It’s 3:25 am
Sitting here buzzed on iced coffee and thinking of some of music that I was blessed to heard during my days as a talent buyer. I started out at Marsugi’s in San Jose,Calif back 1989 and booked shows up til I left for Michigan back in 1999.
One the bands I booked at the Agenda Lounge back in 1996 during my run there was a powerful band from Vancouver,Canada called Mecca Normal. Mecca Normal consisted the powerful Jean Smith on vocals and David Lester on guitar. I had first heard about Mecca Normal in Flipside,a great punk rock magazine that covered a lot of different bands and labels. But it wasn’t until I read about them in the SPIN Magazine that I paid close attention,Mecca Normal had a deal with Matador Records based out of New York. My all-time favorite performer,Barbara Manning,also had a deal with Matador…that label was putting out a tremendous amount of great music back in the 1990s.
When I got the call from their booking agency looking for a date,it was an absolute no-brainer and I booked a date right away. Now I did my booking for the Agenda while I was also an assistant buyer at the EDGE in Palo Alto. My owner Jacek heard me booking the band and waited til I had hung up to ask me about it. I told him about the band and that it would be a good show,he was a bit leery about the guarantee (plus a dinner) of a band he had never heard of. I just smiled and said “Trust me”. Its what I loved most about working with Jacek,looking back at it now,he really TRUSTED Jimmy (my boss and head talent buyer at the 1,000 seat EDGE) and myself. The live music business was and still is rather brutal in San Jose so every show was important to the venue.
I worked very hard at promoting the show,I used all my best media contacts to build support for the show. I made flyers and grabbed a staple gun and posted all over the place. I gave a few tickets away through the local college stations and I got a good feeling it was going to be okay….the catch was that the show was on a Tuesday night and it was also over 21 to get in.
The day of the show popped up and after working my 9-5 shift at the EDGE,I took the train back to San Jose to work my show at the Agenda Lounge.
I met Jean and David,I remember Jean as very intense but friendly while David was more laid back. Jean wanted me to sit with them while they had dinner but understood when I said I had to run the show. My best friend Vince (I miss you buddy) was working the door and I asked him to run it tight as we had a guarantee.
The show was an amazing success,so many people showed up,we pretty much sold out.Mecca Normal was amazing,Jean would sing and play a drum while David played guitar. The songs were raw,in your face,powerful anthems and Jean would be spitting fire…..it was incredible.
After the show,Jean and David talked to the many fans who had showed up,many of them having to work in the morning while others had to drive back to Santa Cruz and San Francisco.
Jean insisted I talk with her while the band was breaking down as I was also paying them them. She was passionate and dynamic,even back then she was talking about social justice and solutions. I can’t recall our exact discussion but only that she talked and I listened. I enjoyed Mecca Normal very much and was grateful to have had a chance to work with them….
In writing this entry,I came across this from a tour diary:
At the Agenda Lounge in San Jose we get a standing ovation at the end of the set. Stay at the bookers place, where I sleep in a room with nothing but a shag rug on the floor. I’m up first and go bring back coffees from McDonald’s.
I like to claim credit for that but I know it wasn’t me they stayed with,I only had a small room which was all I needed at that time. I don’t know who was kind enough to host them but 21 years later,I would like to say “thank you” to whoever it was who allowed the band to stay over with them.
In this era of #MeToo and women’s rights…..it should be noted that Jean Smith was holding and burning that torch a long fucking time before the majority of North America got wind of it. The song I’m sharing is Mecca Normal’s “I Walk Alone”. I hope you enjoy it.