Note: Alvin and the Guilty Ones will begin their set at 7:45 in .
By Joe Krovoza
With Dave Alvin and the Guilty Ones coming to Davis on July 4, 2012, I have been asked how that came to pass. Here are the facts as I have pieced them together, first about the ban, and that story includes the run-up to Dave coming to Davis for the Fourth in 2012.
My involvement with this tale began in December 2010 when Janet, friends and I attended a concert at the Palms in Winters. At this Palms performance of the Gene Taylor Band, former Blasters keyboardist Taylor was joined by some of his former Blasters’ mates, including Dave Alvin. As Dave stepped forward to lead a few songs near the end of the show, he offered that the Blasters had been banned from playing Davis, California. Here’s the video of his comments captured on YouTube.
Clearly, Davis couldn’t allow such an injustice to continue. In April of last year, I was invited to join an LA-Portland Roots on the Rails train during its Emeryville to Davis leg so that I could invite Dave back to Davis. I drafted up a proclamation inviting Dave to come play Davis whenever he’d like, and Janet and I joined the train on which Dave was the featured artist. Once on the train, there was a small ceremony and I read and presented the proclamation. Dave Alvin Proclamation 04.04.11. Dave accepted all of this with bemusement, even calling his brother Phil after — as many listened in — to share that the ban had been lifted. Unknown to me, Mark Z. Barabak, LA Times national political reporter, was along for the ride preparing a story on Dave for the paper’s magazine and he posted Dave Alvin receives pardon from Davis mayor, Blasters no longer banned to the LA Times blog. My invitation had become a “pardon” – a power I certainly don’t possess. The story went national via music news web sites; it was on the radio in Austin; Alvin devotees across the country heard the news. Here is Barabak’s final story on Alvin, Troubadour of Troubled Times.
Dave’s manager and I have kept in touch, and now we’ll have Dave Alvin and the Guilty Ones in Davis, at Community Park, on July 4, 2012. All very fun.
The underlying story has lots of excellent Davis flavor. On Monday, April 16, 1984, The Blasters played the UC Davis Coffee House, a very small venue that in those days was hosting Elvis Costello, Duran Duran, Devo, etc. Janet saw the Police and Joe Jackson at the Coffee House back then. Opening for The Blasters were the insanely popular local band the Spydels led by Billy Fairfield. (The Spydels would evolve to become Mumbo Gumbo, the band we all adore today.) In addition to Fairfield, current locals Gabe Lewin (who will do the sound for Dave on 7/4/12 in Community Park), and Bob Schelen (then asst. mgr. of the Coffee House) were there as well.
As Billy Fairfield tells it, the problem wasn’t The Blasters or the Spydels – The Blasters were hot on college radio, and the Spydels were rising locally – the problem was that the venue was too small. The original venue was Freeborn Hall, but that was changed to the Coffee House. On the night of the concert, too many people were allowed in and the Fire Marshal wanted people out.
Billy recalls that the Fire Marshall got on stage and announced to the over-packed crowd that the show would not begin until “volunteers” left the building. Accomplishing this led to lots of tension. Bob Schelen recalls what happened once the doors were close and it was clear no one would be getting in or back in, “ruffled feathers led to fisticuffs and rowdy behavior outside. Then the helicopters came and there was some order restored. The University likely overreacted a bit and the tussles were not as egregious as they thought at the time. Also, there were some punk Sex Pistols types that were into the anarchy thing, as opposed to the roots rock scene, and so they were a bit confused as to the proper behavior give the genre.”
Gabe Lewin went outside at intermission and couldn’t get back in. He added, “They took our names and promised a refund. We stayed a short time and listened from outside but you couldn’t hear much so we went home. I was irritated that I missed the show. Getting the refund was a hassle too. I read in the paper ‘all the people who were denied access have been contacted about getting their refunds.’ That was incorrect because I had not been contacted. After several phone calls to unapologetic people, I finally got the refund.”
The bands inside were largely unaware of what was going down outside.
Just how long The Blasters were formally kept from UC Davis, Freeborn Hall and the Coffee House is not known.
Billy Fairfield’s final observation, “The Blasters only crime was drawing a large crowd!”
A few notes. The Coffee House incident involved The Blasters – with Dave as lead guitar, and his brother Phil the lead singer. Dave himself last played in Davis Sunday evening, August 4, 2002, during the last month of The Palms in Davis. What has really kept Dave from Davis over the last decade has been our lack of a permanent live music venue recruiting great acts to town. Let’s fix that!
We haven’t found any reports beyond what’s above. Then ASUCD business manager Mark Champagne recalls there were issues, but couldn’t find any formal report. If anyone knows more, please write me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll update this post.
Dave Alvin, welcome back to Davis, Califonia. The Original Blasters can be next on our list.
(Special thanks to Billy Fairfield, Bob Schelen and Gabe Lewin for key facts and sharp observations in putting together this story.)