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HICKS WITH STICKS NEWS #195, April 7, 2008

Hicks with Sticks
San Francisco Bay
Area Twang
Calendar Highlights
Bands / Clubs

Sat, May 31: Country Heartbreaker's Night with the Sweet 'n' Lo's/The Mighty Lynch Pins/ Big Mistake @ Ireland's 32

Wed, June 4: Sparrow Sisters @ Rite-Spot

Wed, June 11: CalAmericana Benefit with Misisipi Rider/Eilen Lewell/Kitty Rose @ Rickshaw Stop

Fri, June 13: Poor Man's Whiskey/The Mother Truckers/Four Year Bender @ Slim's, 333 11th St., SF 9pm $13

Sun, June 15: I See Hawks In L.A./Mars Arizona @ Don Quixote's Music Hall, 6275 Hwy. 9, Felton 7pm $8/$10

Full Calendar


They rarely take the stage, make much money or hear "thanks," yet without them much of the Bay Area's live music would disappear.  They are the independent producers who bring bands, venues and audiences together.  Here's what a few

Thurs, May 15: Jeanie & Chuck's Country Roundup/Las Bomberas de la Bahia (The Bay Area Hotties) /

of the Bay Area's independent music producers are working on, or not, these days.

Tyler TerrellTyler Terrell's Hotdamn! Productions was booking rockabilly and classic country at the 23 Club in Brisbane.  She was ramping up more shows after the birth of her daughter when new 23 Club partners were brought in and cancelled Hotdamn!'s shows and others to convert the venue to a Latin club.  See
related story and find Hotdamn! at

Trapeze Tom's
 New ShirtTrapeze Tom Wegner has been booking "Twang Cafe" at Epic Arts in Berkeley on the first Sunday of every month.  These shows favor the acoustic side of Americana with folk, bluegrass and country figuring into the mix.  Epic Arts itself is a nonprofit that supports music among other artistic and cultural events.  Sunday, April 2nd was his farewell show, though not the end of Twang Cafe.  Trapeze Tom plans to move out of state and has turned the show over to another independent producer: Shelby Ash.

Ash, one of the most active independent producers in the Bay Area, also produces shows at Plough and Stars (Bluegrass Bonanza), Cafe DuNord, Freight and Salvage (Bluegrass Buffet) and at his used CD/DVD store, The Music Store, in SF's West Portal district.  His events might have "bluegrass" in the title, but he actually books a wide range of acoustic and electric Americana.  He also played a major role in booking the San Francisco Bluegrass and Old Time Festival .  Look for Twang Cafe along with Ash's other shows at  

Larry-bob (actual punctuation) Roberts has been active with a 'zine, blogs, entertainment websites and the Winsome Griffles.  He's started booking twang on first Wednesdays at El Rio.  He has no site specific to his El Rio shows but they can always be found on the HWS calendar or on El Rio's calendar at

So far, the independent producers listed have all been identified with some form of Americana.  Diana Gaffney and Dean Preston host City Sessions at Club Waziema, an Ethiopian restaurant not far from the Independent on Divisadero in SF.  The Shut-Ins and Gayle Lynn and the Hired Hands are among the bands that have twanged there, but the most interesting aspect of City Sessions is the wide range of music it features.  There's a City Sessions CD that showcases a cross-section of Bay Area talent at

For now we'll close with Richard Rice of who produces shows every second Saturday at the International Cafe in SF's Lower Haight.  Rice is also involved with the SF Folk Club and the up-coming SF Free Folk Festival (June 21-22,  Rice's "folk" includes singer-songwriters, bluegrass, country and other Americana styles, but no weepy folk.   When he saw Animal House, he rooted for Belushi.

In the end, the money is low or nonexistent, club owners and bands often act against their best interests, audiences can be slow to build and fast to disappear, sound systems offer their own cans o' worms, and on and on.  Despite all this, there's a love of music that keeps independent producers going, so give 'em a hug, will ya? 


No Depression, a name inspired by a Carter Family song, will stop printing the magazine with the May-June issue.  Find it on line at

The magazine started 75 issues ago in 1995 in response to the growing popularity of alt-country bands like Uncle Tupelo, and later, Wilco, that were winning audiences from the tattered remnants of '90s rock and pop.  The magazine soon branched into other Americana styles and eventually defined roots Americana to include whatever was in the magazine.  Not that they weren't selective.  They stood for everything that Nashville ignored.

The reason for ending publication of the magazine is a drop-off in advertising revenue brought on by the recession (oops) perfectly normal economic fluctuation.  Simply put, consumers prefer bits to media so hardcopy, like magazines and CDs, are going the way of the buggy whip.  Hear No Depression's publishers explain this brave new world at &id=19246307&m=19246275


"We have met the enemy and it is us" might be a good slogan for the music industry.  The industry's bugaboo of the '90s, peer-to-peer music sharing, is nowhere to be blamed, which is refreshing considering the
Harvard study and others that showed how p2p was increasing sales of music despite industry claims to the contrary.  Music sales have been falling since the '90s, but there's really no one or anything to blame; it's just the natural evolution from media to bit streams.

The business model that had worked since wax cylinders began replacing sheet music was based on the sale of a physical item whether it was sheet music, a record, or a CD.  Most consumers now prefer digital-only songs that are among 10,000 other bundles of bits on their iPods.  In their minds, songs have become commodities more like wheat than sheets of music or CDs. 

This, according to The Economist, has collapsed the distribution chain.  Over 3000 music outlets, including the once mighty Tower and Musicland stores, have closed since 2003.  But online sales are also falling, which raises the question of what is keeping customers away from Internet music?  Could it be the low quality of the product itself?

Both articles (linked to below) spell out the many ways the music industry has hurt itself.  First, there has been an extraordinary expansion in music publishing over the last four decades.  The 3000 domestic releases per month in the 1960's, had grown to 30,000 releases by the early 1990s. 

Second, there has been too much emphasis on hit songs.  Software developed in the '90s allowed music publishers to analyze hit songs by their tempo, key, the tones of individual instruments and voices, and more.  Hit songs were taken apart and reassembled with different lyrics to score the next hit.  This business strategy is fine for cookies where consumers want each cookie to look and taste like the rest, but it doomed music. 

Read more about the self-destruction of the music industry at, more about music as a commodity at, and see for a wry British take on the debacle.


Cesar Ascarrunz
has bought an interest in Brisbane's historic 23 Club (formerly DeMarco's) and has placed salsa firmly on the dance menu. 

The venerable club, which had hosted many country stars during its heyday of the '60s, struggled to survive a more recent ten-year run that included Russians, mismanagement, alcoholics and Goths.

The most recent owners were on the right track and had upgraded the sound system, rebuilt the stage and taken other steps to bring the club back to life.  Unfortunately, the club's mostly off-again restaurant never took hold, and patronage was slow to build.  The door opened for Ascarrunz and his vision for a new clientele.   

He comes with experience.  Ascarrunz, who tried to buy the 23 Club in 2004, had run Cesar's Latin Palace (now Roccapulco) on Mission near Chavez in SF.   He sees the 23 Club's location as convenient to nearby Hispanic neighborhoods in South San Francisco and the southernmost neighborhoods of San Francisco itself.  And, he's bringing in talent from Original Joe's to run the restaurant.  As for the future, twang shows are rumored to be on the table, but the club abruptly cancelled twang shows that had been booked into May and June soon after Ascarrunz acquired his interest.

Cesar at the KeysCesar's Latin Palace itself had fallen on hard times in the '90s.  The club had to start frisking patrons at the door in order to keep violence down, something that didn't help the confidence of the unarmed patrons.  Then it ran into trouble with the alcohol police for serving minors.  These problems seemed to stem from customer fall-off due to a lack of diversity in booking.  The greats of Latin jazz, including Eddie Palmieri, Tito Fuentes and Pete Escovedo had all played there, but Fridays and Saturdays came to be dominated by Ascarrunz' own band, the Latin All-Stars who started out strong, but toward the end lapsed into a malaise of 30-minute sets punctuated by 45-minute breaks.

Cesar Ascarrunz holds the a record for the longest string of attempts to become San Francisco's mayor.  The 23 Club made the Guinness Book of Records in the '70s by barbequing seven buffalos at once.  Perhaps the time is right for these two record holders to come together.


Concert Promoter
Sir Frankie D.
Who brought the band that played the first European music concert in California? That would be English adventurer and free-booter (government-sanctioned pirate) Sir Francis Drake who, in June of 1579, nearly a half-century before the Pilgrims landed in Massachusetts, sailed his ship the Golden Hind to the Golden State.  Drake, as his logs recount, travelled with a viol consort.  Viols, distant cousins to violins, violas and cellos, came in several sizes and viol concerts were the precursors to chamber music.  Drake apparently missed San Francisco Bay due to fog, but he did heave to at Drake's Bay which would make Point Reyes the first NorCal concert venue. 

Johnny C. on th' MicJuan Cabrillo sailed California's coast in 1542, 37 years before Drake.  There is no record of Cabrillo travelling with a band, and it's unlikely that he would have given the circumstances of his voyage.  It is possible that one or two musical instruments were on-board given music's long history as shipboard entertainment.  With instruments or without, sailors often sang to pass the time.  Drake may have promoted California's first concerts, but Cabrillo would have been the man behind California's first open mics.

Real California roots music, however, belongs to the descendents of the Clovis people and others who began crossing the Bering Strait and heading south, 13,000 years before Cabrillo or Drake.  According to Wikipedia's "Music of California" page, native Californians used "... a relaxed vocal technique in stark contrast to Native Americans from much of the rest of North America. The songs of this era are non-
strophic, and are characterized by the use of a rise, a section of a song which is slightly higher in pitch than the rest of the song. This technique is absent or rare outside of the California-Yuman area, known only among some tribes on both coasts of North America." 

Early Deadheads Build their
Own Red Rocks in CaliforniaScholars find similarities between the music of California natives and acapella jam sessions.  These natives would have memorized some musical patterns, but like most ancient musicians, they made up the bulk of their songs as they went along.  That is, they jammed.  This being the case, California's Deadhead tradition could date back 13,000 years earlier than previously believed.


didn't get much attention when they emerged in 2004 as an outlaw folk three-piece, but audiences are starting to build now that they've added drums and steel guitar.  Their sound is a blend outlaw folk, country, bluegrass, the Dead, power pop, spoken word, and almost anything else they find lying around.  They packed the house at the Connecticut Yankee on a rainy Saturday night and had everyone singing to their twang version of Tom Petty's "American Girl." ...  Kleptograss were a treat during their Verdi Club performance at the SF Bluegrass and Old-Time Music Festival.  This band of music veterans flaunts their willingness to plunder anything from Greek rembetika to Puerto Rican jibaro music for their Americana stew.   Find kleptomaniac Eric Thompson and his merry crew at  Sweetwater Saloon closed down at its location of 30 years and is remodeling its new space around the corner.  In the meantime, they've bought the Larkspur Landing and renamed it Sweetwater Station.  Sweetwater Station in Larkspur is different from its Mill Valley cousin.  It has a small bar in the lobby, but the focus is on listening rather than socializing.  Word is that the drinking and socializing version of Sweetwater will be open soon...  Diablo's Dust, an acoustic duo from the Mt. Diablo area has released their first full-length CD.  Somewhere between the Beginning and the End which features a mix of indie folk, Americana and angst reminiscent of 16 Horsepower or Split Lip Rayfield .   Hear their songs at The band finds their way to SF's Hotel Utah Saloon on June 26th.  Hopefully we'll have another newsletter out before then...  Yes, HWS News has been falling behind in publication owing to staffing needs at the CalAmericana Association which is currently preparing for its festival in early October...  Gettin' down in Crockett!  Vida Lee of Cherry Bomb Productions plans to start twang shows at Toot's an old school bar in Crockett, the sugar mill town just south of the Carquinez Bridge...   Just in time to save rap from itself, HWS' roving reporter Eric "Louis, Louis" Proedehl has provided a link to videos of rap songs covered by folksters. ...  Reports are that the Real Sippin' Whiskey's have gone their separate ways after eleven years.  The Whiskeys never pushed their bookings, playing maybe three or four dates in any given year, yet they managed to become one of the Bay Area's longest running twang bands...  The short-lived Sure-Fires seemed like they were off to a good start, but with half of their personnel in the Royal Deuces, time to develop the band was scarce.  The lead singer, Christina Lopez, soon drifted into guest spots with Glen Earl Brown Jr. and the Dickens and is now looking to start her own band...  As old bands pack it in, new ones spring up.  Both the Country Casanovas and the Lonestar Retrobates are new western swing bands that feature The Governator as The Kingveterans who have hit the clubs, well, because it's just too danged boring to sit 'round the house when you could be out playin' music.  They play monthly at 19 Broadway in Fairfax, and on Sunday April 20, early at 2:00 PM, HWS Calendar Main Man, Stompin' Steve Hathaway, will be showing his rare western swing movies between sets...    Mojo Nixon once sang "Everybody's go a little Elvis in 'em," and, thanks to Photoshop, the dream can come true. Impersonators-Pictures--1581-0.asp is a link to the results of an Elvis contest for Photoshop geeks who have "Elvis-ized" movie stars, politicians and even Scooby Doo.    

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