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418 Reborn

"I was afraid I was going to be presiding over the end of the 418 PROJECT," says JIM BROWN, the downtown dance venue's newest executive director. He took over the position in February of this year, at just about the same time that the landlord decided to sell the building. It looked like the end of an era, until longtime dancer RON GOODMAN threw his hat in the ring and pulled off a little miracle.

Says Brown, "Ron was at dance church and heard the building was for sale, and he had this crazy idea that he could put together a group of investors who could buy the building, and really miraculously, it all came together."

Goodman's was the third bid in line, but one by one, as if by magic, the other two bids fell through. Now, for the first time in the Project's history, some of the landlords are also board members with an interest in keeping the venue alive. Brown is in the process of obtaining an entertainment permit that will allow them to have performances every night, rather than just the Wednesday, Friday and Saturday nights allowed by the previous landlord. Brown also says there are a lot of requests to be open as late as 4am, and that the Planning Department tentatively supported the idea "as long as [the idea] was supported by the landlords."

In recent years, the 418 Project has been used as a rental venue in the evenings, often playing host to all-ages punk and hip-hop shows, as well as DJ dance parties. While they still plan to host these types of events, Brown says they'll be getting back to "the roots of dance and more classical performance."

The current programming is filled during the days with dance classes and the community bodyworks sessions, but mornings are wide open. Brown says that some of the board members are looking into developing programs for elderly and developmentally disabled people. They're also looking for a new cafe for the front room, rather than the kind of sit-down style restaurant that has recently occupied the space.

At the recent escrow-closing party, dancers discussed their experiences with the venue in the past and where they hope it might go in the future.

"The most beautiful thing about it," says Brown, "was that a lot of people just spoke of how this was their second home, their dance home, and how much they appreciated it. It was nice to meet the different generations who took responsibility for the space. It's changed a lot over the years."

Mike Connor

Patti Smith: The Short Version

Believe this: I've seen hundreds of concerts in my time, but seeing PATTI SMITH do "Gloria" at the end of her encore at the Catalyst Saturday was possibly the best live music experience I have ever had in my life.

Patti Smith: Bigger, Longer and Uncut

In Sergio Leone's best film, Once Upon a Time in the West, JASON ROBARDS tries to describe CHARLES BRONSON's cryptic character Harmonica to CLAUDIA CARDINALE by saying: "People like that have something inside, something to do with death." Being a useful summation of a quality that people often try and fail to describe, that last bit has become a rather famous line, and not just because JOHN CARPENTER swiped it for Assault on Precinct 13.

Patti Smith has something to do with death. The losses in her life have been tragic, numerous and written about far too often for me to go into again here. But the very fact that these deaths are so intertwined with her songwriting and her career path in such an intense way speaks to something about her. Just the other day, I was listening to her 1975 debut album Horses for the zillionth time and noticed that all but three songs on it mention someone dying.

Over the years, she's proven to have quite a knack for writing songs for and about dead people. Her show Saturday at the Catalyst continued this theme in the weirdest way possible, as she dedicated the old song "Space Monkey" to H.P. LOVECRAFT--complete with Lovecraft visuals--and the newer one "Summer Cannibals" to JULIA CHILD. As you might guess, this put some pretty wacky spins on familiar favorites, especially the latter, but should you expect anything less from Smith than to twist your mind like taffy?

The new song "Radio Baghdad" has got something to do with death on a massive scale, and, live, it rubbed a raw nerve, putting into grim perspective what a year-and-a-half of slick Iraq war news had rendered meaningless.

Luckily, Smith also has something to do with life, as her ripping--and convincing--version of "The People Have the Power" proved.

Steve Palopoli

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From the August 25-September 1, 2004 issue of Metro Santa Cruz.

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