Rock in a Hard Place 

Deep inside the local scene

YES, IT'S TRUE:
the California Music Awards are in Oakland for the very first time this Saturday--Jerry Brown gave them the run of the Henry J. Kaiser Center for the night--and that's a good thing for the East Bay. But for all the talk about a more artist-friendly Oakland, what's going on several blocks away that same day is a bit more representative of the state of the music scene.

The visual arts and performance space 21Grand is to be the latest music venue to be shut down; months of landlord troubles culminated with an eviction notice on April 1. (Don't let the date get your hopes up.) "A week later he notifies us that our rent will increase by $300 a month, which boggles the brain," says the collective's Sarah Lockhart in an e-mail. "Doesn't one raise tenants' rents first, then evict them?" The assembled artists are fighting the eviction, along with Smyth's Accordion Center 'round the back of the building, and have organized a nine-hour benefit on Saturday to help them pay their lawyer.

Survival Research Laboratories' Mark Pauline kicks things off at three with "a ritual demolition," then more oddball art-rock than you can shake a stick at: cabaret-tinged weirdness from Mark Growden and the Lemon Limelights, experimental electronic music by Beau Casey and Pamela Z, mad percussionist Moe! Staiano, improvisations by clarinetist Matt Ingalls and the Robot Arm Ensemble, offbeat rock from Soldier of Fortune Cookie, and folk from Kitchen Dance and Heather Acker.

And that's just the music. Look for performance art and spoken word by Destroy Ape Technology, $teven Ra$pa, Jack Toolin, m.i. blue, Katy Bell, Chris Karney, Mikl-em, and Miz Kaianna, videos, and more, and then some more, and then still more. Jeez Louise, you will say.


ONE MIGHT THINK
the Starry Plough's Tuesday open mike nights would be a more low-key affair, but judging from host Joan Pez's Best of Berkeley Open Mic at the Starry Plough compilation, those of us who haven't made it over there are missing out. Okay, I get the "best of" part, but still, this comp is almost uniformly good, and all the artists on the CD are scheduled to play the release party at the Plough Thursday, May 3. A few highlights: John Fizer's lazy-day delight "Good Mornin' Glory," to the tune of Robert Johnson's "Come on in My Kitchen"; Nino Moschella's haunting acoustic slide guitar and soft, almost womanly vocals; Arin Simonian's breathy jazz-folk ululations; Inka's syncopated folk-rock; dreamy folk love songs from Pez and Carla Fay; Jamie Jenkins' staccato guitar and shaggy-dog politics on the Ani DiFranco-esque "Long Enough Time" and the burbling beauty of her "Fools Disguise"; and Jefferson Knaup banging his acoustic guitar and firmly insisting that we all do "The Swim."

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