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This Bud's For You: When Rage Against the Machine played the Cactus Club in December of 1992, they got tossed out for breaking a beer sign.

More Than the Music, 1993-1998

By Todd Inoue
Metro Music Editor

AH, THE PRACTICE CLUB. When I first heard it was closing, I thought, it's about time and good riddance. I secretly hated that smelly, sour dump filled with tons of derivative bands that would go nowhere. During my time writing the local music column Beat Street (1993-1998), I knew more bands who swore they'd never play Cactus Club due to bad sound (louder is not always better), poor treatment or getting ripped off. Bands just chalked it up to paying dues and vowed never to play there again. Then a month later, like clockwork, they'd be on the flyer and up onstage. Why? The Cactus was the only game in town.

Now that the witching hour has come, my stance has softened, and you know what? I'm going to miss that piss-poor dump. I saw a lot of great shows there. It was a joy to watch Kim Deal lose herself when the Breeders played there in 1997. I remember when Beck played a show months before Odelay blew up. A double bill of Pansy Division and the Diesel Queens (playing in full Misfits locks) is burned indelibly in my mind. The Odd Numbers' set during SoFA Street Fair 1995 was the most chaotic 20 minutes I'd ever spent in any club. Ever.

The Beat Farmers were always good for a drunken fun time. A soused Country Dick would gather the crowd in a campfire circle in the middle of the floor and sing "Are You Drinking with Me Jesus?" Dick would get carried to the bar for Jager shots, and invite the crowd onstage for the kazoo solo during "Happy Boy." I miss that old lug.

Cactus was one of the few venues that would allow underground hip-hop shows, too. Mystik Journeymen played its first South Bay dates here around the 4001 EP era and killed it with "Depths of Survival." I can still remember the "oohs" when someone wanted to battle Freestyle Fellowship's Aceyalone--he accepted and proceeded to rip the dude a new one.

Rage Against the Machine had sticks far up their asses. They objected to the rampant "commercialism" of the club's neon beer signs and broke one. For their troubles, they got their set cut short and all their gear getting dumped on the sidewalk. When Salmon signed to Red Ant, some label scum bags came to the club, talking about how big they're going to be. One guy, in regulation suit, tie and double chin, crowed how handsome bassist Tom Walker was, calling him Troy Donahue. Tom hid from me the rest of the night, probably cowering in embarrassment.

Some of my other favorite memories were nonmusical. Vince was always a cool doorman, still is. I would hang in the back and bullshit with Brian, the bartender, who became an expert at heckling bands ("Play the one that doesn't suck" was a favorite) and Hong Kong flicks. Other times I'd keep Wedge company in the sound booth during another terminally long night of crappy bands. He'd shake his head, roll his eyes, punch up the monitors and take a drag off a smoke. He'd tell me about this band he was helping road manage--the Deftones--wishing he was out on tour with them right then. I saw Deftones there a bunch of times. I was amazed how much energy they'd expend and how tortured and affected Chino sounded and the way his pants never fell all the way off. I watched Gary Avila's latest discovery, Papa Roach. I thought they sucked--I was just so over the rap-rock shit by then--and told him so. At the time, Coby couldn't hold a note in a bucket but I was amazed how transfixed the crowd was.

At times, the impression that Cactus Club gave to out-of-town bands was abominable. I recall Stikmon challenging the drummer of Track Star to a fight over some missing microphones. The drummer wisely declined and got out with no money or microphones but with all his teeth. I was pissed that the club would treat bands this way and how it reflected on the San Jose scene in general.

I went over to the Track Star fellas and apologized on their behalf. They said thanks, but no thanks, they'd never play here again. I was so mad that I swore I'd never patronize Cactus ever again.

But of course, within two weeks, I was back.

Cactus Club is dead. Long live the Cactus Club.


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From the June 20-26, 2002 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

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