Farewell, Foothill

Photo by Mark Savage After nearly a half-century of showcasing live music in Signal Hill, the Foothill—one of the last real honky-tonks in Southern California —has been sold and will be closing its doors in September. Signal Hill resident Bonnie Price bought the venue in 1936, and the Foothill had remained with the Price family ever since. Among the big time country acts to grace its stage over the years have been Johnny Cash, George Jones, Merle Haggard and the Collins Kids. Independent promoter Steve Zepeda had been booking rockabilly, punk and alterna-rock shows at the club since 1994 and had nurtured a host of local and national acts in his tenure as talent-buyer. "It's a shame for this to happen, but I don't own the club, and I understand why the Price family is doing this move," says Zepeda. "Nothing lasts forever. They want to retire from the nightclub business. I worked at Bogart's [in Long Beach], and Bogart's closed, too, so I've been through this before." The Foothill was popular as much for its decidedly peculiar retro ambience as for the music it hosted—the club's decor had remained virtually unchanged since opening day, when America was still fighting World War II. A night at the Foothill was like stepping into an old black-and-white film: dim lighting, low ceilings, vintage fixtures and eccentric employees who had worked at the club for decades. No one who ever encountered Hal the gleefully abusive bartender or the gigantic bouncer who grunted to himself all night will ever forget the experience. Such color aside, Zepeda booked hundreds upon hundreds of memorable shows at the Foothill in recent years. "Of course, the champions of the Foothill were [Anaheim's] Big Sandy & His Fly-Rite Boys," he says. "They've always been a big booster of the Foothill because of the value of the place in their scene. I'll also always remember shows with Southern Culture on the Skids, Link Wray, Rocket From the Crypt, Low & Sweet Orchestra, Frank Black, the Geraldine Fibbers, Jonathan Richman, Royal Crown Revue, the Muffs, Sublime, and the Long Beach Dub Allstars." Zepeda had no info as to who specifically had purchased the venue, but he said it would reopen as the Monte Carlo and feature salsa music at some future date. So what will be the impact of the end of the Foothill era on the local music scene? "That's really hard to measure," Zepeda says with a sigh. "I've just been providing a place for cool bands to play gigs at and for people to go to. That's what I do. I can't say what the impact will be, but I'm very happy to be going out with the shows that I have. Sept. 1 will be my last night, and Big Sandy will be there, and Los Straightjackets will also play. On Sept. 2, 00 Soul will be there with DJ Gary Tesch. I think our last month has a very well-balanced schedule." Zepeda won't be counted out, though. Active as a local promoter for almost 15 years, he was the talent-buyer for Bogart's, produced the Beach Fest music festivals in 1994 and '95, and will continue promoting rock shows at the Blue Cafe in Long Beach on Monday nights. "Right now, I'm weighing my options, looking for the right people to work with," he says. "I only learned about this whole situation two weeks ago. It's too fresh for me to be thinking about the future too much, but I'm hoping to hook up with like-minded people. My future is uncertain, but with the track record that I have, I'm sure I'll find the right people to work with." (Buddy Seigal)

>>>MIXED NOTES Isaac Hayes' set on July 20 at the Orange County Fair was all you would expect: a little mmm-hmmm and a whole lotta awwwyeeeaaah. The clear highlight was his sweet-sweet-badazz rendition of "Chocolate Salty Balls"—we may never see a funnier vision all year than the interpreter for the hearing-impaired who was on the left side of the stage, doing her best to hand-sign lines like "Suck on my chocolate salty balls/Put 'em in your mouth and suck 'em!" The gestures she made looked quite obscene. . . . Rik L Rik (a.k.a. Richard Elerick), who fronted the band F-Word and was part of the first surge of groundbreaking '70s LA punk bands, passed away June 30 in Riverside of brain cancer. Elerick helped spread punk rock to the OC underground, contributing solo tracks to the seminal Beach Blvd. compilation in 1979, and more recently had been working with a band called the Celestials. He was 39. . . . If you hate Courtney Love—and God knows there are plenty of reasons to—an unedited transcript of her May 16 speech to the Digital Hollywood online-entertainment conference in New York currently circulating around the Net may make you change your tune about the Supreme Hole. In it, she rails against record-label profiteering and assorted other tricks the music industry uses to cheat artists. Not only is it a great read, but it's also a vital lesson—or warning—for anybody even thinking about picking up an instrument and starting a band. Find it at www.salon.com/tech/feature/2000/ 06/14/love/print.html.


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