Sad Clown

Well, the Dark Night in Karny Town event we had on sunday was great fun. The performances were hilarious, and most of the audience came in costume! I had a great time. And, you know, like most people, I find clowns extremely creepy. But this time, the club was filled with (and I certainly never expected to hear myself use these words together) clown hotties. I find myself forced to somewhat reconsider my longstanding position on clowns.

Speaking of clowns, Devon, one of our beloved employees, had the night off, and rocked it like only a clown can. I direct you to exhibit A, on your right. Look what he did to my sidewalk! I think we have our next company Christmas card already, and it's only April.

You wouldn't think such a big puddle could come out of such a skinny guy, would you? While this was going on, someone was overheard to say, ``I really wish this was happening on a playground full of kids.''

Without public notice, a hearing, or debate in Congress, both houses passed the "RAVE Act" yesterday. This legislation makes it possible for the federal government to prosecute innocent business owners for the drug offenses of their customers. The new law holds a business owner responsible if anyone uses illegal drugs while on their property, whether they are aware of it or not, and even if the business owner takes action to try and prevent drug use!

This became law using one of the sleaziest tricks in the Congressional arsenal. How do you get an unpopular bill passed? Attach it as an amendment to a popular bill! In this case, the "RAVE Act" was attached to the "AMBER Alert" bill, which is legislation about child abduction that has nothing to do with drug policy.

The Electronic Music Defense and Education Fund has an analysis of the bill:

[...] the Illicit Drug Anti-Proliferation Act [amends] the federal "crack house law" to make it easier for federal prosecutors to fine and imprison business owners that fail to stop drug offenses from occurring. Businessmen and women could be prosecuted even if they were not involved in drugs ­ and even if they took steps to stop drug use on their property. The provisions would also undermine public health, endanger youth, and stifle free speech.

Property owners, landlords, hotel managers, promoters and other businessmen and women could be fined hundreds of thousands of dollars or face up to twenty years in federal prison if they hold raves or other events on their property and drug offenses occur. [...]

This bill would also make it a federal crime to temporarily use a place for the purpose of using any illegal drug. Thus, anyone who used drugs in their own home or threw an event (such as a party or barbecue) in which one or more of their guests used drugs could potentially face a $500,000 fine and 20 years in federal prison. [...]

The Illicit Drug Anti-Proliferation Act punishes businessmen and women for the crimes of their customers. The government can't even keep drugs out of its schools and prisons, yet it seeks to punish business owners for failing to keep people from carrying drugs onto their premises. If these provisions become law, the federal government will have the ability to scare business owners away from using or renting their property for all-night dance events, as well as any other "politically incorrect" event.

The full text of the RAVE Act is also available.

This is the bill that used to classify bottled water and glowsticks as ``drug paraphernalia'' -- that is, it said that if a venue were selling bottled water, that was probable cause that drug use was occurring. That particular language was stricken from the bill after massive public ridicule last year, but the "teeth" of the bill remain intact.

(Entertainingly, recent San Francisco law requires free drinking water to be available at nightclubs. So which is it? Is water a health necessity, or is it evidence of a felony?)

Neal Pollack had an amusing idea that highlights the absurdity of this law. He wrote:

Now you must excuse me. I'm going to drive down to Delaware, where I assume Senator Biden still keeps an office. There I will snort a delicious line of cocaine. It's Biden's property. Therefore, my drug use is technically his fault.

Prisoner Number 34093. Senator Joseph Biden. Convicted April 10, 2003, letting some guy snort coke in his office. Sentence, 50 years. Up for parole... in 30.

In related news, the ABC has announced their intention to start hassling 1015 Folsom again. The club is still open, but from what I can tell, this press release says that more legal action is coming soon. I guess the only reason to put out a press release (rather than actually filing suit) is for harassment and fear purposes.

The press release lists a few instances where undercover cops were allegedly able to buy drugs at 1015, and then goes on to say

Bottled water was available to the users of ecstasy who often become dehydrated when taking the drug. Glow sticks, which heightens the hallucinogenic effect of ecstasy, was also sold.

Apparently they haven't gotten the DEA's memo yet about the water/glowsticks thing.

So look, if any of you jackasses were planning on trying to sneak The Drugs into my club, could you please show a little consideration and just fucking not? I couldn't care less what you do with your life, but I have no desire to go to jail because you can't leave your habit at home. Might I recommend something in a vodka instead? That won't get us busted, and (bonus!) causes our employees to get paid.

Photos of more scary clowns are up now. Pigface photos will be up in a few days.

The Pigface show was excellent, as predicted. Shows like this are the reason I bought this club, not to make the world safe for house music! I really liked all four bands, though I think TKK was a bit better last time. Oddly, their bass player played with Pigface and not with TKK, and a little more of their act was canned as a result, which is not, in my opinion, a good thing. Pigface was awesome as always, though Meg Lee Chin has recently left the band and label, and her influence was sorely missed...

The webcast worked ok; we lost the first ten minutes or so of Bile's set while working out some Soundweb glitches, but after that, it worked fine: the levels were consistent throughout the evening, even when switching between DJ and live. I think the audio quality on the first three acts was pretty good, because live drums played a relatively small role in the mix (Bile didn't have drums at all, and the others had a lot of electronic percussion going on.) Once Pigface started, we got the usual vocal-heavy mix, with the whole low end of the set totally disappearing: the webcast didn't sound anything like it did in the room.

We've really got to hang some microphones. Soon.

Also, when you hear someone yelling into the mic some rockstar thing like "Make some noise! Yeah!" and there's only the barest hint of crowd noise underneath that... it doesn't really capture the moment.

Monday night we had a live "noise" show (which, incidentally, these days seems to mean "dance music that contains a modicum of white noise in the mix", rather than what it used to mean, "band saws and sheet metal"). The sixty or so folks who came seemed to enjoy it, and I liked the music, but each of the three acts was just some guy standing behind a laptop bobbing his head and "rocking out." After about five minutes of watching this, I realized, "hey, I could be having this exact same experience while sitting in the office and surfing the web." So that's what I did.

This whole "DJs pretending they're bands" thing continues to baffle me. What posesses someone to stand there and watch some guy (essentially) typing? Nothing to see here, move along! On "dance" nights people don't stand and stare at the DJ unless he's actually doing turntablist tricks (which is extremely rare.) But I guess when laptop boy claims he's a "band" instead of a "dj" it puts people in the mindset of "I've been told there's a performance happening here, despite all evidence to the contrary."

Photos of sunday's Pigface, Thrill Kill Kult, Zeromancer, and Bile show are up now, as well as monday's Tarmvred, Iszoloscope, and Exclipsect show.

Apparently the rambling I did in my last entry about laptop acts wasn't very clear to some folks, so let me try that again. First of all, like I said, I did enjoy the music on monday, that's not what I was talking about at all. It just seems to me that when someone is standing there on stage doing their thing, they're saying to the audience, ``Watch me. The show is over here.'' And yet, so often, there's no show.

In the case of a dj, this is somewhat expected: with a few very rare exceptions (Disco D comes to mind), djs don't do anything that's interesting to look at, so people don't really watch them: they dance, or socialize, or whatever. But at live shows, people tend to stand around in rapt attention at whatever's happening on stage, whether there's anything to see or not.

Cybrid are an example of a laptop band who actually have a show: they've got that whole Run DMC gag they do, plus having a vocalist always gives you something to watch. But mostly, laptop acts tend to be one or two guys with their bobbing heads buried in their gear. You assume they're up there creating music, but without going up there and standing next to them, you can't really tell that they're not just playing Tetris or checking their email. When you're watching a drummer, you can tell what he's doing. Drummers and guitarists are just inherently more photogenic than typists, since what they do involves actually moving around.

I guess what I'd say to laptop acts is, ``if you have no stage presence, there's a lot to be said for getting a good slideshow.''

Meat Beat Manifesto used to tour with a dance troupe!

It's so great when the members of the DNA Lounge community decide to get together and pitch in with their impromptu improvements to the space! This friday, some thoughtful fellow decided to donate a little remodeling work to our bathrooms. Apparently he decided that things would look a lot better if the partition divider between the two farthest urinals were removed from the wall. Hey, if that was you, there's no need to be bashful about it: come forward! We'd love to reward you appropriately for your generosity.

Oh, he also absconded with the toilet's motion sensor flusher. Took it right out of the wall.

The second partition is also barely hanging on, as you can see. This isn't the first time this has happened, and it's getting harder to fix, since now the wood studs behind the tile are all torn up from having the bolts ripped out. Clearly we needed to have built the bathroom partitions and walls out of solid steel, like so much of the rest of the club, if we intended them to stand up to these fucking savages.

Besides trying to figure out how to keep our fixtures attached to the wall, we've been trying to work out how to do live music one night a week.

Actually we've been talking about this since at least a year before we opened. Every few months we say, "come on, we've got to do a local band night or something. Just something small and cheap." And then we do the math, and realize that it's really a lot of work, and there's very little chance of it even breaking even.

But, I think we're finally fed up with talking ourselves out of it, and more to the point, fed up with only having live music here every couple of months, so we're probably going to actually do it this time.

The night in question will probably be wednesdays, and there probably won't be any overall theme to it, other than, "bands" (by which I mean, anything but djs or so-called "live PA.") The problem with this plan is that most of the bands won't be a big draw, and our break-even point will be pretty high: chances are we'll be losing money if fewer than 150 to 200 people show up, which will almost certainly be most of the time. It's amazing how much it costs in salaries alone just to open the doors here, even with the most minimal staff we can get away with. So we need to figure out if we can afford to burn that much money every week, subsidizing it with our usual friday bullshit. I hope so, because there are currently no live acts on our calendar at all, and that's a sad thing.

Even if we end up doing mostly local acts who don't expect to get paid much, live shows are really expensive because there's so much that goes into each event, in addition to our usual bar, security, and cleaning staff: there's advertising and promotion (calling radio stations, music journalists, etc.); a sound engineer, who puts in a lot of hours, since he has to be there not only during the show, but also during 2-3 hours of sound check; plus, someone has to actually book the bands; and, oh, probably a bunch of other things I've forgotten at the moment.

Even if we're lucky and have enough bands coming to us that we don't have to actively seek them out, someone still has to put in a lot of telephone hours with each of them, if only to determine whether they sound like they have their shit sufficiently together that they'll actually show up. And of course if we wanted the criteria to be a little more exclusive than "these guys sound minimally responsible" -- like, if someone is expected to actually listen to a demo CD first -- that takes even more time and effort!

It's one of those "spend money to make money" situations, where if we were to hire another person or two to do nothing but book bands, we could probably get national touring acts on a more regular basis; but we don't have the money to hire those people. Also, it's not a coincidence that most touring bands play at venues that are 18+, not 21+ as we are.

But there I go talking myself out of it again.

In neighborhood news:

  • In case you haven't noticed, a few weeks ago, Crepes a Go-Go opened a small trailer-based operation across the street, in the lot next to Butter: and they're open late! It's very rare that they close before we do, which is great...

  • There's a new bar/restaurant at 11th and Folsom (where Wa-Ha-Ka used to be) apparently called "The Public." (Dunno if they have a web site, since they named themself something that's absolutely impossible to search for!) I haven't eaten there yet.

  • I'm told that a bar is in the process of moving in to the old 20 Tank space, too, though it's probably going to be some time before they open.

  • Still no sign of Paradise Lounge reopening. Well, they do some events in the upstairs area, but their main room has been in progress for 15 months now.

Some corrections:

  • Apparently the sensor on that toilet has been missing for a while: it didn't vanish at the same time the partition was most recently knocked down.

  • Apparently Paradise Lounge's main room actually opened for business last saturday!

So, speaking of the toilet sensors... in addition to the one that's gone missing, we've always had trouble with the sensors on the toilets and sinks: with them activating too often, or not often enough, or with the batteries in them dying way faster than they should.

Yesterday, Jason was calling around trying to find a plumber who is an authorized dealer in these sensors, and what he learned is that we're apparently on a plumber blacklist! He left a few messages, and when he finally got an appropriate plumber on the phone, the guy said, ``Sure, I can come out tomorrow. Where are you?'' Jason told him, and the guy said, ``Wait, is that a nightclub?'' Yes... ``Which one?'' DNA Lounge... ``Oh. Sorry, I can't make it. <click>''

How did this come about? Well, we have a theory...

We did a lot of business with the plumbing supply place down the street from us: we bought pretty much everything plumbing related that's in the club through them, from toilets on up, and we had a pretty good relationship with them. Then one night, several months ago, that business's owner and his pregnant wife showed up here, and we comped them in. He handed Barry a CD and said, ``Hey, get the DJ to play our song, ok?'' The night was Qoöl, a progressive house/trance night, and the song he wanted to hear was some salsa thing. Barry said, ``Well, I can ask the DJ, but he's probably going to say no, because it's not the kind of music they do. It's their party, not ours.'' Plumbing man got mad and said, ``Hey, you're the BOSS, just fucking TELL them to do it!'' Barry tried to explain that that's not how it works. Plumbing man got absolutely furious and started screaming. He wouldn't settle down, to the point that the security guys had to throw him out.

So I guess he called up all his pals and got them to agree not to sell to us! Amazing...

Fortunately the main distributor of the sensors doesn't know anything about this nonsense, so he's willing to help us out. But get this: when Jason explained to him the kinds of problems we've been having, the first thing the guy said was, ``You're not using these sensors with stainless steel sinks, are you?''

Why yes. Yes we are.

``It says all over the box and manual that you can't use these in a reflective environment. It makes them go nuts! Your contractor should have known that!''

We have so much love for the plumbers and general contractor we used during construction. So much love. Man, those guys robbed us good.

Some more photos have been trickling in to the gallery: there are some new photos of Karny Town and Players+Players (scroll down); and also some pics from the most recent Qöol, and from a Remedy in December.

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Some photos of the Fetish Ball are up now. I didn't take any pictures that night, and this is the only set I could find; I saw a lot of cameras, however, so if you have any, please send them to me! This goes for all of our events, actually.

And now, the news.

A few months ago, we got a letter telling us that our insurance company was no longer going to be selling insurance in California, and we'd need to find a new provider when our current term was up. We called our agent, who said he'd get right on that. Well, he dragged his feet. Months went by.

And then those Great White pigfuckers went and blew themselves up.

That left us two weeks from our insurance expiring, and almost nobody willing to insure us at all. The first company we found who was even willing to give us a quote wanted 5x as much as we were paying, and something like a 30% downpayment.

So now nobody wants to insure nightclubs any more. Barry, Casey, and Caroline spent many hours on the phone in the last couple weeks just trying to get quotes (sometimes calling back on the hour, like clockwork, just to make sure.) Each person they talk to took days, because that person kept calling back and saying, "oh, now we just need this one other piece of info..." They sell insurance, do they not? You'd think they'd know up front what info they need, but apparently it's always a learning process for whoever's on the other end of the phone, too.

One of the companies had agreed to insure us, and then they had a look at our web site and stumbled across a picture of some bait-and-tackle performance at one of our events where some guy hung from the ceiling by meathooks in his back, and apparently that freaked them out enough that they said "no thanks..." Whee! Oh, but here's the best part: it wasn't the fact that he was hanging from meathooks that bothered them: it was the fact that the picture made it look like the guy was dangling over the audience without a net, and they were afraid he might fall on someone! (I'm not sure which picture they saw, but if it's the one I linked to, he's actually on the stage, not above people, but whatever.)

So anyway, we did manage to get insurance again mere days before our last policy expired, and it's like 150% what it used to be. Dammit.

The insurance companies weren't even interested in the fact that we have an extensive sprinkler system. Apparently all they cared about was our annual income: not "how safe are you", but "how much can we take you for?"

To make matters worse (for anyone trying to get insurance) the families of the victims of the Great White fire are filing suit against everyone in sight: that's the American Way, after all. So not only are they sueing the band, whose show started the fire, and the club, who used flammable materials on their stage, but also the company who made the soundproofing foam that caught on fire (which, I gather, wasn't billed as being fireproof!) and also the Fire Department and the State of Rhode Island.

That latter one hurts, because there's a chance that it'll put the nation's fire departments into ass-covering mode, and make them hassle nightclubs even more...