News & Opinion » Letters & Guest Essays

Letters for January 13

Readers sound off on our best albums of the decade, the local music industry, and coffee's third wave.


"Surfing Coffee's 'Third Wave,'" News, 12/16

Don't Forget Me

Great to see an article about the rise in coffee quality in the East Bay. It really is coming of age over here. I enjoyed your article.Would like to point out that a couple locations were omitted that could have been easily featured: Farley's East (my shop) and Modern Coffee in the Tribune building. Just thought I would let you know about a couple others out there.

Thanks again for the story.

Chris Hillyard, Farley's East, 33 Grand Ave, Oakland

"Top Ten Bay Area Albums of the Decade," Music, 12/30

Where's Benfield?

I read with great interest your Bay Area Albums of the Decade article. Yikes! I realize how subjective this is, but I can not imagine such a list without Garrin Benfield being included. I urge you to listen/re-listen to Benfield's four albums to realize what a musical gem the man is. Now I guess I must put myself on the spot and suggest one for the list. I am most partial to his live CD, August Live '03, but if a studio album must be chosen I guess I would go with Nowhere Is Brighter. But choosing either of these two omits his tribute to Matthew Shepard, "What You're Hiding," one of the most important human rights songs of any decade. The Bay Area is blessed to have such a dilemma of riches.

David Joseph, Berkeley

"More Bands Are Chasing Fewer Bucks," Year in Review, 12/23

Who Controls the Local Music Scene

I am simultaneously impressed and underwhelmed at Downs' article, because while it brings up some very important subjects, it also nearly completely misses the larger landscape of what is now going on in Bay Area arts and music, and how things came to be that way. And what it means for the future of Bay Area music for everyone.

Note: We deserve all this for sleeping through one of the biggest corporate takeovers in musical history. The Bay Area music scene is under financial, political, and religious attack, mostly from out of state, and we never saw it coming because we're so dammed self-centered and un-unified. It is a lesson that hopefully will be learned.

Facts 1: The Fillmore, the Warfield, Guitar Center and all the local venues large enough to break an act regionally, all the radio stations that in better days would have played their music and promoted their gigs, all these business are now solidly in the hands of three or four men, all billionaires, and those men all happen to be far-right, Christian fundamentalists, who lobby against gay rights and have no love for liberals ideas, or free speech. This is all a matter of record.

The players involved and their holdings here in the Bay Area, and abroad are as follows.

Lowry and Mark Mays, (retired and present CEOs of Clear Channel Communications). The Mays are Texas Republican conservative powerhouses, heavy contributors to the past several Bush family political campaigns, and in 2006 they sold Clear Channel to Bain Capital and accepted a $18.7 billion takeover bid, but stayed on as CEOs and company executives while they spun off "Live Nation," presumably to avoid some of the numerous antitrust suits against them.

The man they sold it to was Mitt Romney, of Bain Capital, which owns Live Nation, which in turn owns the Fillmore. In 2004, before his presidential bid, Romney stated on Chris Mather's "Hardball" television show: "I don't want civil unions or gay marriages." Later, he was instrumental in setting up hundreds of "pride" "gay-oriented" radio shows on Clear Channel networks, and, also, he was a keynote speaker at the Council for National Policy's Private four-day get together in September of 2007.

And, finally, Philip Anschutz (of Goldenvoice, which own the Warfield as well as Coachella), who is a longstanding member of the "Council for National Policy." The Council for National Policy is a notoriously secretive right-wing think tank, with designs on governmental policy, schools, media, and gay rights issues, and the majority of their known members strongly support and underwrite Prop 8. More interesting are Anschutz's (who now owns the SF Examiner) religious affiliations. He founded "The Discovery Institute," an umbrella organization with strong ties to what is called the "Christian Reconstructionist Movement," which was founded by R.J. Rushdoony after he authored "Institutes of Biblical Law."

I suggest you see this link to get a better picture.

Christian Reconstructionism is a set of beliefs that include a theocracy in which dissenters, adulterers, sexually active homosexuals, some sexually active bisexuals, witches, sorcerers, and other undesirables would be exterminated.

While their motives here are more than just religious, since music is still a multibillion-dollar industry in the United States, the overtones are ominous, since they also have succeeded in crushing the local music scene. And some of our own helped them do it.

The companies of which I speak have colonized Bay Area music, completely blockaded local acts from getting radio play, blackballed people like the Dixie Chicks for being politically outspoken, jacked up ticket prices so high that locals can't even see Les Claypool on New Year's Eve, ($60 a ticket), and recently purchased the Guitar Center, all while flooding the airwaves and venues with garbage pre-fab pop, "bling rap" (does a disservice to even use the name hip-hop in the same sentence), "new country" (it is neither), and also sneaking in their "soft" Christian acts like the Jonas Brothers.