Help the Starry Plough

Having written about Barbès last week, it occurred to me that there are venues here at home that could use help too…

It’s not as though I’ve built a thorough list, but the Starry Plough in Berkeley came to mind quickly. Over the years, they opened their doors to creative music, willing to occasionally put experimental jazz or rock acts in front their usual roots-music and pub-music audiences. (A few examples: Toychestra, Amy X. Neuburg, Surplus 1980, Jack o’ the Clock.) Economic reality being what it is, those shows became more infrequent over the past decade, but I still remember the Plough fondly and still checked their listings once in a while, just in case.

They serve food but have no outdoor seating, so they’ll have to subsist on take-out for a long while. Small bars and clubs will be among the last businesses to reopen, and the Plough has set its GoFundMe rather high in realization of this.

There are so many other venues in a similar plight, and even if you have the resources, it’s difficult to support all of them. I’m just mentioning this one for the same reason Brooklynites are banding together for Barbès: The Starry Plough is a source of community, and I’ve had some really good times there. Maybe there’s a similar venue in your life. Understandably, not everyone has the means, but if you do, at least consider dropping them the price of the beer and burger you would have gotten.

Photo via

Moe Rocks It

Surplus 1980, the new Moe! Staiano art/punk band, rocked the house at the Starry Plough Friday night. The band was energetic and tight. They were a quartet — bass, guitar, drums, and Moe on vocals, keyboards and extra guitar. I arrived mid-set, and through the door, it sounded like a lot more than four people.

Rhythmically, a lot of the songs moved in bursts, with barked staccato vocals and jagged guitar and bass parts. The drumming was terrific — loud but with a surprisingly light touch. (I don’t have the band members’ names down, sorry.)

I haven’t yet listened to the Relapse in Response album, copies of which were available at the show. It’s going to be a different experience, packed with horns and with Moe himself on drums. I’m glad I caught the band in straight rock format, though. They put on a solid show.

Surplus 1980

Moe takes to the guitar.

I’m pretty sure that’s Alee Karim on bass.

Moe owns an Invader Zim bag. I’m so jealous.

I expected White Pee to be noisy and bristling. The noise elements were there — guitar feedback, some keyboard/electronics — but the overall vibe was a more easygoing jam, drifting along with the rhythm. The band’s lineup varies every time, and this edition included a violin and cello, which I gathered was unusual. The strings might have helped define the mood of the show, and their contributions were great, often twirling well outside the determined rhythm and drone-chord to add all kinds of exciting color. They weren’t a jam band and weren’t a noise band — I thought of them as something closer to The Necks but with less looping.

White Pee, the sextet version. Dig the cute little amps.

I didn’t catch Aram Shelton’s Marches, which opened the evening. My kids had discovered the board game Clue and wanted to play a couple rounds before bed. Much as I enjoy seeing music, sometimes a better offer comes along.