October 23, 2002

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litterbox

Kimo's unplugged

By John O'Neill

FOR CLARITY'S SAKE it should be noted that I may have had some weird ideas about what San Francisco represented, even before my pilgrimage west. I once assumed that the Purple Onion was some sort of mecca, an international way station of rock and roll where Japanese garage bands spat out Little Richard tunes in fractured English and all-gal combos reverently spoke of Link Wray to smitten East Coast DJs between sets. And then there was the Bottom of the Hill. Because of information leaked back east in $2 fanzines and through touring bands/friends, I had pegged the joint as the last earthly stop one might want to make before ascending into the clouds to sit at the right hand of You Know Who. Add to that the progressive thinking I assumed still flourished from the heyday of face painting and acid eating, and it was natural that I would be sucked in. Like the first panhandlers searching to stake a claim or some age-of-Aquarius ninny looking to get laid in the mud, the San Francisco in my mind was nowhere near the San Francisco I am learning to live with.

It turned out the forward thinking associated with the city by outsiders really doesn't exist anymore. When it comes to tenants' rights, the majority of power lands squarely in the landlords' corner, there is a barely covert war on the homeless, and, frankly, the east coast press would have immediately napalmed both the sins and the political careers of vitreous pretenders like Willie Brown, Dianne Feinstein, and Gavin Newsom, sending them back to day jobs as Century 21 salespeople, ambulance chasers, and wine importers, or whatever it is they should be doing. But what's done is done, especially if you can't get anyone to give a crap because they're all wrapped up in their teeny-weeny splinter groups, beating the drum for some obscurity rather than for the larger common good. And then the next thing you know, something as easy as owning and operating a nightclub becomes nearly impossible because a handful of people want to make it so. Purple hair can't possibly be good for maintaining a respectable neighborhood's status quo, and those places attract an "element" that can only lead to things like smashed glass, spray-painted walls, and turf wars between the Sharks and the Jets. And then they're dating your daughter.

So Matt Shapiro's e-mail wasn't really a surprise and read simply enough, "Kimo's is dead" being the general gist of things. As the booking agent for the club, he was a major player in a two-year struggle that involved nearly $20,000 in soundproofing (including ruining the upstairs by boarding up the windows) that in the end wasn't enough. Now the little piss hole will have to go acoustic, assuming it ever tries live music again. And all it took was one guy's incessant bitching to make San Francisco just a little bit more generic, a little more "safe." Granted the joint attracted what could be called fairly aggressive acts, but it also filled a pretty substantial hole for local and visiting metal/noisecore/art-punk dignitaries.

There's a perverse wind blowing where live music venues are concerned. Local residents don't seem to regard music clubs as either artistically or financially beneficial to their neighborhoods. Bruno's has been given the business by the plate-load and is still pestered whenever the amp goes past four. The rotten bastards behind the Potrero Hill Business Association have a history of running joints out, have been trying to take the shit-hammer to the Bottom of the Hill for as long as anyone can remember, and have recently turned their sights on Lingba while ignoring the Connecticut Yankee's hippie jams. It makes a person wonder about the association's true motives, if not its horrid taste in music.

So Sunday afternoon I'm left to write what is for all intents Kimo's obit as the Blue Angels rattle the windows of my house, setting off car alarms and sending dogs into a tail-biting frenzy. And all my neighbors drink beer and cheer from their rooftops because, even though it's deafening, it's entertainment. And no one will call the cops, because to complain about the military might mean that the terrorists win. But the irony still sucks.

E-mail John O'Neill at litterbox@sfbg.com.