SFO3 Diary

A skinny woman in a Kiss T-shirt arrived at 9:30 to help tend bar. Someone finally manned the door. Even with more staff, the pace of work remained the same. A Polvo clone started distracting me in the background. Ordering another drink, I asked the new bartender when they were shutting down. She said either "After the second" or "Any second" and resumed her backbreaking efforts. The nuisance combo in the background, waving guitars about and singing off-key, rendered hearing impossible. (M.B.)

Bottom of the Hill Sunday afternoon, nursing a triple hangover, overbudget for booze, and shoveling down platefuls of cheap chow, I expected nothing of note. I was surprised. Slim Cessna's Auto Club played spooky neo-country music that I'm not well-versed in enough to judge but loved regardless. Clumsy Dwight Yoakam knee-swiveling, lyrics rhyming "looker" with "$10 hooker," ersatz rebel-yell crowd responses, and a spiritual that made the resurrection of Christ sound like something out of Tales From the Crypt all did right by me.

Soul Divine came out for a while, offering a sorority-band soul sound with some ability. "Able" isn't good enough. Vocals full of Linda Perry affect will always crawl upon my skin, no matter how passable the vocalist is. They looked awkward and uncomfortable in their budget glam outfits -- so awkward, in fact, that I started rooting for them despite myself. The guitarist played some leads somehow both Greg Ginn sloppy and cold-fish stiff, attributable to either genius or nerves. A balding, Calistoga-sipping 50-year-old in geek-strapped wraparound shades grooved nonstop on his bar stool during the performance. Gee, I wonder if he was an A&R guy.

I was ready to write off SFO3 as further demonstration of San Francisco's enduring rock 'n' roll mediocrity -- the Auto Club hails from Denver -- when the Gun & Doll Show began doing whatever it is they do. I strained to listen over the chatter of the audience after the first few slow arpeggios. Suspicion of artsy-fartsiness melted away when humor became apparent. I spent 10 minutes trying to think of another band to compare them to, and failed. Jokes were made on the guitar at Guitar Center's expense. The female vocalist stood statue-still picking out a minimal riff while the homely fellows behind her tumbled all over each other. I was so desperate to leave the festival on an up note that I exited before Swingin' Doors started playing. For all I know, they could be way groovy, but I wasn't pressing my luck. (

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