Pop Philosophy

Coffee klatch redux; indie-fop bop; guess who this was

Everything old is new againIn its original inception, the Coffee Gallery was just that -- a coffeehouse and art gallery. But like many North Beach java joints of the '50s and '60s, the Grant Avenue spot became a performance haven for beats, jazzbos, and rockers. Folk singer Eric Anderson played his first gig at the Gallery; Janis Joplin caught the eye of Big Brother guitarist James Gurly while performing there; Grace Slick & the Great Society gave one of their best-remembered shows at the venue.

Eventually, however, the beats moved on and the rock bands graduated to bigger and better -- i.e., existent -- sound systems. The gallery was sold in the early '80s and remodeled as the Lost & Found Saloon. The Saloon was the kind of ratty neighborhood club that survived off its regulars and a few half-drunk tourists, a place that booked bands clueless enough to name themselves Eating Like Truck Drivers or Electric Color Wheel. The place had a profile so low that it saw eye to eye with garden snakes.

But that perspective is about to change, thanks to new owners. Having finished a year's worth of renovations -- including updating the stage and buying new sound equipment -- Sharon and David Seto opened the freshly renamed Coffee Gallery this month. (The official moniker is the Original Coffee Gallery, to differentiate it from a memorabiliac knockoff in Sacramento.) According to booker Dani Eurynome, who also picks acts for the Stork Club in Oakland, the Gallery plans to focus on local and national indie rock acts. "The owners said, "We want to be the Bottom of the Hill of North Beach,'" Eurynome says via cell phone. "It's great, because they're really into doing the work. I've worked with a lot of owners, and they're not all like that."

Eurynome will book rock bands Thursday through Sunday, with jazz acts on Tuesday and an open mike with Girl George, the original Gallery's open mike host for 20 years, on Wednesday. A revolving series of curated nights will fill the Monday slot, including a spoken word spotlight with longtime local figure Bucky Sinister and "Intervention," an evening of "really crazy" experimental noise and no wave breakdowns hosted by Total Shutdown's Nate Denver and others. The grand opening celebration takes place Saturday, Aug. 25, at 9 p.m., with free food and free live performances by the Orange Peels and Secadora, plus poetry by Shailja Patel, Robert Karimi, Kenny Mostern, and Charles Ellik. Call 981-9557 for more info.

It's hard to pick a fight with folded armsThe city's indie enthusiasts are in a tizzy over the news that Scottish indie-fop act Belle & Sebastian will play its first Bay Area shows on Saturday and Sunday, Sept. 8 and 9. Naturally, some "discerning" music fans are working their molars to a powder in an attempt to prove how much they hate Stuart Murdoch and his airy band of acousticians. These people also hate puppies, long walks on the beach, and hot cocoa on a cold summer night. Most likely, they're in bands themselves -- ones that, they'd assure you, could kick Belle & Sebastian's ass if given the chance. But secretly, these musicians would jump at the chance to open the Warfield shows.

Unfortunately, only one act can precede the Scots. Advance word suggests that the Aislers Set will get the nod -- not surprising considering how Murdoch and B&S guitarist Stevie Jackson have palled around with the local indie rockers during past Bay Area vacations. According to Aislers drummer Yoshi Nakamoto, nothing has been confirmed yet. As for Belle & Sebastian's other West Coast dates, the members are looking for an acoustic opening act, with M. Ward's name being tossed around. I hear he's very fond of puppies, long walks, and hot cocoa.

The song, not the singerEarlier this year I wrote about Guess Who This Is, a tribute album to the woefully underrecognized talents of deceased singer/songwriter Dom Leone ("Paying tribute to the near-forgotten Dom Leone," Pop Philosophy, March 28). In honor of the arrival of the CDs, project instigator and New Hampshire native Guy Capecelatro is holding a two-day release party at the Bottom of the Hill on Thursday and Friday, Aug. 16 and 17. Many of the bands from the record will perform, and the remaining members of Dom's former group, Ed's Redeeming Qualities, will open the first show and close the second. All proceeds from record sales will go to the Dom Leone Writing Competition for children in Youngstown, Ohio. The Thursday show features Granfaloon Bus, 86 (the Band), Music Night, Virginia Dare, the Guy Scramble, the Buckets, Corey Porter, and Ed's. Friday's show includes Ed's, Funny Bunnies (members of Fuck), 100 Watt Smile, Warm Wires, the Spurs of the Moment, Mike Wolstat, J. Neo Marvin, and Sonny Smith. Both shows start at 9 p.m. Tickets are $6 in advance and $8 at the door; call 621-4455.

 
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