The Random Griffith

A one-way ticket to stupid city

Posted in laundromat posts by Jackson Griffith on 13/09/2010

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

10 Responses

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  1. Josh Fernandez said, on 13/09/2010 at 06:50

    “when you start letting DJs spin on sidewalks, it’s all over.”

    C’mon, Jackson. You might have to dig a little deeper than blaming violent crimes on DJs mixing on the sidewalk.

    • Jackson Griffith said, on 13/09/2010 at 07:24

      On second thought, fuggit. Chalk my disgruntlement up to the fact that I haven’t gotten laid in a while, or maybe it’s that I barely slept last night because of all the goddamn noise on the street, and I’m just goddamn crabby. As a causal agent, only the idiots who opted for violence and the guy who pulled the trigger are to blame. I’m just bummed out that something that was pretty darn swell not too long ago is going to get shut down because things got out of hand, which seems to be the way things work in this burg: Something happens, and then the building inspector and code enforcement types come out with their ticket books and shut everything down. I’ll be getting decent sleep soon, and then we’ll see if I’m still all crabby.

  2. Jackson Griffith said, on 13/09/2010 at 07:05

    I’m not blaming violent crime on DJs. But I do think that DJs belong in clubs, which have hired muscle making sure that people don’t get out of hand. When you strip the club context, and put DJs spinning on the streets, and then you add alcohol and who knows what else to the mix, then you’re setting up aesthetic signifiers that attract a few people who probably need hired muscle to keep them from visiting their emotional immaturity on other people cia violent behaviors. And I’m not trying to be deliberately culturist here: If you set up a flatbed truck and hire a Skynyrd cover band, eventually you’re going to attract drunken yahoos. Bring the DJs, and, unfortunately, the gangsta types show up.

    Feel free to argue with me; this is just my opinion. Certain types of music don’t work well in a free, unregulated public context, because of the type of audiences they attract.

  3. Josh Fernandez said, on 13/09/2010 at 07:21

    I can’t really argue, but the only flaw is you’ve got to be more specific.

    For instance, my friends set up a gigantic DJ battle outside of Havoc boutique. Yes, it was hip-hop. Yes, it could be construed as oontz-oontz-ey, but it was also this incredibly fun, cultural experience where people were displaying a set of skills that had nothing to do with drinking, machismo, thuggery, etc.

    I know it’s unbelievable to rock ‘n’ roll purists, but there’s a rich DJ culture that’s really fascinating and pretty complex. For people to disregard it is frustrating and kind of disappointing. You know?

    • Jackson Griffith said, on 13/09/2010 at 07:29

      Yeah, I know that, Josh. There is a rich DJ culture. I’m not averse to DJs, except that I think they work better in clubs. The unfortunate thing is that I don’t think, given the current cultural milieu, that they work in a public, street-fair context. Neither do other forms of music, like loud blues bands or Skynyrd-style cover bands. If a band or DJ in a free public context attracts audiences of really fucked-up people, to where they’re causing problems for others who just want a pleasant night out, then it isn’t working.

  4. Josh Fernandez said, on 13/09/2010 at 07:47

    True indeed. I agree.

  5. Junk said, on 13/09/2010 at 09:45

    Love this comment thread almost as much as the blog post itself. Jackson, you’ve a brilliant mind and a way with words I’ve not seen before. And I have read A LOT. Thanks.

  6. Dane Henas said, on 13/09/2010 at 11:26

    It shouldn’t be inevitable that the code enforcement types come out and shut things down. The problem is there a lot of really stupid people in the world and Sacramento seems to have has more than most towns. You couple that with not-a-whole-lot-of-things-to-do here and the stupid people soon outnumber the people who want to just dig the art and music, and then “bang” or no bang they fuck things up. Thursday Night Market, and now Second Saturdays. both used to be really cool at the beginning until the stupid people found out about them. It will happen again and again and I only see things getting worse with the economy and the influx of more and more people into midtown.

    Speaking of music, in Sacramento we went from no places to hear good music in the 70’s (Oasis and Shire Road hippie days) to a healthy local live music scene in the 80’s and 90’s (Club Can’t Tell–never went there myself for personal reasons–Old I and the Cattle Club) to too many places playing dance crap in about a 30 year time span. Is it over?

    • Jackson Griffith said, on 13/09/2010 at 12:36

      No, Dane. It’s never over. I think that some promoters are burned out on the scene a bit, and right now clubs can make more money spinning records than they can booking bands, because throngs of young people are more into that club-DJ culture than they are into live music. Factor in the collapse of the music business (whose shark-jumping point I mark at Tuesday, August 22, 2006, when Warner Bros. Records released ‘Paris,’ the debut album by Paris Hilton, after which the careerist side of the music world went “fuck it, I think I’ll try something more stable and lucrative, like performance art,” leaving a vacuum that hasn’t quite been filled since), the decreasing influence of radio, the more viral nature of promoting music on the indie-label side, and a few other intangibles, and I’m guessing were just in a period of transition. I do know that when a show is framed as a special event, like next Friday’s mix of ballet and music at the Crest (with DoomBird, Sister Crayon, Exquisite Corpse and Drifting Shapes), the chances for success seem enhanced. But who knows, really?


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