Jonah’s onelinedrawing’s Lytton Plaza

Free Concert JONAH MATRANGA (onelinedrawing, FAR) Tues. Nov. 6 noon Lytton Plaza Palo Alto


Years ago, when I produced concerts at Cubberley Theatre on a regular basis, twice a month or more for about six years running, I used to dream about booking such a popular act that all I needed to do to promote the show was tape one hand-made announcement to the window of Draper’s Music.

I thought about that when I posted this hand-made sign at Philz Coffee on Alma in Downtown Palo Alto today, about my arrangement to bring Jonah Matranga here for a free show Tuesday — tomorrow — Election Day — at Lytton Plaza, at University Avenue and Emerson Street. The show is a “nooner” and Jonah will play for about an hour.

I met Jonah in 2000 when, as onelinedrawing, he appeared at The Cubberley Sessions on a bill that also featured John Doe and Matt Nathanson. I saw Jonah in 2009 at Hotel Utah in San Francisco and was intrigued enough to follow him down to LA the next night to watch him (and Anna Rosenthal, from Germany) at Hotel Cafe.

When we got to LA, Jonah informed me that his appearance would be followed by a secret appearance by John Mayer, who was going to advertise his otherwise clandestine appearance by using some new do-hickey called Twitter.

Not to imply that either Jonah is going to draw an unsafe mob — like Metallica at San Jose Tower — or that John Mayer may secretly materialize, but I guarantee this performer will bring it down there at Lytton, which is Palo Alto’s version of People’s Park.

This is the fourth or fifth time I have induced (by secretive and proprietary methods of persuasion) a bona fide recording artist to busk at Lytton. Others have included Magnolia Sisters, Tommy Jordan of Geggy Tah, Beat Hotel Rm 32 and Lardner and Hermosilla. It’s also part of a little social experiment (or maybe a “social sculpture” ala Joseph Beuys if you excuse my Dutch) I call The International Congress of Buskers of Palo Alto, or ICO-BOPA.

Jonah has five albums under either the names FAR or onelinedrawing. No, check that: his own website says he has 26 cds, records or splits under the names Jonah, FAR, onelinedrawing, New End Original or Gratitude.  It says here that he has 4,356 followers on Twitter. Allmusic dot com lists about 90 credits for Jonah, including collaborations with Matt Nathanson, Kimya Dawson, Lupe Fiasco. Something tells me he was Matt’s college roommate maybe.

Part of my interest in producing an impromptu event at Lytton on Tuesday, November 6 is that it is also Election Day — I feel that Jonah’s performance has the potential to hermetically alter in a positive way the future of our great nation, well beyond what you too can observe empirically if you come on out yourself. Not that I can articulate the exact meaning of this but I also recall something I learned in college about the history of election day in the U.S, something about Edgar Allen Poe drinking himself to death on just such a fall occasion.

I should also admit that I got the idea for this show because Jonah had just played at San Pedro Square in San Jose, that was written about in San Jose Metro newspaper, a show produced by Eric Fanali’s Great Fanali Productions.

Here is Jonah playing with his band at a pretty big club a few years back:

Playing unplugged at Lytton Plaza will more likely resemble this clip of Jonah in a Sacramento record store:

This is a digression, but here is San Jose Metro’s coverage of the famous Metallica show in 1996, that resulted in charge-backs to the label and store from the City –again, not to worry, Palo Alto about Jonah Matranga at Lytton Plaza:

Lotsa Calls

The way that City Attorney Joan Gallo sounded last Thursday, you’d think the June 4 Metallica show at the South San Jose Tower Records resulted in a bottle-throwing melee. Criminal charges have been levied on Bill Graham Presents, Elektra Entertainment (Metallica’s label), Tower Records manager Barbara Williamson and a Tower Records vice president, Bob Delanoy, for the surprise parking-lot performance that drew 9,000 heavy metal fans and tied up traffic near Santa Teresa Boulevard and Blossom Hill Road for a few hours. In the aftermath of the noisefest, four separate charges were filed, including disturbing the peace, obstructing traffic, and failure to obtain permits to close streets and play amplified sound. Furthermore, the city finance director is sending a $7,000 bill to Tower Records to cover costs for police and fire department services. “I think the destruction that was caused deliberately and purposefully to get publicity and take advantage of this community needs to be dealt with in a criminal form,” the city attorney seethed. … When asked about the appropriateness of the punishment, one exasperated defendant involved in the impromptu concert told Eye: “You would have thought that we were kidnapping babies for Richard Allen Davis or something.” … Lauren Wood, a former promoter at One Step Beyond and California Concerts, points out that the cumulative total of traffic around the Arena during Sharks games has caused more delays than one concert, but they’re not considered criminally negligent. “San Jose has been gaining a nice reputation,” Wood puffed. “We get good bands at the Cactus Club; KOME has done a phenomenal job. The city, meanwhile, can’t pick a good slogan [“small-town-heart, big-city-soul”] and are acting like some backwoods sheriffs who want to teach Metallica a lesson. They do not see Metallica picking San Jose for a free concert as a good thing, or the positive coverage on MTV and CNN. They see they didn’t get money out of the show in tax revenues and parking fees. And they’re more than happy for them to come back in August.” … Meanwhile, Eye wonders whether 9,000 happy citizens at the show outnumbered complainers. Apparently no official numbers were kept on the number of complaints logged. “We received telephone calls and the City Council received calls,” summarized Gallo, without venturing a guess. “We got a lot of calls.” 

edit to add, a few minutes later: I studied American Literature at Dartmouth in the 1980s under James M. Cox and Horace Porter and my internet sussing here confirms my gray-matted-retrieval than indeed some say Edgar Allen Poe died after drinking heavily on Election Day. I did not recall, but link here, to something called “cooping” wherein people would try to alter election results by distracting certain types of voters, like taking out and getting drunk to keep them from the polls. With the Jonah Matranga concert, my aim is more to inspire people to vote or keep speaking up in dissent for what they think is going wrong with their community or country or species.

edit to add, a couple hours later: as onelinedrawing, Jonah has a more typical gig coming up Nov. 18 at Bottom of the Hill in San Francisco.

edita, the next a.m., after I did voter: Fanali is Grand not Great, of course, and even better says he will join us for lunch and our little deomocracy-saving ritual. who said: “I will never join a revolution I cannot nosh at”?

edit to add, November 20: Council approved the amplifier ban and I posted briefly on PAW report, but refrained from printing this more thorough discussion (it’s complicatered):

The question is: is it possible that City Attorney Molly Stump and eight council members are wrong and by banning amplifiers we are comprising an overly broad and not narrowly tailored prior restraint on free speech, by the First Amendment, part of the Bill of Rights, as described in, for example, Carew and Casey, as cited in this encouragingly voluminous website:

For example, I just ran into, here at Coupa, Zack, who plays electric bass in a band that performs at Lytton, when he is not by daylight a mild-mannered but rather hip software guy, at a venerable startup, downtown. Zack would not be able to play any more, without a permit, during business hours, at Lytton Plaza. The nature of his instrument –his talent, and assuming for the sake of argument he choses to play this, to a level of mastery and would not, as I suggested to him just now, merely switch to a guitar and unplug — is electric and it plugs into an electric amp, and he performs with a band, and not solo. He can of course control the volume of his output, to stay within the noise ordinances, as measured in dBs, reasonably and does not, in most people’s opinion constitute a raucous or ruckus merely by existing, but more importantly he fits in and augments and meters the beat, so to speak, of a group of like individuals, a band. Our ordinance misunderstands the nature of plugged in versus unplugged, electric vs. acoustic, rock versus folk, being a sideman versus a solo player, or what not and seeks to cram it all together into a (arguably) governable lump, for dubious purposes, I would argue. Zack’s choice of instrument and its accompanying amplifier is part and parcel of his message per se, and not mere TMP time place or manner. See also: Dylan at Newport. Ergo: amplifier is speech, and our law in unconstitutional.

So we will have to see if the law and the marketplace of ideas side with me and the musicians and the regular folk, or council and staff and the landlords. (and yes I read the many posts of people saying the music sucks and what-not, or they want to be treated like sheep and just want to get along and get a good shearing now and then; just as I disagree with the message when the Nazis marched in Skokie but prefer the First Amendment protecting even odious speech to a land where we are all gagged and forced to comply….I am saying that even the worst musicians deserve their rights and government should not tread there).

And if Molly et al are wrong the question is how did this happen? In how many more ways is self-governance compromised by an over-emphasis on property rights?

It’s interesting that our leadership to me is right wing in their privatization stances yet here is perfectly willing to adopt a redundant and unnecessary and over-reaching law –which sounds more like the worst of the left

p.s. another “tell” on this might be that when I expressed to Molly Stump just now my concern on this, as I did once prior passing her at Civic Center King Plaza months ago, she said “amplifiers are not speech; there is no guarantee of free electricity — you’re not gonna sue us are you?” and I said I would not. But the fact they conflate all these other side issues — like the people who allegedly used the power jacks to cook for themselves at Lytton Plaza — may indicate there is something flat out odd about the whole farrago.

The reality may be more nuanced than I can describe or our civic debate has realized, and time will tell.

edita-ed hour later, at PAW:

Carew-Reid v. Metropolitan Transportation Auth., 903 F2d 914 (2nd Cir. 1990);

Or I guess I could have said “reid carew” to be that much punnier…

but seriously, I have been watching this thing, writing on it and going to meetings for 15 months, and watching Lytton Plaza Grab overall for four years and it fits the pattern of leadership listening to anything and everything no matter how ridiculous from certain Big Money types — like McNellis, above — and completely ignoring just about everybody else, me included, and especially the people who don’t look like them, don’t act like them, don’t donate to their campaigns nor shop at trendy mall-on-Main chain stores, who actually despite what is said in the article BENEFIT from there being a lively scene at Lytton — would they rather be miles and miles from the noise of the city; the only thing in evidence is that certain people –dubbed “undesirables” and “sketchy people”, their words, on record — are being scapegoated by the power structure who have contrived this convoluted attempt to micro-manage the plaza, in effect, they are trying to privatize a public asset: what’s next, they are going to sell the rights to broadcast thru those cute little muzak boxes, and keep the money? Will they put up a fence like Gramercy Park?

People are telling me that Palo Alto is putting itself out of bounds and just as likely is ripe for a lawsuit from these people whose rights we are de-prioritizing, that the 9th Circuit Court is very First Amendment friendly, and numerous cases side with those that say you should not ban the amplifiers as a way to control the plaza: the noise ordinance as written is doing perfectly fine. (there’s also some nonsense from staff report that the noise ordinance is hard to enforce so that a new ordinance is needed — actually the cops don’t want to have to deal with this although a few are only so happy to do what the rich bosses tell them to do, though unofficially. At the stake holders meeting in January, my observation was that Sgt. Benitez didn’t want to be there and could not leave fast enough, as in, why all this wasting of his time on a non-issue? The issue of whether Downtown PAD warps our democracy is worth looking further into; in other music as rights cases they were the instigators.

meanwhile, I suggested to PAD that they make the best of it and underwrite a better music program that draws shoppers to downtown and Lytton rather than putting so much negative energy and moral judo towards harassing the poor, the musicians and we regulah folkses…

eat that peach, brah.

(mark weiss, concert promoter, former journalist, got 4,316 residentialist votes for council)


s developer John McNellis seriously arguing that the succession of losing tenants at Emerson and University is due to Dave Hydie’s version of “My Baby Done Left Me” being inferior to that of Big Bill Crudup or is it possible that the rent approaching $100,000 per month triple net is so outrageous that no business no matter how cute and cuddly the “handmade” silk throw pillows ($34, or $16 for just the insert) for sale could make it there, even if Dylan himself appeared one of these days, to busk, plugged in or not?




The First Amendment gives your tenant “pause”? I would press “eject”, for my dollar.





About markweiss86

Mark Weiss, founder of Plastic Alto blog, is a concert promoter and artist manager in Palo Alto, as Earthwise Productions, with background as journalist, advertising copywriter, book store returns desk, college radio producer, city council and commissions candidate, high school basketball player, and blogger; he also sang in local choir, fronts an Allen Ginsberg tribute Beat Hotel Rm 32 Reads 'Howl' and owns a couple musical instruments he cannot play
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