Many things can be said about Emmett Cadigan, most of which he'll offer up himself in a constant caffeine- 'n' nicotine-fueled motorcade of words:
"Many people think that Emmett is the Port Lite and the Port Lite is Emmett, but I say it's rock 'n' roll. That's all it's ever been. Rock 'n' roll. They tend to think I'm crass and I'm only in it for myself but really I'm in it for rock 'n' roll." He uses the term "rock 'n' roll" so often it's a conjunction, as liberally as a teenage girl uses "like."
Emmett was, like, the booker of the Port Lite until the last weekend of October, when he hung up his baseball hat and packed up his Neil Diamond and Laaz Rocket karaoke CDs to prepare for fatherhood. Who will take over the booking for the club remains to be seen, but certainly they've got some hard Converse low-tops to fill.
Before Emmett showed up three years ago, the Port Lite was primarily a longshoreman's bar with overpriced drinks. After Emmett started booking bands there, it became one of the few places for "loud" bands to play in the East Bay -- albeit still with overpriced drinks. To celebrate his departure, he was treated to hoochie-mama nails at the Queen of Nails on Grand, where he discussed his brilliant tenure as Oakland's rock 'n' roll savior.
"How I got involved in the Port Lite," he says, loud enough for the whole salon to take heed, "is I saw an ad in the Express that some band was playing there. I was like, what's going on? A band is playing at a club that I don't even know about. So I went down and checked it out. It was horrible. Hippie rock from Berkeley. There were eight people in there. The drummer was like, 'We've got a special guest. It's the singer's girlfriend!' Just horrible. So I told the owner lady, 'Hey, you gotta get into some of this rock 'n' roll.'"
Emmett was given a chance to book a show and it did well, so he got carte blanche to do more shows. On that first night the bar made $500 -- which means the owners must've sold about seven drinks? What is with those inflated drink prices?
"I don't own the bar," says Emmett matter-of-factly. "I told the bands and the fans that I'm here for rock 'n' roll. The people who own the Port Lite are driven by money. If I wasn't there and rock 'n' roll wasn't there, they would be shut up and locked on Friday and Saturday nights. They don't really get it. Everything you want to mention as far as drink prices, they've heard it."
As much as his ego can intrude on a conversation, Emmett is entirely lovable and sincere. Anyone who stays long enough at a Port Lite show gets the end-of-the-evening Emmett show, where he gets up on stage and rants, sings, and disses. It's funny as shit. "This guy from Night Ranger was there," he says, "So I threw on 'Sister Christian' -- a cheesy, live-in-Japan version. Kinda hokey. I started making jokes like, 'How was that Konocti Harbor gig?' I guess he heard it; he split. He was pissed off."
One thing Emmett can't abide is snotty bands who give him attitude, and it makes sense. The Port Lite is hang-loose. It's like a house party. "Bands show up," he says, "and are like, 'Who are you? What's up with these drink prices?' And I'm like, 'Welcome to the Port Lite. Rock 'n' roll.' Someone told me, 'You're just the soundman. I said, 'Nope. I'm everything, bro. If it wasn't for me, this place wouldn't be here.'"
That sentiment, however immodest, also is true. It was at the Port Lite that AC/DShe had its first show, along with myriad other bands that had a hard time getting shows. Local bands were used to Emmett's, shall we say, aura, but touring bands either loved his shtick or gave him a lot of 'tude.
"Bratmobile was pretty cool. ... They were complaining about the PA. I'm like, 'This ain't the Fillmore.' I was just right onstage, givin' them the treatment. But the treatment is love. If people can handle it and they give it back to me then it's even better."
Now that Emmett is pulling out due to his partner's pregnancy ("I need more time to concentrate on this, plus snowboard, play golf, play pinball ..."), who will fill his shoes? "The lady who owns the Port Lite was like, 'Give me the phone numbers for the bands,' he says. "I straight-up told her, 'They aren't going to play rock 'n' roll for you. You will really kill this place in a minute.'" Someone else has expressed interest in booking the club, and Emmett seems comfortable with him. "A lot of people think that when I'm gone the Port Lite is going to have to shut down, so this new guy's gotta move in quick, gain the lady's trust."
Whoever takes over, at least we can be sure that Emmett will still show up and MC on occasion. "It's my rock 'n' roll empire," he states flatly.
Rock 'n' roll.