The InsiderOne Daily Report
Wednesday, March 14, 2001
Entertaining Each Other
InsiderOne's Michael Goldberg writes: I hung out at the Wild Thyme Café in Sonoma last Friday, part of an amazingly accepting audience at open-mic night who seemed to feel privileged just to be there. There was no admission, and the performers weren't paid. They were there simply for the adrenaline rush of performing before a crowd, and the joy of sharing their creativity with friends. One of the evening's organizers was Ken Brown, currently the mayor of Sonoma. When I think of a small-town mayor, I think of some white-haired businessman in his 60s. Wrong. With long brown hair in a ponytail, and blue denim shirt and jeans, Ken Brown looks a modern-day activist who could have been a hippie when he was younger. Brown is currently trying to limit the number of hotel rooms allowed here. He's anti-growth, which is lucky for Sonoma. As it is, on sunny weekends the downtown square is overrun with tourists up to check out "the wine country." Brown used to co-run the Center of the Universe Café at the Sonoma Community Center during the first half of the '90s. The other night at the Wild Thyme, the Center of the Universe Café was reborn. From the anecdotal info I've gathered, the COTUC was a freewheeling gathering place where hippies, post-hippies, poets, artists, bohemian types, musicians and other free spirits shared their work with an adoring audience. At some point the COTUC ran out of steam but then, all at once, here it is again at the Wild Thyme. There was a house band of sorts: an upright bassist and a percussionist who would have looked right at home in a North Beach café, circa 1951, with Kerouac holding forth in one corner and Ferlinghetti in another. Any poet who wanted some cool, beat-style jazz backing had only to say the word, and the jazz cats would offer sensitive, but still way-out-there, musical support. Most of the audience was thirty- or fortysomething, although there were some younger members one kid, sitting way up front, had a hooded sweatshirt with the word "independent" across the back. Folks who wanted to perform wrote their names on small pieces of paper and placed them in a basket; Ken Brown, the MC, would draw names randomly. A woman said she used to be in a band before she settled down to raise a family; she performed two touching songs on acoustic guitar. One of them was about her first childhood crush. At one point, after she sang the boy's name in the chorus, she stopped momentarily to reassure her husband, sitting in back. Another woman recited a poem about San Francisco's Haight-Ashbury, circa 1967. A woman wearing a beret presented a piece questioning the validity of spending time in cyberspace (a sentiment found in Le Tigre's recent "Get Off the Internet"), prefacing it with: "I was the last of my friends to get a computer. I've had it for a month." As a cold, detached, cynical observer, you could write the evening off as a kind of communal yearning for the past by folks out of step with the modern age. Or you could celebrate it for what it was: people attempting to live a healthy, meaningful life in a world that appears run by greedy madmen. At the Wild Thyme I saw a group of people who have done their best to make for themselves a life based on some real, solid values: community, love, their loved ones, art, music, poetry, writing, nature, friends, doing the right thing. One woman got up and explained, before reading several powerful poems, that she had worked at a corporation in San Francisco for years, before quitting, moving north and starting her own business. She had come to the conclusion that the work she had been doing was meaningless. There are a lot of people like her up here, people who have dropped out of the rat race. "Hi, this is my family," said another woman poet upon reaching the microphone. "So you are my brothers and sisters." Ceiling fans spun; on each table was a lit candle; wine and coffee were the beverages of choice as people snacked on cookies, muffins and soup. What an amazing thing to walk into in 2001 a community of people coming together on a Friday night to be entertained and enlightened by each other! Can you imagine that? One poet, an older guy with long grey hair, several necklaces, a tunic and baggy pants stuffed into tall brown boots (what we used to call "a freak"), got his turn. He wanted the musicians to back him, and asked for sounds "like rats fighting over a tuna can in the bottom of a dumpster..." The jazz cats looked at each other, smiled, and began to play. The poet occasionally beat a rhythm on a small drum that he held. His poem was about surviving in a city, trying to maintain in a world that has lost its soul. Periodically, he would return to the line, "And it is so cold outside the heart." He's right, of course.
Datastream: The tentative title for the next Wilco album is "Yankee Foxtrot Hotel," according to a source close to the band. The bandmembers have been producing themselves, recording at their loft studio in Chicago. Many songs have been recorded, but the track listing has not yet been solidified. The group's last album, Summer Teeth, was released two years ago. According to our source, "Heavy Metal Drummer," a song bandleader Jeff Tweedy has been performing, will "likely be on the album." The album could be out by mid-July, or "early August at the latest." Don't expect the new one to sound like Summer Teeth, though. "The idea on this record is maybe have a lot more holes of landscape for people to get inside," Tweedy told Spin. "We all get really bored with things quickly. What we made then is almost the opposite of what we think sounds good now." ... Sparks will surely fly on Thursday, March 15, when Henry Rollins appears on the Howard Stern Show from 8:309:30 AM.
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Michael Goldberg is the president of insiderone.net. He founded Addicted To Noise in 1994.