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HICKS WITH STICKS NEWS #199, September 10, 2008

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

Sat, Oct 11: Rockabilly Round-up #4: Glenn Earl Brown, Jr. & the dICKENS with Kit/The Royal Deuces/The RevTones/Los High Tops/Cassidy Crowley/The Bluenotecats @ Calistoga Merchant Property, 1506 Lincoln Ave. in rear, Calistoga 1pm free

Sat, Oct 11: Misisipi Rider/Gayle Lynn & the Hired Hands (CD release)/Denise Funiami @ The Riptide, 3639 Taraval, SF 8pm free

Sat, Oct 11: Ruby Dee & the Snakehandlers/1/4 Mile Combo/Texas Steve & the Git Gone Trio @ The Knockout, 3223 Mission, SF 10pm

Sun Oct 12: Kitchen Fire/Mighty Lynch Pins @ Ireland's 32, 7:00, free

Fri, Oct 17: Marti Brom/1/4 Mile Combo/Kit & the Branded Men @ The Uptown, 1928 Telegraph, Oakland 10pm $12

Sun, Oct 19: Careless Hearts (CD release)/The Mumlers @ The Landmark Ballroom, 75 S. 11th St., San Jose 4pm

Full Calendar


So sue 'em, mom.

The courts have turned the damper down on over-zealous copyright holders by handing them a long overdue ruling in favor of fair use.  The Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) has been the tool of choice for copyright holders who go after 12-year-olds who download music and preschoolers who watch Disney movies at day care.  We knew it only had to be a matter of time before they came after a toddler like young Mr. Lenz, pictured above.   His "crime" was to bounce up and down to the rhythm of Prince's "You Drive Me Crazy" for 30-seconds.  His mother's crime was to post a video of it on YouTube, a transgression that prompted a takedown notice being sent to the popular site.

This time the tables were turned when the boy's mother, Stephanie Lenz, joined with San Francisco's Electronic Frontiers Foundation and sued Universal Music Corporation for issuing the order.  The
video is as innocent as the babe, and the song itself is barely audible.  Still, the policy of copyright holders has been to shoot first and ask questions later, even when harassing the most passive uses of their material.

At issue is the concept of "fair use," the idea that material that is sampled and not used for financial gain is fair to use.  Copyright holders have routinely ignored this legal protection and gotten away with it, but the Lenz family, EFF and U.S. District Court Judge Jeremy Fogel would have none of it.  Universal hoped to keep the fair use issue out of court by having the case dismissed, but the judge ruled that fair use must be considered first and foremost when initiating any legal action pertaining to copyright. 

The decision allows the case, where Ms. Lenz is asking for damages, to proceed with fair use front and center.  Fair use's day in court could not be worse news for copyright bullies.  Once the courts rule that a sampled audio or video source can be distributed under fair use, the door will only open wider.  "How big can the sample be?" will be the next question, and "How wide can the distribution be?" will be the question after that.  The courts, meanwhile, will be in no better position to define the limits of fair use than they have been to define what is or isn't pornography.

The Lenz case is unequivocally fair use, because under any other interpretation fair use can't even exist.  "Universal's takedown notice doesn't even pass the laugh test," according to EFF staff attorney Corynne McSherry.  Find this and other digital rights issues at
EFF's site.


The Starry Plough in Berkeley rescued itself with a makeover and upgrade to its sound system months ago.  Now Thee Parkside in San Francisco is inching back to respectability.   First the kitchen was upgraded, then came the sound system and the stage.  Best of all, the string of wretched bartenders that had been "working" there seem to be gone.  People have been showing up again at Parkside's Twang Sundays which have been a showcase for many veteran and emerging bands.

Farewell, 12 GalaxiesAugust 28th marked the closing night for 12 Galaxies in SF.  Owner Robert Levy has said that the financial climate was too unsteady to keep it operating.  The club hosted some fine shows over the years including benefits for Pirate Cat Radio, The Onion's S.F. launch party, and a Gram Parsons tribute, but the spacious venue had opened five years ago on a shoestring budget and without crowds on the weeknights or advertising to draw them, it was only a matter of time before the inevitable happened. 

Kitchens are a problem for clubs like 12 Galaxies, Thee Parkside, Ireland's 32, Bender's and Bottom of the Hill.  A catch in their liquor licenses requires these bars to derive a certain percentage of their revenue from food, and the Alcoholic Beverage Control regulators can come down on a club that doesn't meet its food quota, as they did at Bottom of the Hill a few months ago.  But running a kitchen is its own thing and clubs that try to run their kitchens as an afterthought soon find that nobody will bite.  Ireland's 32 has followed the lead of most clubs operating under this catch and it has now subcontracted out its kitchen.  Who even knew they had food?

There's news of another live music club opening in San Francisco, sort of.  The club is Lou's on the Square in North Beach. 
This new Lou's at Stockton and Union, on the southeast corner of Washington Square, is a club that's moving rather than opening.  Old Lou's at Fisherman's Wharf is still running, but it won't be for long. Hicks with Sticks News was there for the opening night party and spoke with owner Lou Gillespie and some of the staff.

The new club has a warmer, though smaller, interior than the old one and also has more appeal to locals who generally avoid Fisherman's Wharf.  Unfortunately the location has changed but the music, second-rate blues bands, remains the same.  When asked, Ms. Gillespie, said she was all for expanding the booking policy, but though her mouth said yes her eyes said no.

Sweetwater Saloon in Mill Valley had lost it's lease last year.  Meanwhile they opened the more theater-like Sweetwater Station in Larkspur while they remodeled their new Mill Valley location which inches ever closer to completion.  October/November is their latest forecast.

Congratulations to the Starry Plough and Ashkenaz, both in Berkeley, on their 35th anniversaries.  1973 was quite a year.  OPEC's oil embargo drove the price of gasoline over $2.00, the Viet Nam War "Vietnamization" program started though the war still had two years to go, the CIA helped overthrow the Chilean government, and the opening of the Watergate investigation marked the beginning of the end for the Nixon presidency.


The 8th annual Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival will be held from October 3rd to 5th, in San Francisco's Golden Gate Park, and it is once again overflowing with premiere roots Americana talent.

Names include festival veterans like Hazel Dickens, Steve Earle, Elvis Costello, Ralph Stanley, and Iris Dement, along with some familiar names who are new to the festival, like Led Zep's Robert Plant, whose career has found new life after recording with Allison Krause and producer T-Bone BurnettJon Langford, a Mekons veteran, who has done solo projects and played in the Pine Valley Cosmonauts and the Waco Brothers, has joined with Sally Timms, another Mekons vet, to form a band with a name that only a Welshman could love: Jon Langford's Skull Orchard Featuring Sally Timms and the Burlington Welsh Male Chorus.  Former founding member of the Blasters, Dave Alvin, has long been touring with the Guilty Men, but this year's passing of guilty man Chris Gaffney has been a blow to that band and now Alvin is billed at Hardly Strictly as Dave Alvin and the Guilty Women.  The Desert Rose Band fronted by
Chris Hillman (The Byrds, Flying Burrito Brothers), along with his long-time pal Herb Pedersen has, after 15 years, been reuniting for special shows like HS #8.  This year also marks the arrival of M.C. Hammer who plays Friday at Hardly Strictly.  Hillbilly Hammer?  This we gotta see.

It would be easy to fill this newsletter with the wonders of Hardly Strictly's line-up, but let's just leave it with one big question: is this the best festival of any kind, anywhere?  Think it over.  Hardly Strictly features five stages and two and a half days of performances in the beautiful setting in Golden Gate Park.  It showcases all these performers, it's free and it has a vibe reminiscent of Woodstock #1 but without the hippy vibe.  What can top it? 


A 10-song track list was the first hint that something good might be lurking in the RevTones' debut CD.  The band has been playing regularly over the past two years, sometimes doing three sets a night.  They are primed and pumped with material, yet they held the CD to ten tracks, none of which are over four minutes and half are under three.  They self-titled it The RevTones but Skimming the Cream would have worked just as well.  Think of it as a greatest hits CD, except that it's only their first.

"Ghost Train" kicks the CD off with a haunting ditty about a mystery train that collects the souls of those who loiter on its tracks, then mystery dissolves into a romp on the CD's lone cover tune, Bob Dylan's "From a Buick 6," with the immortal chorus, "If I fall down dyin', y'know she's bound to put a blanket on my head."   "Mean and Evil" combines humor and insight in a song about a good-for-nothin', lyin', cheatin', credit limit bustin' woman.  The only catch is that before the singer tosses the beeyatch out of his life, he'd like her to make him a grilled cheese sandwich, not so much to demean her but to make the point that his own self-absorption is what's doing damage to his love life.  

Of course this being a rockabilly band its attention would have stray toward that rockabilly filly who's looking so fine that you can almost smell the perfume wafting fromthe woman with a string of white pearls on a "Polka Dot Dress."  Also, being a rockabilly band, trouble is never far away as a woman's jealous husband, Crazy Pete, and the police set out after the hep cat living too close to the edge in "Frying Pan into the Fire." 

"Red Tree Road," which closes the CD, is a high octane murder ballad.  Lead singer and guitarist Randy Schmidt lets fly with a simple but deadly guitar lick over the driving backbeat of drummer Marcus "Hot Rod" Edell and stand-up bassist Roxanne Chicoine. 

There's no place to hide when you're in a trio and this CD hides nothing.  Hear it at their CD release party on September 27th at the Starry Plough, or on


Countless performers have made their start at open mics.  Those who are getting in touch with their musical muse, or are looking for venues where they can work a few things out, can find a list of the Bay Area's open mics
here...   Axton Kinkaid has just released their second CD and have planned a release party for November 1st at the Makeout Room.  (AK's site)...  The Royal Deuces are happy with their second CD, but will it ever be released?  Probably, Gayle Lynn,
Trophy Wifebut there's no info on their site or on their label's (StarTone).  This project has been in the mill for awhile.  Think of it as an unplanned pregnancy where nobody is in a rush to know when the due date is...  Gayle Lynn and the Hired Hands have also been in labor for well over a year, but the release party for their first new CD, "Just Came Around," will be Saturday, October 11th at the Riptide. (GLHH site) ...  Following their change from a quartet to a trio and a brief stint as Cassidy Crowley and the Buckshot Boys, The Buckshot Boys have settled on Cassidy Crowley as their new name.  Less has turned out to be more for this band which has more depth and feel to their songs now that they are a trio...  You can't keep a good woman down.  After a great run, Cari Lee and the Saddle-ites appear to have ridden into the sunset.   Cari Lee's energy is now going into her rhythm and bop band Cari Lee and the Contenders...  Speaking of rhythm and bop, watch for the debut of the Hi-Rhythm Hustlers who are Rockin' Raul Castro on vox and sax and Mitch Polzak (guitar), Mike Walz (bass), Jay Laude (drums) rounding out the rest of the quartet.  They represent yet another musical side of Mitch Polzak, who plays rockabilly in the Royal Deuces, C/W in the Cottonpickers, bluegrass in Alhambra Valley Band, zydeco in the California Cajuns, and now old school R&B in the Hi-Rhythm Hustlers...  Misner and Smith are coming out with a new CD.  Follow this link to "Greyhound Days" for another one of their magnificent songs...  Here's a link to where to get your one-of-a-kind flask or belt buckle by metal artist Suzanne Pugh.  She'll also make the custom radiator cap that you've always wanted for your '38 Ford.

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