes madness preparatory to filming the concert that works as a comic introduction of the characters (including Scorsese, doing his best Woody Allen). Guitarist Keith Richards is like the character actor who slowly, inevitably takes over the movie from the supposed star without ever leaving the sidelines. In fact, there is a point where he simply crouches down at the front of the stage like a gargoyle and the camera lingers as if to say, “You okay, mate?”

Scorsese opens the movie by suggesting the tensions that can flare up when great minds -- his and Jagger's, that is -- collide. We hear Jagger, a disembodied voice on the phone, expressing his concerns about the problems of filming a live performance, as Scorsese, either vaguely annoyed or feigning annoyance for the camera, responds by raising his caterpillar eyebrows. Scorsese wants lots of cameras and needs lots of lights; Jagger doesn't want anything to detract from the performance. Scorsese also has a discussion with his lighting director about the amount of heat from the halogen studio lights towering behind the audience in the balcony and roof. “I don’t want these lights burning Mick Jagger!” he screams at the poor shmuck. Of course, later, in the middle of the show, Jagger turns his back to the lights and shields his eyes as he orates his displeasure to the nearest camera in his face . " Scorsese doesn't budge. In fact, eighteen cameras — manned by the Oscar-winning likes of Robert Richardson, John Toll and Robert Elswit — seemingly gliding effortlessly about the stage like birds in flight.

Scorsese is anxious to see the set list so he can plan ahead; Jagger assures him it will be ready -- an hour or so before the band goes onstage. Will they be able to pull their "Hey, kids, let's put on a show!" act together in time? A benefit for the Clinton Foundation, Bill and Hillary Clinton were in attendance, along with Hillary's mom, and before the show the band comes out for a meet-and-greet. It's a kissy-face moment, except for the way Wood greets Hillary's mother. He’s just a nice guy, you can tell.

Almost voyeuristic, the cameras capture the most intimate spaces, like Jagger going into heat with a backup singer in "She Was Hot," Keith Richards crying out in his husky pirate voice "You Got the Silver," Ron Wood mastering the guitar like a wizard and cool Charlie Watts bringing the audience to their knees with his still steady beat. With each zoom, the player in focus’s instrument, be it guitar, drums or vocals, comes to life with the clever sound engineering. If it wasn’t so clean, I would think it was taken directly off the camera microphones, and not off a mixing board. The close-ups were so extreme, I think I saw the map to Greenwich Village on Mick’s face. And Keith, well, I stopped counting his crows feet ten years ago. Do you think Anne Rice is a big Stones fan?

Jagger, in performance here, is pretty wooden: His rendering of "As Tears Go By" is clipped, exact, cautious, the words turned into a Hooked on Phonics session.
Jack White looked like a kid at the Wonka Factory singing along side with Mick on "Loving Cup," and Christina Aguilera once again goes over the top, out vamping even King Mick on "Live With Me." The best part is blues legend Buddy Guy on "Champagne & Reefer - who was in the recording studio when the Stones visited Chicago's Chess Records during their first U.S. tour in 1964 - fits a little better with the music and holds down one of the longest shots in the film by simply staring into the camera.

Short pieces of vintage interview clips are salted in throughout - young Mick Jagger saying he thought the band might be able to last at least another year , yet, without batting an eyelash, assures the interviewer that he‘ll be doing this well into his Sixties- little comic interludes that lend some context to the performance, brief asides between songs that never threaten to turn the proceedings into some dreary rockumentary.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Has Beans is Has Been?

The little cafe my friends and I used to frequent has been having some troubles lately. It appears that the owner is terribly confused.

You see, he made an arrangement with the Bohipnix to play every Friday night for trade and $10.00. Now, that is almost playing for free. So, the band agrees to play at 6 p.m. to accommodate the local folkies (who plague the corner with their crappy renditions of other peoples songs) so they can get a little stage time before we came on. This all went well the first three weeks.

However, the little by little the times were altered to suite either the Neanderthal baristas, or the scummy toothless panhandlers who never spend a dime on coffee or pastries, unlike the members of Bohipnix. On top of that, the owner never made any attempt to advertise the recurring event, made no posters, called no TV or radio stations, even didn't bother to post the posters we designed in suitable places to view.

Aside from the obvious, the last time we played there, they closed early and wouldn't pay some of the band members. I went to talk with the establishment a couple days later to work out some kind of compromise to allow the street folks to play a little earlier so we may go on at Four as the new request from the owner. Goon boy informs me that he was told that was our last night because the business was too slow and the band was too loud with our big amplifiers; these were the size of a lunchbox! Are you kidding?

I flipped. The owner never expressed these views to the band, but, as usual, he was out of town this week and couldn't do his own dirty work. This, plus the rude behavior of the employees, shutting down whenever it suites them, making weak coffee, and selling three day old pastries, has driven myself and my friends away from even patronizing this little business.The time has come for a boycott of this establishment. It is obvious they don't care about the public, as they were turned away last Friday when they thought a band was playing there. "I saw it in the Journal. I wonder why they aren't open?" (Of course the band had to get the listing placed in the Journal since Has Beans management didn't bother.) Well, the reason is the owner and his goons are too busy sitting at home listening to music like Jack Johnson and Dave Mathews.

What ever happened to a honorable agreements, where a man's word is solid? I now see that this was how the good employees were treated also, which is why they no longer work there. They had a wonderful manager and a great baker, but the owner cowed to the pushy indigents that plague the streets of Eureka with there sooty appearances and their constant panhandling. Whoopee! So you can play a Bob Seger song.

I am so thoroughly disgusted with them, I will join the moratorium with "The Sunny Side" (who were disrespectfully referred to as "The Wild Bunch" by the new manager, presumably for playing cribbage without a license) and boycott the Has Beans Cafe. I hear even the Fair Chance folks now meet at Ramone's (on Tuesdays at 5) after Has Beans started playing games with their closing time and confusing the customers.
Sorry guys, but Ramone's Bakery (which started in Old Town Eureka in 1981, unlike Has Beans from Chico), not to mention Old Town Coffee and Chocolates, are a little more user friendly.