When I went to see Le Tigre at Soma sometime last year, I drove past the Hancock Café on Hancock Street, behind Soma and the Sports Arena. A "live music" sign caught my eye, as did four life-size statues (an Elvis, a Marilyn Monroe...).
After a Humphrey's show on a different night, a friend and I stopped by the Hancock Café to hear more music. We drove past the strip clubs and unlit warehouses and parked. We saw what appeared to be a prostitute. A tall guy stood on a corner, looking around. A well-dressed man was on another corner, shouting into a cell phone, "I'll get the money to you by Friday, don't worry."
It was a little after 11, and at the Hancock Café we saw a man carrying tables inside. He was an older guy, wearing a white apron. I said, "Oh, are you closing up?" He said, "Who wants to know?" I told him we wanted to see live music, and I asked if he had bands play there on a regular basis. He put down the chair he was holding and shouted, "Who the fuck are you?!"
"I'm with the Reader, and sometimes we write about clubs, if there's music..." He interrupted, "Are you with the CIA or something? What's with these questions? I don't know you, I don't know who you are, so why are you bothering me?" My friend smiled and said, "We're sorry to bother you. We were just looking for a place with live music, but we see you are closing." He turned to her and shouted, "I don't fucking know you either." As the smile left her face, I said, "Okay, let's go. Forget about this place." The man said something to me as I walked away, and then he started yelling a person's name. He put his fingers in his mouth to whistle, and he shouted someone's name again. My friend started walking quickly to the car and she told me to hurry.
I saw a guy running down the street toward us. We hopped into my car and took off. We debated whether or not to call the police.
I told two friends, and they called me a wimp. The next night, my friends and I returned, and the owner was in the club (which is only about 20 feet by 20 feet). He played an electric organ and wore a British police hat. He had albums all over the walls and a picture of him with Herbie Hancock; under the photo, a small plaque says the club is dedicated to Hancock. When he finished the song, he smiled and asked what we wanted. We ordered some coffee, looked around, and then left.
I found a website for his club and e-mailed him to ask why he'd become mad at me the night before. He never responded. A friend of a friend owns a business across the street, and he went in to check it out. He said the guy made him a smoothie, and when he asked, "Do you have live music?" the owner stopped what he was doing, grabbed a mandolin, and played a song. He said he'd recently learned to play it.