Riff Raff

A Note From the Music Editor Thanks to those of you who read into my blues essay a couple of weeks back, and who are still offering interpretations to the Letters section. Now, if it isn't too much trouble, would you mind actually reading it? (M.B.)

Back From the Dead, Again Several months back Riff Raff began noticing some hustle and bustle at 628 Divisadero -- the address which has housed the Vis, the Half Note, the Consultant's Lounge, the Kennel Club, and the Crash Palace, to mention a few. In the course of the space's 30-year history, it has changed hands more times than anyone is likely to recall, leading many folks to speculate that the room could never be made a real success. Still, this didn't stop avid music fans from missing it once it was gone, including 28-year-old Michael O'Connor, who began bidding on the club the day the doors shut over two-and-a-half years ago. "I always loved the space," said O'Connor. "The building, the vibe. I love the location because it's right in the center of the city. There's great energy left here from a wide variety of events. I hope to be able to integrate that into the new club." O'Connor's previous nightclub, the ultra-progressive Mr. Five's, was one of the first spots in San Francisco to focus on DJ culture and the budding new jazz scene. When it closed five years ago. O'Connor turned his attention back to the family business of furniture design and opened Catharsis, but even then he was looking for another dance club. "I knew that I couldn't afford to open a brand new space because of all of the difficulties with codes and licensing," O'Connor said. "But I didn't think it would be such a problem with a 30-year-old club. I was wrong." After nearly eight months of lease negotiations, O'Connor spent another nine trying to get the club's licenses reissued. Repeated delays forced him to cancel shows (DJ Shadow, Pancho Sanchez, and Bobby Matos among them) which were slotted for this month's originally scheduled opening. "They haven't made it easy," said O'Connor. "The process has been ridiculously slow. When Mr. Five's closed I was still considered one of the first movers in the field of DJ culture and progressive music. Now, I really have to play a lot of catch-up. I've got my work cut out for me." As could be expected, the focus of the as-of-yet unnamed club will be music, and not -- as O'Connor would say -- the peripheral garbage that usually goes along with clubbing South of Market. As to the type of music, O'Connor would only say that the spot will attract a wide variety of folks who like to dance, and, although the "feel" of the old Kennel Club is said to linger, O'Connor's expertise in interior design will be evident on opening day (sometime next month). Well-known graffiti artist Twist has also made some substantial contributions to the face lift. "It's very now," assures O'Connor. "It's not about the past, or even the future. It's San Francisco 1997." We would expect nothing less. (S.T.)

Sniff Test At the new European fetish club, Masquerade, not sporting the wool of the flock can cost an unsuspecting patron dearly, and literally. Aside from losing the sought-after acceptance of the cliquish club masses, one could end up spending three times more on the cover charge than those deemed "fashionable." The caste system is structured something like this: Those in fetish gear can enter for a mere $5, while folks in the substrata of gothic-industrial club accouterments are penalized an extra $3 dollars ($8 total), and those urchins crawling around in what the Masquerade doorman could label street clothes cough up an extra $10 ($15). However, management could simply be establishing equality by ensuring that everyone gets screwed, and not just the kinky folks. Riff Raff suggests going naked with the word "pretentious" sliced into your chest. They'll probably waive the cover altogether. (R.A.)

Symp. for the Devil "We've always said that you get out of Burning Man what you put into it. It's obvious Mr. Otis put a lot into it." That's Burning Man founder Larry Harvey talking about religious zealot George Otis at last week's press conference at Upper Haight's Booksmith. Otis is the man behind "Invasion From the Dark Side," a beautifully written story in the March 1997 issue of Charisma, a national Christian magazine. The article claims that the 10,000 folks who participated in the 1996 event in the middle of Nevada's Black Rock Desert "asked Satan to take them to hell." Otis writes that he and his colleague prayed for the participants just as Abraham prayed for the residents of Sodom and Gomorrah, but goes on to say that the masses are walking on a slippery slope toward paganism that prayer alone can't thwart. At the Booksmith, where Harvey and Editor Brad Wieners were flogging their new coffee table book of Burning Man photos and essays, Harvey took about a half hour to describe just exactly where Otis missed. Each year the folks behind Burning Man create a narrative, a play that everyone can act in. Last summer, the premise involved a bid for the festival itself: Helco, a major corporation that had supposedly bought hell out from under Satan, was making an offer for the rights to Burning Man. During the festival, the Helco plan fell apart when "angry protesters" destroyed Satan's citadel and burned the Helco corporate headquarters to the ground. The intrepid Christian reporter told his readers a different story. In Otis' version, which Harvey says he repeated on Pat Robertson's 700 Club, Satan makes the deal, ignites Helco, and then leads a ghoulish procession to torch a physical representation of the church. "In our story Satan lost," said Harvey. "In his, Satan won. But that makes sense because [Otis and Robertson] need him so much more." Harvey's narrative continued into the press conference itself, complete with costumed actors. After Helco sacked Satan last summer, the devil ended up homeless in San Francisco. Outfitted in a blazing orange jumpsuit and cursing with the accent of a New York cabbie, Beelzebub said he was working with his welfare counselor to get a job devising a Hell World theme park at Oral Roberts University in Tulsa, Okla. Harvey announced that Satan would not appear at 1997's Burning Man festival at the Hualapai Playa. "This year we are satirizing cults and paganism," Harvey said to the Booksmith crowd. Satan's replacement? "You all know her. You've all felt her," said Harvey. "Cruel mistress Gaia. Ladies and gentlemen, Mother Earth." The motley audience turned away from Harvey to watch a woman painted green and crowned with peacock feathers parade through the store. Satan, of course, could not handle losing the Burning Man gig and demanded the two duke it out. Eventually Satan and Gaia sat down for an arm-wrestling match. After a short téte-à-téte, Gaia put the devil on the floor. "You lose again, Satan," said the sprite. (J.S.)

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