The InsiderOne Daily Report

  Monday, January 29, 2001

When The Rain Comes

InsiderOne's Michael Goldberg writes: It's a little after 9 AM, and the Beatles' "Taxman" is playing at McCoffee, the coolest café in Half Moon Bay, a seaside town about 25 minutes south of San Francisco on Highway 1. The sound of the Beatles adds to the timeless-meets-retro quality of the place; the young woman behind the counter looks perfectly back-to-nature-meets-punk natural in denim overalls, a T-shirt with a big orange sun on it, a bandana around her head and a tattoo on her arm. Half Moon Bay is just down the road a piece from the Old Princeton Landing where Neil Young has been known to warm up with Crazy Horse. It's one of those cool towns — far enough from San Francisco to make you feel like you're in the country, but close enough to have an up-to-the-moment bookstore filled with every magazine known to man, along with the morning's New York Times and Wall Street Journal. You can buy cowboy hats here, but there's also a great sushi restaurant. The last time I was in Half Moon Bay I spent a few hours at McCoffee writing record reviews. The place has real wood chairs, a well-worn floor made of planks painted green and a bunch of old-school linoleum tables in a shade of red that looks like it went out of fashion by 1950 — so you know it looks just right. That woman behind the counter keeps a running conversation going, sometimes with the longhaired mustachioed guy who could be the owner, sometimes with whoever comes up to the counter to order a coffee. "I wonder if the record store's gotten that CD I ordered," she says to Mr. Moustache. There's a ceiling fan, and numerous mobiles with little objects — cubes and octagons — that look like they came from India. Cell phones have arrived in Half Moon Bay just as they've arrived just about everywhere else on the planet — but people here seem to still have manners. When the cell phone of a young woman in old jeans and a sweatshirt rings, she heads out to the street as she answers it and carries on her conversation on the sidewalk, before returning to her table. Now the Beatles are singing, "When the rain comes..." Just yesterday it did rain and I bet more will come this afternoon. When I was here writing reviews, I was listening with headphones to the albums I was writing about. Recordings by Olivia Tremor Control and Kim Gordon sounded just right. Writing in cafés is a tradition that goes back to way before I was born, and it's a good one. Something about good coffee, catching fragments of the conversation at the next table, and that odd-looking fellow you can see through the front window crossing the street — all of that makes a café a great place for writing. They sell cool postcards here. They've got one with a photo of Billie Holiday from 1949. Another is of Muddy Waters. I buy the one of Pablo Picasso, taken in 1956, standing outside a building at Cannes. He looks pissed-off and defiant, as if he's daring the world to get in his way. The picture is priceless, but for me, 80 cents. A girl with orange running shoes and a pink T-shirt settles in to read a novel; a couple of bearded men are talking real estate. "OK, more about me," says a young woman to her friend; they're sitting at the counter. This is the kinda place where you could just hang out all day. Maybe I will.

Datastream: Kristin Hersh's fifth solo album, Sunny Border Blue, will be released by 4AD/Beggars Group on March 6th. The album was produced by Throwing Muses co-founder Hersh, who wrote all the songs save one (Cat Stevens' "Trouble"), played all the instruments (except the drums on "Trouble"), and produced the album in a converted horse stable not far from her home in Rhode Island. The songs are pure Kristin Hersh — sometimes the music is intimate and folksy but the lyrics tough ("How many times can you get fucked/ In how many different ways?" she sings in "William's Cut"), and sometimes the music rocks and the lyrics are even tougher ("I swallowed some bad voodoo/ Caught it in the guy" she sings in "Silica"). Hersh is one of the first artists to institute an online subscription service. Subscribers to her site,, get a new previously-unreleased song each month for a $15 annual fee. Hersh's husband/manager says 3000 fans have subscribed to date.

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Michael Goldberg is the president of He founded Addicted To Noise in 1994.

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