We be billin'
Rainy day women get pulled down by rooftop leaks, soused frantic-drivin' Christmas freaks and the lack of creaks on the forthcoming Cat Power album, The Greatest (Matador, Jan. 24 release). Southern soul and storms, judging from last weekend's wrath-of-Ike stormy weather seems so back as I listen to Chan Marshall drench her blues with Memphis soul arrangements. Here she runs the risk of taking her inimitable, if not outright great, voice out of the indie rock margins and into the same arena as, say, Bonnie Raitt. Is Marshall our new Nina Simone? Leaning toward new songs such as "The Moon," "The Hate," and the blissfully dysfunctional pyschic-blues bludge "Love and Communication," I wonder how she'd sound wading through murky, heavy, and wrong hard-rock stylings à la Vanilla Fudge or Electric Mud.
Meanwhile there's another kind of storm going down regarding flyering fines leveled at local music-scene worthies like Debra Zeller, who puts on Playing in Fog shows (and contributed a photo to this week's issue) and books the Make-Out Room. Though the Make-Out has posted the city flyering guidelines for bands on its Web site for the past few years, Zeller was fined $750 for bills posted on utility poles and boxes as well as "historic" or "decorative" streetlight poles on Mission Street simply because the posters included "Playing in Fog presents." "I did not, nor have I ever, flyered in the Mission before, and I had absolutely no knowledge that the bands were even flyering," Zeller e-mailed me after inspiring a flurry of outraged e-mails on the music bulletin board sf_indie. "I think it's extremely unfair that the city would send me these outrageously high fines on my first offense. It seems I should at least get a warning, and then if flyers for my shows keep popping up, then fine me. But I can assure you, I'll be doing my best to make sure bands understand how serious this is and that they must follow the guidelines or else ... they'll have to pay."
Luckily Zeller has gotten assistance and support from Sup. Russ Mirkarimi's office for her hearing on the flyering Jan. 26.
Zeller, however, is not alone. Thee Parkside booker Big John also told me that the club was fined $300 about two months ago, and in his view "this is an attack on the live music community, which is already under siege and trying to rebound."
According to Department of Public Works spokesperson Christine Falvey, bands have other opportunities, online and in shop windows, to publicize their shows apart from on the historic lampposts, which, she told me, suffer from pricey paint peelage when posters are removed.
Funny how those unassuming little flyers trigger so many issues almost as many as graffiti, aboveground and underground public art, billboards and their legit and illegit uses, and heck, even music culture itself.
Maybe it's a matter of aesthetics and the tradeoff between the seemingly chaotic, creative delights of an "urban" landscape and the antiseptic sameness of suburban blight. Wouldn't the world be a duller, more, ahem, Pleasantonlike place if there were no flyers or art on buildings, walls, or poles? Has it ever occurred to anyone that a utility box might even be beautified by a poster that's both artful and promotional and that the city might be better off if the signs, signifiers, and artistic manifestations of the Bay Area's music scene were in plain view, rather than on the Web? Frankly, my world is too oriented around my computer monitor as it is.
Casting an eye to the graphic design world, I'd say the music poster has been as important a part of pop culture as the album cover, so doesn't it strike anyone as being blazingly absurd that one of the supposed epicenters of rock poster art is doing its darndest to relegate music posters out of existence, pushing it into museums and private collections and off the streets and the very real, nonvirtual sites where it began?
Who wants SF to look as bland as Sunnyvale or as Disneyfied as Times Square, for that matter? Knowing this city and its commitment to the arts, I'd suggest they install public poles or stands that would allow noncorporate parties to post show, garage sale, missing pet flyers along those streets with post-no-bills poles. Remember, those crazy, over-flyered posts along Haight Street were one of the many reasons music fans like myself moved here in the first place. Though, of course, we also wanted to get away from the NIMBYs.
All I want for Christmas is tips.