There's been some coverage here on B of The B about the corporate takeover of station KUSF, in San Francisco. While that battle still rages, WFMU has come up with a brilliant, incredibly generous solution: hosting the "KUSF in Exile" stream. Your favorite KUSF deejays are still on the air, still putting out the freeform mixes you love out there on the West Coast. Tune in here.
Brick & mortar containers for out-music are doing just as poorly in the Bay Area. It's a story that cycles and re-cycles through everyplace that is home to a music "scene" of whatever stripe you care to paint. What's left to say about the latest venue closing? Well, this one's more impactful than the average. 21 Grand, after ten+ years of art and music, closed in January, and local musicians are still wondering what the hell happened. This time it wasn't an evil landlord that done the deed, but an indifferent city council, aided and abetted by buncha nimrods in big rubber boots and slickers. Ironically, while the City of Oakland Fire Department was making it impossible for the gallery to keep its doors open through fire-code upgrade ransoms, the City Arts Council was tossing money at them, to fund programs. Eventually, burnout took its toll. The calculus ceased to add up to a future. But what a history!
In the Bay Area, we've "enjoyed" a long parade of venues that have taken center stage for a year or two then bowed out -- Koncepts Kultural Gallery, Olive Oyl's, Hotel Utah, Beanbenders, Radio Valencia, 1510 Performance Space, The Clit Stop, 26 Mix, etc, etc. Beanbender's is the best-remembered among locals, and lasted quite a few years, although I carry many fond mind-pictures of the insanity that seemed to unfold every week at Olive Oyl's, from Willie Winant destroying his entire drumkit during a ROOM set (w/Chris Brown and Larry Ochs) to Phil Minton's garbled poetics to Jack Wright's unrelenting saxophonics, not to mention the booker's stripper girlfriend/greeter (Va-va-VOOM!) and a busted toilet upstairs that sent the whole room fleeing the dripping stench. At this moment, East Bay musicians are trying out new venues such as the Subterranean Art House and the Totally Intense Fractal Mindgaze Hut (which oughta win some kind of prize for creative venue naming?!). What most of these spaces share is a non-tavern-based business model -- if it can be called a "business" -- where the art and the performers are the priority, not selling drinks or helping facilitate DNA-swapping contests.
One of the best of these non-business-based presenters, for improvisation-based musics, is Tuesdays At Tom's Place. For two years, Tom Duff has been hosting concerts in his Berkeley home located in the quadrangle bound by Ashby, Alcatraz, Telegraph and Shattuck. Since there's no rent to pay, the performers get 100% of the door. Mr. Duff generously provides refreshments, gratis -- and even chairs! It's a nice space, but kind of small, especially when the turnout is as extravagant as it was for the recent 2nd Anniversary show -- 45 instead of the all-seats-filled 30. What unfolded was, first, a trio of electronicists: James Fei, John Bischoff and Tim Perkis; second, John Shiurba's 5x5 group, who played the series-opening concert in May 2009. The usual schedule for Tom's Place is a concert on the first Tuesday of every month, but these being mostly improvisers we're talking about here, that slot gets moved around lots. Less common is three shows in one week, but, shucks, last week was the anniversary. Second night brought the legendary John Oswald (alto sax; no Plunderphonics in evidence) for duos and trios with Wobbly and Greg Goodman. Finishing the week was an as-yet-unnamed trio of Gino Robair, Phillip Greenlief, and Alessandro Cortini (yup, from NiN). They liked it so much, they did it in Sacramento the night after (see In the Flow notes, below).
Looking back on the series, the management of Tom's Place named these nights as memorable: Thollem McDonas, Chris Brown, and John Butcher in a trio, Vorticella (Brenda Hutchinson, Krys Bobrowski, Karen Stackpole, Erin Espeland) with Christian Wolff, EKG (Kyle Bruckmann-Ernst Karel), Magda Mayas + Tony Buck with Christopher Williams, Sarah Cahill performing piano works by Cowell and Riley, Eugene Chadbourne + Bruce Ackley, and the Butcher/Gino Robair/John Shiurba and Jack Wright/Robair/Shiurba trios, that last event opening with Per Anders Nilsson twiddling some analog electronic knobs with scintillating facility and even shinier results.
There's no stage. There's only comfortable room for 30. There are noise restrictions (no "we're a band" bands can play Tom's Place). But, there is a nice piano, there's always a card table set up in the room next to the performing room with a half-done jigsaw puzzle spread out on it, there's Popchips and dips and cheese and baby carrots and Mint Milanos and wine, water and beer, and good cheer.
Out in Sacramento, a literal backwater (the Sacramento River delta begins here and goes all the way to the SF Bay), where jazz has long meant Dixieland on the green, a long-simmering underground jazz+out scene has burst into the open in the form of the In The Flow Festival, which just completed its fourth annual iteration. Sort of an unofficial extension of the LA new-jazz scene, In The Flow has featured SoCal players like Nels Cline, Vinny Golia, G.E. Stinson's Halfmonk, Steuart Leibig and Yuka Honda. Many of the above-named Bay Area artists as well as Portland and Seattle folks have appeared as well, and of course locals from Sacto and Davis. This year a big favorite was the Broun Fellinis, who are celebrating their 20th year. Last year's festival was live-blogged on this site by yours truly.
One final shout-out to a Bay Area tilting-against-windmills (i.e., music presentation scheme) that needs your support: sfSound Radio, which webcasts continually, but the live shows hit at 9pm on Fridays. The creation of sfSound founder/director Matt Ingalls, this focused (mostly on new classical) webcasting arm of the operation is up against your busy Friday night support-a-brick&mortar-music-venue schedule, and it's already moved once. Whether it continues is up to sole proprietor Mr. Ingalls -- and YOU! So far Matt's hosted the above-mentioned Wobbly, Dave Slusser (John Zorn groups, David Lynch movies), a five-day continuous live broadcast of Alvin Lucier's Music On A Long Thin Wire (set up in Tom Duff's backyard), Wade Matthews (from Barcelona), Matthew Goodheart with Gianni Gebbia, and Thomas Dimuzio with Molecules drummer Thomas Scandura. Coming this Friday (5/20) is Luciano Chessa (7pm pacific) trying to sight-read some really hard piano pieces he's never looked at, and then on July 22 (9pm), be sure to catch Christopher Jones' performance of Morton Feldman's classic "Triadic Memories." (All times are Pacific Standard.)