LIVE! AT THE MULLET ROOM -
BSC, CA – Music has been a part of my life since the start of Motown [Bye Bye Baby/Mary Wells, Shop Around/The Miracles]; from seeing James Brown and the Famous Flames tour [Louisville, KY], to being 'buds' with musicians [Leroy Taylor, Austin Landers, New Birth, RCA; Woody/The Spoonbills, Memoirs, bar blues band], but nothing could have made me anticipate the memories to come as I took a call from Bill Gould. I was to meet him down the hill from where I lived on my side of town, at the brand new coffee shop I had watched being built in the little strip mall next to the car wash I peddled past many a night coming home from a show at Madlin's.
I met Bill in the long shallow parking lot and he explained that this dude had called him up and said, “I hear you put on shows. I just built a coffee shop for shows and I wondered if you would throw some here.”
As we walked into the newly finished store entrance, brightly lit by the afternoon sun through the large front window panels, I was thinking the same thing as Bill. This place was in Murrieta, not Temecula. If it worked out, we could side-step our running feud with the City Council over original music versus the conservative/typical styles. The crowd limitation put on Madlin's was wearing thin, and now the show coffee shop sales weren't as profitable due to the lower volume of sales. I was the barista and I made 'em like I didn't own the stuff. I got a lot of compliments. I was known on the tour circuit even. “This could solve all our problems,” I whispered to Bill.
At the end of our tour, after the bathrooms, Johnny showed us the way to slip into the shadows. First, the darkness only went down a few feet but the back wall was painted black so you had no depth perception. About six feet into the darkness was the door to the rear of the shop, and suddenly you were out back, outside. A tall concrete retaining wall was into built the hillside running down either side to the only ways out or in. Except from the front street view, the back passage way was invisible.
Johnny said, “Everyone is out of here by 5, but 4:20 is close enough,” and he pops out a fatty to blaze. Mary Jane [Green] joined the crew for safety meetings.
Thus started the next phase, the towering music stalk that would lead up to the mushroom cap fireball of all ages sound in this valley. By this time in real life, two phenomenon had taken place. The internet had burst onto the scene and music production programs were turning the guy, girl, or group next door into having CD quality that sounded like it was produced by Sony. A prime example is the Neon Trees demo from their first appearance at Madlin's. Two of the four members are from Murrieta. Technology and the music programs are awesome for the little guy. If you have the opportunity, you can DIY in a small sound studio. Their first demo was done this way containing 6 songs from their label release when they played Java Joz.
The second thing is the music scene crowd was now more Junior College in age. The local Barnes & Noble had just closed down their popular outdoor table area due to 'drugs', most likely pot since vaping was non-existent ten years ago. All the bookstore intellectual youth heard about this new coffee shop that was opening with the express purpose of also having music. This sense of felt adventure as maps were not handed out showing the green room, kindled 'The Mullet Room' [business in the front, party in the back] brighter in a green flame.
In the week to 10 days before the official opening, we [including Johnny's SO, now Mrs. Blaze] drew up a weekly schedule of events and shows. Over the years this weekly evening schedule would change but the Wednesday night Open Mic kicked off the official Java Joz scene capital and stayed a staple for local scene-sters. Often having something every night but Monday or Tuesday, the talent rolling through weekly was tremendous and abundant. In a word, it was awesome. Most of the shows got written up on the Full Value Review exclusively.
During this phase Bill was the sole promoter, though Johnny did book an occasional group like Warsaw Poland Bros. Mainly around every night was the usual crew, Bipsy, who worked there as a barista; Nicki Mouse, who wore a leather cowboy hat and replaced 'the door bitch' who had come over with the Madlin's crew at first; Charles, who was our Otto in that his folks were like the Simpson show character's, were the first ring. Charles wore a leather pirate hat and always had a ready pair of handcuffs in his car door, so it is important to remember that we were a 3-ring circus.
The second ring comprised of Capt. Tuesday [B&N refugee], Vince [Nice Day], a barely noticed individual named Ivan [the ex-merch man from Inverse], his friends Paul [Inverse] and Jamaal, all the guys from Strike Twelve, Mongoose [Matt Pierce, B&N refugee], James [who worked at a glue factory, don't ask], Crystal, Timmy [under-age and over-sized, always in a studded punk leather jacket], Francis [an artist who found herself in the scene, her artwork from a night as door guard at Cuppy's is below], Super Betty aka Betty Legs [another artist, who studying dance, used her whole self as a canvas and was a top 3 in scene complexity], another Paul [swept into the scene because his dad had the Green Cleaners two doors down, becoming the first 'outsider' who saw the secret green room in back; thus was born Asian Paul, who showed up the first night with his Got Rice tee shirt [cause he knew the deal though he never drank nor smoked], Devan [Daisycutters], and lastly, the shy, demurring, shrinking violet whose chest picture opened this story [BTW, it was Francis who did the text writing in lipstick cause a girl can't write on her own chest], our own Lurleen, Keirah Ann Robbins, who deserves her own story but they're playing me on to the next paragraph.*
Suffice it to say that when we [Java Joz] opened, somewhere up in the Cosmos a phone rang and a voice on the other end said, “Shit's cracking.”
And it was. The third ring of Java Joz was the nightly rotation of local bands, many playing their very first public show onstage in front of an audience at Java Joz. The atmosphere was always electric. Every night was opening night for them, their friends, or somebody they had heard about. Plus like any circus, there was always the main attraction. That was a touring band which rolled through on their way to LA or SD, or back and forth as we became a spot for regional tours.
By this time music production had gotten to the level that almost anyone could have a show where you could actually hear the singer over the musical amps. Feedback was also becoming less of a problem like in the really professional venues.
Java Joz became the 'it' place in town though original music was now being played more widely even at non-All Ages spots that served booze. The sounds of music were being heard in the hills and people driving by Java Joz always saw a young crowd hanging, not loitering, around the place as you drove by on the main drag coming into Temecula. At night driving by you would see a bunch and feel the energy. In other cities you had bigger venues for that once a week energy rush. Here it was almost nightly.
Rather than just write about the scene, we were all a part of it also as artists in some capacity. Opening night I started doing standup about my political history using some old school tunes. We all got 15 minutes or three songs. Bill and I developed into being territorial about this new, improved scene being scene-sters now.
Independent reporters like Peter Surowski I could have been more amiable to but a cross between feeling like an uncle to these kids and a 'scoop' mentality kept me at a distance. But the scene was evolving and individual feelings would get swirled around inside this music tornado backed with the freshest soundtrack outside of Hollywood.
For more than a year or so, life was perfect. There was a party out front like a very mini 'parking lot' which, for a minute featured a hookah bar [under a tent, of course, this is Murrieta] before Orange County. So the drama was out front. Inside you could get treated to the biggest and best tasting deli sandwiches made by Johnny himself who actually danced a bit when he made them. Make Bob's Burgers a Rasta, a lot cooler, then give him a tan SD laid back smile and you got the personality of Johnny Blaze. This was the main floor where the music happened. This area was electric. And then there was our outback, the green room. Java Joz was the coolest place this side of Amsterdam.
Actually Jjoz was more than cool, it was magical. 3 different levels of partying and they didn't blend but stayed distinct from each other. Most people never knew about the green room. People involved in the front outside discussions and drama rarely went in for the music, cause the front had its own scene. The only other person to roll into the green room uninvited was Tyler Goulet, who arrived carrying his own bong with his posse, the DBS Boys, aka Drive-by Stoners. That happened late in the Cuppy's era.
You see, although Java Joz was a franchise, having one built with a stage for music shows was a first. When the head office heard and read the reviews [via the Full Value Review, later in the Valley News and the PE], they had Johnny and fam come out to talk to them about becoming a traveling national manager setting up new franchises based off his design. The Corporate owners lived in Florida on the Gulf panhandle side. The rumors were Johnny was selling the place, and we all hoped it would be to Bill. The scene was cruising and it was Christmastime.
It turned out in a strange turn-of-events that Johnny sold it to some couple from Ohio or Minnesota or somewhere and the vibe changed immediately. The crowd dropped off a cliff, the new owner didn't go for Bill so he contacted Ivan who had been part of the front crew about throwing shows. This caused bad blood between the two who had been friends, as we all were in our crazy little circus. Bill departed to other pastures for shows. F.O.M.A. would go a long way toward healing those fences, thanks to the City Council.
Ivan was there for a month before he saw what was going on with this new owner so he rolled into the latest spot in Temecula, the Sounds of Music's The Vault, a new music school/venue in the front half of an industrial warehouse. When things took a nose dive due to unforeseen things at Jjoz corp level and Johnny seeing that Southern Cali wasn't anywhere close to the panhandle of Florida in social attitudes, Johnny was back at the helm of Java Joz, now called Cuppy's for legal reasons by the end of the second month.
Cuppy's had a two-year run and ground to a halt a few months after Bipsy was murdered. I was on the phone talking to Johnny when the police came up and issued a ticket for the place to close down. They had picked up a drunk kid and blamed that on Cuppy's. Cuppy's was innocent since that kid was a drifter [now called the homeless] passing through. A thrown firecracker somewhere close by to the area had started the night's ruckus. The City of Murrieta simply refused to sell Johnny a new biz license for less than 4 grand.
For those two years of operation before the shutdown, Bill was throwing shows, Ivan was throwing shows and Johnny at Cuppy's was throwing shows. By the end, The Vault Season 1 was over with a teenager-filled parking lot 3 times over Madlin's that day, even Bill was there to see a Bull-horned Ivan on top of his camper with Candice [see Nice Day Vince in Spin-offs]. I just packed away my 'I Want The Vault' bandana the other day.
Bill was throwing shows for the city at Old Town's art-house room next to the Merc besides an occasional Temecula Music Fest. Music was still around but the scene had changed.
Though I probably have a slug of flyers from Java Joz and more from Cuppy's, here are the few I came across in packing up.
This period would also offer up 3 very satisfying 'moments' for me on a personal basis. The first was to see Strike Twelve become the band I always knew they were. Actually me and a lot of other people, so that was gratifying, I love those guys. Two, with having so many shows there were nights I did double duty. So this one night on swinging back through to my side of town, I walked into Cuppy's and got treated to an acoustic version of Fat Bitches by the two guys who wrote it, Scott and Sal, sitting on stools with their guitars. They had saved that song till last in their set hoping I would make it. The effort still brings a tear to my eye.
And third. Sitting out back at The Mullet Room, music was always a subject that came up in some way. One night between sets or after the last one, a group of us started talking as to who had seen the most or biggest bands. I, being the the oldest kid in the huddle, had been nicknamed 'Scene Historian' by Ivan when Java Joz started. But Johnny was second oldest and he had seen more than his share, like me. Everyone else soon fell silent as Johnny and I began to one-up each other in famous names, many which we shared.
One by one names were tossed out with a few details about the show seen, as heads went from one concert goer to the other until we got to The Who, a group we had both seen. Johnny had actually seen more big names, more times than me but I knew it was time to put the hammer down. I piped up, “I've seen The Stones, a few times [first time, Chapter 14, The Rolling Stoned], and the green room went silent. It was the only time that I ever saw Johnny come in second on anything and I didn't like it. I said, “They're looking to tour again soon. If I come up with the tickets, will you provide the ride there and back?”
It cleaned out my magic sack for a minute but Johnny, [the to-be] Mrs. Blaze, my youngest son, and I caught The Stones on their last U.S. Tour stop in LA. That was my third personal highlight during this time the scene was here in town.
*- Apologies to anyone left out.
*- Apologies to anyone left out.
The interim story that leads to our final End of An Era, Part 3 is next. See Forever 27 – Every Saint Leaves A Relic