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A controversial mural at the Boom Boom Room, Sister Double Happiness reunion, the closing of Cue's Records

Wednesday, Jan 12 2000
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Painting, in Black and White Ever since John Lee Hooker's Boom Boom Room opened on Fillmore Street in October 1997, artist Michael J. Krouse has been working there as a bartender. And ever since he's been working there as a bartender, he's been griping about the building's south wall -- facing Geary Boulevard -- which sports a fading, tiger-striped design. "I walked by [the wall] every day," says Krouse, "and it's such a hideous, ugly eyesore." So, with a jazz preservation district in the planning stages, Krouse got the idea to repaint the wall with a mural that he felt would reflect the history and community of the Fillmore. He started talking to people at the Boom Boom's bar and around the neighborhood about what they thought would work best thematically. He read up on the neighborhood, drawing particular inspiration from Maya Angelou's memoir I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings. But, he says, "talking to people in the neighborhood is where it came from."

Last year, Krouse got serious about getting funding for what would be his first mural project, which he estimates will cost $38,000. In October, he spotted Mayor Willie Brown, who just happened to be visiting the Boom Boom Room, and pleaded his case; shortly after, he received a $13,500 grant from the Mayor's Neighborhood Beautification Fund. As of December, Krouse had collected a little over $21,000 in grants, donations, and sponsorships.

Allegory of a Neighborhood, as Krouse has titled his mural, is an attempt to present in caricature the history and social interplay of the Fillmore, particularly in terms of music. On the street, jazzbos play horns, a hippie stands holding a Trips Festival poster, a bouncer tosses a folkie out of the Fillmore. The buildings depicted all come from the neighborhood's past: the Yakamoto Market, Jimbo's Bop City (where John Coltrane and Charles Mingus once played), the Long Bar (where Lenny Bruce gave his last performance), the Blue Minor, Old Chicago, and, like it or not, Jim Jones' People's Temple. Krouse says he worked hard to accurately depict the panoply of races that filled the neighborhood; there's an Asian family on a front stoop, an interracial couple kissing, and the second floors of all the buildings are filled with people dancing, smoking, watching, and talking. In the far left corner of the planned mural, three police officers stand together, stone-faced and staring hard.

"I can't tell the whole story," says Krouse, "but I can tell little bits of each story." On Jan. 12, Krouse will publicly unveil the latest version of his mural plan at the Boom Boom Room at 6:30 p.m. After that, the proposal goes to the Arts Commission for consideration; if all goes as planned, Krouse and two assistants will begin painting in March. In the meantime, however, Krouse has acquired at least one vocal critic. Mel Simmons, director of Culture on the Corner, a Western Addition arts program for children, firmly and flatly states that he finds Krouse's mural "insulting. He has not done his homework on the neighborhood. The image he presents states that there was a bunch of prostitution and a number of other negative activities. It's a very dark mural." More specifically, Simmons points to one part of the painting, which shows a black woman leaning over a white man sitting on a stoop, as an example of a prostitute. "It's degrading to women, and it's degrading to black women," says Simmons. He doesn't plan to speak out at the Jan. 12 meeting ("I'm not going to address something that's so important to me and my street in a bar"), but says he's looking into legal options, wants Krouse to talk to the Fillmore community away from the Boom Boom Room, and intends "to be as loud as I can" in his campaign to stop the mural from being painted.

"I'm trying to tell the truth of the neighborhood," says Krouse in response to the criticism. "I don't think I'm being disrespectful to anyone."

Shortly after this issue went to press, Krouse sent this release, cancelling the open forum on his mural.

Here They Go Again Gary Floyd called us up from a monastery, so his grand, booming voice had to be modulated a bit. But he still sounds enthusiastic when talking about the upcoming Sister Double Happiness reunion at Bottom of the Hill on the 28th. One of the finest local bands to spring out of the '80s post-punk and indie rock scene, the group released its first album in 1988. A couple of lineup changes and one heartbreaking experience with a major label later (the latter resulted in 1991's well-intentioned but overproduced Heart and Mind), the band closed up shop after 1994's Horsey Water, which never got an American release. Drummer Lynn Perko now plays in Imperial Teen and Floyd has pursued a variety of projects, from down-home country to the blooze-punk of his latest band, Black Kali Ma.

This winter, local label Innerstate released A Stone's Throw From Love, which documents a live acoustic performance at the Great American Music Hall in 1992. Innerstate owner Pat Thomas was encouraging the band members to convene for a one-off acoustic show to promote the album; according to Floyd, the band decided that the best way to do the show was the way they usually did things: live, loud, and electric. Still, Floyd is loath to describe the show as a reunion. "We had never really officially broken up," he says. "We've always been very close to one another." The lineup for the show is Floyd, Perko, guitarists Ben Cohen and Danny Roman, and bassist Miles Montalbano. "Maybe we'll do it again in another five years, if I can remember all the words," says Floyd. The show happens the same week Alternative Tentacles releases Black Kali Ma's debut record, You Ride the Pony (I'll Be the Bunny).

The Beat Goes Off Cue's Records in Daly City closed out last year by, well, closing. For six years, the shop's staff provided a haven for hip hop and turntablist fans, dealing in underground vinyl and mix tapes, playing host to DJ battles, and helping compile 1998's Cue's Hip Hop Shop Vol. 1, released on Berkeley's Dogday Records. According to owner Frank "DJ Cue" Cuevas, the closure had nothing to do with the usual things that bring down a record store, such as lack of foot traffic, slow sales, and rising rents -- although a lot of hip hop heads and vinyl junkies are well served by San Francisco and don't need to make the Peninsula trek. Actually, the problem was the success of the individual staff members like DJ Apollo, ITF champion DJ Vinroc, and Cue himself, who splits time between working with the Bullet Proof Scratch Hamsters, Space Travelers, and his ongoing DMT project with DJ Eddie Def; given everyone's increasing touring, recording, and producing duties, it became too difficult to coordinate running the store proper. "It's more of career decision," says Cue. "There's a lot of record stores. It's not like we're hurting the economy by doing this." The store's Web site will be taken down as well, but Cue will still coordinate the store's popular record pool, which supplies DJs with upward of 60 slabs of new hip hop vinyl a month. Cue's C4, the latest salvo in DMT's drum-machine psychedelia experiment, was released this month on Dogday subsidiary Stray Records.

Send Bay Area music news, band stories, or petty gripes to Mark.Athitakis@sfweekly.com, or mail them to Riff Raff, c/o SF Weekly.

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Mark Athitakis

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