Welcome back to the Boulevard Ear, a regular feature on The Bay Bridged, where our man about town examines a community’s live music offerings over the course of one evening. What is it like to be a show-goer whose experiences are dictated entirely by location? Follow Todd as he explores Bay Area music venues by neighborhood, finding a variety of independent music along the way.
It is gloomy without – the wind bitter and persistant, the moisture horizontal and aggressive. Within – in this case the bar of Chow – we push stringy bangs back and revel on. Our esteemed colleague, photographer Charlie Homo, will join us in the forbidding elements on a fitting project – plumbing the unseen corners of a music venue that represents the closest our young frontier can call history.
We are blessed here with some music spaces that would tax the imagination were they to appear in a film fantasy. The Cafe du Nord and Swedish American Hall, along with the Great American Music Hall, Bimbo’s and the Warfield, are architectual and atmospheric treasures. One feels to be a better person within them.
As far as we are concerned, the official story of the du Nord/Swedish – brothel, speakeasy – raises more questions than it answers. For starters, what is a Swedish American Hall doing in a brothel? What is the relationship between the two clubs – one, stately and meditative, the other florid with louche promises?
We are also buoyed along from a distant memory, glimpsed in the pages of a restaurant guide: The building started life as a Basque boarding house.You can see the irresistable parallel: ghosts of our unironically, bearded, wooly Point Reyes agrarian elders wandering among us in cafe society.
And, as fate would have it, a wooly duo from Bolinas with youth to spare, Beam, has settled here to entertain us as we arrive to investigate this gem of a venue.