Thursday, 20 May 2010

And hast thou slain the Jabberwock?

From the January 20, 1967 (Issue 75) edition of the Berkeley Barb:

Unless the East Bay's only living coffee house, The Jabberwock, gets a swift transfusion from the hearers of folk beasts, it will lie down and curl up its toes, alongside the now extinct Questing Beast, Berkeley's second-last coffee house. The diagnosis: starvation. No bread.

The Jabberwock was roaring during the summer and early fall. Rock bands drew large crowds, and the 'Wock was flying high. Then came complaints about the night-time noise. The choice was to turn down the sound, or close. The Jabberwock decided to sing more quietly in a folky way. Lighting, amplification, and the stage were rebuilt for the return to the softer sound. A small group of people in mid November formed a Jabberwock workers' co-operative to breathe new life into the coffee house. But old bills, inherited errors in bookkeeping, and new unavoidable expenses hacked away at the cooperative effort.

This week, The Jabberwock opened with $4 in the bank. The rent is long past due, and the friendly, patient landlord is starting to twitch. The workers at the Jabberwock say they are beginning to feel forsaken by Berkeley's lovers of folk music, wherever they are. The house stays nearly empty. Is it because of the quality of the performers? The feel of the coffee house? The Jabberwock doesn't think so.

"In the past months we've had traditional performers and people we think are doing new and interesting things in music. It's the only place in the Bay Area where new performers are completely welcome to try new things." Manager Dan Paik pointed out. He mentioned John Fahey, The New Age, Mark Spoelstra, and the Sweets Mill Mountain Boys as examples of known and new musicians recently at The Jabberwock.

To avoid the quick death of the moribund folk beast, they will hold two benefits. The first will be Monday, January 23, to pay their bill to the Berkeley Free Press - which is also ill from lack of funds. A marathon show next weekend, January 27, 28, 29, will--if successful--revive The Jabberwock and put it back on its trail of exploring new folk sounds. It will begin around 8 PM each evening and will end only when all the performers drop out, probably around dawn.

If they can stop the flow of red ink, the Jabberwock workers hope to make the coffee house a center for all the performing arts, open to anyone who would like to use their stage and sawdust. Meanwhile, they are seeking donations of an (at least 25-wait) amplifier, 2 mikes, 2 speakers, filing cabinets, advertising, sculpture, curtains, artwork, beer mugs, chairs and small round tables, candles, cups, and a huge Silex coffeemaker, And money.

In trade, they hope to offer a focus for an East Bay renaissance in the performing arts.

For the January 23 benefit for the Free Press bill, The Smokey Grass Boys, Larry Hacks, The New Age, Phil Marsh and other folk musicians will play, "All we really need to make it is for enough people to come and listen to what's happening in folk music here," Dan Paik said.

So the next two weeks will show whether Berkeley is a place that can support even one scene of traditional and new folk sounds. And hast thou slain the Jabberwock?

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