A one-way ticket to stupid city
So much for Second Saturday. I was out and about last night. Steered clear of the whole 20th Street axis between the Cocktail Weenies Gallery south of Lush to the M/A/R/R/S building, because, from past experience, that’s become nothing more than a nexus of nimrods whose connection to art appreciation is tenuous at best. I walked up 21st past that amplified reggae barbeque gallery and all the people crowded into Pieces, hung a left on Capitol, then up 20th to L, past Jack’s and Capitol Dog, which had some turntablist spinning records on the sidewalk.
Bad omen number one. Now, nothing against turntablists in clubs, but on sidewalks during evening street fairs, they’re mook magnets. The crummy overamplified blues cover bands are bad enough, but when you start letting DJs spin on sidewalks, it’s all over. You’re gonna have an episode of “Jersey Shore Comes to Your Town, U.S.A.,” and if there’s people walking — or staggering — around swigging from go-cups of alcohol, pretty soon you’re gonna have a situation. Which is what we got last night: quite likely, the final corruption of what originally was a nice local event, another civic treasure spoiled by the behavior of some assholes whose violence — and chickenshit use of a firearm — left one person dead and three others hospitalized.
It’s been coming for a while. According to a comment from, I think, local writer/historian William Burg on Facebook, the laissez-faire approach began with former city manager Ray Kerridge. I can remember getting hassled a couple of years ago by cops just for standing on a corner playing music on acoustic guitar on Second Saturday, and things apparently have loosened up considerably since then. For awhile, it was okay to sing and play without amplification, but you’d get written up if you brought an amp, unless you were playing in front of a business that had obtained a permit. Which, of course, made it possible for that blues band that would set up in front of the cigar store on J east of 20th Street, crank its amps and drown out everyone else within a four-block radius with a set of Hendrix as reimagined by drug-saturated chimpanzees, but I digress. But to continue that digression for one more sentence, mention must be made of the Cocktail Weenies Gallery on 20th, which has been lowering musical aesthetic standards for quite some time with its choice of non-topnotch musical entertainments.
Anyway, bad bands are one thing. DJs are another. Having spent the better part of the last year sacking out on a massage table two floors above a club that features DJ music four or five nights a week, I can emphatically state that, aside from the talented funky spins of Larry Rodriguez and Hailey aka “MOM,” most of it is thumpy oontz-oontz mook-magnet aural dogshit, or at least what I’ve heard and felt coming up from under the floorboards has been. And don’t get me started on the caliber of drunken humanity attracted by this big-beat swill. When you pour liberal amounts of alcohol into people who already are deeply stupid, you can’t expect them to turn into well-behaved ladies and gentlemen, can you?
I guess I’m getting crabby in my advancing age, but I’d guess that common sense would indicate that keeping DJs — not to mention overly loud and lousy blues bands — inside clubs where the people who want to hear their musical offerings are willing to pay for that privilege is a good idea. Putting them outside on public display, and letting people know that it’s Mardi Gras right here in the River City, is just asking for trouble. And let us not forget that Mardi Gras has a historical context, as the blowout before the proscribed period of bacchanalian denial known as Lent. To let it devolve into an excuse for everyone to get completely fucked up is, again, just asking for trouble.
And some of you who have known me for awhile may think I’m being a hypocrite here, from my erstwhile history of being a drunken punk-rock idiot, well, yeah, I’m a teetotaler these days, and I’ve been one since the year Pavement released Slanted and Enchanted, with my former Death’s Ugly Head partner in crime Gary Young on the drums. Plenty of times I was at least as hammered in public as Gary, and I was getting arrested for drunk in public numerous times, several of them in front of Mabuhay Gardens by San Francisco’s finest, throughout the late ’70s and 1980s. I’ve got a long history as a rather dim-witted troublemaker, and I’ve drunk myself down to well below George W. Bush’s intellectual capacity on numerous occasions.
That said, I got fucked up and went to the tank. If Second Saturday, in its currently devolved incarnation, had been around when I was at my imbibing peak, it would have been a goddamn Roman holiday for me. But I don’t think I’d have shot at anyone, and I would have confined my slurred resentments to a barstool somewhere. Or, maybe not. Last night, I just made my way through the Mardi Gras wannabes and Jersey Shore extras to Barber’s Alfa Romeo garage on 18th. Missed Grub Dog, caught a sublime set by Mike Blanchard and the Whispering Chingaderos, ran into lots of old friends. But we were like some group of nostalgic exiles from the British Empire, sipping metaphorical gin and tonics under our metaphorical pith helmets as the native insurrection raged around us. It was a safe zone, a few friends remarked. Of that, I’m inclined to agree.
Art is important. And it’s especially important that we create a public forum where people can appreciate art, come face to face with art, maybe meet the artists and have conversations with them in non-intimidating environments. So perhaps we should treat this event with a modicum of respect. I’m not saying that people should go old school to where the men wear suits and ties and the women dress up, but I don’t think that would be a bad idea. Because when we dress up, when a man puts on a nice suit of clothes and a pressed shirt and then knots a tie instead of the kind of slovenly overgrown toddler togs that one sees putatively grown men wearing these days, and a woman aims for a look considerably more high-tone than the latest offerings of Jenni “Jwoww” Farley’s Filthy Couture, or what the Kardashians are wearing at some Maloof-owned Vegas nightclub, well, we tend to be on our better behavior. Clothes make the person. At any rate, it would be a shame if another civic treasure got ruined by a bunch of uncouth dickwhistles. But I fear that’s going to be how this plays out.
Hell, what do I know. I’m just killing time washing clothes. —Jackson Griffith