Riff Raff

Ingenuine Draft For the record, that was Dave Grohl -- the guy who played drums in Nirvana -- onstage at the Fillmore doing a Miller commercial during the MGD Blind Date concert on July 18. After the third song, Grohl stopped the show, turned to a plastic Miller cup atop an onstage bar table, and bounced a quarter off the tabletop and into the cup. "Clink." You could hear it in the back of the room; Miller thoughtfully miked the whole rig. (Remember, this is the guy who sucked Kurt Cobain's face on Saturday Night Live just to offend bigots.) Later in the show, Grohl said he was going to drink a Miller just for the hell of it. "Mmm, that cools you down," he said. "Nice, cool, refreshing Miller Genuine Draft." You could slice the irony with a spoon. Of course, as the savvy Sprite marketing execs will tell you, these days ironic commercialism is successful commercialism. Funny -- when the Foo Fighters played their first shows, it looked like we were going to get a George Harrison out of Grohl. Now we're stuck with another Ringo. Can't wait to see the credit card. (J.S.)

Well, Is Vacation More Fun Than Work? The Chron's Lively Arts columnist, Jerry Carroll, is back from his vacation. Good thing, too. We missed the daily reaffirmation of boomer taste. And we love those choppy sentences. Gives the column dramatic tension. And perhaps a little sass. Like this. But we will miss the pithy asides that ran during his time away. Reminding us of his absence, and telling us when Lively Arts would return. These snippy daily IOUs for the Lively Arts column detailed two things, mostly: Carroll's progress through California, and with Marcel Proust's Remembrance of Things Past. Here are some of them, out of chronological order. Jerry Carroll reports there is a "mighty fine zoo" in San Diego; Jerry Carroll begins Remembrance of Things Past on his vacation today; Jerry Carroll remembers now why he hates going to Los Angeles; Jerry Carroll finds Remembrance of Things Past rather slow; Jerry Carroll reports there are "many tourists" in the wine country just now; Jerry Carroll decided that Remembrance of Things Past should be read in French and has set the book aside until he learns it. And so on. It's funny because it's true. But Carroll's back, pandering once again to his over-40 (or -50) audience. Like the July 24 item about BAM's issue on the best California rock 'n' roll albums, as chosen by various music writers. (Some of the Riff Raff staff participated.) Carroll pointed out that the Beach Boys' Pet Sounds ranked No. 1 on BAM's list. Then mentioned that Neil Young was fifth, the Doors were 17th, the Grateful Dead 19th, Jefferson Airplane 35th, and Chris Isaak 41st. No mention of anyone else, probably because the list wasn't dominated by dinosaurs. A lot of post-1970 bands thankfully made it in. (The band X, for instance, ended up at No. 2 with Los Angeles. It's an old album, but not as old as Surrealistic Pillow.) Isaak was the only subboomer property noticed by Carroll, and that was merely as a transition to the next thrilling item, which spotted Isaak and his band eating dinner at the "hot new Cosmopolitan Grill." Powerful stuff. Write what you know. We'll miss Carroll's absence. (M.B.)

Critic's Corner Slim's looked like it had contracted a rash of thin hair and ill-fitting facial features last week at the July 24 Third Annual Music Journalism Awards. Critics, as a class, are a little hard on the eyes -- no secret there. But who knew they were such loudmouthed, obnoxious jerks? Sure, chatter is to be expected during the boring award-presentation part of a ceremony, but the gnomes fairly roared when MJA co-founder (and BAM editor in chief) Dennis Erokan introduced surprise musical guest Ramblin' Jack Elliott. The legendary troubadour (who used to roam the West with Woody Guthrie) tapered off on his second song, Guthrie's "Tom Joad," after kindly explaining that he and his guitar just couldn't compete with the yammering in the back of the room. After his exit, the writers received an alarming dose of Skol-Patrol, a wanky cover band who played over the crowd roar with the wah-wah-stained theme from Starsky and Hutch. Pathetic. Anyway, some Bay Area folks won some awards, presented by a bizarre array of local has-beens (Thomas Dolby) and could-bes (the female half of Imperial Teen). Former SF Weekly writer Sarah Vowell picked up a hunk of walnut and fake gold for her Suspicious Minds column. Busy hip-hop free-lancer Billy Jam won in the daily category for his account of a San Quentin visit with the jailed performer Rappin' 4-Tay; the now-unfettered MC and his manager accepted the award. Other local winners included Guitar Player's Joe Gore and Richard Johnston and Electronic Musician's Michael Molenda. We quietly offer our congratulations. (J.S.)

Short Circuit "How far can you take cacophony before it becomes the same old thing?" Andy Rothbard wants to know. With similar reservations, the bassist left local punk band the VSS immediately after a July 12 warehouse show in East Oakland. The 2-1/2-year-old group moved to the Bay Area from Denver in early 1996, but San Francisco took several months to warm up to the band's icy math rock and weirdly aggressive live shows. In the past four months, the VSS released their first full-length, Nervous Circuits, and played two U.S. tours and a European jaunt. Drummer Dave Clifford says he and the band -- who emphasized live performance -- were not happy with general audience response, which only exaggerated interpersonal tensions. "We realized there is not much that our band could do to not be consumed," Clifford says. "It was frustrating to play to a wall of people with blank faces." Right now Rothbard, like the rest of the group, says he doesn't have any plans: "I have nothing on my platter, except for lobster." (J.S.)

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