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Hoo-Do A hot live show ticket for Nov. 9 is the Hoobastank show at the Icon Nightclub in Palo Alto

Changing Their Tune

DJs dominate the local SOFA scene, but there's no reason to panic

By Sarah Quelland and Todd Inoue

This winter, going out in the South First Street area will be a far different experience than it's ever been. The area, born in alternative rock and goth cultures, has recently morphed into a mostly hip-hop and R&B-dipped landscape. More and more, clubs are relying on DJ-powered entertainment, revealing a changing demographic that's asking for less original live music and more songs it already knows. The sexy people dancing in the four major SOFA clubs--Agenda Lounge, spy, Polly Esther's and B-Hive--are moving to vinyl sources. Two of the clubs, Agenda and Spy, still do live shows, just less of them.

"People complain that there's no live music venues, but people don't support live music," says Agenda co-owner Jacek Rosicki. "If it's hot, everyone wants to do it. If a cuisine is hot, you've got a bunch of restaurants opening up and people patronize it. That's why it's hot. Right now, hip-hop and R&B are the hot sounds."

For a club, it makes economic sense to book DJs rather than a band. In this tough economy with less people going out, a club can survive by paying one DJ playing hits rather than a whole band doing their songs.

"DJs are cheaper, there's no expense," Rosicki adds. "A DJ gets paid 100-200 bucks. Bands cost money and people can't put in a request for music, unless they're a cover band."

The trend toward vinyl hasn't affected other clubs outside of the area. San Jose untouchables like JJ's Blues, Espresso Garden, the King's Head, the Hedley Club, Spiedo and those cover-band bars all are drawing the same crowds they used to.

That doesn't mean that valley rockers seeking original music have no clubs to go to this winter. There's still plenty of live, plugged-in music. Currently, alternative rock band Hoobastank is the hot ticket of the winter schedule. The Nov. 9 date at the Icon Nightclub has already sold out. The Icon has a few other hotties lined up with reggae favorite Eek-a-Mouse on Oct. 26; Swarm, security and Los Bastardos de Amor on Nov. 2; Pat Travers on Nov. 14; locals Divided on Nov. 15 and Krenshaw on Nov. 22.

On another level, smaller clubs Plant 51 and Kleidon's Lounge have been picking up the live music slack since Cactus closed. Plant 51 booker Scott Long is leaving the South Bay for a gig at New York's Knitting Factory but he has a number of good shows lined up. He picked up the pioneering punk band D.R.I. on Oct. 27. The Odd Numbers, Ledbender and the Feathers play the Scary Records CD-release on Nov. 1. Other highlights include Sloe and Butcher Holler (featuring ex-members of Crack) on Oct. 26; Forcing Bloom and Element of Surprise on Nov 8; a free show with Echoes on Nov 14; a repeat performance by AC/DC tribute outfit Long Gon Bon on Nov 15; and a psychobilly night with Hayride to Hell, the Graveyard Farmers and the Hellbillys on Nov. 22.

Since Long's departure, Zero magazine's Larry Trujillo has taken over the booking of Plant 51. His influence won't be seen much until at least the end of November, but he'll be filling in any holes in the schedule as opportunities arise.

Meanwhile, Kleidon's popular Rock Stars and Bitches night is going strong with upcoming Monday night shows by Karate High School on Oct. 28, Chapstik and El Buzzard on Nov. 4 and Billy Rosenthal's Drunken Starfighter on Nov. 11. Also look for Saturday shows with Bodies in the Basement on Nov. 9 and SECURITY on Nov. 23.

Under 21? Between the Los Gatos Outhouse, the Mitchell Park Center, the Chemical Free Zone, the Gallery, the Gaslighter Theater and Gaslighter's Music Hall, there's plenty to see. A few highlights include My New Life, the Duebacks, Printed Blanks and New Best Friend on Nov. 8 at the Chemical Free Zone; an all-ages Grand Fanali Presents show at the Gaslighter Theater on Nov. 17 with the Slackers, Monkey, the Phenomenauts and more; a teens-only show with the Velvet Teen, the Belles, the Librarians and Escape Engine on Nov. 23 at the Mitchell Park Center; an all-ages metal show Hostility, Clearing Autumn Skies, SORA and Sky Is a Wall on Nov. 29 at the Gaslighter Theater; and Wesley Wills, Voodoo Glowskulls, Groovie Ghoulies and Code Name Rocky on Dec. 13 at the Gallery.

Eric Fanali has also tentatively booked the Pattern, Jucifer, the Huxtables and Triple Nipple at the Outhouse on Nov. 29; and Epitaph band Pulley on Dec. 20 at the Outhouse

As far as new music venues and promised performance spaces (Stikmon's Burbank International Youth Center for the Performing Arts at the old Burbank Theater, Johnny Van Wyk and Pete Janssen's Sideways at 380 S. First St., and Jacek Rosicki's Zöe and Backbar at 417 S. First St.), everything's being delayed due to bureaucratic red tape. (Note to city of San Jose Planning Department and Redevelopment Agency: we're all watching you.) Still, everyone is optimistically giving tentative opening dates that qualify as Christmas presents for all us salivating club-bots.

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From the October 24-30, 2002 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

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