Riff Raff

Who Loves Lucy? Last Friday night, master taste-maker Seymour Stein was seen feasting lavishly at Yuet Lee, and it wasn't just because he has a penchant for Bay Area seafood (though he did stay for nearly three hours). Stein, who discovered and made unlikely stars of Madonna, k.d. lang, and the Pretenders, has once again taken the helm of Sire Records, and is ostensibly looking to build up his roster. So, who was the subject of Stein's invaluable attention? Local country chanteuse Lucy Lee. Given that Stein often guides the music industry's latest direction, it is a sure bet that Lee's dinner show at the Atlas Cafe this Friday night will be swarming with A&R folks, and they won't be there to see Berkeley alum Kyle Vincent singing his KLLC (alice97.3 FM) hit "Wake Me Up When the World's Worth Waking Up For." (S.T.)

Pants on Fire Riff Raff supposes it shouldn't trust a band named after CIA mind-control experiments. But MK Ultra singer/guitarist John Vanderslice is such an affable fellow. Last week he sent us a friendly note saying that the local experimental pop band recently bought a 16-track recording deck from the Beach Boy genius/recluse Brian Wilson himself. The letter said Vanderslice came across a little ad in the back of Pro-Audio Marketplace, a tiny advertiser, placed by "Brian" selling a vintage 16-track recorder. At $2,900, it was a steal -- the perfect centerpiece for a new studio Vanderslice has in the works, and well worth a road trip to Los Angeles. According to the letter, Vanderslice drove the MK Ultra tour van to SoCal earlier this month. "A grizzled, heavily drugged Wilson answered the door, brought us out back to a work shed and showed us the deck," Vanderslice wrote. Wilson told Vanderslice he'd heard of the band, but Vanderslice said it was probably the government program of the same name that sounded familiar. The band left it at that and rolled the 850-pound machine into their van. There was such a pervasive tone of aw-shucks wonder in the narrative that we thought we'd temporarily suspend disbelief. Riff Raff gave Vanderslice a call -- it was a heartwarming little story, but he left out a few details. So what was Wilson like, we wanted to know. "He was completely out of it -- not exactly slurring his words, but not lucid." Vanderslice threw in some more stuff about the 29-year-old tape deck, and said he was just so shocked to see the Beach Boy that he didn't really have much to say. Right before Riff Raff hung up, we remembered some stories about the MK Ultra boys. Just over a year ago the band cooked up a hoax to accompany their record titled Original Motion Picture Soundtrack, supposedly a score for an independent film by director Tommy Borgnine, who had died just after his controversial work wowed watchers at the Sundance Film Festival. Remembering the Borgnine canard, we asked Vanderslice whether the story was legit. "Oh, sure, it's all true," he assured us. And so we left it at that and hung up. Five minutes later our phone rang. "Hey, this is John and I feel pretty bad." Go ahead and tell us, John. "Well, some of that stuff I told you is kind of an embellishment." What parts were true, then? "Well, the 16-track did belong to the Beach Boys, but we didn't get it from Wilson." John, why come clean now? "I was just excited about giving you some gossip, but I didn't want to get you in trouble with your editors." Nothing screws up a good prank like a conscience. (J.S.)

Punk Wake On March 27, Michael Patrick Story suffered a brain hemorrhage, ending the life of a highly respected member and supporter of the punk rock scenes of both San Francisco and St. Louis. Aside from stints with the UK Subs and Ultraman, 31-year-old Story had been the founding member of St. Louis' New Speedway Kings -- which he relocated, along with longtime business partner and girlfriend Zabet Gerber, to San Francisco in 1995. Here, Story pursued his rock 'n' roll dreams while working as a doorman at the Trocadero and the Lusty Lady, and while lending regular support to fellow musicians. As friends and family come to terms with their loss, local punkers make plans to show their support in a way that Story would have appreciated: fast, furious, and loud music. The Trocadero will host a rare benefit show on Sunday, June 8, in order to raise money for funeral expenses and the pressing of a final New Speedway Kings album, which was due to come out later this year. The show's lineup is a clear testimony to Story's influence and talent: the Groovie Ghoulies (MTV's latest power-pop breakthrough), the Actionslacks (Skene Records' indie darlings), the Smokejumpers (punkabilly with ex-Wankin' Teens), the Nukes (perennial Bay Area gutterpunks), and toyboat ('60s pop with ex-Wynona Riders). Interested parties should call 495-6620. (S.T.)

Stop, Pay Troll The worst thing about hipster clubs is the habitual contempt they show for their paying patrons. Last Thursday Riff Raff and some friends paid $3 each to see Pee play second on a three-band bill at the Mission's narrow, infernal Chameleon. The show was supposed to start around 9, but we know the Kilowatt is the only stage in town that runs like clockwork, so we showed up around 9:30. We'd been pouring beer down our throats for about an hour when we realized the Pee kids, who typically chat and mill around, were nowhere. We went over to ask the guy at the door, Justin, if Pee was still going to play. Nope, he said -- the band canceled. We were a little distraught. No slight to the other bands, but we'd paid to see Pee. So it was 10:30 and we figured if we left right away we might be able to catch London's garagey Diabolics over at the nearby Tip Top. Seeing as how we hadn't received a minute's stage show for our dollars, we asked for our money back. That's when Justin started making funny faces. After we stated our case, the doorman began flipping through the stack of cash in his hand. Finally he handed the four of us a 10. "Wait a second," we thought, "where are the other two bucks?" We asked Justin. He said that was it. We got a little flustered. We asked again. Justin shot back: "You're only asking for your money back because you're here," he said. "You wouldn't ask for it back anywhere else. No one else gives refunds." No, actually we were only asking for our money on principle, and because we'd spent at least 20 bucks on beer, and because the band we had paid to see wasn't playing, and because the first band was starting an hour and a half late. But Riff Raff didn't want to get riled up and turn "two dollars" into a mantra like that kid who haunts John Cusak in Better Off Dead. So we left. Without our two dollars. Incidentally, Mr. Justin, we would ask for our money back from another club, and that got us thinking about how other venues treat their paying customers. Let's see, last month the unpredictable Britpop band James canceled a Fillmore gig at the last minute. Not only did Bill Graham Presents graciously refund all tickets, it let everyone in to see the two opening bands for free. So, the promoter behemoth acts like it cares about its audience, while a cooler-than-fuck asshole at the Chameleon pockets a measly two bucks because we came down to the club and spent cash to drink beer. Riff Raff thinks there's something rotten in Hipsterville. (J.S.)

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