February 5, 2003

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Sonic Reducer

2 kool 4 u

TWO CENTS ON 50 Cent: What was the story with the 50 Cent appearance at Kelly's Mission Rock, scheduled for Jan. 24? Trouble seemed to be following the bullet-scarred rapper du jour, who was questioned in the Jam Master Jay slaying investigation, and last weekend rumors were circulating that Eminem's favorite MC took one look at the huge line at the China Basin club and left. That kind of velvet-rope activity is daunting, sure, but the story isn't holding water. Instead, James Deignan of the San Francisco Police Department reports that the police were called in to shut the show down because of the overwhelming crowd: 1,000 tickets were presold, and 3,000 to 4,000 fans showed up, and one person was arrested for inciting a riot. The questions I have left: Can a brother help being ... popular? And why can't local hip-hop audiences get a break once in a while?

Blues hook

I was lucky enough to see blues giant John Lee Hooker once – at Luther Burbank Center in Santa Rosa, five days before he died on June 21, 2001. At 83, the Hook hadn't flagged, turning out the grimy, ornery blues and winning at least one standing ovation from the crowd. I can barely imagine being his offspring, growing up under that legendary steely gaze, as John Lee Hooker Jr. has.

Since his father's death, Hooker says, he has coped with more than his share of trouble. "My dad's passing hit me, and then my divorce came. Then I'd remember what my father used to say: 'Just keep on stepping. Remain steadfast. Hold on, boy,' " Hooker, 51, says with a chuckle, talking from his Redwood City home. "He'd say, "Haa-aa-ang in there, Junior,' just stutter that word out. 'You can do it.' "

Hooker's says he's finally ready to return to the stage, where he'd often join his father as the featured attraction. He's appearing Sat/1, 8:30 p.m., at the Hotel Utah Saloon (500 Fourth St., S.F. 415-546-6300). He started performing at eight onstage and on the radio in Detroit. "I think he discovered me in the bathtub, heard me though the walls singing, and he sort of pointed me the way. I would say he was my classroom teacher," Hooker says.

Hooker says he never felt any pressure to live up to his father's legacy, then or now. "One writer said he didn't know if I was cursed or blessed by having the same name and same looks as him, mentioned walking in his footsteps, and I said I would never try to put on a pair of his shoes," he continues. "I'd fall over and hurt myself trying to fill those shoes. As far as pressure goes, there's a difference, if you got the name and you can't sing or perform. Of course, you'd feel pressure because then you got to fake something, but God blessed me with a talent and a dad to teach me. I got the flow."

Elsewhere in the Bay Area blues community, Biscuits and Blues owner Frank Klein has a flow of his own. He recently purchased legendary Oakland venue Eli's Mile High Club, which closed about eight months ago. Klein plans to give the walls and floors a new coat of paint, restore the space to the state of its late '70s heyday, and reopen it in mid April.

"We're revitalizing it to its original stature as an internationally known blues club," Klein says on his cell. "It was a good home to the Oakland blues scene. A lot of people started their careers there, and it was a stepping stone and a place for roving musicians to jam when they came home." Artists such as Sonny Rhodes, Jimmy McCracklin, and Charlie Musselwhite all rolled through Eli's on their way up, Klein says, adding that the timing for the reopening is perfect, considering Congress named 2003 the "Year of the Blues" last month and a PBS miniseries on the blues, produced by Martin Scorsese, is scheduled to air this fall. "It'll be an old-school club, the way a club should be. Biscuits and Blues is a listening room, a nice place to hear to the blues. We want Eli's to be a down-home, funky, roadhouse blues club."

Job wanted: baby donut

Give a riot grrrl a job, will you? One of you good people can pony up a job, right? Bratmobile vocalist and longtime Washington, D.C., resident Allison Wolfe has wanted to move to the Bay Area for ages, and now the time seems right because the two other Brats, guitarist Erin Smith and drummer Molly Neumann, live here. Too bad the economy is beyond lousy.

"I'm trying to move here!" Wolfe says on the phone from the Portero Hill digs she's subletting from the Aislers Set's Amy Linton until the Aislers return from their tour in April. "I've been taking baby steps toward moving here for years. Living in D.C., I work three jobs but I really feel uninspired to make music or anything."

She can still go home again – to part-time jobs at the Washington Post and Sculpture magazine and to off-hours work in political activism, but it makes sense to stay here, near her old bandmates and her latest collaborator, Chris Touchton, a.k.a. Da Hawnay Troof. On Jan. 17, outfitted as her Baby Donut persona and sporting bunny ears and hot pants, Wolfe rapped alongside Touchton, opening for Deerhoof at a packed Hemlock Tavern. The pair got the Chutzpah trophy that evening, blithely fending off a barrage of Fuck yeeewwws from a lone heckler.

"I really love his music, but I keep wondering, Does it work together. Do I detract from his stage show or not?" says Wolfe, who toured with Touchton on the East Coast, opening for Glass Candy and the Shattered Theatre.

Ahoy

Oh so sorry to see you go: Oh So Little Café in the Mission District suddenly changed hands Jan. 15, perhaps putting an end to the late-night parties and Sunday-brunch improv/electronics/jazz shows curated by Marshall Trammell. Also, the word has it that the new owners of Mission Creek Café are in and the "punk rock kids" that toasted your bagel are out.

Juice Design creative agency, the folks who brought you the Noise Pop posters and random instances of artwork since 2001, will host "The Music," an exhibit of work by indie musicians or artists still damaged by their exposure to the genre, opening Feb. 6, 6-9 p.m., 351 Ninth St., Suite 302, S.F.; (415) 355-9900, ext. 103. (The exhibit runs through April 4, Wednesdays, noon-5 p.m.) The Black Heart Procession's Pall Jenkins and Blonde Redhead's Amedeo Pace will show paintings and other works for the first time – so try not to hoot and jeer – and are expected to attend the opening. The exhibit will also feature work by Rick Froberg of Hot Snakes, Harrison Haynes of Les Savy Fav, Tim Owen of Jade Tree Records, Ida Pearle of Idea, and Cynthia Connolly of Dischord Records. The show is a longtime dream for the tuneage-obsessed firm, says staffer Andrew Paynter.

Playing "Taps" for Artship? Hugh Livingston in charge of recordings at that floating mass o' creativity recently announced that the vessel was given its 30-day notice by the Oakland Port Commission. It will have to be moved to parts unknown, perhaps a berth in Richmond or Sacramento – though don't count on it, he has e-mailed friends. This after Artship Records produced more than 50 CDs since November 2001. Last week Livingston was contemplating staging a humongous last hurrah and was welcoming proposals for duos and ensemble projects for the final fiesta. Guess who can't keep a good ship down: two more CDs are scheduled to be recorded this week.

Tip often and tip well at kimberly@sfbg.com.