The former and glorious days of the ASUCD Coffee House

Take the modern and slatted-steel architecture of our current airport-looking ASUCD Coffee House and imagine a much more laid back but wild scene. Imagine blue drapery suspended on walls, a modest stage buried in sound equipment and 350 chairs jam-packed in the small room. Better yet, imagine the legendary Elvis Costello, Talking Heads, The Police and Rory Gallagher rocking out on stage inches from the audience, with their sweat and spit literally dripping down right on top of them. These were the glorious days of the CoHo which have vanquished to unspoken stories and memories trapped in time.

Take the modern and slatted-steel architecture of our current airport-looking ASUCD Coffee House and imagine a much more laid back but wild scene. Imagine blue drapery suspended on walls, a modest stage buried in sound equipment and 350 chairs jam-packed in the small room. Better yet, imagine the legendary Elvis Costello, Talking Heads, The Police and Rory Gallagher rocking out on stage inches from the audience, with their sweat and spit literally dripping down right on top of them. These were the glorious days of the CoHo which have vanquished to unspoken stories and memories trapped in time.

Although the fashion trend of tight-fitting trousers paired with loose blouses and blazers have made a definite comeback, the Davis music scene during the late 1970s and early ’80s was wildly different. So, how did the CoHo become such a big stop for legends like Costello and Gallagher? There to make it all happen was a student named Peter Afterman.

Afterman, who recently told his story in a letter published by Davis Life Magazine, was in charge of booking shows at the CoHo. With a strong enthusiasm and love for music, Afterman took time out of his studies to focus on bringing new wave-rock ‘n roll artists to Davis. Afterman relied on personal connections and strategic planning to get the musicians to agree to play at such a small venue as the CoHo.

“The trick was to not have the band come too early,” Afterman said. “We needed three hours to set up. It was magical to see the place become a really cool room – we put tiles in with “wah” sounds for sound equipment and other high-end equipment. We pretty much had a studio set-up for mixing and playback. We would have the CoHo staff cook huge meals and the band would have this big area to wander around. The bands would absolutely love it because they had just gotten off the road on a long tour. With that, we started to become a hit place to play.”

Before the age of the World Wide Web and easy access to musician’s contact information through sites like Facebook or Myspace, personal connections were key. Afterman would directly contact the managers and schedule the musicians to stop by Davis between their stops in Sacramento and San Francisco.

“We did week nights with rarely any Friday or Saturday nights,” Afterman said. “I would also follow whatever acts were on Saturday Night Live. I saw Devo on SNL three days before their show in Davis and it was an automatic sellout. It was like taking candy from a baby.”

Afterman and his small crew of about four to five volunteers would cram about 350 seats – filling up every square inch of the room. On average, 90 percent of tickets were sold per show by basic word of mouth and hand-made posters and flyers. Just between the year of 1978 and ’79, Afterman booked the following (in order of appearance): Oregon, Devo, Flora Purim, Dave Edmunds/Nick Lowe, Talking Heads, Rory Gallagher, Carlene Carter, Leroy Jenkins, Elvis Costello, Camel, Pat Metheny, John Fahey, The Police, Emmylou Harris, Ultravox, Dire Straits, Don Cherry, Tom Robinson Band, Tim Weisberg, John Cale, Gil Scott Heron, Joe Jackson and Jorma Kaukonen solo.

Mark Champagne, who was the ASUCD Business Manager at the time, gave Afterman approval of shows. Like Afterman, Champagne appreciated the intimate value that the CoHo provided as opposed to the large Freeborn Hall.

“It was easier then, because there were so many touring groups and they weren’t charging the amounts of money that they do today,” Champagne said. “Groups would play for very little and some of those groups made it big. What a college experience to see a band that was just breaking in a 300-350 seat intimate facility. It provided lots of memories for students that attended during that time.”

Robert Toren, an art studio graduate in 1981, currently manages a website dedicated to the Davis music scene during the late ’70s and early ’80s, called Davis80smusic.com. Toren believed that the radio was a huge factor in the success of the CoHo.

“[The ’70s and ’80s] was a time when college radio was coming into its independent own,” Toren said. “And, record companies saw the opportunity in sending bands like Talking Head, Devo, Iggy Pop, etc. out on college town tours, so local venues could get them for a song. The Bangles played at a local club just weeks before they went big with Walk Like An Egyptian. Someone at UCD saw the CoHo as a potential competitor with local bars and started booking all these great shows.”

So what happened after 1980? Afterman, who was a history and art history double major, graduated in 1979 and with no one to take over the booking and planning, the CoHo shows slowly died down. Tim Chin, assistant director of ASUCD Entertainment Council believes the internet is a major contributor of the lessening popularity of small and intimate shows.

“As far as why the trends with the CoHo shows have died down, I really think it’s because of our continually advancing society,” Chin said. “Back in the ’70s and ’80s, there was no internet. So there was no file sharing, no Facebook or any other technologies that we take for granted nowadays. Back then, if you didn’t tour, you didn’t make any money. So you had to really throw yourself out there and play as many shows as you can.”

The following are mentionable memories from the CoHo shows:

Peter Afterman: Rory Gallangher came with his two bass-players and drummer. Normally, the artists have requests for food and drinks or what not. Rory and his crew asked us to get them six cases of beer. We’re talking about 144 beers for four guys! They drank all the beer and the second set they played, Rory was practically passed-out and playing guitar. It was the craziest thing I’ve ever seen that they went through all the beers. But of course, the performance was still great.

Donnette Thayer (’81 UCD alumna): When the Ramones played the [CoHo], Joey Ramone showed up wearing a hospital bracelet which I thought was ultra-cool. It seemed like found art on Joey Ramone on the stage at the [CoHo]. Naturally, during the Ramones show there was a suffocating crush that occurred near the stage and since I always found my way to the front of the stage, I became quite nervous as people thrashed around when we were packed together like so many sardines. Joey let a 30 second or so pause go by between songs-an eternity for the Ramones, their songs last only two minutes on average-and said in a very calm voice that we needed to make some room up front. Everybody obeyed him immediately and we all just had fun for the rest of the show.

UYEN CAO can be reached at arts@theaggie.org.

10 Comments on this Post

  1. Gracyk was far far more influential than Afterman, who was tragically unhip and more of a self promoter than a show promoter. KDVS folks gave him the tips he needed to book the cool gigs on the list. He was more in line with Camel and Oregon and such (neither of which gigs I have any memory whatsoever). I remember his patented refusal technique, where he would don a sad face while shrugging, and say “hey, if it was me, yeah, but it’s not me”

    my favorite memory was being backstage with Peter Tosh and band before their coffee house show, when a speaker cabinet was opened to reveal what looked like a cubic yard of ganja. a good quantity was rolled into a cone of newspaper lit and passed around. sadly, as a result I don’t remember much of the gig itself. make that a favorite partial memory.

  2. hey what about our adopted house new wave band, XTC? we LOVED them at KDVS…and used a university phone to call directory information in their hometown, and from there spoke with the bass player’s wife…which led to a coffee house gig for them.

    I had always thought coho was a type of salmon. perhaps native to putah creek?

  3. interesting to see how garbled the memories have become, as well.  actually, iggy called ME a cocksucker first, after I asked him an insightful interview question:  who he considered to be his major musical influences.

    then he turned to Tom, who had already pissed him off by talking about a prior record that his former record company had recently released against his wishes (and from which he was getting no $$) and said, “and you, you’re a chunky cocksucker” then got up and walked out.

    tape machine was messed up so we didn’t get a recording, but it did go out live over the air.

    next morning I phoned Jim at the motel and got a very gracious apology, which I do have on tape.

  4. CalDavis78

    Folks – Was the bar on F Street called Cassidy’s ? I just stumbled upon the name in another article, and it rang a bell.

  5. CalDavis78

    With all due respect to Davisite76, the Talking Heads DID play the Coffee House in 1978, I was there. I remember it well because Tina Weymouth and David Byrne were arguing all through the show, and almost came to blows. Otherwise, Davisite76 is mostly correct, subject to my aged memory. I do remember the TH shows at the bar on F Street, but I no longer remember it’s name either. However, I do think that Carlene Carted DID play the Coffee House, but I did not go. Thank you for remembering the George Thorogood show, I had forgotten that one, but I was there :-). Other shows that I recall that weren’t on the list were the Persuasions (a capella vocal group), Brand X, and the Greg Kihn Band. Also, thanks for reminding me of “Shake Some Action”, that was a fun program.

  6. saponipoet

    All of you who have commented,

    I enjoyed reading you guys more than the article. What a lovely trip it was. CoHo…really? We didn’t speak “text message”; that name never existed. And let me just say this…”We had ALL the fun and there’s no more left!”

    These were the days before fraternities and sororities were prevalent. These were the days of underground presses, impromptu meetings in small apts to prepare for a protest,

    guerilla theater. (I had a p/t job with the MU Activities office running the AB Dick mimeograph machine. I was everyone’s best friend when they needed printing for subversive posters and flyers)

    Students for a Nuclear Freeze! Third World Forum! Protests and planning; vigils and petitions…and through it all, the music played.

    Yeah…sigh,

    Loved it all; never considered it could change,

  7. KDevious74

    Yeah, the coffee house was always known as that in the 70’s & early 80’s, not the CoHo. It pretty much looked the same since way back, my dad used to take me to Picnic Day when I was a kid & it hadn’t changed any by the time I got there as a student.

    Was a fab scene and so, so much fun.

    I don’t recall any bottle throwing @ the Police shows that night either; Sting was incredible, up dancing on his toes, in a jumpsuit, along with the rest of the band and they DID have to repeat material for their encores. They were touring in a station wagon with no roadies.

    That Talking Heads gig in ’78 wasn’t booked by Peter, it was Steven Crozier and it was off-campus, can’t remember the name of the bar, tho. (Wasn’t the AB). Tina Weymouth had these incredible arms….

    Gracyk was, in my opinion, pivotal as music director @ KDVS at the time; he stocked the bins with stuff you wouldn’t hear elsewhere and was a sharp, insightful commentator. Most of the KDVS staff @ that time made regular runs to Rather Ripped in Berkeley (as well as to the Bizarre Bazaar to buy thrift-shop chic) trading in demos for European discs & 45’s. I first heard Gang of Four that way. We talked the music director into buying 801 Live on one trip, even tho he’d never heard of Eno et all. And I must confess to writing “Eno is God” on bathroom stall walls all over campus. And I still think he’s God.

    One fav memory is the huge, spray-painted love note on a fence in town from Kendra to us all as she was leaving.

    That Romantics gig was pure pop dance fun.

    KDVS *was* heard in Sac, I had friends who listened. And axediesel, I’ve about narrowed you down to either TMac or EH….. and I agree, the best thing about the University administration was that it pretty much left us alone to have that little revolution. What a haven, all those discs, a listening room & complete freedom to explore, churning your delight and discovery out over the airwaves. The synchronicities in that scene were tremendous.

    “I don’t want no requests” – Bruce Whitelam

    Mike Jung walking around the KDVS offices on the desks during staff meetings.

    Hell yeah, George Thorogood & the Delaware Destroyers were amazing. Leo Kottke played in there somewhere as well.

    The Suspects, Twinkeyz (there are aliens in our midst) & Permanent Wave gig at the coffee house convinced me to join a band; if Kendra could thrash around up the plastered and still look and sound great, why not? We had them play a birthday party in our back yard (the Suspects) early on…… complete with light show….. “and my mother outta know me, we’ve been together for as long as I remember, and my mother calls me Dexter, BUT THAT”S NOT MY NAME!”

    Johnathon Richmond crawling around on his hands and knees on the quad singing “I’m a little airplane, neeooowww, neeooowww” was foundational for me as was Laurie Anderson with her neon-blue violin bow in the art building and Suzette Slaughter unwinding herself across the quad. When I asked her why she didn’t talk, she said “for practice”.

    And yeah, Davisite76, Rockpile & Carleen Carter both played the Coffee House, I was at both gigs. Dave Edmunds was just a workhorse that night, churning it out.

    Thanks for the memories, y’all.

  8. axediesel

    Thank you Uyen for the article, and thanks Davisite76 for the corrections. As KDVS Station Manager during the 1979-1980 term, I would also like to make the correction that at that time we had 5000 watts of power, so the station easily broadcast this programming to Sacramento. Although the University administration did not always understand it, some of us knew at the time that through these live performances and radio shows we were involved in a little revolution bringing a new art form to the Davis area.

  9. Davisite76

    First off, no one back in the day called it the “CoHo.” It was always The Coffee House. And there were quite a few great shows after Peter Afterman left: Gang Of Four, The Blasters, Robert Gordon, Green On Red, Long Ryders, Ramones, True West, The Specials, Iggy Pop, and many others. But definitely Peter, set the ball in motion.

    I attended both Police shows, the one at the Coffee House on their first U.S. tour in ’78 where they had to repeat songs for their encore and the one a year later at Freeborn Hall, and I did not witness any bottle throwing at Sting or anyone else. That seems like creative memory.

    The “Wah Sound” that Peter Afterman is referring to in the quote was the professional sound company that he used for the Coffee House shows: So now that bit of mangled journalism above might make some semblace of sense!

    While Peter booked the Talking Heads, they never played at The Coffeehouse. They were on the bill with The Police at Freeborn Hall in 1979 that I mentioned above.

    The Talking Heads first show in Davis was in ’78 after the release of their second album More Songs About Buildings And Food at a small bar downtown (on F Street?) that no longer exists. Their cover of Al Green’s “Take Me To The River” was getting limited airplay on KSFM, Woodland, which was an Album Oriented Rock station that mostly played Led Zep, Pink Floyd, and Eagles.

    The band was low key and approachable — TH keyboardist Jerry Harrison was very friendly and talkative, until there was an opportunity to chase some skirt and then he disappeared quickly.

    I must beg to differ with what is printed as Peter Afterman’s remembrance of the “order of appearance” of the acts booked at the Coffee House.

    In early ’78, Elvis Costello was the first punk/new wave show that was at the Coffee House — just a few short weeks after Costello’s Saturday Night Live debut, where he took the place of the Sex Pistols when they canceled.

    Elvis’s Coffee House show was most certainly before Nick Lowe/Dave Edmunds and Carlene Carter, as all three of those folks derived their initial U.S. notoriety from being associated with Declan “Elvis Costello” McManus, who was one of the first UK new wave acts to get U.S. commercial radio play. In fact, I was a big fan of all and would have most certainly been at those shows if Messrs. Lowe and Edmunds or Carlene “Mrs. Nick Lowe” Carter ever actually played UCD. I would be very interested if someone can confirm these shows actually happened.

    And there are a couple of shows not mentioned that occured at the Coffee House in the late ’70s that I fairly certain Afterman booked: John Lee Hooker and George Thorogood!

    The comment about The Bangles playing a local bar just weeks before “Walk Like An Egyptian” was a hit, is not true. The band was booked by KDVS DJ/music director Connie O’Donnell to play “new wave night” at The Company (formerly The Brewery), a bar on G St in 1982. This was a couple years before their hits when they were still called The Bangs and had not yet signed to Columbia/CBS Records.

    Also, the contention that Afterman created a stop between Sacramento and the Bay Area for these acts is not factual either. At the time, there was not a big

    enough scene for shows in both Sacto and Davis. In fact, there was no venue in Sacramento during that time period that booked acts of the stature that Peter brought into the Coffee House. Sacto, with exception of a few scenesters, was a backward-looking, pot-smoking hippie haven.

    A lot of credit needs to go to Peter Afterman and KDVS DJs like Tom Gracyk and his “Shake Some Action” show for introducing the area to new wave and punk

    rock. Unless you hung out in record stores in the Bay Area, you would not have heard this music if not for KDVS. Davis was Birkenstock-wearing Granola Central (and in those days, KDVS’s signal was not strong enough to reach Sacto and there was no other college or public radio in area).

    Tom Gracyk was also the organizer of Davis Wave in ’78, a $1 entry show at The Coffee House featuring the first new wave bands in the area: Suspects, Twinkeyz, Permanent Wave, and Ozzie.

    After the Peter Afterman era, in the early to mid 80s, Sacramento came more into it’s own as a tour stop for cool bands. While there had been Slick Willy’s

    in the late 70s (a biker bar that did a “new wave night”) and the Oasis Ballroom (that strayed from its hard rock/metal format to do shows like The Cramps and Romantics circa ’80), Sacto jumped up a notch with The China Wagon and later Galactica 2000, venues that were booked by Carol Gale and Beau Richards, to which kudos need to go for their contribution to the development of the scene.

    The China Wagon (a steakhouse turned Chinese restaurant, turned punk palace) hosted great bands like Chris Isaak’s Silvertone, Dream Syndicate, Three O’Clock, Game Theory, and many others. And Galactica 2000 had shows by REM, Mission Of Burma, Roky Erickson & The Explosives, 999, Iggy Pop (with band including Bowie guitarist Carlos Alomar and Chris Stein & Clem Burke of Blondie), Crime, and a long list of others.

    One final story before I go: Iggy Pop played the Coffee House in 1980. He brought along an amazing band: Brian James from the Damned on guitar, Ivan Kral and Jay Dee Dougherty from the Patty Smith Group (keys and drums), and original Sex Pistols bassist Glenn Matlock.

    Onstage, Iggy was charmingly combative, asking one female audience member if “there’s California jug wine in those?” and another fan “how much would it set you back if I kicked that new camera down your throat?”

    After an amazing set, Iggy and band were downstairs for an interview at KDVS, which did not go so well. When the egomanical Iggy was declaring how great he was, the ever abrasive Tom Gracyk replied, “so that’s why all your albums are in the cut-out bins?” Iggy called Tom a “chunky cocksucker” and abruptly led the band out of the studio. Gracyk reached out to departing bassist Matlock and said “Hey Glenn, wanna stick around and talk about The Pistols?”

  10. hutchmo

    The coffeehouse shows did not slowly die down after afterman. I saw great shows there all through the 80’s. Not to mention the shows on the quad at lunchtime. Jonathan Richman, free on the quad at lunch, was life altering. I was a freshman coming from a Led Zep, Cheap Trick, Van Halen, high school experience and some dorm mate told me I should check him out, he had Velvet Underground connections, Holy S***! I wanted to be in a band then and there. The Coffehouse fact I’m most proud of is the people threw bottles at The Police!!!!! Sting was a poser!

Comments are closed.