25 Years at the Freight and Salvage, Berkeley

It’s hard to believe 25 years have passed since we first moved our East Bay Songwriter’s Competition (previously known as Open Mic and the organization as NCSA) to the Freight & Salvage.  Marla Bodi and Peter Lamson were our managers at that time.  They secured the venue and were excited about the move, knowing that the Freight was the premier acoustic venue in the area.  Steve Baker was at the helm and welcomed us to this incredible venue.  At that time, the Freight was in the old building, still on Addison, but further North.  That location had a lot of history and charm. 

As always, WCS was, and is, aided by an amazing group of volunteers.  We could not have presented the number of events we have completed without all their help.  The current manager, Nomi Yah has continued to be a strong leader for the organization at the new Freight location. 

I personally want to thank everyone who has helped WCS over the past 25 years at the Freight & Salvage.  I particularly want to single out Nomi Yah, Peter Lamson and Marla Bodi for their years of dedication. 

Ian Crombie, Executive Director....now some notes from current manager Nomi Yah (plus notes from former manager Peter Lamson and Steve Baker formerly of The Freight & Salvage): 

MONDAY, JANUARY 19, 2015 WCS + F&S 25th Anniversary 

Freight and Salvage (2020 Addison Street, 510-644-2020) 

Admission $9.00 ($7.00 advance, before doors open) 

Doors open 7:00, Sign-up 7:00 to 7:30, Performance 7:30 

Please join us for a celebration of the 25thAnniversary of the West Coast Songwriters Berkeley Chapter at the Freight and Salvage.  On January 8, 1990, West Coast Songwriters held it’s first Songwriting Competition at the Freight and Salvage.  Some things were different back then: the West Coast Songwriters were called Northern California Songwriters, the Songwriting Competition was called an Open Mic, and the Freight & Salvage was at the 1111 Addison location.  But some things are still the same today: the WCS Berkeley Chapter has held a songwriter event at the F&S on a Monday, once a month for twenty-five years. 

The current location of the F&S, at 2020 Addison Street, is one of the premier performing venues in the Bay Area, with state of the art Meyers Sound system, new grand piano, and acoustically-designed theater. Located in the Theater District across from the Berkeley Jazz School and the Berkeley Repertory Theater, the F&S is surrounded by restaurants and bars, walking distance from BART Downtown Berkeley station and UCB campus. Because of its central location and reputation of the venue, the Berkeley Chapter has a wide variety of songwriters performing each month, from teenagers to senior citizens, from emerging talent to seasoned professionals. 

Judging the Songwriting Competition are usually 2 or 3 judges from the music industry and these have included Steve Seskin (Grammy-nominated, 7 number 1 hits), Larry Batiste (multi-platinum songwriter, previous president of  Grammy Association), Andre Pessis (Grammy winner, 16 hit songs, previous president of  Grammy Association), David Sikes (bass player for Boston), Bill Spooner (songwriter and founder of The Tubes), Phil Nudelman (lead singer and guitarist for Foghat), Freddie Stone (songwriter and original member of Sly and the Family Stone), Carlos Reyes (world-renowned harpist and violinist), David Denny (songwriter and guitarist for Steve Miller Band), Anna Lissa Jack (recording artist for Michael Bolton and Disney), Bill Leigh (Editor for Bass Player magazine), Jeff Trager (Promotional Director for Elektra and Polydor), to name a few. 

The Songwriting Competition awards Best Song of the Month and Best Performance of the Month (winners get 3 hours of studio time from our sponsors Ben Leinbach’s Old Bull Studios and Kevin Harris Music Production Studio). Berkeley is the only chapter of WCS that offers a lyric contest, awarding Best Song of the Year (winner gets their song produced by our sponsor Gawain Mathews Music Studio). 

Bay Area songwriters are very fortunate to have the support of these two amazing non-profits, for a quarter of a century. Come celebrate this milestone Monday, January 19, 2015. There will be presentations from some of the original founders, as well as current WCS songwriters competing, and judges Suzanne Mino Koga and Tom Luce. This will be an historic event, come out for this one!!! 


Nomi Yah, West Coast Songwriters, Berkeley Chapter manager, berkeley@westcoastsongwriters.org 

Some notes from Peter Lamson: 

Here's a little background. 1984 was a big year for me. I met the love of my life, Marla Bodi and joined NCSA. That year, Kathy Cummings was managing the East Bay Open Mic at The Townhouse in Emeryville and within a year Marla and I were active volunteers and the event had moved to the Redwood Inn in the Oakland Hills, staying there until late 1986- early 87, by which time Marla and I had taken over and the event had moved to the Royal Pub on Bay Farm Island, Alameda for about a year, then to LaVal"s Pizza, next door to the pub for awhile. There was at least one other venue we can't recall but the point was that we would build up the attendance and participation only to have the venue change policy or fold. 
We were frustrated by not having a great venue and consistent event schedule. 
In 1990, after several conversations with Steve Baker, Marla was able to secure a few dates at the Freight and we did our best to be a gracious guest while building up a large and steady attendance. It worked out, and over the ensuing eight years we had a great event with great volunteers, wonderful writers and performers and a who's who of Bay Area music pros as guest judges. It's very gratifying to see the tradition continue. Even after 50 years in and around music, some of the most wonderful music evenings I've ever experienced were NCSA open mics at the old Freight. 

Note from Steve Baker: 
I appreciate the opportunity to participate in this anniversary event.  Our collaboration with NCSA (now WCS) was an important aspect in the Freight's development as a center for vibrant community activity. 
As for the beginnings of things, here's the way I remember it: 
I had known Peter from his gigs at the Freight, and at some point he asked if the 1111 Addison Street showroom was available as the east bay host venue for the monthly NCSA "open mic."  It was the same basic event as now -- but that's what they called -- an "open mic."  (As a parenthetical aside, that's when I started lobbying NCSA to change the name of the event to something more descriptive.) 
NCSA's schedule needed the event to fall on the third Monday of the month -- which was when we held our "calendar night."  "Calendar night" was the evening when Freight volunteers came to the club and affixed mailing labels to a couple of thousand printed calendars of events that we would send out the next morning by USPS bulk mail.  It was at least a 20 year old Freight tradition by that point.  Usually there was no show happening on-stage on that night, so our booking manager, Randy Pitts, and I figured it would provide some added enjoyment for our volunteers.  Also, maybe he would spot prospective performers for Freight shows. 
After a couple monthly sessions with the Freight taking a percentage of NCSA's ticket sales -- Peter asked us to consider having the songwriter-participants help with the labeling in exchange for the Freight doing away with the percentage of the door.  We all thought it was a great idea -- as it proved to be in practice.  We ended up with more Freight volunteers than ever, and most NCSA participants showed up early to help with the labeling.   Even though the mailing list began to grow exponentially -- to about 8,000 by the time we left for downtown -- we were able to wrap-up the mail labeling "parties" in less than an hour and a half instead of the "traditional" four to five hours, and we could all hang-out together, and sit-back and enjoy the show. 
Like a lot things, bulk mail got more complicated, and at some point -- maybe in the early '90s -- we started using a commercial mail service to complete the task.  It was the end of calendar night -- but not the NCSA event. 
For the Freight, those years when we combined the NCSA event with the Freight event became a model for all kinds of collaborative efforts with other arts organizations, and we began to gain a deeper understanding about the role of the Freight as a center of the community of people who were committed to our purposes and activities.  In fact, soon after that we started describing ourselves as a "community arts organization" in our printed calendar and other literature, and in signs and banners posted on the front and back walls of the 1111 Addison Street showroom. 
Steve Baker