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Up the Dosage

San Jose Civic Auditorium and Live 105 BFD? WTF?

By Todd Inoue

I AIN'T that old, but my curmudgeonly side spilled over last week. Last week, the Mercury News reported that Bill Graham Presents/Clear Channel will host up to 30-40 shows a year at the San Jose Civic Auditorium. It's a strategic move for CC as they plan for a future that may not include the Warfield, whose building has reportedly been purchased by CC competitor Anschutz Entertainment Group. The Civic has similar size dimensions (around 3,000 people), and it's a logical lateral move for the concert giant. Recent Civic Auditorium bookings include shows by Billy Idol (July 8), the Pixies (May 31), Kelly Clarkson (May 24) and Brad Kava's favorite Mexican rockeros, El Tri on May 14. In a wild coincidence, San Jose blues band Doghouse Riley, which features Kava, opens the show.

San Jose concertgoers should be happy to save an hour driving to San Francisco and avoiding traffic. But come on. Has anyone been to a concert at the Civic? I saw a bunch of shows there—including Erasure, Ka'au Crater Boys, even my first concert, the Tubes, in 1978 (damn, maybe I am old). It was a dingy, loud echo box then, and it still is. The parking and freeway access stink. Midpriced dining options are few, and cheaper eats fewer.

What I don't understand is why BGP would invest in such a depressed building. The article states an interest to fix it up and make it a more palatable concert experience, but who will pay for it? That's a point of contention that could drag on for years, and San Jose will again be stuck seeing artists at a dumpy spot. Why not put shows on at the Edge, a great venue with ample parking that's sitting empty? Or what about more shows at the Event Center, which isn't much better soundwise, but offers more modern conveniences than the rusty old Civic?

Second, what the heck is up with Live 105 BFD this year? The June 8 concert has one of the most boring, unbuzzworthy lineups ever. Live 105 is locked in a battle with iPods, satellite radio and declining listenership (down from 2.7 to 2.3 in San Francisco and down from 2.2 to 1.7 in San Jose in the latest ratings book). It's a crucial time, and the station had to come correct on its big summer blowout, so it saw fit to book Foo Fighters, Social Distortion, Kasabian, the Lovemakers, Sleater-Kinney, Hot Hot Heat, Alkaline Trio, the Bravery, Lyrics Born, Ash, Kaiser Chiefs, Tegan and Sara, Rise Against, MxPx, Dredg, Senses Fail, Every Move a Picture, Jackson United, DJ Z-Trip, Party Ben and Disco Shawn. On the plus side, Z-Trip, Lyrics Born, Sleater-Kinney and Party Ben are solid calls. The majority of the acts conjure a big "who cares?" Last year, the show was great with the Beastie Boys, the Streets, Dizzee Rascal and the Yeah Yeah Yeahs. It had an electricity and anticipation of the unexpected. Not this year—you know exactly what's going to happen. Where are the Coachella bands? What are M.I.A., Mars Volta or Bloc Party doing?

I love what KFOG DJ and former Live 105 jock Big Rick Stuart wrote in his blog (www.bigrick.fm) recently about the station. He sincerely cares for his friends working there but puts Live 105's "we're sorry" marketing campaign on blast: "They gotta stop the negative 'cute' shit. No more apologies, no more 'we've messed up' stuff. Tell people you play great music; that's why they tune in. Then shut up and play it. Not 90 seconds of it, and don't run phone calls and contests all f---ing day long. Play the damn songs on the radio and tell people you play great shit and do all day long. People don't tune in to hear cool insider radio jokes or gags or promotions."

Thanks, Rick. Couldn't have said it better myself.

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From the May 11-17, 2005 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

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