Black Helicopters

“If any man really needs a beating, it’s Bill Graham.”–Sterling Morrison
October 18, 2009, 5:30 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

Bill Graham was responsible for promoting the careers of some of the most reprehensible names in “rock history”: the Jefferson Airplane, the Grateful Dead, Big Brother and the Holding Company, the Mothers of Invention.  (I always feel a pang of guilt when mentioning this last group, considering Frank Zappa’s later defense of Dead Kennedys and others facing the onslaught of the Parents’ Music Resource Center in the 1980s; this ought not, however, obscure the fact that the Mothers of Invention, ultimately, are bullshit.)  The Velvet Underground, in Up-tight, this interview, and elsewhere, make no attempt to hide their animosity towards Graham, who apparently found nothing of merit in VU music–during their first West Coast tour in 1966, which included stops at Graham venues in L.A. and San Francisco, they, unfathomably, were the opening act for Zappa’s group and Jefferson Airplane–and Graham forbade them from playing the third of three dates in S.F., where they were booed by “open-minded”, “progressive” rock audiences throughout their sets.

San Francisco’s Fillmore Auditorium, “historic” only to those whose history is that of the victors, is, unsurprisingly, a tribute to this philistine.  I spent the early part of my time there tonight thinking about the direct link between Graham and the $25 I had paid to see the Jesus Lizard, whose David Yow managed to quash any of the discomfort generated by their recent unexpected reunion by saying, essentially, “this is weird and fucked up, thanks for coming,” telling some plainly awful jokes, and putting on a mesmerizing show as one of the greatest frontmen in the history of music .  At one point, when the sheer genius of the band was grating against my thoughts of how much they were getting paid for the show–again, Bill Graham, this all somehow comes back to you, you progenitor of corporate rock–Denison and Sims began interminable pickscrapes, Mac brutalized his rack and floor toms, a terminally-drunk Yow gave a “shout out” to his “peeps” Helios and Damon, and the Jesus Lizard tore into an unfuckingbelievable cover of Chrome’s “TV As Eyes”–leading me to reflect, somehow for the first time, that Chrome were indeed a San Francisco band.

The best band right now, in San Francisco or anywhere else–in case you were wondering–are Mi Ami.  If you don’t think so, you are wrong.


This history.  It has, once again, reared up–and this time we’re ready.


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