Riff Raff

Goodbye to All That; Punk, Love, and Understanding; He Shall Be Released

Goodbye to All That
Here's a challenge: Try to find a travel article on San Francisco that somehow avoids invoking the word "heaven" every third or fourth paragraph. As summer kicks in, ink-stained interlopers from New Orleans to Miami to London scamper about, drinking in the "earthy" "charm" of the Mission, the "opulence" of "legendary" Nob Hill, and the "sophistication" of "literary" North Beach -- all of which are truly heaven on Earth. Of course, a cynic (read: local) would say that North Beach is heaven on Earth mainly for those who feel heaven should include lap dances and $10 cocktails, and right now somebody's nodding his head fervently in agreement. But it's so easy for people to be seduced by the literary charm and earthy sophistication of City Lights and Tosca Cafe that fewer visitors make it up that last steep block of Kearny, happy home to an abundance of hard-core pornography, a froufrou dance club, and one of the few bastions of heavy metal and punk rock left within the city limits.

So guess which one is closing? The 5-year-old Cocodrie, once the home to Morty's and the legendary (no, really) punk venue Off-Broadway back in the day, will close its doors to live music at the end of the month, with booker Scott Rootenberg bemoaning the end of his four years of work at the club. The Cocodrie had gone about its business relatively quietly in that time (except for a flare-up in March where owner Sam Canal and a security guard were stabbed in a closing-time fracas), playing host to scores of DJs and rock acts, including afternoon punk-rock to-dos for those looking for a change of pace from Gilman Street. No word on specifics of the club's imminent conversion.

Punk, Love, and Understanding
Punk and hip hop have had separate histories, but they've been interlaced more than many people have been led to believe. The relationship makes sense, after all -- both sprung out of the cities, struggle intensely with issues of integrity, and take a deep interest in social activism, or at least a modicum of social awareness. The connection rarely gets made in either genre's leading publications and fanzines, so Punk Planet has taken on the task itself. The journal's July/August issue is centered around the theme of "Voices of the New Left," an attempt to cover the same liberal ground as The Nation, but to do it in a way that's ... what's the word? Right: interesting. Old standbys like Noam Chomsky and Jello Biafra are there, but lengthy interviews with groups like Direct Action Network and Queer to the Left are also included. The centerpiece of the issue, however, is a piece by Aaron Shuman titled "Housequake," tackling the growth of politically motivated hip hop, especially in California. As a companion to the story, Punk Planet's Web site has put together the 12-song compilation Housequake: Hip-Hop Activism. Assembled by Shuman and locally based Senior Editor Joel Schalit, the tracks are by artists from Chicago to Tacoma to New York City, but the heart of the album is built around Bay Area musicians, including the Coup, Marcel Diallo, Company of Prophets, Los Delicados, Anita, and Aya De Leon -- whose leadoff spoken-word track "Icon" is a stunning and caustic indictment of the corporate reappropriation of political figures (note Gandhi showing up on Apple billboards). A scathing list of suggestions of all the ways Martin Luther King's "I Have a Dream" speech can be reworked follows. The entire record is MP3-encoded and free for the downloading at www.punkplanet.com.

He Shall Be Released
Slated for release on Sept. 26 is Paul Pena's New Train, a long-buried slice of Bay Area rock history. Pena, of Genghis Blues fame, recorded the album in 1973 with Jerry Garcia, Merl Saunders, the Persuasions, Harvey Brooks of Bob Dylan's band, and Ben Sidran and Gary Mallaber of the Steve Miller Band, and it includes his original ver- sion of "Jet Airliner," later a hit for Steve Miller. Shelved by late management guru Albert Grossman at the time in a dispute over the album's content, it's now being released by Hybrid Recordings, run by one-time Grateful Dead manager John Scher. "We were thinking of call- ing the album Jet Airliner, but we figured people would think he was doing a cover of the Steve Miller song," says Pena's lawyer, Jon Waxman, who helped coordinate the release. Genghis Bluesitself will be released on video and DVD in December.

Oops
Greg Doherty's story "Personality Crisis" in last week's issue mistakenly stated that Chief Xcel is a member of the Beat Junkies. He is a member of Blackalicious. We apologize for the error.

 
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