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Riff Raff 

2020 Vision, Housekeeping, and Scene, Heard

Wednesday, Oct 20 1999
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2020 Vision Every night is different at Berkeley's Freight & Salvage Coffeehouse, which for over 30 years has been hosting a variety of traditional music, from old-timey country to bluegrass to folk songs of both American and international origin. Every day, however, it's the same damn thing. Staffers come into the office, about the size of a good-sized walk-in closet, and the first thing they have to do is move files and boxes out into the seating area. That's not the only reason the Freight & Salvage is looking for a new home, but it's one.

This month, the Freight (or, as it's officially known, the Berkeley Society for the Preservation of Traditional Music) launched a campaign to raise money for a new facility. "The notion that we needed to look for another place has been floating around for a while," says executive director Steve Baker. In addition to the cramped office space problem, Baker also cites the Freight's need for a more accessible and visible location than its current one off the corner of San Pablo and University, as well as a larger space than its current 200-seat arrangement; shows for more popular folk acts are presented offsite at places like the First Congregational Church, St. John's Presbyterian Church, or Martin Luther King High School. "A lot of our performers have outgrown the size of the place," says Baker.

Baker and Suzanne Fox, the Society's president, already have a place in mind: 2020 Addison Street, located just nine blocks away in a former garage, just like the Freight's current location ("There's this theme running through here," says Baker). They're in escrow to purchase the building, in the middle of a planned arts district in downtown Berkeley anchored by the Berkeley Repertory Theater, Berkeley Jazz School, Aurora Theater Company, and East Bay Media Center, along with smaller studios and galleries; the move would double the Freight's seating capacity to 400. The city itself got interested earlier this year and provided $100,000 to help the Society make a down payment on the new space -- the Freight itself has already set aside another $100,000. Which brings the Freight halfway to the $400,000 it needs to close the deal by the end of March.

Baker's enthusiastic about the possibilities, and Berkeley musicians have formed a committee to look into fundraising possibilities (interested parties can contact 2020@thefreight.org). Still, there's room for a bit of selfishness. "The staff likes the idea of an actual office," says Baker.

This, of Course, Has Nothing to Do With the Fact That Their Name Has the Word "Poison" in It Local art-rockers the slow poisoners are pursuing a corporate sponsorship. See, the band has a song called "Green Tea." Snapple makes a product called, amazingly enough, Green Tea. Perfect. Goldfarb sent Snapple a letter noting the happy coincidence -- and hitting up the White Plains, New York-based company for assistance. "If you were to provide us with any Snapple promotional materials, we would be proud to display and distribute them at our concerts," he wrote in August, including a picture of the group enjoying Snapple. No response. Another band member's mother wrote in later to suggest the idea again. No response. Last month, the band changed tactics and approached drink manufacturer SoBe, which, amazingly enough, makes a drink called Green Tea 3G. "Ideally, a banner with your logo...and our name...would hang behind us as we entertain young people with our inimitable songsmithery," the band wrote. Thus far, no response.

Housekeeping "He's one of the originators when it comes to house music. For the Bay Area, he's one of the founders of the scene. I think he deserves something," says Courtney Neilson of his friend Jason Drummond, aka DJ Spun. For 15 years, Spun has been DJing out of San Jose (founding the Thursday night F/X party) and in San Francisco at a variety of parties, including Deep Space, Gathering, and Destiny. He's earned international recognition in the house scene, but he's had to step away from the decks; in August, Drummond was diagnosed with cancer. He is currently undergoing chemotherapy and Neilson, who's DJ'd with Spun, describes his condition as improving -- but he doesn't have health insurance. On Oct. 23, 8 p.m. at San Jose's Usual club, friends and collaborators from the last decade are gathering for a benefit. On the bill are King Raffi, Rick Preston, Julius Papp, M3, Harry Who, and Mark Johns. All proceeds before 11 p.m. at the benefit go directly to Drummond. Donations made out to Drummond can also be sent to P.O. Box 8626, San Jose 95155-8626.

Scene, Heard In 1997, UC Berkeley radio station KALX-FM (90.7) pulled off a neat little stunt for its yearly fundraiser, telling people it hoped to raise $3 million, with which it would purchase alt-rock stalwart KITS-FM (105.3). KALX is a bit less ambitious this time around, but Bored, Lonely, and a Little Pissed Off, the station's compilation CD, is still worthwhile fundraising fodder. Born out of producer Jason Smith's "absolute disbelief at how bad live radio music compilations can be," Pissed Off is a worthy snapshot of (mostly) local rock acts who've performed in the KALX studios over the years. Locals included are Bitesize, Lunchbox, Dealership, Kirby Grips, Phoenix Thunderstone, 9 Wood, and an acoustic jaunt by Billie Joe Armstrong of Green Day. Smith says the CD will only be available during the station's fundraiser, from Oct. 22 to Oct. 31. The pledge number is (510) 642-5259

Send Bay Area music news, band stories, or petty gripes to mathitakis@sfweekly.com, or mail them to Riff Raff, c/o SF Weekly.

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Mark Athitakis

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