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From Mosh to Marginal

DJ Shadow
The Shadow Knows: DJ Shadow's breakthrough album "Entroducing" was the cream of the recorded crop in 1996.

Photo by Christopher Gardner

The live and recorded
highs and lows of 1996

By Todd S. Inoue

NINETEEN NINETY-SIX was full of "irrational exuberance" in the Santa Clara Valley. The B-Hive Kafe, Disco 2000 and the Hi-Fi Lounge opened in downtown San Jose, Lollapalooza landed at Spartan Stadium and I officially struck the words "mosh" and "Macarena" from my vocabulary. All the peaks and pits in-between can be gleaned from my annual orgy of list-making:

Coming and Going

Class of '96:
Salmon, Sloe, Crack, Soda, Diatribe, Willies Conception, 10Bass T, Junk, Smashmouth, Monkey, Mystik Journeymen, Marginal Prophets, Dub Nation, Squeeze the Dog, Cottonhead.

Class of '97:
Slow Gherkin, Korea Girl, Concerning Eye, Red Planet, Dreamstation, the Aquamen, Slag, Twisted Mind Kids, Soda Pop Fuck You, the Flexapleasers, Indestructible Beat of Palo Alto, Sacred Hoop, Mic T, Aesop, Eclipse 427, Premiere, Link 80, the Retardos, Lyrics Born, Aeropause, Blue Eskimos, the Chinkies, Tribal Disco Noise.

No Class:
Jalopy Taco Stand, Nexus Junket, Connect 4, Liquid Courage, Scarlet Theory, Paper or Plastic? UPS is still hiring ...

Staging Area

LIVE-WISE, some kept it honest and over the top (Mystik Journeymen) and others sleepwalked (Sebadoh). I kept copious notes at both ends, so nothing was lost.

The Aquamen--Cubberley Community Center, July 5.
Like Jon Spencer fronting a surf band, the Aquamen were amazingly tight, precise, sloppy and scattershot all at the same time. Songs about drinking, drinking and, well, drinking.

Beck--Warfield, Oct. 10.
Beck swung his guts out, breakdancing, beat-boxing and seriously good-footing through a 90-minute romper stomp. The schizophrenic vision of Odelay! was brought to life in a joyous, rapturous set.

Crack--Mayer Theater, April 23.
The circumstances were daunting: a fraternity-sponsored benefit concert with little promotion and little interest. Faced with the enormity of a huge stage, Crack gave one of the best shows since its bar-stool set at the Usual. From the testy exchange of words (bassist: "San Jose, come rock with me." Cliff: "It's Santa Clara, you dumb ass!") to sprawling across the stage and inciting the most feeble-looking slam dancing in Mayer history, the night was bizarre, funky and hilarious all at once. Opening acts Lunchbox and Soda were great, too.

Dub Narcotic--Pirate Cat Records, Oct. 29.
With his funk band grooving in an empty space, Calvin Johnson twitched and shimmied across the floor and onto the streets of South First Street. The display made a rainy day sunny for the handful of fans.

Metallica--Tower Records, Blossom Hill, June 4.
I don't like Metallica, but I have to credit the band for giving its South Bay fans (and the city attorney) a summer day they'll never forget. I'm proud that San Jose is a metal stronghold; events like this couldn't happen anywhere else in the Bay Area.

The Mystik Journeymen--Cactus, March 28.
The day after Salmon sold out the Cactus, the Mystik Journeymen gave an inspired performance that reaffirmed faith in live hip-hop. Every head, from front to back, was caught up in the flows of "Never Forget" and "Escape." The underground anthem "Depths of Survival" inspired over-the-top chaos, every kid chanting the words like it was a last will and testament.

Night of the Turntablist--Club Townsend, Nov. 13.
This night will be referred to and talked about in DJ circles like Wilt Chamberlin's 100-point game. In an octagon-shaped space that resembled a futuristic Rollerball arena, 10 turntables and mixers were set up on a riser high above the crowd. Speakers tall as hay bales pulsed with techniques of the world's best DJs performing solo and group style. The X-Men demonstrated their renowned body tricks while the Invisible Scratch Pickles shattered the limits of sound, ending the exhibition with a routine from beyond the cosmos.

Queers, Mr. T. Experience, Hi-Fives, Groovie Ghoulies--Cubberley Community Center, June 7.
The Lookout! records All-Stars came together for a small but appreciative crowd in Palo Alto. No swirly run-in-circle pits, no inflated egos, just the best punk/pop bands each going for theirs.

Salmon, Soda, Crack--Cactus, March 27.
Pulling up to the Cactus, the line of ticket-seekers stretched to the end of San Salvador Street, a sight unseen in San Jose's SoFA district since Disco Inferno's heyday. You couldn't help but feel proud for the local boys gone good. Lingering question: How will Salmon be treated on Red Ant? Will it blow up? Will it be put on a shelf? The group's major-label experience this upcoming year will be heavily scrutinized by the local music community.

Soul Coughing--San Jose Museum of Art, April 30.
Before the band's upcoming stint on Lollapalooza, the hypnotic electro-hip-pop unit played a corporate Real- audio party inside the museum. I remember staring transfixed at lead guitarist Michael Doughty, thinking, "You techies don't know how lucky you are."

Third Sex--Cafe Leviticus. Nov. 13.
Third Sex didn't have to play. It was the last stop of the tour. The group's van had broken down in San Diego, so they had to rent one to come up here and play a nonpaying show. They were were exhausted, but all gripes vanished when they plugged in and ripped the final tour date as if were day one.

Tibetan Freedom Concert--Golden Gate Park,
June 15­16
What can you say? A dream show matching the top acts in rap and rock, dance and blues that left a long after image of good feelings. The strength of the acts--Beastie Boys, Cibo Matto, Fugees, Foo Fighters, Beck, Biz Markie, a Tribe Called Quest, the Skatalites, etc.--was matched by the amount of nonexploitative info. No alcohol was served, which also added to the positive vibe of the event.

Live Losers

Sebadoh--Great American Music Hall, Sept. 20.
I'd heard it was hit or miss with Sebadoh live. The band spent the first half-hour trying to get comfortable; the second half-hour was spent apologizing for the previous half. There was no encore, as nobody wanted one.

Run-D.M.C.--The Usual, July 16.
His voice thrashed, rapper Joseph "Run" Simmons should have stayed in bed. He could have used the rest time to rethink the intros to "My Adidas," "Beats to the Rhyme" and "Peter Piper," which were so old, they should be donated to the Smithsonian's new hip-hop wing.

The Specials--The Edge, Nov. 3.
Without Terry Hall and Jerry Dammers, the Specials are a battered, rag-tag flotilla, bobbing along on a precarious nostalgia tour. The bottom dropped out when the Specials reached "Ghost Town" and turned the depressing ode to club violence into a feel-good cruise boat sing-along.

Rage Against the Machine--SJSU Events Center,
Sept. 4
The bands were fine, but the action in the pit had to be one of the hairiest, kill-or-be-killed spectacles I've ever experienced.

Best Albums of 1996

10Bass T, Do You Know the Way?
Beck, Odelay!
DJ Shadow, Endtroducing
Dr. Octagon, Dr. Octagon
Key Kool & Rhettmatic, Kozmonautz
Marginal Prophets, Twist the Nob
Mountain Brothers, Paperchase EP
Mr. T Experience, Love Is Dead
Salmon, Flourished With Candies.
Sleater-Kinney, Call the Doctor

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From the Dec. 26, 1996 to Jan. 1, 1997 issue of Metro

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