I crammed a lot into my evening in SF the night of Beth Custer’s showcase at Brava Theatre. First there was a pre-show art happening in the lobby, featuring Alex Garcia, formerly of Buenos Aires.
Then I wandered into Galleria de La Raza and bought two sugar owls (a variation of sugar skulls for Dia De Los Muertos) and re-introduced guitar player David James to an old housemate of his, Michele Simons, who was running a clinic in the gallery. David’s licks were as tasty as ever later that night in his set with Beth.
While flipping through the Bay Guardian at a nearby taqueria, I noticed the display ad for Bottom of the Hill listing JC Brooks from Chicago, about whom I posted six months ago. Temptation turned to spontaneous action as a cab dumped a fare right in front of me and I took that as a sign to try to meet the dude; My roll continued because BOTH proprietess and high priestess of indie Ramona Downey was behind the bar and offered to take me to the green room to introduce me to her headliners. the two clubs are an $8 cab ride apart, or two of them in this case, but well worth the investment especially since Ramona bought me a beer. I also met backstage Gordon Eigart from Spinning Platters blog, and visited with him by phone the next day to get his skinny. The name is a Radiohead reference (see “Spinning Plates” which to me sounds like a vaudeville act).
Beth Custer’s show as always was a solid sender. She said from the stage that she was interviewed on air recently by KALX’s Anthony Bonet, who is also the former booker for Bottom of the Hill, and that he had been spinning a chestnut of Beth’s from her catalog, which she re-added to her live set. Although she forgot to keep her promise of working a melodica solo into the show — she sufficed with clarinet, vocals, writing, bandleading and booking — she did humor me by demonstrating briefly post-show her melodica (see above). It’s a plastic instrument, like Ornette’s famous plastic alto, although more associated with Alphonse Ellis in this case. Beth and I have several schemes going, including a reprise of Beat Hotel Rm 32 (the Ginsburg Tribute), her Bone ‘N Drone project with Glenn Hartman and hopefully something arty-Indie (in the Fritz Scholder sense) like her commission for De Young Museum referencing their AOA collection.
Between Beth’s soundcheck and set, I indeed scurried over to Bottom of the Hill to meet JC Brooks from Chicago, and his bandmates Ben Taylor and Bill Bungeroth, the guitarist. I heard about JC and the Uptown Sound because he played the lead in a Windy City production of “Passing Strange”, the Broadway star-vehicle written and acted by my former client Mark “Stew” Stewart (with Heidi Rodewald). JC Brooks and band tore up the club, and are picked to click with help from Bloodshot Records and uber-agent Bruce Solar of The Agency Group. I liked his cover of Wilco “I Am Trying To Break Your Heart”. Slightly off topic, I enjoyed a screening of 1948 filmed on location “Call Northside 777” (although I am actually from the South Side).
I also heard from, via texting, Terry Abrahamson of “Doo Lister’s Blues” who has a new schtick called “Hannukatz”. Meow or me-oyy? Circling back, JC Brooks is a ROAR! like Otis Redding meets Tom Jones and Beth Custer is a PURR! like Eartha Kitt meets Alice Coltrane, and I lived 9 lives in one charmed night in the Mission/Potrero Hill. (Oh yeah, I also met Farrah Ancell of The Struts and promised to take her to see Candye Kane at Yoshi’s, Monday, November 18, in SF).
edit to add, Dec. 31, about a month later: found this video of The Struts, from same night:
willis beal is the new jc brooks. someone said he looks like nate robinson