So you're tired of the same old dance bars with the same old thundering bass. You want to hear live music, in an intimate atmosphere with friendly people. The problem is, it's impossible to find a comfortable place in San Francisco that promotes women performers.
Not any more.
This April, Trish Moran and Lisa Askins opened up the CoCo Club at the South-of-Market bar and music venue formerly known as Spike's. Trish and Lisa are affable women with vibrant ideas about turning the club into a live performance space that caters to the women's community.
"We wanted a space where people could sit over a table, enjoy live entertainment, and actually hear each other speak," says Lisa. "There are lots of live music venues in the city; but they're all so straight."
"We wanted something different from the dance clubs," interjects Trish. "Live performance was our main thing--not only music. We also wanted to cater to people in their 30's, who still like to go out but are not into that young scene, either. Now we get an array of women of all different ages. And we wanted to create a place that's a little more mixed, both straight and gay."
"And even the straight people are saying, 'I'm so glad there's a club South of Market that doesn't have an attitude,' " continues Lisa.
On Saturday nights, women acoustic, rock, and soul performers take the stage in a convivial environment called Comme Nous. "We've got a lot of really good girl bands in the city, and even bands with both women and men in them, that are on the cutting edge of going somewhere," Trish says. "And they play here!"
Musicians love to play the CoCo Club because the conditions are so good. The stage has been expanded, the sound system is new, the club just hired a professional sound engineer. And the entire cover charge goes to pay the bands, a practice practically unheard of. "We wanted to create a place where bands could play but also get paid well for doing it," says Trish.
Musicians that have played at Comme Nous include Soul Divine, Laura Chandler, Spanking Violets, Valerie from Spokepoker, Color Puddy, Three Hour Tour, and Baba Yaga. Linda Perry of the 4 Non-Blondes has also stopped in and played a few songs. "That's the kind of place it is," notes Lisa. "The women's musician community all support each other; they're a big family."
"We're thinking about starting a boys' night as well, 'cause they also don't have a place where they can listen to live music and feel comfortable," says Trish. "We've had our boy friends come here and say, 'Oh, this is so great--we want to be women!' "
The CoCo Club is a small, romantic basement bar, with deep red walls and an air of secrecy about it, probably left over from its Prohibition days as a speakeasy. But it wasn't always so appealing. When its previous owner asked Trish to start a women's music night there in 1994, it was, well, a bit seedy.
"It had an ugly gray floor that hadn't been cleaned in decades," says Trish. "The walls were bare . . ."
"And there were no light fixtures," adds Lisa, "just straight white bulbs hanging from the ceiling."
But the two brought in artwork, and new lighting, and the place was transformed to resemble a Paris salon. "It reminded us of that French underground feel," remembers Trish, "of women musicians and writers like Colette who were hanging out in subterranean Paris in the 1920's." During that time women would covertly ask, "Est-elle comme nous?" ["Is she like us?"] or "Est-elle comme ša?" ["Is she like that?"]." Thus the origin of "Comme Nous."
A few months later, when the club came up for sale, Trish and Lisa decided to buy the place. Trish got a loan, Lisa "maxed out her credit cards, and before we knew it, we were way in debt, and we had a club."
The new name--the CoCo Club--is a short form of "Company's Coming." "And you have to write that we're not Coco's, the restaurant chain," reminds Lisa.
There is a restaurant upstairs, however, which will serve lunches, brunches, appetizers, and dinners at varying schedules. It will also be open until 3:30 a.m. on Saturday nights. Special menus will be available for the club downstairs, so that patrons can order food and have it delivered.
Trish and Lisa are also opening up nights for people to run their own events. "On Sunday nights," notes Trish, "Michelle Tea and Sini Anderson are doing an all-girl open mike, with spoken word and music, called Sister Spit. On Our Backs will be doing an event the last Friday of every month called the Bliss, which features erotic entertainment for women. We also have Allison Hennessey, who organizes performance art every other Thursday."
"That's called the Creature Club," says Lisa. "It's a very interesting cabaret collection of performers, very eclectic."
"Tuesdays we've had music open mike," adds Trish. "Laura Chandler hosts, and women come in to play their instruments and jam. It's a place to hang out, and also to meet other women trying to form bands.
"We'd like to open the place to parties, too," she goes on. "We've been doing benefits for women filmmakers trying to raise money, like Karen Everett, who's working on a documentary of Marlon Riggs. We've been involved with 50/50, a new magazine that will be coming out soon. And we're doing stuff with Deneuve. We're trying to help the community. People call us and we just give them the space."
Mondays, Tuesdays, and Wednesdays are open at the moment, and Trish and Lisa are looking for creative people to fill those gaps with their own projects.
The CoCo Club is at 139 8th Street at Minna. Check out the box ad in the SF Weekly. The Comme Nous line is 553-8719, and the general club number, which tells you everything going on each week, is 626-2337.
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