Zelig can be interpreted as “blessed” or “a chameleon like person who is unusually ubiquitous,” and Jealous Zelig, a Napa, California band with a sound that is by turns jazz, soul, country and rock, is made holy with smooth funky infectious energy. Drawing on influences from Chet Baker to Bach to Bowie and led by singer/songwriter Ross Rubin on keyboards, Jealous Zelig performed at the Mare Island Coal Shed Studios for the annual Mother’s Day Art Show last week. We’re excited to share this blazing hot local talent for this week’s Listen Up, so let’s get to it with Jealous Zelig’s 2015 live performance of “Curtain Call” at 25th Street Recording in Oakland, California.
The Mare Island Coal Shed Studios are housed in an 8,000 square foot structure that for more than ninety years held coal for the steamships of Mare Island Naval Shipyard. Three years after the shipyard closed in 1996, artist Tim Rose adopted one of the nine rusty, landmarked coal sheds, turning it into studio spaces for 17 artists. Raw and randomly divided, Coal Shed Studios is a no-frills space, set up for a community of artists who need an affordable place to work.
The artists open their studios to the public a few times a year (as well as by appointment) with low-key shows that rarely list prices for the paintings, photographs and sculptures on display. At the Mother’s Day soft-sell event last week, they welcomed us like your best friend’s Mom would whenever you’d drop by the house – come on in, help yourself to something to eat and drink, and settle into a cushy purple velvet sofa so we can catch up. In this case, the purple sofas were set up outside facing the band (Jealous Zelig) rather than the television set. Something about the afternoon felt right and real, familiar and grounded, yet ephemeral. Talking to a few of the artists, we discovered that there’s a dark cloud hanging over the studios.
At the far end of the line, coal shed building #151 is undergoing a multi-million dollar renovation to become the home to Mare Island Brewing Company. The company, now brewing in Sonoma, plans to move its operations to the new location within the next month, with a second taproom opening to the public at a later date. Their current taproom, on the Vallejo side of Mare Island looks over to the coal shed redevelopment. All nine of the sheds are slated for makeovers and conversion into retail, light manufacturing and restaurant use. Recently, the artists at Coal Shed Studios have been notified that within the year they will be offered space in a new location on the island, but they are concerned that the devil may be in the details. For the moment, Mare Island Coal Shed Studios are a fascinating outlier on an all-but-abandoned island, but the times they are a changing.