Why It's Called a University

San Diego fans of international underground rock were excited for the December 5 Ché Café performance by Damo Suzuki. The Japanese singer is best known as vocalist for German prog group Can, which set the standard for experimental "krautrock" in the early '70s. The diminutive 57-year-old Suzuki now tours the world playing with different bands or assemblages of sympathetic musicians -- no rehearsal, pure improv.

Creating a different sort of excitement at UCSD was the bomb threat that had been called in to the La Jolla campus earlier that day. Members of the FBI's Joint Terrorism Task Force combed the grounds. A suspicious device was discovered at the Leichtag Biomedical Research Building. The feds later determined that the device was not a bomb and the call was a hoax. (Recently fired former UC San Diego lab technician Timothy Byron Kalka, 50, was taken into custody on December 9. He pleaded not guilty the next day to a federal charge of providing false information.)

"Yeah, seeing the FBI at the Ché was a bit alarming," said Sam Lopez, who performs solo under the name Zsa Zsa Gabor but was part of a special version of SD noise act Riververb, which opened for Suzuki. "I was one of the first ones there, and as I was entering the back door of the Ché, I saw this gray Ford sedan pull up in the parking lot. At first I thought that it was a group of skinheads. It must have been the patches, flight jackets, and closely cropped hair that did it....

"That night was kind of weird, too, because a residing professor was handing out extra credit to students who attended the show. So there were kids there who wouldn't normally be into that style of music, milling around, scratching their heads, going, 'What the hell is this?'... [Suzuki is] such a quiet guy, but when he gets onstage, he's a wailing madman."

In the weeks preceding the show, Kill Me Tomorrow's Dan Wise, who played guitar for Suzuki, said, "When I returned home from tour, I...had received an email advertising the show, and I was listed in the backing band lineup.... I guess I had to do it. The unorganized aspect of it made me nervous. I thought it was going to be a train wreck. It turned out amazing."

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