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Hip-hop, What-not


Photo by Kathy Bau

Class of '96: The Pee Chees positioned themselves for a run at the top in the new year.

The good, the bad and the ugly in local music for the year past

By Todd S. Inoue

While our daily newspaper's music columnists fill out their allotted inches plugging musical events 60 miles north of San Jose, things continue to jump off underground and in the local clubs. It's okay to drive the Junipero Serra every now and then--I do it myself--but don't forget all those backyard bands busting their asses in this area, dying to get 10 people through the door.

Here are some of my highlights and lowlifes of the valley's rock, hip-hop and what-not scene for 1995.

Lists-O-Mania

Class of '95: 187 Calm, Audio Fungus, Congo Square, Crack, Brownies, Dereliks, Diatribe, Drug, In-Citers, Jackdaws, Jupiter Sun, No Use for a Name, Odd Numbers, Salmon, Skankin' Pickle. Keep on, keepin' on.

Class of '96: Soda, the Donnas, Clay Wheels, Janitors Against Apartheid, Betty's Love Child, Last 2 Serve, Love 1900, Willies Conception, the Kindred, 10-Bass-T, Pee Chees, 4-Banger, Phaser, Aiko, Neosoreskin. The momentum is pushing their way. Be afraid.

No Class: Gestapo Pussyranch, the Eyesores, Mumu Cat, Shy Tiger, Bangloraj. Hey guys, I hear UPS is hiring.

R.I.P.: Country Dick Montana, the Spit Muffins, Cafe of Regret, F/X the Club. Local music will not be the same without their input.

Business as Usual

SoFA District Body Count: Marsugi's is Agenda. F/X is The Usual. JJ's Blues Downtown is Scalawag's. The Ajax Lounge is still the Ajax Lounge but different. Red Light is Red Light but under new management. Dimensions and Phoenix got busted for serving minors. 401 Club is still an empty lot. And the Cactus Club's bathrooms are still dirtier than the drunk tank at Elmwood. On the other hand: Agenda opened.

Boom Bap: Kudos to WORKS/San Jose for allowing the Boom Bap graffiti art/hip-hop culture exhibition to take over its space Aug. 10-Sept. 8. Along with breathtaking graffiti work, live music performances from the likes of the Homeless Derelix, Jamo, Lackadaisical, Mystik Journeymen, Peanut Butter Wolf, Rasta Q-tip and Trollman, along with break-dance crews the Electro Rockers and the Floor Rockers, kept things live. It showed that not all graf writers are criminals, and that San Jose can house a positive, hip-hop environment.

Don't Discount Metal: Bill Graham Presents passed on classic British metalheads UFO; the Edge in Palo Alto gladly picked up the show and tacked on two additional dates (Aug. 10-12), selling out all three and inciting amazing business at the bar. Ouch.

Because They Really Need the Bucks: Calm. This Palo Alto band consists of three musicians, two of whom, according to member Clay Parton, are homeless. How they scraped up the money to record and release their 12-inch EP is beyond me. It's got genuine musical chops with more than a generous hint of desperation.

Live and Direct

Best Life-affirming Local Performance: Odd Numbers; Sept. 19; the Cactus Club, San Jose. The band's SoFA Street Fair show at the Cactus was one of the most spontaneous, hysterical, drunken, possessed 20 minutes that club has seen in years. The stage was overrun by kooks while the Odd Numbers shredded off songs in nothing flat. They finished with a cover of the Specials' "Nite Club," and the place exploded into mass hysteria. Runners Up: Salmon, Neosoreskin; Nov. 19; The Edge, Palo Alto. Salmon hit the stage like a canister of tear gas. Neosoreskin was good too.

Math Phobes Cures All: Ear of the Dragon Tour with Seam, J Church, aMiniature, Venus Cures All; May 27; Stanford Coffee House. Posed with a choice to see Foo Fighters/Mike Watt/Hovercraft at the Catalyst, R.E.M. at the Shoreline, or this show, I opted for the latter and never regretted it for a minute. It was a lasting moment in Asian American pop culture history in a cozy, intimate setting.

No Soup For You: All You Can Eat/Red #9/Betty's Love Child; March 16; JJ's Blues Downtown, San Jose. I've never seen a band as enjoyable and frantic as All You Can Eat. Singer Devon Morf was all over the stage and scaffolding, leaping off monitors, fitting both hands in his mouth, performing intimate stretching moves. After the frightful exhibition, roadies were quick to snag the microphones from the stands. No mind, the band finished with Morf breakdancing on the floor. The first, last and hypest punk show JJ's ever hosted.

Steady Boomin': The Roots, Blackalicious, Mo'Fessionals; Jan. 2; the Ajax Lounge, San Jose. Pure gravy. The beat-box gymnastics of Malik B., Black Thought's gravely voice and a mackin' freestyle session featuring Mystik Journeymen, Blackalicious, 10-Bass-T and the Dereliks made for one of the best rap shows I've ever seen.

We Don't Need No Stinkin' Clubs: Sleater-Kinney, Ce Be Barnes Band, Lucy Stoners; July 31; Billy DeFrank Lesbian and Gay Center, San Jose. Sleater-Kinney had an off night due to sound problems, but the awkward brilliance of Ce Be Barnes (enhanced by Rachel Cairns of Kicking Giant) had everyone on their feet, basking in the slippery, primitive groove. After the show, two films about women's issues were shown. What a great, positive, supportive space--more shows here, please!

Minor Annoyances

Fakin' the Funk: With more San Jose bands merging rap and rock styles, this gentrification has negatively affected that sacred form of rhyming known as "freestyle." Every now and then during a show, emcees purport to "freestyle," when all they do is recite rhymes written a month ago back at the crib. These are the same bustas who put a phone in their ass and say they're making a "booty call." Freestyle, to me, is coming off the top of your head about anything and everything: the microphone, the lights, this guy's shirt, that girl's glasses, today's Warriors score. If you can't rock it like that, you can't freestyle, so stop frontin'.

Well, Duh!: In a June 12 review of Live 105's BFD II concert at Shoreline Amphitheater, Merc writer Michael D. Clark referred to legendary lyricist Melle Mel--who performed "The Message" and "White Lines (Don't Do it)" onstage with Duran Duran--as "an unknown rapper in an attempt at street credibility." Like Melle Mel says, it kind of makes me wonder how I keep from going under.

Don't Hold Your Breath: Which local commercial radio station will be the first to set aside a tiny block of time for a local music show? KSJO? KFOX? KOME? KFOG? You'll go blue waiting.

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From the Dec. 28, 1995-Jan. 3, 1996 issue of Metro

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