There's something new in Berkeley, and Bay Area lovers of New Music and its whole mixed bag of related arts have reason to celebrate.
It's that old bohemian bar Blind Lemon, and it's been taken over by a loosely organized band of experimental musicians and filled with new juice. Now, in the best of the new American tradition, the performance club on 2362 San Pablo Avenue is born-again as "Blind Lemon/New Works."
It's a dream come true for instrument builder, music maker, and main squeeze Erv Denman. With a very small inheritance, Denman was able to make the down payment on the building, and has done most of the renovation work himself.
The dream is to provide the East Bay with a small, intimate place to find New Music, video art, text/sound poetry, live performances, as well of course, with works in that ubiquitous, good-for-everything category "other related arts"
Support comes from fellow artists: Chris Aldrich, Jim Guzzetta, Jim Horton, and Ran Sliter make up Blind Lemon/New Work's Board of Directors. The entire venture finds legal shelter under the protective wing of Ubu, Incorporated, a non-profit artists' association which also houses Ear and San Francisco's concert/theater Pangaea.
Such an arrangement means that each satellite of Ubu, Inc. shares its non-profit status and privileges. It also means that Blind Lemon/New Works cannot fix an admission price, but must ask at the door for donations. (However, they are permitted to suggest that the donation be $2.00).
The grand opening and celebration is an all-day affair, on Saturday, May 6. From 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., more than a dozen sound artists will be performing, making a joyful noise unto everyone. (The musicians, in alphabetical order: Sam Ashley, Ken Beckman, Nick Bertoni, John Bischoff, Jan Bright, Don Cardoza.
Also, Paul DeMarinis, Elastic Ensemble, Jim Guzzetta, Jim Horton, Toni Marcus, Jan Pusina, Dragon's Den, Virginia Quesada, and Mimi Shevitz.)
The celebration shifts gears later that night. At 8:30 p.m., under a new moon in Taurus, comes the first of the BlindLemon/New Works concerts -- a presentation of selected works from the day's events by the "New Works Orchestra."
While current attention is focused on its week-end activities -- a concert is scheduled for every Saturday and Sunday night until August -- Blind Lemon/New Works is open to all sorts of ideas and possibilities. If the interest is there, it is possible that one night in the middle of the week will emerge as an open-house night for those who wish to exercise their right to meet and greet, B.Y.O. style. (If you'd like to vote for your preferred night out, please let the management know.)
Blind Lemon/New Work's location in the Berkeley flatlands, with handy access to both San Francisco and most places in the East Bay, will quicken the courtship of artists and audiences on both sides of the Bay. It should be possible to coordinate events among similar concert-theatres so that shows repeat in a variety of locations, thus maximizing the visibility and exposure of works of New Music and experimental art.
Already such an alliance is beginning with San Francisco's concert-theatre Pangaea, and the hope is to eventually include Blue Dolphin, 80 Langton St., Terminal Concept, Metropolitan Arts Center, and Berkeley's own 1750 Arch Street and East Bay Center for the Performing in a very unofficial consortium.
More than boosting communication and fostering mixed marriages between the art and music communities of the East Bay and San Francisco, Blind Lemon/New Works spins yet another thread in the growing web of small galleries and performance spaces that is beginning to cover, however gossamerly, the West Coast community of frontier artists.
As part of that community Blind Lemon/New Works will be developing an active archive and library of both audio and video tapes, back issues of Ear, and possibly other music publications. All concerts at Blind Lemon/New Works will be documented on audio cassette, cataloged and made available for in-library listening. Jim Horton is the computer musician in charge of this library project, and arrangements to visit the library or add your own materials to it should be made through him.
Blind Lemon/New Works is also offering rehearsal space to any group that can be accommodated. Fees vary, depending on scheduling and space considerations -- make arrangements through Erv Denman when he is in a mellow mood.
Upcoming concerts at Blind Lemon/New Works include:
May 13, Tibetan Bells May 14, New Music works on tape May 20, Elastic Ensemble (new & traditional instruments) May 21, Video Works by Gonzo May 27, Don Cardoza May 28, Dragon's Den June 3, 'Blue' Gene Tyranny June 10, to be announced June 17, Jan Pusina June 24, Paul DeMarinis by LuAnne Daly