Riff Raff

Lawyer Rock Colossal Pictures -- the San Francisco multimedia company that brought you MTV's Liquid Television, among other things -- has filed suit in U.S. Bankruptcy Court against the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. In legalese, the allegations made against the Cleveland-based organization involve fraud, breach of contract, and intentional interference in the completion of a contract. (For its part, the Hall of Fame vigorously denies the allegations.) Here's the story: Colossal says that its 1996 bankruptcy was caused by the hall's failure to get the rights to various sound and film clips for several exhibits it'd hired Colossal to put together for the Ohio museum. The installations were supposed to use archival film footage and sections of old recordings, which turned out to be trouble. Says Seyamack Kouretchian, legal counsel for Colossal, "Just after [the hall] agreed to hire Colossal, it became clear that there was no budget for rights and clearances, and that the museum believed these would be donated. [The hall] had no grasp of the expectations regarding rights and clearances or copyrights." Colossal says that the project involved "thousands" of "music and archival snippets," and that it couldn't finish the installations before the rights were secured, because it would expose the company to litigation by the musicians. Michael Thornton of the S.F. law firm Nossaman, Guthner, Knox & Elliott, counsel for the Hall of Fame, tells a different story. "Colossal was paid $3 million under contract, and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame spent a lot [of money] to procure content rights." Thornton says that when the hall entered into the contract with Colossal for a set price, to complete work by a certain date, the museum also purchased a guaranty from Independent Completion Services to pay $500,000 or complete the contract if Colossal couldn't. ICS eventually replaced Colossal with JL Media -- also a target of Colossal's suit -- which ultimately supervised the installation of the exhibits. (The installation included films on various music scenes, including "Whole Lotta Shakin' Going On" for Memphis in the '50s, "Somebody to Love" on San Francisco in the '60s, and "Smells Like Teen Spirit" on Seattle in the '90s. Riff Raff wishes it could sue.) On behalf of the hall, Thornton says, "We have made every payment we were supposed to make, either to Colossal or ICS after takeover." To further complicate matters, Colossal also says that the hall requested too many changes in the finished product, and that the hall stopped sending checks to various subcontractors, who refused to continue work without getting paid. (At this point, none of Colossal's subcontractors are involved in the suit against the hall.) The Hall of Fame claims that paying the subcontractors was always Colossal's responsibility. Colossal seeks $1.2 million in actual damages from the hall, and punitive damages of $10 million more. (M.B.)

Some Like It Warm In the past year, bastions of rock 'n' roll mediocrity like Van Gogh's Daughter, MCM & the Monster, Heavy Into Jeff, Overwhelming Colorfast, and Flower S.F. all went into the remainder bin of history. The breakups of several mainstay local bands got Riff Raff wishful-thinking that a timeout period might allow for some band members to hear new music, find new creative partners, and ditch bad ideas. We were wrong. So far, we've got Readymade (nee Heavy Into Jeff), who, judging from their debut performance at the Fillmore a month and a half ago, seem to be climbing to new heights of altrock banality by mimicking those who so brazenly mimicked before them. Call them Smushed Pumpkins. And then there's Oranger, containing two members of noise poopsters Overwhelming Colorfast, who debuted at the Bottom of the Hill almost two weeks ago. Alternative rock down to the T-shirts with color-piped necks and sleeves, Oranger's rote dual-guitar anthems made the band sound desperate to pour themselves into the Live 105 cast. The only redeeming quality: three vocalists to share the blame. Stirring the pot might eventually bring new life to San Francisco's rock scene, but for now, it's the same old bland broth. (J.S.)

Too Early Halloween Bay Area goth rockers Sunshine Blind had been enjoying a successful tour with local Cleopatra recording artists Switchblade Symphony when they got the call of a lifetime: Both bands had been confirmed to open for the Sisters of Mercy during the band's only North American appearance. It was the ebony opportunity of a deathtime, one any velvet-wearing, absinthe-drinking, Crowley-reading musician in the world would give his custom-made eyeteeth for. (In fact, many newly indoctrinated creatures of the night have gone their entire gothic incarnation without even seeing the Sisters. The band's last stateside tour was in 1992 behind Vision Thing -- and indeed, the members of Sunshine Blind met at a show on that tour.) As fantastical as it seemed, the bill was confirmed. Andrew Eldritch, the gothic godhead himself, had listened to the tapes and accepted our Cimmerian darlings for this very special show. Oh! To be touched by that pale, cool hand! Switchblade Symphony and Sunshine Blind finished their own tour June 21 in San Jose and began the trek across the country to Philadelphia, where the Sisters' show was scheduled for June 28. Sunshine Blind got as far as Salt Lake City before they were abruptly flung from grace. Apparently, Eldritch had some time on his hands one night and, instead of settling down with a leather-bound collection of Edgar Allan Poe (as any good little goth should), he decided to surf the Internet, where he found Sunshine Blind's Website. And what horror did await Mr. Eldritch at that ill-fated place? Photos of the band, of course. Images that led the King of Goth to the brilliant realization that Sunshine Blind look like -- well, they look like goths. Eldritch, busily trying to distance himself from the look he helped spawn, was appalled and pulled the plug on his Bay Area compatriots. As Eldritch now knows, information travels faster on the Net than on the wing of a raven. Within a few hours, there was a dirgy clamor in goth chat rooms throughout the world. Solemn outrage and grave dismay were accompanied by a few mocking spots on MTV News. Concertgoers at the Sisters' show wore Sunshine Blind T-shirts in protest. The S.F. band couldn't be happier. "It's more publicity than we would have ever gotten had we played," says Caroline Blind, the band's singer. Clearly, idol worship only goes so far, but a few spots on MTV News ... now that's another story. Switchblade Symphony performed as scheduled before 4,000 adoring fans. Sunshine Blind were replaced by Energy Records labelmates Heavy Water Factory. (S.T.)

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