Ms. Sadie Saturday Night serves up a passionate revisit to the ’79 White Night Riots in San Francisco—and she was there that night, four decades ago, too.
By Fred Mills
About a year and a half ago we posted a review of Austin singer-songwriter Jean Caffeine and her nigh-on brilliant Sadie Saturday Nite album and accompanying stage show, which is effectively a sonic memoir going all the way back to her late ‘70s punk rock days in San Francisco.
We subsequently posted her videos for album tracks “All Girl Band,” a fond look back at her old bands The Urge, Pulsallama, and Clambake, and the Sex Pistols-inspired “Winter of Hate,” and now we are pretty proud to be able to present her latest video, below. It’s titled “Mad as Hell (in the White Night)” which commemorates the 40th anniversary of the White Night Riots in San Francisco, May 21, 1979. Jean notes, “The music for the song is co-written with Josh Robins from Austin’s Invincible Czars. He was a creative consultant on my Sadie show. His band tours the US doing live accompaniment/soundtracks for various silent films.”
Jean, in creating her Sadie Saturday Night one-woman show some time back, has written about her memories of that night – the riots were in response to the verdict in the Dan White trial, who, as she recalls, “received a very light sentence for murdering Mayor George Moscone and our first out council member Harvey Milk… The city ignited both metaphorically in protest and riot and literally…police cars were burned. After hearing the sentence, I tried to get home from a bar that night and ended up being chased by police along with a bunch of rioters… so although I was in solidarity with the protesters, it was a night of accidental activism on my part.” It’s well-worth reading some of her additional remembrances now, so I’ll turn this forum over to Jean.
Incidentally, she has a new EP in the can that she hopes to release soon, so stay tuned for details. And upcoming tour dates follow Jean’s remembrance, below.
“One evening in 1979, I was in Day’s Saloon, a barn like old school Hoff Brau and Irish bar on Market Street, near Powell where the cable car turns around. Days was owned by a couple of brothers. You could get an Irish coffee there, occasionally see a band (my all girl band, the Urge was pretty much the house band). You could get a corned beef sandwich there, on St. Patty’s. If you were lucky it might have been sliced by former roommate Will Shatter, of Negative Trend and Flipper. Days was a haunt of the Urge, and its benevolent bartender, Terese, was sister to my bandmates, sisters Mary and Julie Lawler.
“I had quit the Urge a year earlier in a giant huff over offenses and intrusions during a recording session – over conflicts with the owner of the small label that was recording our single. He was sleeping with one of us girls, not that I wouldn’t, but I wasn’t, because he was an asshole. He and I quarreled during the session. I thought the girls would stand by me, but as it turned out, not so much. Leaving the band, which consisted of two of my best gal pals from even before punk rock was tough – it left a big dent in my life, and they quickly filled my drummer void with another gal pal, and they stripped my drum track and had her redo it. Which hurt.
“After a year of no contact with the girls I starting having drinks at the bar at Days, visiting with Terese. I guess I was laying the first bricks in rebuilding the friendship by putting my toes in friendly waters. I visited with Terese for a while and she made me a sweet cocktail. I liked drinks that were more like food. Drinks with a high butterfat count like Hot Toddies and Irish Coffee. Terese had the radio on and we heard the verdict of the Dan White trial. White had killed mayor Moscone and City Councilman and pioneering gay rights activist, Harvey Milk. The sentence was as light as Wonderbread. We were both steamin’ mad.
“Angry, I headed out onto Market Street south towards my apartment. As I tried to cross Market Street, I got caught up in what I didn’t yet realize was a riot. There were broken shop windows and looting. Apparently we weren’t the only people pissed off about the Dan White verdict. The light sentence for a double murder was an outrage. San Francisco reacted rightfully and righteously by going crazy. I was not prepared for what I saw going down on Market Street. I tried to walk in the direction of my place and I got caught inside a mob, which was running away from the police in a completely different direction. I took a different turn and the same thing happened again and then again until I was chased with the mob to the park by City Hall where a line of police cars were smoldering, having been set on fire. Although my sentiments were with the rioters, that night I became an accidental activist, and the memory of the night smolders like the cop cars I saw that night.”
May 21 Del’s Books n’ More, El Paso
June 7 Harvest House, Denton TX
June 8 The Kollective, AR
June 9 Lamplighter, Memphis
June 13 Mohawk Place, Buffalo
June 15 ArtBar ArtWord, Hamilton, ON
June 16 The Communist Daughter, TO
June 19, The Garnet, Peterbourough
June 20th L’Escallier, Mtl, Quebec
June 21 Bar Robo, Ottawa
June 22, Shaika Cafe, MTL
June 23, Grumpy’s, MTL
June 26th The High Low, Catskill, NY
July 7 Bar Redux, New Orleans
August 3rd 4pm The Parlour, Austin, TX w/ Prof. Fuzz
Sept 21 Rite Spot, San Francisco