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Shop 'til you drop...dead; Maritime on the move

Wednesday, Oct 24 2001
Big mouth strikes again -- this time with twice as many rhymes! Apparently, our "presidential" bubblehead has been taking oratory lessons from Kool Moe Dee. During a 20-minute speech last week in Sacramento, Jam Master G-Dub offered this pithy, stylish summation of recent events: "Terrorists want us to stop our lives, stop our flying, stop our buying." Heavens no! Not our buying! Anything but that!

While it's nice to see our fearless leader speaking in raplike rhymes, it is a bit disconcerting to realize that King George sees his subjects as little more than consumer droids whose only function is to spend, spend, spend. But Lil' Gee's comments did get me wondering whether the threat of terrorism and the specter of war were affecting the spending habits of the Bay Area's music fans.

Aquarius Records employee Byram Abbott says the small shop's been stocking up on patriotic items, just in case. "We've got a lot of Lee Greenwood; we're ordering lots of Sousa marches," he says cheekily via phone from the Valencia Street store.

So far, however, business has been normal. "Nothing has changed," Aquarius co-owner Windy Chien says. "People are buying the exact same stuff as usual, the same amount as ever." Dashing my hopes that there would be a huge upswing in Swedish death metal or tranquil background noise like Raymond Scott's Soothing Sounds for Babies, Chien admits that Aquarius' shoppers are a pretty dedicated -- and fixated -- group. "Nothing really affects us. Even Christmas is only a bump in sales. Major buying trends or holidays don't affect a boutique-y store like us." She did suggest that not everyone is so lucky. "My friend owns a clothing store in Hayes Valley, and she says business has flatlined."

Under the assumption that a larger store might see more peaks and valleys, I spoke with Joe Goldmark, manager and co-owner of S.F.'s Amoeba Music. "Arabic music is selling well, strangely enough," he said via phone. "Music from Afghanistan in particular is hot. Someone told me that it's illegal there -- that the Taliban banned it -- so people are buying it as sort of a protest." As for overall sales, Amoeba has seen a small dip in new-CD purchases and a rise in used. "It's because the economy is down a bit; we started noticing it awhile ago," he said. "More people are coming in to trade or sell since they don't have as much cash."

When I asked Groove Merchant Manager Tom Thump if he'd had any customers coming in saying that GWB wants them to spend money, he snorted, "Maybe sarcastically." In general, the funk and soul specialty store has seen smaller sales recently. "We still get people who come in and spend a lot, but there's less people overall. Fewer Japanese and European customers."

While I couldn't talk to all the local record stores in time for this column, both Spoonie Gee Dub and I want every reader and consumer to know that America and its record shops are still open for business. You, too, can flush your fear with a little shop therapy -- and a few good couplets, like this one: Terrorists are evil, terrorists are mad/ Cuz they ain't got the new single from Color Me Badd.

Say good night, Bootsy The Maritime Hall concludes its six-year run next week with a final show on Halloween night. Unlike a lot of recent club closings, this one has nothing to do with noise complaints, poor business, or shoddy management. Instead, the club has been priced out of its digs by its landlord, the Sailors Union of the Pacific. According to documents made available by Maritime President Boots Hughston, the club's initial rent was $3,000 a month; now it's up to $14,000, with an additional $6,000 in utilities. (At press time, the Sailors Union had not returned calls seeking comment.)

So Hughston is closing the doors on a venue that has hosted nearly 2,000 shows since its October 1995 unveiling. "When we first opened, they said there was no way we could make it happen," Hughston says via phone from his S.F. office. "But we did -- we proved them wrong." He then lists a number of groups of debatable quality that the Maritime helped launch, including Limp Bizkit and Papa Roach. On the plus side, the club offered an alternative to the Bill Graham Presents/Clear Channel behemoth, hosting big reggae, hip hop, and hard rock artists. Hughston also sued the city for the right to hold all-ages shows, started an anti-counterfeiting ticket system, and held the first live Internet concert in S.F.

Happily, and in contrast to a lot of closed clubs, the Maritime may be resurrected quickly. Hughston already has two bids in for other spots in SOMA, both of which are larger than the current space. He hopes to reopen in early 2002. As for what kind of music he'll book, Hughston says, "We'll be doing the same thing we're doing right now, only a little more aggressively. We'll be able to go after the BGP-type shows more, because it looks like we'll own the space."

About The Author

Dan Strachota


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