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Beat Street
By Todd S. Inoue

James Armstrong
Living the Blues: James Armstrong, local bluesman, was attacked in his own house this April.

Making Waves:
Waves returns with a flourish of grill smoke

AFTER A FIVE-MONTH DELAY, Waves Smokehouse and Saloon is open for business. Co-owners Joel Wyrick and his wife, Judy Pearson, have moved their Los Gatos reggae nightclub to the historic Fenerin building at the corner of Post Street and Lightston Alley in downtown San Jose. When the club began in 1990, it was doomed to a location that even a bloodhound couldn't find. The upstairs Old Town location and insufficient parking kept positive vibrations confined to California Cafe diners or descendants of the Donner Party. The Fenerin building is far more user-friendly. After all, it used to house a saloon, a Chinese lottery, a brothel and most recently an insurance company.

The main floor houses a beautifully restored bar with saloon-style accouterments and a moderate-size dance floor. Upstairs, a comfy, full-service restaurant with a mouth-watering grill beckons. Wyrick is a big fan of barbecue, and the menu is thick with ribs, chicken, brisket, pork shoulder, jerked chicken and links. The upstairs patio is open for those who want to sip beer and smoke stogies, which many were doing the night I went.

Live music will be restricted to Fridays and Saturdays. "We're too old," says Wyrick about expanding music to the rest of the week. "Clubs come and go; restaurants can become institutions. With clubs, you have to repaint, change the name, keep up with the new styles of music, be up on trends. I want to be around for 30 years. Let's be a restaurant that's known for its food but has reggae bands on Friday and Saturday." (Local reggae crews I-Groove and Dub Nation perform May 16 and 17, respectively).

Good call, Joel. Word is spreading fast, and a new flavor of food/entertainment is jumping off. Last Thursday was Waves' grand opening, and the house was packed. Down the street, Gordon Biersch had a full patio grooving to Chicago jazz-funk mob Liquid Soul. With the European coffeehouse/nightclub Fuel 44 expected to open in July, the area of First and Market streets between Santa Clara and San Fernando may need a new identity. How about "Soul Food Central"?

Nerve Damage

Imagine toiling for years in obscurity, then when your first nationwide tour arrives, a savage and unprovoked attack injures you and your son, forcing you to cancel the shows and instilling fear in your very being. That was the case when Sunnyvale blues recording artist James Armstrong was stabbed in the back, chest and arm. On April 27, an attacker broke into the Armstrongs' home and threw Armstrong's son over the railing of the second-floor stairs, causing a skull fracture. The elder Armstrong suffered nerve damage in his arm; doctors are uncertain if he'll play the guitar again. Armstrong was about to leave on a two-month tour of Texas, the Midwest, New England and New York City. All shows have been postponed indefinitely until Armstrong gets himself back together, mentally and physically.

Friends have set up a recovery fund for the artist to provide occasional child care and transportation. Contributions can be mailed to J.A.R.F., 707 Continental Circle #1522, Mountain View, 94040. Concerned parties can contact family friend Ken Brandt at 415/961-7335 for more information on how to help.

Free for Your Mind

Korea Girl will perform a free show at Streetlight Records in San Jose on Saturday (May 17) at 3pm. ... Listener-supported radio station KKUP (91.5FM) celebrates its 25th anniversary with a party at its broadcast studios at 1241 Franklin Mall, Santa Clara. Featured musicians will be La Ganga Tejana, Root Awakening, Johnny Dilks and the Visitacion Valley Boys, the Amandla Poets and the Back-to-Back Blues Band. The celebration takes place May 25, noon­6pm.

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From the May 15-21, 1997 issue of Metro

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