Friday, December 16, 2011

Halcyon Venues

I was a performer at a company holiday party recently, and in the aftermath was talking to people about having been in a band , and what sort of "wild" (or not) things we did and saw. And it made me want to see what I could find about our late-seventies musical context.

As we moved to a sort of pivotal era in Sacramento in 1978, our manager, utterly in character here:

- got us a gig, amazingly, opening for Talking Heads, who on a support tour for their second album, More Songs About Buildings and Food, agreed to play at a club called Cassidy's, and moreover, to charge a mere dollar for entry. Now Talking Heads '77 was not a debut album to catapult the band into a limelight much greater than, say, Was/Not Was (who? you might say), who had a debut at about the same time. But we thought they were phenomenal, or at the very least a couple of us did, and not just because of the somewhat specialty-tunish "Psycho Killer", this in particular still amazes me, not least because it wasn't on the record:

This is the sort of song that would have been played on Shake Some Action, a show on the Davis, California radio campus station KDVS at that time which featured "new wave" or punk new releases. And that show was influenced by what was happening at the Davis Coffee House, a single-story campus venue with a concrete floor accommodating perhaps an audience of 300, which became a concert venue casting a long shadow; on the SSA blog there's a recounting of some of the interesting events at the time:

"The Ramone's[sic] had tilted at the windmill of Sacramento's turgid rock scene at Slick Willy's in 1976. Sacramento bands like the Twinkeyz, Ozzie and Permanent Wave appeared on the scene the following year...A local bar named Cassidy's had made an effort to bring in some Bay Area talent....
And then the great coup! [Local impresario Peter] Afterman booked Elvis Costello & the Attractions to perform Feb. 8th, 1978 ... The tix were a pricey (for the time) $5.75! ...In the next year and a half [there and at the Davis Coffee House], Afterman brought in a slew of other top-level performers into the tiny venue: George Thorogood & the Destroyers, The Greg Kihn Band,.. Devo (which sold out almost a month in advance with tix only $2.50), Dave Edmunds and Rockpile (w/ Nick Lowe); "

And the list of influentials continues for the Coffee House, including XTC (supporting Drums and Wires) and The Police on the heels of their hit first album. It was impossible to see some of these acts as a performer and remain unchanged, and we were lucky to have tickets to many of them, particularly those who enjoyed multi-decade careers, for they continue to influence millenials. And, wonder of wonders, that chaotic 1976 gig of three local bands included something of a future star in a guest capacity, Kendra Smith of The Suspects:

When my quick researches were done, I found myself wondering whether there are still 300-seaters hosting soon-to-be legends. Sure hope so.

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