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Live and Local, All Year Long

[whitespace] Slow Gherkin
On the Fast Track: Santa Cruz's Slow Gherkin tore it up at the Gaslighter in Cambell this July.

The best live shows of 1997 remembered

By Todd S. Inoue

I WENT TO MORE shows this year than ever before. I inhaled clouds of second-hand smoke, parked in a lot of dubious areas and stamped the top of my hand at least 100 times, all in the quest for musical satisfaction. I kept a diary, too. Here are my favorite musical moments of 1997, in chronological order.

Slight Slappers, Spazz, Noothgrush
Jan. 13 at the Cactus Club, San Jose
The Slight Slappers were insane--five guys blowing through 30-second songs while a hyperactive crowd pushed them on.

Aceyalone, Mystik Journeymen
Jan. 19 at the Cactus Club
During Aceyalone's set, someone yelled out, "Give me the microphone." Acey, the venerable rapper of Freestyle Fellowship, stopped and said, "Then come on up!" The guy got his chance and rapped well; then another challenger jumped on stage and rapped. Turns through, Acey went off, politely ripping two new holes, mostly about how rappers always try to test him. The crowd went nuts.

Jan. 24 at Foothill College, Los Altos
The Japanese troupe combined traditional and contemporary folk music and dance, interpolating everyday scenes of joy and life in its home town, to turn out an exhilarating show.

Jan. 27 at Townsend, San Francisco
Cloaked in darkness, shivering like a junkie, Tricky crept in and commenced an orgasmic dream that lasted 90 minutes. He is one of the most possessed, enigmatic performers I've seen in years.

Team Dresch
Jan. 28 at Bottom of the Hill, San Francisco
After performing an old track, guitarist Jody Bleyle announced, "I can't play that song anymore--I'm so post-identity politics." The group's newest member, guitarist Amanda "Jack" Kelly, approached the mic and spilled her guts about how much being in Team Dresch meant to her personally. Bassist Donna Dresch comforted Kelly with a long embrace. Sometimes we forget that the most punk-rock thing in the world is to reveal your true feelings.

Soul Coughing
Feb. 13 at the Edge, Palo Alto
MC Dynamite and DJ Krust opened the show with a dynamic display of DJed jungle and rhythmic toasting. I was amazed at the dedication of Soul Coughing's fans. They knew all the tunes front and back, and not just the single ("Super Bon Bon").

March 16 at Palookaville, Santa Cruz
The pioneering rapper from Boogie Down Productions delivered a stunning sermon that broke down plenty of misconceptions--mainly that live hip-hop shows are lame and/or violent. "We're going to start with a history lesson tonight," KRS began. "We're going to go back to 1988 and work all the way up to today." Then DJ Josh unleashed the familiar beat and piano loop from "The Bridge Is Over" and it was 1988 all over again.

The Artist Formerly Known as Prince
April 19 at the San Jose State University Event Center
Despite the ticketing snafu, I preferred this up-close look at the Artist to the Shoreline show. Up until he bounded on stage to "Jam of the Year," fans could walk up the side aisles and touch the barrier, an extended arm away from where the Purple One reigned. "Face Down," "Talking Loud/Saying Nothing" shook off any notion of premature retirement.

Breeders, Lutefisk
May 14 at the Cactus Club
Not the most polished show of the year, but it was a pleasure to watch Kim Deal immerse herself in the music.

Sleater-Kinney, Pee Chees and the Donnas
May 31 at the Bottom of the Hill
Sleater-Kinney ignored its mounting critical praise, reached for the vital nerve and drove a stake in it. This was a blazing show from a band that reminded us how fun, empowering and addictive rock & roll can be.

Maxwell and Zhané
June 7 at the Paramount Theater, Oakland
The more time passes, the more I appreciate Maxwell's Oakland show. The young lion exuded confidence, flare, humor, grace, showmanship and impeccable pipes.

Slow Gherkin, Siren Six and Monkey
July 14 at the Gaslighter Theater, Campbell
Ska extravaganza of the highest order, initiated by Monkey's dance, pushed along by Siren Six's robotic sound and topped off with the blaring horn-powered crush of Slow Gherkin.

Bis, the Pee Chees and Korea Girl
Aug. 7 at the Edge
A killer night of punk and pop, capped with the energetic sugar rush of Scotland's teen freaks, Bis.

No Use for a Name, Crack and Concerning Eye
Aug. 16 at the Cactus Club
A triumphant evening of hometown rock. With bodies flying everywhere, it's amazing that No Use for a Name lead singer Tony Sly emerged with a full set of teeth.

Mary Lou Lord
Oct. 7 at the Agenda Lounge, San Jose
Lord captured the attention of a handful of devotees with a loose, intimate, chatty 100-minute celebration of her music. She played audience requests without fail, each song better than the last.

Pearl Jam and the Odd Numbers
Nov. 12 at the Catalyst, Santa Cruz
Most memorable for Eddie Vedder saluting the Odd Numbers before the final song. Pearl Jam was in practice mode, so the show wasn't all that great, but the new songs ("Wish List," "Brain of J," "Given to Fly" and "Do the Evolution") make the next Pearl Jam album worth looking forward to.

Dance Hall Crashers and the Ataris
Nov. 24 at the Benson Center, Santa Clara
The last show of a tour can bring on either insouciance or a bout of the crazies. The hyperactive college kids wouldn't let them go out with anything less than over the top, and the Dance Hall Crashers delivered.

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From the December 31, 1997-January 7, 1998 issue of Metro.

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