Riff Raff

Who Do You Think We Are, 1998 They were there, 2,000 strong, to witness a sold-out Deep Purple and Emerson Lake & Palmer concert. Middle-aged rocker fans, a few gripping binoculars, milled around the lobby of the Warfield last Friday night, inspecting T-shirts that said "Machine Head" and "Brain Salad Surgery." Riff Raff had to blink and remind ourselves that it was 1998: After all, Deep Purple released the Machine Head album 26 years ago. "A friend of mine saw the Who open up for the Grateful Dead," announced one fortysomething to his pal as they walked into the theater. ELP took the stage, both Emerson and Lake appearing quite buff in the traditional middle-aged rock star vests that boast the biceps and muffle the midriff. Palmer, the apparent family man, opted for a billowing black T-shirt. Emerson, who hammered on the keys alongside a blinking telephone switchboard of random patch cords, was definitely the showman of the three, posturing just as pretentiously as he did a quarter-century ago in the pages of Circus magazine. When the band launched into "Lucky Man" Palmer's voice sounded as strong as ever. Lake's drumming might be even better: In 1978, he used one onstage gong; in 1998 he brought two. Listening to the synth solo on "Lucky Man" -- note for note off their first, self-titled record -- was like sifting through the remains of Pompeii. The fans adored them, but Riff Raff found an offstage distraction more entertaining than watching the band. At the back of the room, a former deputy mayor banged on his table for 20 minutes, enthusiastically miming Emerson's keyboard calisthenics. When ELP finished he collapsed into his chair, ordered his table another round of tequila shots, and waited for the next set. Deep Purple kicked in with "Ted the Mechanic." The familiar '70s heavy metal, an eight-track, souped-up Camaro triaxial speaker metal, proved that the band can still rock. Everyone in the group was at least 45, draped in slimming black duds and scarves on their heads. "They're delivering the goods, man!" someone yelled. The former deputy mayor and his pal kept hammering on the table, high-fiving each other after every song. The band fell into "My Woman From Tokyo," and the Warfield leapt to its feet. Even the ushers were bouncing to "Smoke on the Water." So, what kind of people drive into a city to see the new world tour of Deep Purple? The same kind of people who drove to the other Deep Purple tour stops: Mansfield, Mass., or Wontaugh, N.Y., or Wilkes-Barre, Penn., or Tinley Park, Ill., or Hinkley, Minn. The same 45-year-old guys who still listen to the music that was playing the first time they wrapped a car around a tree. Guys like the deputy mayor, who was having such a good time, in fact, that his buddy had to wobble him out before the show ended, before Deep Purple lurched into the sole encore, "Highway Star." As the Warfield's doors burst open, and the innumerable potbellied fans swarmed the counter to pick up that "Machine Head" shirt they'd glanced at on the way in, the crowd met the easiest decision of the night. Every shirt came only in extra large. (Jack Boulware)

Folk Ways and Means After nine months of fund-raising, a nonprofit organization recently bought Berkeley's Ashkenaz world and folk club. The organization -- about a dozen former staff members and volunteers calling themselves the Ashkenaz Dance and Music Community Center -- bought the building from the family of founder and owner David Nadel, who was killed last year by a disturbed patron. (Nadel asked a customer to leave during a concert. The man left, but returned and shot Nadel after the bar had closed. Police have identified a suspect, but believe that he fled to Mexico after the shooting.) The Center formed after Nadel's death to keep the club operating and to maintain the building's role as a community center says board volunteer Suzy Thompson. "We wanted to keep Ashkenaz going," says Thompson. "But the Nadels didn't have an interest in running a club. We knew we had to buy it to continue David's work." Nadel, who opened the venue in 1973, prided himself on creating a diverse music club that would feature acts from all over the world, sponsor myriad fund-raising nights, and teach dozens of styles of folk dancing. The $365,000 needed to purchase the San Pablo property was secured through a combination of low-interest loans from Community Bank of the Bay and numerous Ashkenaz benefit shows over the past year. Despite the generosity of many former patrons, the funds didn't come easy. Thompson says that until recently it looked as if they would not be able to raise enough money. "We weren't sure if we were going to pull it off," says Thompson. "The bulk of the donations didn't come until just a few months ago." Raising the money was only half the job. Thompson says the real work is to ensure that Ashkenaz lives up to its past. "The building is old and still needs a lot of repair work," says Thompson. "We need to hire a manager to make sure that the quality of the entertainment stays high and reflects the diversity that David always wanted. It's going to take time, but for now we're breathing easier knowing that the building is secure." (R.A.)

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