Legitimizing Eli's Mile High Club 

Historical Oakland venue gets up to code and launches art gallery, plus the results of a musician survey on equitable pay and a local singer dies on the road.

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It's become a broken record: Every few years it seems that Eli's Mile High Club gets new owners with a vision that most often results in upsetting its neighbors. This time around, relatively new co-owners Jason Herbers and Geoff Melville — well-aware of the venue's troubled past — say they're doing everything they can to make peace with the city and their neighbors, and hope to make the venue a thriving place for the artists and musicians who call the Oakland bar home.

After purchasing the venue from the former owner about two years ago, Herbers and Melville went about trying to get a cabaret license in order to host live music. But the neighbor backlash was too strong. "The neighborhood was pissed off about noise and the previous owners," said Herbers. So Herbers and Melville laid low, running the venue as a dive bar and restaurant. Meanwhile, they slowly made upgrades to the interior, spending thousands of dollars on soundproofing to appease a particularly upset neighbor, and getting up to code according to the city's requirements.

With so much space and no license to hold shows, however, Herbers and Melville decided to create a gallery space for rock-poster, tattoo, and street artists to show their work, with a different artist featured each month. Herbers notes that with high rent prices in the City, more and more artists and musicians are relocating to Oakland "We're both artists," explained Herbers, "and most of our patrons are artists and musicians. Pretty much the entire punk and metal scene hangs out here." The owners white-walled one area and added track lighting. They'll host their first art show this Friday, August 6 (7 p.m.-midnight; free), featuring the posters of well-known local artist Alan Forbes. Forbes will be on hand selling his art, and there'll be free drinks and food as well.

Speaking of food, Herbers says Eli's is also a great place for good, cheap bar food, including shrimp po' boys and barbecued pulled pork sandwiches. They've got pool tables and a huge patio out back with picnic tables, as well as a wall of photos featuring all the old blues bands that used to perform there.

A tattoo parlor upstairs is about 90-percent complete, but Herbers says his business partner for that project backed out, so he's looking for a new one. In the meantime, Herbers says they've completed almost all of the upgrades the city asked of them, and are just waiting for someone to stop by and approve them so they can move forward with a cabaret license. "We're at the whim of the city," said Herbers. "We kinda got sold a lemon, but we're trying to show that this place has a lot of history." Herbers is confident that his neighbors don't want the place to actually go away, just for it to be less noisy.

Survey Results on Equitable Pay

Last month we wrote about concerns surrounding musician pay for the Fillmore Jazz Festival. Local promoter and booking manager Stephanie Dalton has been largely spearheading the campaign to raise musician pay, and has since conducted an informal survey of musicians about the issue, the results of which she recently published. The gist is that though most had positive experiences with the Fillmore Jazz Festival's promoter, Steven Restivo, a majority of respondees also believed there should be a minimum pay scale for musicians who perform at San Francisco street festivals, and are in favor of asking the Entertainment Commission of San Francisco to set forth bylaws regarding musicians' pay structure at such events. Many also agreed that asking bands to perform a ninety-minute set for no more than $75 per band member — which Restivo did — devalues the compensation scale for professional musicians.

Early Graves Singer Dies in Car Crash

The lead singer of local metal band Early Graves died Monday in Oregon when the van he was riding in crashed and rolled, according to the San Francisco Chronicle. According to the report, 28-year-old Matikeef "Makh" Daniels was ejected from the vehicle, which was heading south on I-5 north of Medford, at 5:30 a.m. after the driver, 24-year-old Justin Garcia of the band Funeral Pyre, fell asleep at the wheel and drifted off the road. Daniels was pronounced dead at the scene. Garcia and 21-year-old Tyler Jensen of Early Graves were treated for non-life-threatening injuries. Apparently Daniels and Jensen had been lying in a rear cargo area and were not wearing seat belts, according to police.

Early Graves was on tour and headed to Reno. Their last Facebook status update before the accident read, "RENO. 8.2.2010. We're coming to you right to play heavy. show is at Ryans Saloon. come after the btbam show and get drunk with us. FUCK."

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