Multi-media man Larry Bob Roberts is one busy San Franciscan and has been for some years now. In addition to constantly updating his ten-year old, popular Queer things to do in the San Francisco Bay Area list on his SFQueer site, he is also often involved in some worthy community activity. Additionally Larry Bob is an active musician and member of the band Winsome Griffles about whom the London Observer Music Monthly wrote, "The gay politik is equally present in the swish Americana of the Winsome Griffles," and whose new debut CD Meet The Griffles (available at Amoeba SF) is just out. This week, on Thursday, Dec. 13th, the group will perform a release party at the Eagle SF.
AMOEBLOG: Long before your online list existed you used to do a zine. Can you talk a bit about it?
LARRY BOB: I started Holy Titclamps in 1989, inspired by queer punk zines like JDs and Homocore. I did the zine for 15 years and published writing and art by all sorts of people -- published novelists, prisoners, high school kids. Material from the earlier issues is on the website, and the later issues can be ordered from me.
AMOEBLOG: Can you describe your Queer Things to do in the San Francisco Bay Area list on your SFQueer.com website?
LARRY BOB: Queer things to do in the San Francisco Bay Area is a listing of events with a focus on live performance and arts events. Not everything is queer-specific, but the listings are of events that I think would be of interest to culturally-involved queers and friends. For people outside the Bay Area, I have my online list of queer bands on tour.
AMOEBLOG: Why specifically did you start your list?
LARRY BOB: I wanted to try to get out and go to more events, and I figured as long as I was keeping track of stuff going on, I might as well share it with other people.
AMOEBLOG: Before you started your list what other resources were there for people to find out about
LARRY BOB: People could look at calendar listings in the Bay Area Reporter or Bay Times for gay community events, but a lot of the non-mainstream folks don't send their listings to the gay press. For punk shows people can look at Steve's List. In the left column of my Queer things to do in SF web page, I link to other sites on the web where people can look for events.
AMOEBLOG: Your list has been referred to as "The Craigslist for Homos" -- Has it been a conscious decision to leave the layout/design in its uncluttered, simple state?
LARRY BOB: Yes, I like sites like Craigslist that don't have a lot of graphics and are easy to load. In the past year I've switched to using Google Calendar, which makes it easier to deal with repeating events.
Most people like Google Calendar, though some browsers have problems.
AMOEBLOG: You've written about how much the gay mags of the 90's sucked-- have things changed at all? Has the internet helped or hurt?
LARRY BOB: I think the glossy mags are still as consumerist and dull as ever. Even what is supposed to be the alternative, Butt Magazine, is full of ads for corporate fashion. The internet has made it easier to find information, but also there is so much useless information on the internet that it is hard to find the signal for the noise. Things can only be underground as long as they can keep off the attention of the internet.
AMOEBLOG: On the first page of SFQUEER.COM, under the heading Queer things to do in the San Francisco Bay Area, you have the two words NO WAR. Can you believe that Bush is still in power? Are people just complacent?
LARRY BOB: I added those words in early 2003. Maybe I should enhance their appearance so people will continue to notice them. I feel complacent myself. It's hard to figure out what to do.
AMOEBLOG: You also stress on your home page for people not to TYPE EXCESSIVELY IN CAPS. Why do you think so many people type this way?
LARRY BOB: Because they want attention for their events. I still get listings that are full of hype, which I tend to tone down, and people who break the rules in other ways, like sending graphic flyers with no text versions. I know that local event promoters are competing with big-budget Hollywood entertainment conglomerates for audience, but try not to sink to their level.
AMOEBLOG: Your list is about listing things you like, not a complete list of gay-related events in San Francisco. Does that get some unhappy responses sometimes?
LARRY BOB: I don't get too many complaints from people about what I don't list. Most of what I don't list has a high enough admission price that they can afford to publicize other ways.
AMOEBLOG: You also stress that the events you list are not strictly "about promoting the homosexual agenda, whatever that is" -- Do yo think that some people get hung up on that 'agenda' issue and lose sight of something more positive and progressive?
LARRY BOB: That statement was in response to someone saying they'd heard about an event from my list and went to it, but didn't see what was so queer about the event. So people should expect that sometimes I'll recommend doing things that aren't marketed to gays.
AMOEBLOG: Your opinion: in American culture, have gay rights fully progressed over the past four decades or is there still a long way to go?
LARRY BOB: A lot of goals that have been aimed for have not been the most vital ones. Protection from employment discrimination is more important than gay marriage.
AMOEBLOG: You are interested in prison issues: What do you want people to know that concerns you?
LARRY BOB: I have a prisoner penpal page on my website. Many people seem to have misconceptions about prisoners and corresponding with them. I've never had a bad experience with a prison pen-pal. Scammers are very rare. Most prisoners, especially queer prisoners, would just appreciate some contact with the outside world.
AMOEBLOG: How important is it for individuals to get involved first hand in their communities?
LARRY BOB: It's definitely very important. It seems like we're encouraged to be alienated. I wrote an essay called "Talking to Strangers" about getting over that fear of strangers that's instilled in us as kids that carries over to us when we become adults.
AMOEBLOG: Growing up did you imagine you would be doing what you now do?
LARRY BOB: I've played piano and done writing from a very young age, and I always got encouragement for doing those things. Maybe not exactly in the modes I'm doing them now, but being creative is something that's always been and going to be part of my life.
AMOEBLOG: How did the Winsome Griffles come about, who plays what, & do you want to describe the music?
LARRY BOB: I've known my bandmate Jack since the days of Klubstitute, but we didn't work together until he returned to town after living in New York and he insisted we start collaborating. We first played as Larry, Hall, and Jack, but after a couple years our trombonist Hall left.
Jack had been in a band before with Stark Raving Brad, so he started drumming with us, and thus were born the Winsome Griffles. The instrumentation is unusual -- I play piano, Jack switches between bass and banjo, and Brad plays drums. We play our own twist on Americana music.
AMOEBLOG: You have a record release party this week for your new CD at the Eagle bar, where you have played before, I believe. Does that space usually have a good audience and how have audiences' responses varied to your live shows?
LARRY BOB: I always like performing at the Eagle. I think because it's not a music venue every night, but just has shows once a week, it makes it more special. The audience is such an ideal mix of gay leather men and indie rockers.
AMOEBLOG: What was the first record you ever bought?
LARRY BOB: The Bermuda Triangle by Tomita (on pink vinyl).
AMOEBLOG: Can you name five of your alltime fave artists/musicians?
Momus (brilliant lyricist)
James Booker (New Orleans piano genius)
The Hidden Cameras (a big influence, especially The Smell of Our Own)
Minutemen (best political band ever)
Robyn Hitchcock (nobody has better stage banter)
Winsome Griffles Album Release Show specifics:
The Show: Tomorrow! Thursday, December 13, 9pm
Victor Krummenacher (of Camper Van Beethoven)
Mighty Slim Pickins
$5, 21+. The Eagle, 12th and Harrison.
Brady from the Bay Area Crew contributed to this report.