Martin Sexton at City Winery Palo Alto

I took note of a Martin Sexton concert in New York last week, from a blurb in The New Yorker. He played three nights at City Winery, at 155 Varick. The preview said that Sexton is promoting a new ep that includes a cover of a Buffalo Springfield song “For What It’s Worth.”

My friend Hugo Traeger and I get into a recurring conversation about the need for a music venue here in Palo Alto. He suggests that what would fit here is something based on City Winery, or maybe the people who run City Winery itself want to partner with us here. I’ve been to about 20 New York clubs but not City Winery but will accept as a hypothesis his idea as workable.

I estimate I’ve been to about 200 venues for live music nationwide, maybe 205 if you count international travel of which my experience is scant. I’ve promoted shows in about 20 venues plus accompanied clients, as personal manager, to another 30 or so, I reckon. In my backpack I am lugging a file that has clippings, brochures, schedules and ephemera on about 500 venues, of varying types and sizes – maybe I will sort the file and derive from that practice the wonder of blogging or posting, for what that’s worth.

It’s a little sad the number of times I describe myself as a ‘semi-retired’ music manager and promoter rather than full-on the real thing. I feel I am in the doughnut-hole of my career in that manner, my time being displaced by other things, mostly non-musical. As I settle with the treasury department of course, in the coming days, I persist in describing myself as “concert promoter/arts administrator” and insist it’s an ongoing concern. Twenty-twelve events included shows with Akira Tana, Ava Mendoza T-Rosemond Jollisant, and Jonah Matranga, for instance, for the record, and for what it’s worth.

On the corner of Alma and Hamilton here, a real estate developer has claimed for his lair the site that previously included a gallery where I brought shows with, among others Ethan Iverson (of The Bad Plus, Do the Math and Mark Morris Dance), Esbjorn Svensson and Steve Poltz. Around the corner, at the former Blue Chalk Café another realtor has settled in, displacing ghosts of other merry-making and muse-courting (I never produced an event there, although I recall my then-clients The Blue Eyed Devils might have held court there, perhaps overlapping with my term; I remember overhearing Doug Collister planning an Echo and the Bunnymen special event, although I doubt it ever happened. At 456 University, where I produced an acoustic series in the courtyard, a high tech manufacturer has announced itself as the new office space tenant for the historic Varsity Theatre. A couple miles away, in our second downtown, there are plans to demolish the former Keystone Palo Alto (Edge Nightclub) and build even more office space; I produced two shows there (with Juan Sanchez, a trova singer and an Americana showcase with Danny Barnes, The Blue Eyed Devils and Jerry Hannan).

As I write this humble screed, I on the timeshare public computer system of the temporary library that exists in the former Cubberley High School multi-purpose room, a space where, ironically enough, I produced about 30 shows, between 1995 and 2000 included events with Superchunk, Frank Black (who I now think of as Black Francis and the Catholics but not Pope Francis – am I the first to make that comparison? Search-injuns say: ), Thinking Fellers Union Local 242, blink 182, Slaid Cleaves, Alvin Youngblood Hart, an all-female band called Umami (which is now the name of a hamburger joint on University Avenue) who opened for Penelope Houston and helped plan the event, The Donnas (performing as Electrocutes, where they met for the first time their eventual managers and label heads Molly Neuman and Chris Applegren of Peechees and Lookout! – I also met Lance Hahn that night, although he was unable to play) and maybe 20 others.

When Martin Sexton played The Cub, in July, 1996, he filled the slightly smaller Theatre, a much better place for shows (except when AFI played there and stage-divers demolished about four seats that Victor Arbogast, the welder and sculptor, then of Mountain View — behind the Century Theatres —  fixed for $75). Martin played solo and invited me to join him for his pre-show meal; we chose to buy-out at the Thai restaurant that for many years was part of Fiesta Lanes Palo Alto Bowl. I recall being surprised for some reason that he was a father; he said his young son with his motivation, to write great songs and hit the road hard. I recall his manager saying, while we advanced the show that “Marty” was one of the happiest people she had ever met. We may have a board tape of that event; I know we have Dar Williams; I have about 40 hours of music from those days that I am meaning to post or release or donate. (And not to mention I have a storage space with about 10,000 poster over-runs, of about 75 designs of varying collectability; they are seasoning while Public Storage makes jake).

The bios remind me that Martin Sexton cut his teeth as a busker in the Boston area and allegedly sold 20,000 copies of his first casette out of his guitar case; maybe he’d come back here for one of my ICOBOPA events (where I induce recording artists to pose as street musicians, for varying socio-political and music effects). One of his earlier songs “Wonder Bar” is about a pizza parlor in Worcester where he would hang out and write his future; the search-injun shows that the venue is within a mile of the Telegram and Gazette where I cut my teeth as a reporter a few years earlier. Sexton recorded a recent live album at SF’s The Fillmore, speaking of historic.

In management and promotion ideas, besides pining for a local venue I can at least instigate or inspire if not work on directly, my dreams get more conceptual and complicated; I tend to want to influence repertoire for instance in my direct involvement with talent. What about, for example, a special event that imitates a night in New York with Martin Sexton at City Winery? An installation, a site specific-pop up event, that perhaps recreates his show of March 29-30, 2013, yet harkens back to Palo Alto circa 1996? Maybe first set, 2013, second set, 1996? If we cannot manage a venue here in the tough real estate market, maybe for only one night or a limited run we can have a venue in the theatre of imagination.

edit to add, moments later, for instance, with 18 minutes left in my initial hour of Palo Alto library timeshare computer: City Winery actually has Chicago and New York venues, so maybe Palo Alto branching off is not such a fruity but nutty idea; they have 7,000 and 2,000 followers at the two venues’ respective social media accounts.

edit to add, an hour later, re-booting computer: it’s a segue, based on Frank Black, during settlement, telling me he would have rather played the Cubberley Theatre (as Sexton did) than the auditorium (where I now sit), but indeed numerous parties have made the Frank Black vs. Pope Francis comparison. I was going to post, during the conclave, something about “Where is My Mind?” substituting “mind” for the actual name of the pointy hat the leader of a billion Catholics might wear, but was afraid to — I am not making this up; I saved my notes on the back of an envelope. Martin Sexton, btw, is or was 10th of 12 in his family.

edit to add, five weeks later: Five weeks later, it suddenly hits me that Michael Dorf, the founder of Knitting Factory and Knit Media labels is the founder of City Winery and I met him in New York and he gave me his card: maybe I should just try to contact Dorf and ask him what he thinks about putting together a Palo Alto syndicate for a venue. (I found this because I was sussing Cary Baker, the publicist — who I think might be related to me, and from Chicago — and Cary did some work for Martin Sexton AND Bhi Bhiman opened for Sexton somewhere, maybe at City Winery and Bhi also was part of a big Prince tribute show, the reviews of which mentioned Dorf. D’oh!)

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; he also sang in local choir, and fronts an Allen Ginsberg tribute Beat Hotel Rm 32
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2 Responses to Martin Sexton at City Winery Palo Alto

  1. Wes Barton says:

    How about Lucy Stern or the Cultural Center? The Cultural Center is the long running venue for the Fortnightly Music Club. I don’t see why jazz wouldn’t work there. Way back in the late ’70s that was the venue for my first rock show – Michael Silversher.

    • markweiss86 says:

      Hi, Wes.
      Come to think of it, I’ve never put a show in either room, Lucie Stern (ballroom, or auditorium) or the Cultural Center, which is now Palo Alto Art Center, so maybe.

      I was thinking about a space that is not a civic building, that would have music as it’s main purpose — although in this case I am fantasizing about turning another space into a mock version of City Winery of New York, on Varick, circa March, 2013, for a Martin Sexton show, if that is not too confusing.

      And my concept of a space downtown would be getting the public sector to work with the landlord to cut us some slack, which went absolutely nowhere when the Varsity was dark for a year recently (It is still dark but they have signed a tenant — and they cut a whole in a wall on the south side of theatre for the entrance to the offices, which are mostly above.

      Where are you at?

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