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Danny Cohen; Laughing Squid's Fifth Anniversary Celebration

Wednesday, Jan 10 2001
Considered a dodgy eccentric back in the early '60s, Danny Cohen would later find himself and his punk band the Charleston Grotto banned from stages in Los Angeles because his followers smeared a bathroom with shit after hearing his song "Disco Diarrhea." Since then, the outlandish multi-instrumentalist has garnered the adoration of New York jazz mangler John Zorn, who hired Cohen to arrange Great Jewish Music: Marc Bolan for his record label, Tzadik. Zorn also released Museum of Dannys -- a collection of bizarre Cohen tunes recorded over the past three decades -- for Tzadik's "Lunatic Fringe" series. Amid grotesque tape loops, warbling organ, howling saxophone, slithering harmonica, and trembling guitar, Cohen stretches his vocals in a multitude of unwelcome directions, singing about Satan's cookie jar, astral projection, and bad tacos. While not for everyone, Cohen appeals to aurally adventurous musicians and fans who place wit before grace. Cohen performs with local horn player Ralph Carney on Thursday, Jan. 11, at Doc's Clock (2575 Mission) at 9 p.m. Admission is free; call 824-3627.

Publicists depend on it and most people accept it: News reports perpetuate news as much they deliver it. So, I've been pretty happy with the recent reports of impending economic doom, of yet another " casualty," of high-price cars being repossessed out of San Francisco parking lots. The subsequent panic may not occur fast enough to save the artists who have already surrendered their homes and studios, but it might help curb the rabid development that has plagued us. No doubt, Hip Hop Slam Records President Billy Jam has similar hopes. In the meantime, he has produced, in conjunction with Amoeba Music, another compilation of musicians who still call the Bay Area home. Just Payin' the Rent: The Amoeba Music Compilation Vol. II, a follow-up to All That Glitters Isn't Platinum: Amoeba Music Compilation Vol. I, draws attention to the fact that it is not only Mission- and SOMA-based musicians who have been put in jeopardy over the last few years, but also artists working out of Oakland and Hunters Point. "They're blowing the smoke of the new economy up your ass," writes the Crack Emcee in Just Payin' the Rent's liner notes.

"Babylon.Com," the Emcee's humorous diatribe against Ikea, Jerry Springer, and a conspicuous lack of parking, sets the philosophical tone of the compilation without characterizing its musical latitude. Just Payin' the Rent includes hip hop from the Slumplordz, the Bachelors, B.L.A.C.K., and Two Man Band; electronic music from Halocine, Afrocubist, and DJ Fear; experimental ska from Ireland's Ska Boys (one of two out-of-town groups invited to contribute); euphonious punk from the Gods Hate Kansas and Subincision; pop from Dealership and Sweetheart; wide-ranging rock from the Pre-Teens and Mumble & Peg; turntablist jazz from DJ Zeph; folk from Baia; country-flavored musings from Drive by Truckers; and percussive ambient sounds from O-Type. For the CD release party on Friday, Jan. 12, at San Francisco's Amoeba Music at 6 p.m., the Crack Emcee, Baia, B.L.A.C.K., and Afrocubist will perform, and the Save Local Music Coalition and the Popular Noise Foundation will set up booths that offer information on the state of the artist/commerce war. Admission is free; call 831-1200. The Crack Emcee will also guest DJ on Friday, Jan. 12, on KUSF-FM (90.3) from 2:30 to 3:30 p.m.

There are those who would complain that Laughing Squid (, the Internet server and e-mail dispenser of all strange and/or artistic non-music happenings in the Bay Area, has helped dampen the freak factor at once-freaky events. I would argue that money changes everything. It is not the fault of Laughing Squid that the city's temperament has been altered; if anything, the daily posts (of five events or more) have helped misfits stay connected in these trying times. Where else can you find out about less-than-legal Christmas tree burns, plays about ax-wielding murderesses, astronomy lecture cabarets, tai chi-based raves, and scripted parodies of City Hall public hearings? A look at Laughing Squid's impressive hosting roster proves that a large number of local, underground artists recognize the significance and integrity of the host. The entertainment schedule for Laughing Squid's Fifth Anniversary Celebration also speaks highly in the Squid's favor: Dr. Howland Owll, master of church secrets for the Church of the SubGenius, acts as master of ceremonies; Bike Rodeo founder Jarico Resse presents his Dead Man Record Show; SuperSnail offers bizarre photos and portraits from events posted on the list; mikl-em expounds upon the past and future of the Squid's monthly artist series "The Tentacle Sessions"; DadaFest hosts m.i. blue and Katy Bell present "dada bondage"; David Capurro performs astounding yo-yo tricks; the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence deliver the Sister Sock Show; Fresh Robots present highbrow, low-technology sketch comedy; and the Mongol-Ettes submit a DEVOlved version of the Devil-Ettes. As if that weren't enough, there are chances to win fabulous prizes, such as dinner for two at Cafe Proust, a book package from Last Gasp, and a secret urban adventure for two provided by John Law, a prize which, I can assure you, is worth the price of admission. Laughing Squid's Fifth Anniversary Celebration is Saturday, Jan. 13, at the Great American Music Hall at 8 p.m. You'll know you're in the right place if you see giant Doggie Diner dog heads outside, as well as art cars and the silver Cyberbus. Ticket price is $15-18; call 885-0750.

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Silke Tudor


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