More than ten years ago, former Express music editor Katy St. Clair wrote about the tragedy that had befallen Rick Stevens, original lead singer of the Oakland soul group Tower of Power and double murder convict. Stevens, whose gorgeous, pliant pipes added luster to such hits as "You're Still a Young Man," was also a known rabble-rouser — he was convicted for fatally shooting two drug dealers in 1976, and received two seven-year-to-life sentences as a result. After years of being a petulant prisoner and showing up to parole hearing wasted — according to former bandmate Emilio "Mimi" Castillo — Stevens managed to find religion and get back on the straight and narrow. And he's reportedly made parole: This past February, the California Board of Parole Hearings recommended Stevens for a June release date. To say he's thankful, after serving 36 years in prison, would be a vast understatement. Stevens is now 72.
In the four years since the festival's inception, organizers of Outside Lands have taken great pride in expanding their curatorial reach — they've expanded the three-day event to include culinary booths, art exhibitions, a comedy tent, and a series of night shows in local venues, in addition to the wall-to-wall lineup of A-list music acts. This morning Outside Lands announced its Barbary Tent Comedy and Variety showcase, which will include performances by David Cross, Chris Hardwick, Jonah Ray, Neil Patrick Harris, and local favorite Caitlin Gill.
Great, great, great news for the grown and sexy crowd: Geoffrey's Inner Circle is back in its original 14th Street location. Three years have passed since the famous hip-hop and soul club shuttered, following a contentious battle with Oakland police, who wanted owner Geoffrey Pete to pay overtime charges for cops to patrol the area around his venue. Pete, who ran the Inner Circle for 16 years without paying any such fees, accused OPD of a shakedown. Though then-city attorney John Russo ultimately succeeded in getting the club owner's $2.5 million civil right suit dismissed, it became emblematic of a larger problem in Oakland — that of police unfairly using downtown clubs as a revenue source.
"Dear all, This may come as a surprise to many & has been an issue of much thought for me. My decision was not easy to make. I am leaving Girls. My reasons at this time are personal. I need to do this in order to progress. I will continue to write & record music. More will be announced soon. I thank you all for everything. Sincerely-Christopher"
According to HuffPo, Owens was talking "excitedly" about recording the band's third album in May, so clearly his decision was a recent one — and one that must be for pretty serious reasons considering how much success the band has seen in the last few years. No doubt we'll hear more soon...
Oakland's art scene appears to be spreading southward as it grows more fecund, with new venues cropping up in the retail corridor that abuts Grand Avenue. The latest to come before Oakland City Planning Commission are a Latin dance club called Manny's, which just got approved to open at 2120 Broadway — aka the building with the mural of a man planting an oak tree. Chilean immigrant Manuel Cabello has owned the property since 1995, but he only recently pooled enough resources to launch a club there. He says that Manny's will feature salsa, samba, flamenco, and tango nights, catered gaucho steak dinners, and dance lessons. It's designed to introduce Oaklanders to the whole panoply of Latin culture — not just the Caribbean side to which we're most familiar, he said.
Sad news came down the pike this morning, as we learned that Oakland's beloved weekly comedy showcase, Comedy Off Broadway, will end its three-year run on June 30. According to the organizers, host venue Miss Pearl's pulled the plug, explaining that the even is no longer financially viable. While we understand that a small showcase can be risky in an area that's not already awash in comedy infrastructure, we'll still mourn the event that helped spawn a nascent scene.this one — and it became sometime we could all unequivocally champion and praise. Hosts Samson Koletkar and Joe Gleckler even soldiered on after an unexpected tsunami caused Miss Pearl's to shutter for several months. They have a few fabulous lineups in the hopper for June, including features by Klocek and rising local star, Miles K. Come check them out.
Just days after playing the Fox Theater with his old band Sleep, Matt Pike of High on Fire is entering treatment for alcohol rehabilitation, the band announced today. That means the Oakland metal band "will put its scheduled touring plans on hold indefinitely as Pike takes the necessary steps towards regaining his health" and thus will not be playing the Mayhem Festival at Shoreline Amphitheatre on July 1.
"High on Fire would like to thank everyone involved with the Rockstar Energy Drink Mayhem Festival for the opportunity to be a part of this year's tour," said the band in a statement. "We regretfully will have to bow out as our friend and bandmate begins his recovery, but very much appreciate having been asked to be a part of this summer's festival run."
Pike has alluded to his problems with substance abuse before. In a 2007 interview with the Express, he said was exorcising some of his demons, including his "struggle with substance abuse," on the band's then-new album, Death Is This Communion. He also described himself as "a functional alcoholic," but said he was trying to get healthier by practicing meditation and yoga.
According to High on Fire's publicist, drummer Des Kensel relocated to New Orleans in March. Not sure what that means for the band, but let's hope they'll be healthy and back in action soon.
After a year and a half of wrangling , the FCC has finally upheld the license transfer of 90.3 FM from the University of San Francisco to Classical Public Radio Network. The decision was a final coup de grace to fans of KUSF, the college radio station that used to broadcast from 90.3 but was relegated to an internet stream following the sale. Fans launched a long and passionate crusade to keep the popular station from going moribund, ultimately enlisting help from a wide swath of Bay Area terrestrial radio listeners, and from the San Francisco Board of Supervisors. Their fight was symbolic of the movement to preserve college radio at large, even though it ended in disenchantment.
This is weird. Metal Sucks is reporting that a Panama-based company called World Digital is suing 80 individuals for illegally downloading East Bay metalcore band All Shall Perish's last album, This Is Where It Ends, without the band's permission. "Not happy about this" was the Tweet sent out by the band this morning to a link to the story.
According to Metal Sucks, the band's label, Nuclear Blast, has no idea how World Digital, which describes itself as "The Worlds [sp] Largest Online Digital Download Store" (and which sells ASP ringtone downloads), obtained the rights to the band's album in the first place. "...[I]t now appears as if the label is either not willing or not able to stop the lawsuit from proceeding. And World Digital is proceeding with the case despite the band’s loud public objections."
"The identities of the 80 U.S. downloaders being sued will soon be turned over to World Digital, and notification emails will be sent out to each of them, according to a report this weekend from TorrentFreak."
Look out. For the first year ever, the Express will co-present this year's Art & Soul Oakland with the City of Oakland. The two-day event, to be held Saturday and Sunday, August 4-5, 2012, at Frank Ogawa Plaza (14th and Broadway), will feature a more diverse music lineup, plus an art show (courtesy de Young Museum artist fellows and artist-in-residence alumni, and American Steel), film projections, "light-based art," food trucks, and kids' activities. Also exciting: extended hours on Saturday night till midnight. Free bike parking and easy access by public transit. More details to be announced. Stay tuned...
Saturday, August 4, 2012, 2 p.m. to midnight
Sunday, August 5, 2012, noon to 6 p.m.
Advance online: $10 adults; $5 seniors (65 and older) & youth (13-17); free for 12 & under.
At the Gate: $15 adults; $8 seniors & youth; free for 12 & under.