Folks who get a hankerin' for a little Christmas in July often head down to the Stork Club, that rakish dive with a Dickensian air of poorly executed English, meager 25-cent handfuls of vended peanuts (please sirs, some more?), and barstool upon barstool of lone lorn cre'tures who would probably be in debtor's prison were it 1882 instead of 2002.
But change is in the wind this summer. Yes, it's time to buy that fat goose and sew the fingers back on those gloves, because the jauntily rugged and mildly egomaniacal Emmett Cadigan will now be booking the joint. Local music fans may remember him from ye olde Port Lite, that maritime watering hole near Jack London Square with inflated drink prices and a who-the-hell-is-who of unknown bands. Cadigan left the club last year after realizing he was going to be a father. Well, the baby has arrived, Emmett is laid up with a broken hip due to skateboarding, and these factors combined reminded him how much he misses rock 'n' roll. "I'm gonna prime the pump and tickle the dragon," he says over the phone from his palatial Oakland retreat. It's not clear exactly what he means, but one hopes he is referring to the struggling East Bay music scene, of which he's been such a tireless supporter. "I wanted to get back into booking," he clarifies.
Cadigan is replacing dani eurynome, who booked the Stork for a little over a year. She helped the bar stay above water following its move from the old 12th Street location, slowly building it up again and retaining its art-rockish vibe. dani claims she decided to leave because she wanted to book bigger shows and was unable to do so in a club that size. But it probably didn't help that the sound is sucky and the poorly compensated band members got just one measly drink ticket good for one Budweiser on tap -- tuppence for an ale, Mr. Scrooge?
As for Cadigan, he's always liked a challenge. He walked into the Port Lite way back when and asked if he could start putting on shows. After that, he ran the whole shebang despite entirely unsupportive bartenders and owners. "At the Port Lite I found it, I discovered it, and I could make all the rules," he says. In fact, his chutzpah, or Barnum-and-Bailey quality if you prefer, drove some people nuts. "The Emmett Show," as he called it, consisted of him standing on the stage pontificating and offering snappy comebacks to irreverent audience members. "Shut up and let the band play!" echoed throughout the beer-stained saloon on many an occasion. Cadigan says he plans to tone down his shtick at the Stork, not wanting to alienate his new bosses for whom he very much appreciates working. "They actually advertise!" he exclaims happily, noting that he spent months and months begging the Port Lite folks to spend even a dime on ads.
One thing Emmett wants to bring to the Stork is monthly pinball tournaments, the first of which is this Sunday. "I want to do the Stinky's Peep Show thing, but with pinball and barbecue instead of girls," he says, referring to the Thursday night punk sideshows that take place at San Francisco's Justice League. "We started a thing called Pinball Mafia -- with bands like Drunk Horse and Zen Guerrilla, and Multiball magazine ... to bring all these people together. It will become like a rave: four bands, a barbecue, and a pinball contest." The word is still out on whether or not those bands are going to participate, but for this Sunday he's got the Angry Amputees, Three Years Down, Mommy's Friend, and the Deadly Weapons. Cadigan is installing more pinball machines and is shelling out his own dough to buy all the food, in the hope that his monthly Pinball Mafia will come to rival the weekly barbecue at the Bottom of the Hill over in the West Bay.
As for dani, she's now booking one night a week at the Talk of the Town, which has recently opened up its large upstairs area to bigger bands -- finally, a place for known touring acts to play over here. "The club has the potential to be the Great American Music Hall of the East Bay," she says. Already the booker has lined up Tribe 8, the Brian Jonestown Massacre, and the Warlocks. She's also booking one night a week at the Metro, a performance space in downtown Oakland with awesome sound and a bar. Things are looking up for local music, people.
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