February 28-march 6, 2007

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Silicon Alleys - Gary Singh

Silicon Alleys

From Beads to Bikes

By Gary Singh

I CONSIDER myself the "anti-man-about-town" and last week there were many things to do in downtown San Jose, both high-quality and downright stupid, beginning with the hysteria surrounding Mardi Gras. It's been discussed, exaggerated and overanalyzed ad nauseam and everyone wishes that this whole mess would just freakin' go away. Why do a thousand folks feel the need to come downtown and look for trouble? Why do they need to carry guns or knives? They show up, gather en masse looking for a fight or to harass women and then they wonder why the cops force 'em the hell out. Many of these people are teenagers, and I admit that I just don't get it. I mean, when we were teenagers in the '80s in south San Jose, we never did stuff like this, maybe because we grew up in middle class tract house 'hoods, I guess. We just went out at night, found a way to get beer and then drank in nearby parks or at someone's pad and then went home. And we never regularly went downtown at all until the Cactus Club opened, kick-starting a huge scene where people under 21 could go see bands at a legitimate venue. My, how times have changed.

As for Mardi Gras, the police unfortunately have reacted in a knee-jerk fashion, exacerbating the situation to the point where any group of more than three people on the street is considered a threat to society. Fortunately, that night inside the bars, things were rocking and everybody was having a good time, beads and all. You couldn't even tell that there was an absolute melee going on outside unless you went out and looked.

The next day offered a polar opposite event for the entire family: the Amgen Tour of California, which is already transforming the sport of cycling after only two years. There were several key spots to see the cyclists come blazing by, but for many folks the finish line proved to be the prime destination. Probably a few thousand people gathered at the City Hall plaza and its surroundings. I freeloaded several Herbalife drinks from their booth and found more than enough joy in seeing the racers come flying through the finish line in front of City Hall, knowing that the race was being viewed all over the world. Or course, you're basically just showing up to watch the race on a widescreen TV in the streets until the cyclists arrive, but hey, it's free, so what's the big deal? People from all over the Bay Area showed up for the occasion. The press room was rocking. As with any event like this, media from all over the country sat at their laptops, jamming out copy on deadline. A high-def TV showed a shot of the tour's website, which featured an aerial view of San Jose, showing in real time where the riders were at along the course.

That was cool.

And the anti-man-about-town didn't stop there. A variety of great live music went down last week. I don't mean concert stuff or classical music this time around, but, rather, bands in the clubs. Voodoo Lounge showcased a great rockabilly gig on Thursday with the Chop Tops and Three Bad Jacks from Los Angeles. Thankfully, Voodoo is moving from all its other failed themes to a format focused more on live music. Then on Friday, High on Fire—one of the best stoner gas station metal bands around—rocked out at the Blank Club. The next night featured the Shitkickers, a totally unclassifiable mix between drunken bluegrass and punk rock, and a band that Metro did a cover story on last summer. The live music scene in the bars is totally coming back and it's not just for kids or single people, in case you 70-year-olds are wondering. It's for anyone who's into alternative music. Unfortunately, the city will never allow an all-ages music club to open, which would undeniably solve a portion of the Mardi Gras problem, but the politicians are clueless and they don't get it.

Anyway, I'm finished. Anti-man-about-town, over and out.

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