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Riff Raff 


Wednesday, Sep 29 1999
Clubbed, Part 1 There's no delicate way to state this particularly sad, indelicate fact: The Covered Wagon Saloon is in financial trouble. After taking a look at the books recently, owner John Marksbury informed his staff that unless things change for the better, and quickly, the club -- the happy home of Tuesday's heavy metal showcase "Lucifer's Hammer" and Thursday's "Stinky's Peep Show" presentation of live music and "large and lovely go-go dancers" -- will have to close its doors.

Marksbury has owned the SOMA club for 10 years, and in that time, he explains, "you've just seen a huge change in trends." He remembers when, two years ago, upward of 700 people would pack the club on its dance-oriented weekend nights, which helped support the live rock bands that performed during the week. Since then, he's watched those crowds drift to other after-hours spots in SOMA and North Beach, or just disappear entirely. And he also cites a "huge rent increase" last year that put added financial pressure on the club. "I beat my head against the wall with every kind of dance music," says Marksbury of his efforts to attract weekend crowds, but the numbers aren't increasing quickly enough.

Closure is not a forgone conclusion, and staff members are already working on plans to help the club bounce back. Audra Angeli-Morse, who books "Stinky's Peep Show," is working with Bottom of the Hill booker Ramona Downey to pull in higher-profile live bands on the weekends, starting in October. And an e-mail announcing the news last week brought a lot of CW supporters out of the woodwork, according to Angeli-Morse. "We think we can turn it around," she says. "The last thing San Francisco needs is another closed club."

She also notes that bands have offered to play the CW for free, an act that Marksbury appreciates, though it forces him to swallow his pride a bit. "It's something which I don't want to do," he says. "I think the bands should get paid, and I have to retain a little of my dignity."

Clubbed, Part 2 About two weeks ago, Mission club and watering hole McCarthy's, on the bustling corner of Mission and 19th streets, pulled the plug on its live music schedule. "We decided it wasn't working out for us," says manager Russ Hahn, who also cited having a mixing board stolen from the club as one thing that soured him on continuing live music, at least for the time being; McCarthy's had played host to bands and DJs spinning hip hop, dub, world music, and Latin jazz. Hahn holds out hope that music may become a part of McCarthy's atmosphere again in the future. "It's not a forever thing," he says.

Clubbed, Part 3 San Francisco being the transient town that it is -- nearly everybody hails from somewhere else, and often winds up going somewhere else, eventually -- it's not shocking that musicians skip town every so often. But the numbers do seem to be piling up, especially within the past year on the singer/songwriter end, from Barbara Manning to Mark Eitzel to Adam Elk to Mumblin' Jim. A couple of weeks back, Riff Raff made mention of the local country-folk band Old Joe Clarks leaving for Portland ("Disappearing Acts," Sept. 8). That inspired the following response from Christine Beatty, lead singer of local hard rock band Glamazon, as an example of how frustration with San Francisco's peculiarities can wear down one's best intentions. After four years together in the Bay Area, Glamazon played its last local show on Sept. 26 at Edinburgh Castle.

Dear Riff Raff,

Your September 8th column was right on the money. Or lack there of. Add Glamazon to the roster of bands flying the coop for greener pastures. LA, in our case. The decline of the Rock Scene in this town is not a case of paranoia but a cold, hard fact. Rising rents not only drives out the musicians, but also the fans who come to the shows. Or don't anymore. Why should some rocker drive twenty miles to a town where there's no parking, where clubs are slowly converting away from live rock to formats that please the wine and cheese set or have gone the DJ route, where the scene is noticeably dwindling? For what we're paying for an apartment in the Tenderloin and a rehearsal studio we can get a house in Los Angeles, a place where there's more rock clubs on Sunset Blvd. than there ever were in Frisco, even when the Stone, the Mab and On Broadway were in full swing. Can you say "no-brainer?" We knew you could.

We've both lived here since the early '80s, and we'll miss this town, one of the most beautiful in the world. But San Francisco, you just don't rock like you used to. We'll see you on tour someday. We still love you. And thanks to all of our fans. You're the best!

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

About The Author

Mark Athitakis


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