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. 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.
Some nights, it’s the texting, the planning, dining, catching up and driving around discussing the impact of NWA on the primacy of Public Enemy whilst surfing broadcast radio (with, if you have our luck, almost impossibly charming company) – which turn out to make the evening.
We fear this may prove to be the case tonight, for we are at long last tackling daunting task of finding action south of Market. Just what is wrong with this locale? Heavily invested neo-tratorias held up by distressed wooden beams seem to multiply organically here, while he who seeks musical diversion wanders block after shuttered, moribund block.
Our sole hope – after looking in vain for variety – is the Hotel Utah. We have felt a little sorry for never having mentioned them. For, despite having the Hall of Justice as its only real support for neighorhood culture, The Utah has provided an authentically seedy backdrop for well curated musical offerings since the invention of the electric light bulb.
We have timed our remedial visit well – for tonight Roem Baur is headlining with his newest act, comprised of tuba, trombone, organ and drums. This equippe recently comitted their set (listen here) to tape in one day-long session at St. Luke’s Church.
(Baur, who wears many hats in our musical community, hosts an open mic at St. Luke’s the first Sunday of each month – we shall research fully and issue a report in these pages post haste).
Baur delivers his deeply felt personal songs in a schooled high tenor that can evoke Antony and Cheap Trick’s Robin Zander in a good way. The current lineup creates a rich yet shaded backdrop for his instrument that marks a constrast from the acoustic guitar setting of his previous EP, The Thief.
The Utah has the right flavor for its surroundings. Its long, narrow saloon-style bar (unadulterated by elements of ecclecticism or modernism), lets on to an almost-crooked little split-level where one could imagine gold-rush miners watching unwholesome entertainment involving women and bears. It is truly a beacon in this desolate darkness and somehow seems to benefit from its isolation from the better-heeled hipoisie headquarters.
As the group packs up, the bar back takes a turn at the drums and reveals a wickedly light touch with a press roll. Perhaps there are more options in these parts after all. And there is always the chance of hearing New Edition on the drive home.