Healdsburg Jazz Festival Postponed; Jessica Felix Ousted

Posted by on Jul 29, 2010 8 Comments

In a shocking, upsetting announcement, the Board of Directors for the Healdsburg Jazz Festival announced today that there will be no Healdsburg Jazz Festival in 2011.

What’s more, festival founder and Artistic Director Jessica Felix has been voted out by the Board, and will no longer be a part of the Healdsburg Jazz Festival she started 12 years ago.

Citing the poor economy, the Board says they’ll focus instead on their music education program which for 10 years has brought jazz to area schools. “There also seems to be a more limited audience for pure jazz in the community as evidenced by lower ticket sales,” Board president Pat Templin says. “There may be an opportunity to broaden the offering in the future. We need to find a winning model that will interest more people and businesses in the community to get involved, provide financial support and to attend a revised music festival.”

A “revised music festival.” A “limited audience for pure jazz.” An “opportunity to broaden the offering.” These are not good harbingers of things to come.

I called Felix to find out what happened. She said she couldn’t comment until she spoke with a lawyer, a bad sign. “I was totally surprised,” she said.

Reached by phone, Board president Pat Templin told me that there are “no plans” to reinstate Jessica Felix in 2012, adding that it was decision not made lightly, and one borne of finances instead of artistic vision (the festival, she stresses, will not move in a smooth jazz direction).

“She’s an amazing person, she’s done an amazing thing, and we’re trying to build on her legacy,” Templin says. “We’re committed to jazz, and to maintaining that reputation. And we’re also interested in some of what the community has told us, that there might be other genres that support the kind of jazz we do.” What other genres might those be? “One is blues,” Templin says.

If Felix can’t comment, then I will: The Healdsburg Jazz Festival as we know it is committing artistic suicide.

As a journalist, I’ve butted heads with Felix a couple times, but one thing I’ve never, ever questioned is her top-quality booking for the festival. I assume this so-called “limited audience for pure jazz” wasn’t part of the sold-out crowd this year for Ravi Coltrane and Charlie Haden, the sold-out crowd for Esperanza Spalding, or the full crowd for Jason Moran and Bill Frisell.

And that’s just in the last year alone. Previous festivals have hosted, to great acclaim, Joshua Redman, Billy Higgins, Andrew Hill, Bobby Hutcherson, Jim Hall, Dave Holland, McCoy Tyner, Pharoah Sanders, Jackie McLean, Joe Lovano, Kenny Garrett, Frank Morgan and Dave Brubeck. Look at those names—and then find me another jazz festival booker in a town with a population of only 10,000 who can attract such stature.

The community needs the Healdsburg Jazz Festival, but in particular it needs the festival as booked by someone well-connected, passionate and knowledgeable about jazz. That someone is and always has been Jessica Felix. She’s taken creative risks that have paid off—such as two sold-out shows with the decidedly avant-garde Trio 3 last year—and that’s because over the last 12 years she’s cultivated an audience for jazz in Sonoma County. She’s even saved the festival money by putting up musicians in her home, and finding other local hospitable jazz fans to do the same.

As for ticket sales? The slump isn’t just in Healdsburg—concert ticket sales have been down significantly nationwide; Templin admits she’s aware of this too. So sure, a scaling back on the festival makes sense. A focus on music education is good for attracting new sponsors. A one-year hiatus in 2011, painful as it may be, may be necessary.

But in reorganizing, there’s one thing the Board shouldn’t overlook, and that’s the respect Felix has earned from the artists and fans in the jazz world. Every musician playing the Healdsburg Jazz Festival who I’ve interviewed for the Bohemian in the last six years has praised Felix’s devotion, without my asking. The national reputation of the festival speaks to her great work.

If she wants to continue booking the festival she founded—and it seems like she does—I can’t think of any reason to stop her from doing so.

[UPDATE: The Board of Directors have removed all public comments from their website. I’ve reposted them here.]

[UPDATE: It worked! Jessica’s back and so is the festival. Read here.]

Wrapping Up Loose Ends

Posted by on Jul 27, 2010 One Comment

The spigot, it sometimes bursts, and the drip-pan of CSI is too meager to contain the blast. Here’s a few things that’ve happened over the weekend, while I can still catch them coming out the pipe.

Silian Rail at Guayaki Mate Bar
I try not to make a habit of coveting thy neighbor’s anything, but Christ if Silian Rail doesn’t make me jealous. Jealous for their tone—some glorious, thick whomp that sounds like Bigfoot tap-dancing on the strings. Jealous for their composition—the rare form of noodley that travels down the road to an agreeable destination. Jealous for their form—the very fun ways in which they play multiple instruments at once.

Silian Rail’s new album Parhelion on Parks and Records is worth picking up, but at the Guayaki Mate Bar Friday night, they proved they’re better live; or, at least, the tricks are revealed. Seven or so effects pedals for the guitarist, a drummer that hammers guitar frets while striking the hi-hat and stepping on bass tones with his foot, and the elusive connection required to pull it all off. See them if you can, leave happy and envious.

News from an old friend, DJ and fellow record hound Sean, who used to spin weekly at Soundboutique on Thursday nights at the Ivy Room in the East Bay. I heard last week he kept a blog of the same name, and lo and behold, the first post that popped up was on Lyman Woodward. Sold! Sean’s got a great, conversational writing style, and that Lyman Woodward record (Saturday Night Special) is like gritty, oily gravel on a Detroit sidestreet—electric organ never sounded so raw. Check it out. Sean is also noted for his ability to convince the Flamingo Hotel in Santa Rosa to comp him for a two-night stay, which means he can probably also spin gold from straw, ride King Ridge in two hours and unearth original sealed Liquid Liquid EPs at Kmart.

Robyn Live at Amoeba
For those who don’t know, Robyn is a former teen-pop sensation from Sweden who decided five years ago to start her own label and go her own way. She’s done so forcefully: Her latest, Body Talk Pt. 1, opens with a song called “Don’t Fucking Tell Me What to Do,” and closes with a jazz tune originally recorded by Bill Evans, sung in Swedish. Her latest single, “Dancing On My Own,” is on full-blast anthem status for 2010. It took me 2 1/2 hours in weekend traffic to catch her free in-store at Amoeba on Saturday. It was worth it.

With a pared-down two-piece band, Robyn performed hits in mostly ballad style: “Hang With Me” was a beautiful, slow opener, “With Every Heartbeat” caused audible gasps from the crowd and a pensive, piano-driven “Dancing On My Own” elicited the lonesomeness buried in the song’s rhythm-heavy album version. Robyn still danced. It was great.

The North Bay Film and Art Collective
It’s now officially called the Arlene Francis Theater—which is one syllable shorter! Arlene Francis was an actress best known for her long run on television game shows, including What’s My Line? and The Match Game; she also appeared with Doris Day in The Thrill of It All.

Why, you may ask, is the North Bay Film and Art Collective now called the Arlene Francis Theater? Because her son, Peter Gabel, wanted to name it after his mother. (His dad, Martin Gabel, warn’t no chopped liver, either—he hung out with Orson Welles, starred in Deadline U.S.A. and Marnie, and worked with Billy Wilder.) Gabel and his partner Martin Hamilton have some other ideas for the place, too, involving a cafe and eventually, a seated theater funded by redevelopment money. Hamilton says he wants Joan Baez to play there. It’s probably possible.

Gilman, Rent, Landlords, Etc.
I ran into my friend Eggplant at Grouper’s ‘Sleep’ audio installation at the Berkeley Art Museum. Eggplant’s volunteered at Gilman for 20 years, and although he just got fired for making a hilarious flyer poking fun at the club’s nostalgia-preying penchant for $10 reunion shows, he’ll probably be let back. Gilman is like that.

Gilman also has been faced with a steep-ass, widely publicized rent increase, and Eggplant and I talked about the community implications if Gilman actually had to close. The club still has yet to nail down a lease agreement with the landlord, but things do not look particularly promising. Sometimes, Eggplant wonders if Gilman closing wouldn’t be such a bad thing—if it’s perhaps outgrown its purpose and turned into a dusty relic where bands want to play just so they can say they played the same stage where Green Day and OpIvy got their start.

No, no, no, I countered. It has to stay open. It still embraces the creative spirit, is based on solid codes of conduct and provides an all-ages outlet that’s needed. Every time I walk in the place I feel like I’m being hugged by its walls. I admittedly say this as someone who only gets down there two or three times a year, but I think it’s be terrible if the place had to close. They have some money in the bank, but not enough for a down payment to buy the property at the figures that are being thrown around. If they could, it’d be empowering—the punks own their own club!—but it’d still be a struggle.

The long and short of it is it was nice to have a conversation about Gilman’s rent increase that did not begin and end with “Billie Joe should buy it,” although that’s not a terrible idea, either.

For the Kidz
Kidz Bop is the name of a very stupid series of CDs featuring current radio hits sanitized for the under-the-age-of-10 crowd. They’re incredibly popular, but generally they just drive everyone crazy. The best thing to do with a Kidz Bop CD is listen to it all the way through to find all the lyrics that are changed for the kidz. Unfortunately, that is torture. Maura Johnston at The Awl has listened to the latest CD in the series so you don’t have to, and rounded up the “13 Most Awkwardly Altered Lyrics on Kidz Bop 18.” It is most amusing.

Eric Lindell
This week’s Bohemian cover story is on Eric Lindell and how he left his record label to make the best record of his career. You know you’re old when you can remember Lindell’s dominance of the newly-opened Third Street Aleworks in the mid 1990s; you’re older if you remember seeing him play bass and sing for his 10-piece funk band, Grand Junction. I do, vaguely, and visiting Grand Junction’s MySpace tribute page is a fun little trip back in time to the punk-funk era of Sonoma County.

Gwyneth Paltrow Sings Country
This week’s Bohemian column is on Miranda Lambert, who’s playing the Sonoma County Fair on Monday. (Y’all should go.) As I point out in the article, here’s really no reason the very gifted Lambert shouldn’t be played on Americana radio. Why, even Gwyneth Paltrow is more pop-country than Miranda Lambert, as evidenced by this new single from her upcoming movie, Country Strong!

In News

Les Savy Fav Wrestle With Leaks, Stalk People On Twitter

Posted by on Jul 26, 2010

This is pretty great: Les Savy Fav (motto: “Missing Out on Cashing In for Over a Decade”) is about to release their new album, Root for Ruin. Their label, Frenchkiss, set up a protected stream so reviewers can listen to—but not download—the album. The login information that music writers got implied that we would be a “dick” if we leaked the record. Such a threat obviously didn’t deter fans rabid to share the thing, because almost immediately, someone apparently got into the source code and leaked the mp3s for download.

What’s a band to do when their album is leaked? The savvy Les Savy Fav has since created a Twitter account (@u_took_my_music) as “the Ghost of Les Savy Fav” to “haunt” those who post links to the leaked album. What’s more, they’ve set up a Paypal donation site to which the shame-filled Twitter user can then donate. “Okay, so you got our leaked record. At least now you know how awesome it is,” the page reads. “Here—donate some cash to us and be free of guilt for the record. Pay extra and you’re also forgiven for sex sins and stuff AND we’ll tell Jesus to send you cookies.”

I like this approach. In related news, Root for Ruin is really, really good, and you can pre-order it here.

Universal CEO to Independent Record Stores: Suck It

Posted by on Jul 23, 2010 2 Comments

Jim Urie is the President and CEO of Universal Music Group, which has spent the last two decades buying up every label it possibly can to become the world’s largest music conglomerate. Like all record company CEOs, Jim Urie is trying to curb illegal downloading. Also like all record company CEOs, he’s not having much luck. So he’s begging you to help him out by signing this handy online form letter to representatives in Washington, D.C. which claims that illegal downloading is destroying American music.

Urie gave a real whiz-bang presentation about all this in front of other industry honchos at the NARM convention earlier this year, and got so fired up at the response that he created a Facebook page called Music Rights Now as a “call to action.” He recently asked the folks who champion independent record stores under the banner of Record Store Day to promote his Music Rights Now page, and they obliged with a click-through banner on their site.

He also asked them to distribute to independent record stores this statement he wrote, which reads in full:

I’ve received hundreds of e-mails enthusiastically reacting to my “call to action” at the National Association of Recording Merchandisers convention last month. The music business is facing huge challenges from piracy and theft. Never before in American history has an entire industry been so decimated by illegal behavior. Yet the government has not responded in a meaningful way to help us address the crisis. My call to action is for all of us to become more aggressive in lobbying our government, more outspoken in drawing attention to the problems caused by piracy and more actively engaged. We cannot win this fight alone.

Governments outside the U.S. are legislating, regulating and playing a prominent role in discussions with ISPs (Internet Service Providers). Sales have dramatically improved in these countries. How is it that the U.S.—with the most successful music community in the world—is not keeping up with places like South Korea, France, the UK and New Zealand?

As I said in my speech, I hope that the industry can negotiate a voluntary deal with the ISPs. We need our government representatives to encourage this. But whether or not we reach a deal with the ISPs, our government needs to know that we’ve got a piracy problem and we need real solutions. To accomplish this, our government needs to hear from all of us, so they know that their constituents are out here. Join me in calling on our elected officials to fight piracy. Please help by forwarding this email to your colleagues, friends—everyone who loves music. And consider enlisting your entire company to help in this fight. Then by clicking on the link below, a message will be sent to your representatives in Washington. Help us launch a viral campaign to cut off access to the online sites that are used to steal our music, our property and our jobs. It only takes a second, but it can make a tremendous impact.

You might think: A valiant crusader in the fight for justice! Except as a supporter of the ideals behind Record Store Day, and as one who thinks hometown record stores are just as important as gigantic conglomerates (Universal Music Group owns the catalogs of Motown, Def Jam, Island, Interscope, Geffen, A&M, MCA, Mercury, Verve, Lost Highway, Polydor, Decca, Hip-O, Prestige, Riverside, and lots of others), I say let’s look at this Urie guy a little closer.

Here’s the thing. In March this year, Urie announced a new $10.00 suggested retail price on most titles for Universal’s new releases. (The Roots’ How I Got Over and M.I.A.’s ///Y/ are the first that come to mind.) Which seems like great news, right? Consumers have been asking for cheaper CD prices forever! Everyone knows how little it costs to make a CD by now, and most people justifiably feel like charging $19.99 is outrageous.

But when Universal rolled out the new pricing structure, they conveniently forgot to mention who’s making up the margin. It’s not Universal. Instead, Urie is shifting the burden onto record stores—and in particular, independent record stores.

Let’s look at the M.I.A. record as an example. Big-box stores order so much quantity and so little variety that they’re able to get concessionary wholesale pricing from labels on new releases, but independent stores order nearly all new releases from distributors called one-stops. Under the old pricing tier, an independent store would have ordered a copy of ///Y/ for $10.99 from a one-stop, sold it for $15.99 and made five bucks.

Under Universal’s current “Velocity” program, the suggested retail price for ///Y/ is only $10.00, a fact touted clearly to customers on the overwrap sticker on top of the CD:

But how much does that CD cost the store? Below is a screen grab from the B2B ordering site at AEC, one of the country’s largest one-stop distributors to independent stores, and I swear it’s not Photoshopped. The first figure on the bottom line is the suggested retail price. The second is the wholesale cost to stores.

$10 MSRP, $9.99 wholesale. That’s right: The independent record store makes a one-cent profit. Essentially, Jim Urie is telling record stores to fuck themselves. Who could possibly be happy earning one measly penny per sale while making Urie’s company look like saviors for lowering prices?

The end result is that independent stores are threatened anew not by illegal downloading but by Urie himself, who apparently only wants to sell CDs at loss-leader outlets like Wal-Mart, Best Buy and Target—retail behemoths that continue to drive independent stores out of business. Urie doesn’t care; he’s shifted the burden to store owners, so he’s still making money. How the indie-loving people behind Record Store Day could even speak to the guy, let alone promote his agenda, is totally beyond me.

In News

John Zorn Returns to Yoshi's in August

Posted by on Jul 20, 2010 One Comment

As prolific as alto saxophonist / composer / all-around madman John Zorn is in the studio—he’s played on over 400 recordings—he really doesn’t play live on the West Coast that much. In 1999, his Masada Quartet played Yoshi’s in Oakland, and it was another ten long years before he returned for a week-long residency last year in San Francisco. Like Ron Burgundy might say, it was kind of a big deal. The first show I saw was unbelievable; the second one was like something from outer space. He returns next month to Yoshi’s for another run, and like last year, it’s a different band for each show. Unlike last year, tickets are not $50 but a little cheaper at $25-$35, owing to Zorn’s use this time of West Coast musicians instead of flying all his NYC bros to California with him.

Here’s the dates and the individual lineups:

Thursday, Aug. 26
8pm: Terry Riley and John Zorn duo
10pm: Fred Frith, Mike Patton, John Zorn trio

Friday, Aug. 27
8pm: John Zorn’s ‘Alhambra Love Songs’ with Rob Burger, Trevor Dunn and Kenny Wollesen
10pm: Aleph Trio with John Zorn, Trevor Dunn, Kenny Wollesen and films by Wallace Berman

Saturday, Aug. 28
8pm: John Zorn with the Rova Sax Quartet
10pm: John Zorn’s Cobra

I can’t stress how much you should try to see at least one of these shows—especially Saturday’s Cobra performance, which features 15 guys including Mike Patton, Fred Frith, Trey Spruance, Trevor Dunn and lots more, all conducted by the esoteric hand gestures of Zorn at the podium. It’s truly a sight to behold. All show info. and ticket sales over at Yoshi’s site.

Dirty Projectors, Björk Release 'Mount Wittenberg Orca'—With Photo of the Wrong Mountain

Posted by on Jul 19, 2010

There’s so much fraud in the world—MonaVie juice, “i-Dosing,” Michele Bachmann—that when I come across purity now I almost don’t recognize it. In that vein, I’d hesitated to listen to Mount Wittenberg Orca, the online-only collaboration by Bjork and Dirty Projectors with a lovely cover photo. I was afraid it’d be forced. It isn’t. Rather, it’s one of the most unaffected, honest things I’ve come across all year.

Or is it? As my correspondent Dean Tisthammer points out, the mountain pictured on the album cover is clearly not Mount Wittenberg in Point Reyes National Seashore. You can view the real Mount Wittenberg here. This might just be a slight misunderstanding, I thought. Surely, they’re referencing some other Mount Wittenberg? But alas, the explanation from Dirty Projectors’ Dave Longstreth:

Amber from Dirty Projectors was walking along a ridge on Mount Wittenberg, north of San Francisco. She was looking out at the ocean and saw a little family of whales, as you sometimes do in April on the Northern California coast. I wrote some songs about it and sent them to Björk, who agreed to sing the part of the mom whale. The songs became Mount Wittenberg Orca.

So the album’s called Mount Wittenberg Orca after the Point Reyes mountain, but with an imposter mountain on the cover? No love for the real Mount Wittenberg? Just what the bejeezus mountain is pictured?

Dean, a huge Dirty Projectors fan who hikes often in the area, says it’s Black Mountain, near Point Reyes. A Google Maps search confirms it—the photo was evidently shot just off Point Reyes-Petaluma Road, east of Point Reyes Station. Which seems to indicate that Longstreth & Co. googled “Mount Wittenberg” for a cover photo, didn’t come up with anything (we barely did either), and settled for some other mountain in Point Reyes, assuming it’d glide past the eagle eyes of nature-hiking Dirty Projectors fans.

Kudos to Dean for the tip.

Fake representations of mountains aside, the album is short and sweet—those enamored with Medulla‘s vocal-heavy arrangements will especially be smitten. You can download it on a sliding-scale donation basis here. All proceeds benefit the National Geographic Society’s ocean initiatives, too.

In News

City Sound Inertia Wins National Award

Posted by on Jul 16, 2010 12 Comments

I am honored, elated and surprised that at today’s annual convention in Toronto, the Association of Alternative Newsweeklies has bestowed this very blog you’re all up in right now with a first-place award! That’s right: Best Individual Blog, circulation under 50,000.

As someone who still loves and uses rotary phones, typewriters and the U.S. Postal Service, I was stubbornly hesitant to start a blog in the first place and spent a great deal of time criticizing the idea to anyone who would listen. I’ve always felt the printed pages of the Bohemian were far more important. But at the urging of my great editor, Gretchen Giles, I finally relented and began writing posts—usually from home, at around two in the morning.

In the two-and-a-half years since, CSI has been a hodgepodge of local music coverage, show reviews, announcements, personal musings, interviews, record reviews and whatever else pops into my head. It’s also been very, very rewarding. Sometimes I veer off and start talking about closed Chinese restaurants, parking meters and heroin needles; other times I’ve broken behind-the-scenes stories that get picked up by Rolling Stone.

Kissing booths, harlequins, leaked festival lineups and girls camping out for a Hanson show have all made appearances here, as well as one of my all-time favorite interviews. Sometimes I hang out with famous people and review huge pop stars both extremely talented and so untalented it’s a joke; other times I spotlight brilliant unknowns, visit in on friends’ record collections or rally support for hometown heroes. I even drop in on porn stars from time to time.

I guess what I’m saying is that I love doing it. Here’s the part where I say I owe it all to you, the loyal readers, who give me constant support and tolerate my bad jokes. Of course, thanks also to AAN, not just for the award but for nurturing and championing alternative news media. Now go jam out to some ridiculous Nicki Manaj verses or at least listen to some vintage Sonny Rollins, and enjoy the weekend!

In News

When Hip-Hop Drops Acid

Posted by on Jul 15, 2010 One Comment

The first time I heard about Digable Planets, it was from someone on LSD. So it’s no surprise that 17 years later the group’s Ishmael Butler, a.k.a. Butterfly, has started an elusive lysergic-leaning project called Shabazz Palaces. (You may have read about it recently at a certain M.I.A.-bashing indie site.) They—he, whatever—play tonight at Hopmonk’s Juke Joint, and for anyone into tripped-out hip-hop in the vein of Anticon, Edan or MF Doom, it’s a rare chance to catch Butler on some out-there levels.

I love this surreal pastiche video for “Belhaven Meridian,” shot in Watts:

And how scattershot are Shabazz Palaces’ song titles? Here’s the tracklist to the first EP:

1. kill white t, parable of the nigga who barrels stay hot, made by [email protected]
2. 4 shadows”noah mission as told by plcr dougie frum up the block from granny’s Subsonic custom crowns
3. 32 leaves dipped in blackness making clouds forming altered carbon
4. blastit at the homie rayzer’s charm lake plateau bbq july at outpalace pk
5. Capital 5, recorded after hrs at the gun ballad resource cntr on s Sweeper st.
6. my mac yawns i go on to make this darksparkles move call it: as the americans say, middle section made by plcr runner reg on his 30′ chromitar
7. a mess, the booth soaks in palacian musk, palaceer in vintage LRG, yes pure NS, uppowndet watermelon lips beat

I am not kidding.

Shabazz Palaces plays tonight, July 15, at the Hopmonk Tavern. 230 Petaluma Ave., Sebastopol. 9pm. $15. 21+. 707.829.7300.

In News

Treasure Island 2010: LCD Soudsystem, Belle & Sebastian, Broken Social Scene, Die Antwoord, Hella More

Posted by on Jul 13, 2010

The lineup for this year’s wingding at Treasure Island has been announced. Lest I sound like a broken record, writing about previous year’s fests here and here and here and here and here and here and here, I think Treasure Island is really the perfect festival for people who hate festivals—it’s small, it’s manageable, it’s scenic as hell and the only corporate sponsor is Heineken. Historically, it’s also boasted a lineup usually way more impressive than other festivals, catching bands on the ascendant wax instead of the sad wane.

That’s mostly the case again in 2010. Here’s who’s playing:

Saturday, October 16
LCD Soundsystem, Deadmau5, Kruder & Dorfmeister, Miike Snow, !!!, Die Antwoord, Little Dragon, Four Tet, Holy Fuck, Phantogram, Jamaica, Wallpaper, Maus Haus

Sunday, October 17
Belle & Sebastian, The National, Broken Social Scene, She & Him, Superchunk, Rogue Wave, Surfer Blood, Ra Ra Riot, Monotonix, The Sea & Cake, Phosphorescent, Papercuts, The Mumlers

LCD Soundsystem has put out one of this year’s best records, so they’ll make a memorable headliner. Kruder & Dorfmeister, who are billed specifically as “Kruder & Dorfmeister (LIVE),” should probably just play all of K&D Sessions. Expect Jerry Fuchs shout-outs from !!!. Weirdly, Die Antwoord is way down on the schedule even though their show at the Rickshaw Stop was fetching $150 for tix; expect the stage to be mobbed.

I really feel like the bombastic, festival-perfect Broken Social Scene should be headlining Sunday instead of Belle & Sebastian. M. Ward makes a festival reappearance with She & Him, Monotonix is going to wind up banging on drums while hanging from the motherfucking Ferris wheel, and Superchunk really should have booked a club date instead of playing a truncated festival set, but what can you do?

Two-day tickets are available now for $120; single-day tickets go on sale on Friday, July 16. All da deets over at the offish fest site.

In News

The Black Cat in Penngrove is Closing

Posted by on Jul 13, 2010

After 8 years in Penngrove of stiff drinks, open mics, “gutter nights,” live bands and a sea of bras stapled to the ceiling, the Black Cat is closing.

The lovable little lesbian-owned bar with one of the most diverse clienteles in Sonoma County has been sold to new owners from the 8-Ball in Cotati—which is also a lovable little bar but, let’s face it, it’s going to be hard to replicate the insanely unique feel of the Black Cat. “I don’t think it’s going to be quite the queer-friendly and freak-friendly place,” says owner Robin Pfefer, “so I’m sad to lose that space for the community. At the same time, it’s been 8 years, and I’ve had to simplify things.”

Pfefer, who also owns Gravenstones in Cotati and plays guitar and sings in Cheap Date 13, says selling the bar is a matter of scaling back for her family. Her 2 1/2-year-old son is learning to play drums, and Pfefer wants to start jamming with him. “They’re only this age once,” she says, eager to spend more time with him instead of handling the menial tasks at the bar. “Do I want to be with him, or do I want to be on the phone with the garbage company, or the towel company? I’m choosing my son.”

Look for the distinctive purple sign outside to change to the new name—at this point, it’ll be called Mac’s—sometime around September 1. No word on if the new owners plan to continue cramming bands into that tiny, tiny corner, but they apparently want the P.A., which is a good sign. Humble Pie, next door, will stay. Pfefer has already fielded opportunities to run her popular open mic at several other venues.

And as for the bras stapled to the ceiling? “The new owners have said they don’t want the bras,” Pfefer sighs, explaining that everyone on closing night will get to take one down as a memento of the end of an era.

Farewell parties with a gazillion bands are in the planning stages, so check the Black Cat website periodically as things wind down in August. And who knows? Maybe the 2 Live Crew will return to close the joint down. (Yes, they did play there!)