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GWAR is Hell A determined fan crashed through the Cactus Club's skylight when GWAR played.

Urban Resign

By Dan Pulcrano

AS A NEIGHBOR, the Cactus Club was a heck of an improvement over its predecessor, the Bachelor Club, whose pudgy dancers swayed apathetically near a rock chimney in frayed brassieres as disheveled patrons nursed near beer and inserted crumpled bills in the elastic bands of their grandma-style panties. While it would be exaggerating to call it urban design, the sight of Big Mike Trippett on a ladder detailing the charcoal facade in orange and green was certainly a welcome sight on South First Street, across from Metro's old offices. In those days, the street was perpetually torn up for a series of utility upgrades and redevelopment-inspired streetscape schemes. We exploited that chaotic state of affairs to lay an unsanctioned length of phone and data cable across the street to our production facility, which shared a wall with Cactus. Our weekly Tuesday evening deadline routine was anything but when Quiet Riot kicked into its sound check.

Beat Farmers legend Country Dick Montana, may he rest in peace, once stumbled into our office drinking four open long-necked beers, each neatly wedged between his fingers. He pulled the same trick with bottles of well liquor later that night while lying on the Cactus Club's bar, reaching over his head to grab random bottles and pouring the contents simultaneously into his large hairy mouth.

Other fond memories include the night that a headbanger was evicted from a show by GWAR, a band distinguished for spurting fake blood on the audience. A few minutes later, the rebellious rock fan, determined to re-enter the club, came crashing through the skylight above the audience and landed on the concrete floor. Marinating in a puddle of theatrical blood, it was hard to tell if the guy was injured or not, a question that was answered when the now twice-evicted metalhead jumped off the stretcher as the paramedics were about to slide him into the ambulance. Talk about commitment.

Not every Cactus moment was overamplified and soaked in booze and bodily fluids. Graham Parker's solo acoustic show stands out as one of the finest performances I've seen anywhere. And no doubt others I would have enjoyed as much were shows I missed. Who knew that some unheard-of name on the marquee would be playing stadiums and going platinum a year or two later?

The Cactus Club delivered what a rock & roll club should and served it up well. It made San Jose a music destination and had a long run. But San Jose changed and Cactus didn't. Toward the end, the carpet stank, the urinals had been ripped from the walls and a seemingly permanent installation of young hooded humans with blankets and canines parked out front. It was no longer a venue that welcomed a diverse audience of music lovers. The market rate option to renew the lease came up at the worst possible time, during the peak of the overheated economy in 1999. Its founders, who have retired to wine country and gold country, no longer wanted to fight the cops and the ABC and sweat out late nights behind the mixing board. So the show's over. It's time to go home.

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

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