By Emma Silvers
By Gary Moskowitz
By Alee Karim
By Ian S. Port
By Ian S. Port
By Derek Opperman
By Emma Silvers
By Alee Karim
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.)
Belly of the Beast "Now is the perfect time for the consumer to step up to the monopoly and say, 'No, we will not pay for expensive tickets.' Customers need to say that if they want lower prices." That's Ticketweb Vice President Andrew Dreskin speaking, and the monopoly he's talking about is BASS, the Bay Area outfit that dominates sports, musical, and event ticket sales in Northern California. So far, Ticketweb's survived in the shadow of the giant by selling tix over the Web. Dreskin's speaking out now because BASS is finally moving into cyberspace. BASS says that its first Website (www.bass-tix.com) will debut by the end of this month after an investment of more than $150,000. That means the little guys at Ticketweb not only have a challenger, but a Goliath barreling at them. After a humble beginning selling tickets for Bottom of the Hill shows a year and a half ago, Dreskin's company assembled a high-tech, user-friendly program to sell tickets over the Web for most clubs in the city, and eventually for clubs in 16 other states. (Locally, the Fillmore and the Warfield are conspicuously absent from Ticketweb's venues; they have a special exclusivity agreement with BASS.) The reliance on technology allowed Ticketweb (www.ticketweb.com) to whittle service charges down to a third of BASS prices on some tickets. For example, Dreskin points to a Chuck Prophet show at Slim's two weeks ago. Ticketweb added $1.50 to two $7 tickets, or 75 cents per ticket. BASS, on the other hand, charged $8.75 extra for the same two tickets, or over $4 extra per ticket. The Ticketweb system is successful. Dreskin, 28, says the company sold a quarter of a million dollars in tickets in '96, and is on track to quadruple the figure this year. But that's only if BASS -- which sold 4.1 million tickets last year through phone operators and ticket outlets -- doesn't get in the way. Dreskin doesn't have to worry immediately. According to CEO Doug Levinson, the BASS Website will offer only information for the next three or four months. Then, Levinson says, the site will offer form-based ticketing. (Customers would request tickets with an on-line e-mail template.) Six to eight months from now, BASS is aiming for a real-time system to sell tickets. Levinson hopes the system will eventually cut service charge costs, but he can't say when or by how much. (Despite countless technological advances in the past 24 years of BASS's existence, service charges have never dropped.) Dreskin, on the other hand, says his company is committed to keeping costs as low as possible. "Call us crazy, but we think the service charge should reflect how much it costs us to sell it," says Dreskin. That means people who buy will-call tickets off the Web will continue to pay around 75 cents, while those who use Ticketweb's new services -- a 24-hour touch-tone phone system or outlets at Bay Area Rasputin record stores -- will pay slightly more (up to $2.50 per ticket). BASS charges, by contrast, up to $4 for a $15 Warfield show; for big acts, the fee can be $8 or more. "We believe that BASS will not be able to compete with us on price," says Dreskin. "You've got two kids selling iced tea and one kid's got it for five bucks and the other kid's got it for 75 cents. Who you gonna buy it from?" (J.S.)
Razing Heller In response to journalist Greg Heller's bitchy treatment of the Hotel Utah in recent issues of BAM (see Heller's whiny guest-list-meanie-doorman tirade in issue No. 506), club manager Guy Carson chose to dedicate last Friday night's entertainment to the writer. "We just decided that the poor boy needed some love," explains Carson. "I mean, he is obviously not getting the respect that a venerable journalist like himself deserves." To prove the Utah's good intentions, the staff put together some special treats for the show, including "We Love Greg 'Fucking' Heller" T-shirts and banners, and "California Asshole" drink specials (in bar lingo, the residue left over in the bar mats). A large number of BAMstaff members made appearances, including Editor Bill Crandell and Heller himself, who was discovered at the end of the night passed out on the sidewalk out front. The musical entertainment included the Fabulous Hedgehogs, the Gun & Doll Show, and Rube Waddell. "It was a great bill," says Carson, "all for the love of Greg. I think he enjoyed it." (S.T.)
The Young and the Sexless Though Ecstasy Club has risen from this unworthy crag, soaring in warm, moist updrafts of profit and praise to seek its destiny as a cult classic, Riff Raff was overjoyed to see more of master (culture) baiter Douglas Rushkoff's illuminated prose gracing an issue of the Hungry Mind Review. The premise: "Writers Discuss Pleasure." Rushkoff's title: "Discovering Sex." Printed immediately following the engorged tale we excerpt below: an itinerary for Rushkoff's Ecstasy Club tour. The implication: a date with ecstasy, ladies -- Dougie's coming to town! (M.B.)
I feel like I've just discovered sex. The great conspiracy that everyone's been in on all along, except for me. It's been in the lyrics of the music I listen to, the subjects of the paintings in the museums, and the cut of every dress, but somehow I never realized it.
My pleasure used to be making sense. Finding patterns in the chaos. To do this, I'd go "meta." Pull myself up and above the thing I was looking at. Turn life into a play, or a play into a play-within-a-play. I got pretty good at it, too. It's why I got to write books.
It was touring for these books that I first discovered sex. I mean, sure, I'd "done it" before, but it always seemed like it was at her expense. Or, at best, a favor that didn't harm her too much. (Pathetic, I know, but it's how I felt.) Having sex on the road with women who came to my readings, though seemingly enviable, only exacerbated the whole thing. I was the writer -- they didn't want me, they just wanted the guy who wrote that book.
But then, and pretty recently, I met a woman I wanted so badly that I didn't have time or energy to "meta" and figure out the exchange rate on love. I just wanted her and, without a game plan or a resume in hand, used my body to do what only my words had done before...And that's when it hit me. All the Shakespeare sonnets, all the Georgia O'Keeffe paintings, all the Sinatra songs, all the Indian tapestries, and even Rikki Lake. Where had I been? Out there being meta, I guess.
Riff Raff riffraff: Robert Arriaga (R.A.), Michael Batty (M.B.), Johnny DiPaola (J.D.P.), Karl D. Esturbense (K.D.E.), Jeff Stark (J.S.), Silke Tudor (S.T.), and Bill Wyman (B.W.). Send Bay Area music news, band stories, or petty gripes to firstname.lastname@example.org, or mail it to Riff Raff, c/o SF Weekly. No flack, please.