Earthwise history of ska in Palo Alto

Inspired by Aaron Carnes’ reading and signing at Streetlight Records Saturday, I wrote this short memoir of my experience doing ska shows here, mostly in the late 1990s, mostly at Cubberley Community Center. Aaron’s book is “In Defense of Ska” and is part his memoir of being in Flat Planet and part being a roadie for Skankin’ Pickle plus his argument about the signficance of the scene or genre. I’ve skimmed the entirety of his book, which is more than I do for a lot of books I buy on impulse. The event was my first author event in a while, and my first time in a record store for a while. Aaron is from Gilroy and is the music editor of Santa Cruz Good Times, a sister publication of San Jose Metro. I saw the interesting cover peeking out from the distribution box and noted that the event was that afternoon and literally went straight to the hit. Aaron had previously written a cover story about Mike Park of SP for the Metro. 

Aaron Carnes author appearance, Streetlight San Jose May 8, 2021

I deliberately wanted my concert series at Cubberley to be diverse, so it made sense to have a sprinkling of ska in my history, although overall I consider myself a “1990s indie rock” guy. Recently I do more jazz and blues than rock or ska. Maybe it is attributable to the legendary influence of Skankin’ Pickle that I wanted to poke around in the genre. 

1) Toasters, Spring Heel Jack, Monkey at Cubberley Auditorium
2) Tomato Head Records Showcase: MU330, Janitors Apartheid, Slapstick, Chuck Phelps Misc robot project; (I sort of think I did a Dill Records Showcase and a Tomato Head Records Showcase, working with different schism members of the Skankin’ crew)
3)Skankin’ Pickle unannounced guest at PaloPalooza II outdoors Cubberley Amphitheater;
4) Slow Gherkin’, Marginal Prophets, IBOPA; poster by Keith Knight.
5) Second Slow Gherkin’ show, I think; maybe not.
6)Monkey on California Avenue, free show — City of Palo Alto Public Art Commission unveiling of “Go Mama” by Marta Thoma — I was the middle agent or co-promoter;
7) Mike Park opening for The Evens(Ian Mackaye and Amy Farina) at Terman Middle School; not ska, but made you think about ska.
8)Kemuri (with Peechees, The Donnas as Electrocutes, Pansy Division — filling for J Church — not on the poster but Todd Inouye previewed them in his Metro column); I also remember that there was a huge gap between the Donnas short set and the Pee Chees — I wished I had let Kemuri play longer.
9)The KGB? Sort of a ska band (with Big City Rick, Eleventeen); KGB had a song that sampled Marginal Prophets “Your Girlfriend is The Best”.
So that’s 8 ska-ish shows; ot 12 tropes — who’s counting?
10) Lester “Ska” sterling played with the Toasters and tried to nap on two folding chairs in the Cubberley auditorium green room which is a former high school cafeteria kitchen

11) When Brad Nowell died I got a call from an artist manager in LA asking me to hold a date for a proposed benefit for his widow and baby, to feature No Doubt as headliner but the show was canceled because the album came out and did very well anyhow…

12) When Jim Harrington wrote about my concert series for Palo Alto Weekly I wore a Goldfinger t-shirt to the photo shoot. They killed the cover photo because I flashed fake gang signs — “W” for Weiss, West Coast or maybe Leonard Nimoy — and shot the redo wearing a coat and tie but making a angry too serious scowl. The black and white interior shots with Goldfinger shirt ran, though.

I would have to admit that if you want to do a “Ska History of Palo Alto” you would write about The Edge. Also, if you stretch the category to rock bands with horns you can add New Morty Show, New Orleans Klezmer All Stars, Cake, and maybe Train. Also, I want to recall that Brad Johnson, who was a popcorn jerk at Stanford Theatre, and a librarian in Palo Alto and recorded with Allen Clapp under the name Variable Stars, a friend C___ recalled that she thought of Brad as “The Ska Guy” because he was always for a while talking up the next ska shows. There was a woman in Hayward who kept a “Ska-lender” a calender of ska shows; I think she was briefly my student when for a matter of weeks I was the volunteer advisor to the Tennyson High School paper. I think it was the Lancer Legend but the kids wanted to have an underground paper called “DANK”. I also had a project called Stanford Ska Project, where I briefly corresponded with a horn player from the Stanford Band, but she moved to Japan. Joshua Roseman did a jazz show at Stanford called “Ska (something)”. And Charlie Hunter did a jazz show in my series that was a jazz re-working of Bob Marley (which is also on Blue Note). Reggae. I want to say I gave Banks Lowman and Tom Drake a ride to Keystone Palo Alto to see Toots and the Maytals but was not cool enough to want to go. I noted “Jump Up” in a James Bond movie recently, Byron Lee. Plus I saw Lee Scratch Perry at Montalvo and was tripping on his sax player Ms Eisen.

Seems like from Aaron Carnes’ book if he had put the exact same amount on energy into his band, they would be well-known. I like that they call him “Carne” — Spanish for “meat” — even though he is Irish. Also, I think Rick Bonde of The Tahoe Agency was from this area and went to Menlo College — he gave me an early Blink 182 show, on Earth Day – -we gave away a new bike from Softride.

I want to say that I read something about Isaac Green who I knew of and had his number in my book, “Isaac Green and the Ska-Lers” — maybe he is an artist manager or something in business but a journalist outed him. Also, I recall that Dave Hawkins of Engine 88, Cahn-Man Management (Green Day) and Lost Weekend Video told me once that part of the reason they threw in the towel of Engine getting signed to a major was that labels wanted to sign ska bands – -his company ran 510 Records which signed Dance Hall Crashers. Travis Barker of Blink 182  was not in the band when they played The Cub but I recall that I recognized his name when he joined Blink because he was in a ska band that had played the Edge; also, No Doubt’s horn section was in a local San Jose ska band. There are two Spring Heeled Jacks, one from here one from England that is more techno. Has there ever been a Jewish ska band that sang in Hebrew and used a ram’s horn shofar?

I found a short video of Goldfinger at The Edge, 1997 and full set of Fugazi – -not ska — at the Edge in 1999 — they should put Feldman’s photo on the wall at 260 California Avenue offices

and1: One of the projects I did to stay busy, stay hopeful, stay sane during the Covid-19 lockdown in 2020 was to collaborate with Veronica DeJesus to do a series of memorial portraits of musicians who had played my concert series. I did not know Lynette Knackstedt and doubt I spoke with her at the show but she did play at Cubberley once, summer of 1997, my second Palo Palooza show. Aaron Carnes’ book has some passages about her, including a crush by another fan, which she handled gracefully even though she was a lesbian and he was straight. Maybe an author like Carnes should tell her story. 



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Looking back vs ‘Don’t Look Back’

At minute nine of “don’t look back” a British journalist asked Joan Baez how to spell her name: BAEZ (“zed”). “Oh”he exclaims “I did not recognize you”.
Reminds me that in September 1995 or fall of 1995 Dar Williams headlined my concert series at the Cubberley community Center theater. I recall that she said something about she was going to have a special guest so we needed two mics. Show enough Joan Baez shows up and sat in with Dar for a “you’re aging well” and “hallelujah”. But what makes me think of it right now is that the volunteer working the door, N-, didn’t know who Joan was and was slow to even admit her to the show— I don’t think we had laminates in those days either.

Although I doubt Joan would say the experience reminded her of this film. Last time I saw Joan she was at printers ink and I gave her a copy of Dao Strom’s demo — Part of my imagination as Dao’s manager was that she would write a play about a singer imprisioned for her views and it would be ambiguous until the end of the play whether it took place in north Vietnam or North America.

I am creeping up on 3,000 posts although some of the stories I’m sure I have repeated 10 times .
The search function indicates I’ve mentioned “Baez “25 times. And the auto correct function indicates that I should acknowledge the passing of Robbie Beyers who I did not know but met once at Cafe Zoe he shot 40,000 images of the Stanford band.

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No sour grapes for Napa billionaire

suzanne deal booth the wife of billionaire investor Dale Booth now owns 32.6 acres of Rutherford grapes. They are from Houston, Kansas, New York, Chicago and LA. Esther Mobley the wine critic of the Chron reports. She worked with Menil in Houston. Three of my last seven posts are reactive to the Chron. 
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Dead musician high on blockchain

The chronicle claims that Jerry Garcia despite being dead 26 years is an investor and advocate of Blockchain, cryptocurrency and non-fungible art investment NFT.
We may be going to hell in a bucket but at least his beneficiaries are enjoying the ride.

$1 million if you’re already speculating in cryptocurrency can buy you this:

Compared to doing a screen capture or cutting phase

for comparison sake and because it’s ironic here is my version of how the band got its name for what the name means: story goes that a man arrives in a village and meets an undertaker who is in a cup quandary or is upset because there is a body of an indigent person or an unknown person and they’re not sure what funeral rights: the traveler not necessarily being wealthy but being compassionate encourages the undertaker to do the right thing and perhaps pays for part of the funeral expense. Peter he buys a mule or a donkey or a horse or some type of companion. Soon after that good things start happening to this person maybe he invest in cryptocurrency or finds a bag of gold or gets laid. Turns out that the Spirit of the departed indigent person had returned to this plane in the body of the mule and helped all these great things start happening; grateful dead. (If there are any obvious intact errors in my version of the grateful dead man I’m going to leave them symbolically or consistent with the idea that the proliferation of computers and social media and iPhones is indeed influencing our understanding of our place in the world and what is happening
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Flaming lips, flying caps

I just got an announcement about a flaming lips show May 7 at the Warfield May 7, 2022 Someone texted me offering me the Giants tickets versus Texas Rangers Monday night. I said I prefer Tuesday afternoon. I wonder who the Giants are playing May 7, 2022? to one year from tomorrow. I have no idea where I will be one year from tomorrow.

Someone texted me offering me the Giants tickets versus Texas Rangers Monday night. I said I prefer Tuesday afternoon. I wonder who the Giants are playing May 7, 2022?

today is Willie Mays his 90th birthday. I have tickets to a zoom event sometime this afternoon celebrating the fact. I wonder what will the maze thinks of zoom. I think of Willie Mays either going backwards to catch off the bat a Vic words or just generally running such that his cap would fall off or fly off. I also think of May 24 is a holiday.

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Twitter as a bulwark of Democracy

Malcolm Gladwell in conversation with Walter Isaacson on Amanapouor show, regarding his book on the technology of bombers in World War II and the burning of Tokyo and other cities he says 10 years ago we thought Twitter would help democracy but now that is obviously absurd.
No shit, Sherlock.


Journalist from India who writes columns for Washington post Rana Ayyub: Fairplay to freedom of the press in India.

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After beeple ‘Everydays’

Trigger warning

I sent this image to a NYT freelancer then realized it documents the fact that about a week after I got the Johnson vaccination I took 2 pictures of my thighs because I was worried that I had blood clots but no platelets and a rash. I should title this “The Johnson & Johnson no- Johnson Shot” — kind of a tribute to Ray Johnson.



Robert “Indian Bob” Johnson

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Maybell aka ‘Orchard Park’ now epicenter for Palo Alto, Silicon Valley and civilization as we know it, according to the Chron

Maybell Street Palo Alto and new homes being staged


Lauren Hepler of The Chron has a Page 1 story about Palo Alto and housing equity, pegged to the new homes hitting the market at the controversial Maybell site in South Palo Alto.

Check back as I update about the fact that “The Residentialists” were Emily Renzel, Enid Pearson and Tom Jordan and opposed the trends inherent in the removal of 100 homes from Oregon Street to create Oregon Expressway, for the benefit of Hewlett Packard.

Forty-five years later, Tim Gray and I ran for City Council under the banner of “The New Residentialists” and got 6,000 or more votes each, as also-rans (voters chose: Marc Berman, Liz Kniss and Pat Burt in greater numbers, but to minimal effect or progress). My use was in tribute to Enid et al; she showed me clippings and pamphlets from her fight, in her foyer; Jordan had me to his home and suggested my “New Residentialist Platform” include a critique of “Planned Community Zoning”, a nexus of abuse; he later mentored Tom Dubois, who is now our mayor, and a source for Hepler’s procrustean and convoluted version of our housing woes.

Integral to the term “Residentialist” in 1964 and 2012 was opposition to corporate hegemony, or corporate creep. What are HP’s needs relative to those of We The People?

Maybell does not mean that Palo Alto prefers $5m homes to housing for seniors, the poor or Blacks. Maybell means that We The People are outflanked and outgunned by the industry, in this case the housing industry.

There is $50b (BILLION) on the tax rolls in Palo Alto. You can fairly state that real estate is a billion dollar per year industry here and multi-million dollar real estate lobby.

Meanwhile we don’t even tax corporations like Tesla, Google, Amazon, Facebook or Palantir.

San Jose makes $70M per year in business taxes, twice what it makes in TOT — hotel taxes– according to a recent report in the SV Business Journal.

Palo Alto likely could make $50m in taxes, but chooses not to. Why? Who knows. I’m guessing its because the landlords tell leadership not to.

In some ways, we could celebrate having 20 new houses in Palo Alto, even at market rate.

(Although initially I agreed with Mrs. Davis, the mother of Julian Davis, that there was merit in preserving Palo Alto’s last stone fruit orchard).

Also, why did we not consider Buena Vista and Maybell in the same breath?

Maybe we should use Buena Vista as precedent and buy the entire inventory at “Orchard Park”, even at market rate, and then lease it to artists or musicians at a subsidy, using taxes on Tesla and Palantir to make up the delta?

I also think we can tie Orchard Park to the skatepark initiative and build an amenity at Juana Briones Park, which actually already has some grassy dips and hills.

Apropos of reporting by Hepler, I never thought of Palo Alto Forward as progressive – -they seemed to be doing the bidding of developers.

Read George Packer, “The Unwinding”. Government fails, at local and national levels, because people do not put energy into the system. Special interests prosper in the vacuum.

The rich get richer. The richer get richerer using computers. Doh!

Hepler’s reporting reminds us that The San Francisco Chronicle is a Hearst paper, the people who invented “yellow journalism”. She implied that a racist act in 1946 in Redwood City happened in Palo Alto. Better would be to substantiate or refute my claim that real estate developers interfere with the ideal that local leadership like Dubois, Burt, Tanaka and Kou are responsive to or representative of their constituents  A related question is whether regional papers like The Merc or The Chron are independent of business interests (see Noam Chomsky “Manufacturing Consent” and Ben Bagdikian “The Media Monopoly” beyond George Packer’s more recent book, which borrows from Dos Passos; which reminds me: Palo Alto has a cluster of banks —plus town houses — where the Times Tribune and its press were situated; Laurene Powell Jobs’ Emerson project occupies a new building on University that was The Nevada Building that had office space for poet laureate Al Young: we are better at turning block chain into billions but worse at describing squirrels on our rooftops or divining meaning from such). Hepler’s fresh eyes on the issues could improve on the seriously flawed coverage by local rags like The Weekly and The Post.


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NFL draws three Cards

David Mills, a QB with 18 career touchdowns, Walker Little an ironically named lineman and cornerback Paulson Adebo were taken by Houston Jacksonville and New Orleans all clustered geographically in the south. I think I posted earlier about meeting David Mills and not having any idea who he was besides the fact he was wearing a Stanford T-shirt and I missed took him for a lineman or I was surprised when he said he was the starting quarterback. I actually had just mentioned that I once noticed Andrew Luck and likewise thought I saw an interior player coming at me and Mills said “yeah he’s big.

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Tennis champion returns

I ran into Hilary Whiting, my Gunn schoolmate, who teamed with Stacy Savides Sullivan to win the 1977 CCS doubles championship. I saw her checking the site of the former family home, corner of Churchill and Cowper, near the Lawn Bowling Center and Gamble Gardens.

Hilary said she transferred from Castilleja to Gunn to play in the tennis program. Gunn ladies had 26 CCS finalists or champions, singles, doubles or as a team, in a 20-year period from 1975 (Barrie Bulmore) to 1995 (Rebecca Dirksen).

Hilary stayed in LA after graduating from UCLA. She liked the fact I was wearing a t-shirt from Canter’s Deli. I said I was a better eater than serve-and-volley guy, even then especially now. 



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