Melody Walker and friends call the "Ladylike Open Mic" at Muddy's Hot Cup "Menstrual Monday," providing fodder for all sorts of bad puns I won't repeat here. On Monday of this week Melody was not singing at Muddy's, nor was anyone else. She called me that evening to explain that live music at Muddy's is suspended "until further notice."
Earlier that day, Walker, who helps coordinate entertainment at the café, attended an administrative hearing in front of a judge in the Board of Supes chambers with Muddy's owner Corey Stevens and representatives of the California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control (popularly known as the ABC). As a result of a complaint from a neighbor who testified yesterday, the judge may recommend pulling the café's beer and wine license.
As Walker explained, "We basically have to stop having music until the judge makes his decision." It could take anywhere from 30-60 days.
All of this might sound familiar. The current complaints are almost identical to those that came a couple of years ago (see "Trouble at Muddy Waters," March 17, 2005), when the same neighbor's objection to DJ nights (since discontinued) almost brought entertainment to a halt at the Northtown nightspot. The ownership of the business and the name of the establishment have changed since then, but not the ABC stipulations that allowed for further music.
As Muddy's current owner, Corey Stevens, explained, "This was based on allegedly irresponsible behavior of the former business. We have applied through official channels of ABC to get the condition changed." Stevens continued: "It currently reads, ‘Entertainment should not be audible at all outside the premises,' which is absurd. Zero tolerance is unreasonable."
To be precise, the relevant clause reads: "Entertainment shall not be audible beyond the area under control of the licensee," as shown on the license sent to the Journal by ABC. ABC spokesman John Carr also explained, "A condition based on complaints can follow the license."
As noted by the complaining neighbor, Nancy Tobin, in a Tuesday afternoon phone call, the Monday hearing also included testimony from four Arcata police officers and Chief Randy Mendoza, all of them reporting that Muddy's had been in violation of the ABC stipulation repeatedly.
"He [Stevens] knew what he was getting into," said Tobin. "I'm not to blame here. Before he opened his business I told him about what had happened before. He told me he was only going to have acoustic music and puppet shows. Once they opened, the problems started.
"He's upset. I'm upset too. What am I supposed to do? I have rights. I love music. I think it's great, but it's not the right place for music of that volume. I didn't want to go to the police, but what else was I supposed to do? The problem is, when I'm in my house I'm kept awake by their music, and I can hear music there five nights a week. He's completely violating my right to peaceful enjoyment of my property."
Back at Muddy's, Stevens sees it differently. "This is a community issue," he asserted. "The community should step up and say that one person can't decide whether we have music or not. The entertainment we have here is something we do for the community and people should get behind it. I feel like I'm doing something good here and I get nothing but grief."
Muddy's ABC permit also says, "Issuance of an unrestricted license would be contrary to public welfare and morals." So, there you have it. Music is immoral. OK, that's an exaggeration, but is everyone ready for another chorus of "Footloose"?
Melody got me back on the phone. It seemed she had a second reason for calling. Her a cappella women's vocal combo, AkaBella, had planned a gig at Muddy's Saturday Dec. 8, with the local, all-woman, West African drum and dance troupe Guinea Gbe. With the clampdown, they had to find a new venue and moved it to Big Pete's Pizza, right up the road in the same Northtown neighborhood. "We'll sing and dance with them," said Melody. "It was going to be cool at Muddy's, but it'll be good at Pete's too."
Meanwhile, closer to downtown, another music establishment, Humboldt Brews, is ready to kick up its heels and celebrate its grand reopening on Thursday. After being closed for the entire summer for renovations, HumBrews is unveiling a new configuration. Walking into the space Monday one thing was instantly clear: Things have opened up. The wall at the back is gone; the wood floor extends almost to the back the building. Work was still in progress. A 16-inch high stage will grace the back wall, but it was not yet installed, and there were other things still undone. In fact the place was a beehive of activity with a dozen workers adding various touches. What was once apparently an outside wall of the old Feuerwerker Building next door was revealed in the renovation process exposing old letting that says "Quality." That's my impression of the new look, at least so far.
Let's hope everything gets finished and passes inspection by Thursday when Moo-Got-2 and Murdockulus are supposed to get funky for opening night. Friday and Saturday they have a Dead-style double-night run with The JGB Band, Melvin Sealson organ and David Kemper on drums.
Deadheads have a tough choice Saturday night. While Melvin is in Arcata, former JGB Band guitarist Stu Allen is at the Red Fox with another Dead-ish outfit, Workingman's Ed. The Red Fox is jumpin' all weekend with Radioactive from Spearhead on Thursday with Mixmaster Crushington on the wheels of steel. Friday it's Great American Taxi, the Colorado-based Americana band led by Vince Herman of Leftover Salmon.
Elsewhere in Eureka there's another grand reopening of a slightly different nature. You may have read that the Boiler Room has been "closed for remodeling." While that may be true to some extent, the business was also operating under an ABC-imposed 30-day liquor permit suspension. A Thursday "reopening" marks the return of said license with a visit from Hillside Fire, a bluesy metal band from Petaluma.
Saturday the Boiler has a benefit, Snow Ball '07, a music showcase for local punk/metal bands including Anchorite and Mystic, Forcefed Trauma, Definition Unknown, The Social Ills and Amilias Rose. As explained by the promoter, "The audience will be voting by casting a ballot for their favorite act and the winning band will receive a grand prize package including studio time, a music video and other gifts and services" — but no, it's not a battle of the bands. Your host is Bruce Swink, former guitarist of Stone Sour and Down the Sun, who will raffle off a guitar autographed by members of Slipknot, Stone Sour and Soulfly, along with other heavy items with proceeds going to United Way.
Lots going on Friday, Dec. 7, ("a date that will live in infamy"): You say you didn't get quite enough blues harp at the blowout last Friday night? Blues harpist Phil Berkowitz is up from the Bay Area to blow at the Riverwood Inn Friday. Joanne Rand and The Rhythm of the Open Heartsplay heartfelt folk-rock that night at Mosgo's.
The glitzy new Wave Lounge at the Blue Lake Casino brings in a special edition of NightHawk Friday. While guitarist Steve Delay takes a short medical leave (nothing serious), the band has convinced Clint Warner to come back from Washington for a few gigs. Says NightHawk's Marcia Mendels, "We've been rehearsing with Clint, and having a whole lot of fun, so we'll be able to do all of our favorite songs, both originals and covers."
And across town at the other Blue Lake bar, the Logger, it's Thieves, emerging from some garage (or living room) with Lee Marks(from Good Dog Banned) and Allan Odelberg(who used to run Mad River Rose), along with Tracy Duke and Doug Mortenson. Lee describes the show thusly: "No cover charge, no cover tunes. No country music, just rock 'n' roll." Straight, no chaser.
The intriguing missive came via e-mail: "The Absynth Quintet cordially invites you to the first annual Dark Crystal Voyage Ball. Come celebrate as the band provides a spontaneous soundtrack to two of the greatest movies ever made: the animated epic The Dark Crystal, directed by Jim Henson and Frank Oz, and cult surf classic The Crystal Voyager by George Greenough. Celebratory attire encouraged." It goes on to say that the event is Saturday, Dec. 8, at Trinidad Town Hall and it's a benefit for Northcoast Environmental Center, which is cool. I don't know if I agree on those being two of the greatest movies ever, but it sounds like fun in a Dark Side of the Moon/Wizard of Oz sort of vein.
Speaking of Oz, Circus Oz, coming to the Van Duzer for two shows Sunday Dec. 9, sounds different, with what seems to be a Burning Man/neo-circus feel that fits right in with certain scenes emerging locally. The cast is already in town, so listen for those Aussie accents and ask questions.
Ready for some honky tonk action? Wayne "The Train" Hancock, allegedly the "world's finest purveyor of juke joint swing," returns to town Monday for a show at the Jambalaya with local honky tonk heroes Rooster McClintock. (You can also catch Rooster at the Alibi Saturday night.)
And last but not least we have a visit from a presidential nominee, perhaps the only one we'll receive. (Dennis Kucinich is coming as near as Ukiah, but not here.) Dr. Jared Ball, a Green Party nominee for president in 2008, will speak at HSU's Kate Buchanan Room Wednesday, Dec. 12. Why is this in the Hum? He's coming with the "Jared Ball 4 Green Party President California Outreach and Unity Tour" which also features rapper Head-Roc, aka the DC Mayor of hip hop. Can the other candidates top that?