Riff Raff

Saturday Afternoon in the Park Static Faction drummer J. Shagawat says she's frustrated in the same way other rock musicians in San Francisco are: She's offended by crass commercialism and irritated by a shortage of viable venues. But while others drown in apathy borne of frustration, Shagawat's found the inspiration to book her own fucking life. On Saturday, Sept. 20, the drummer organized an all-day concert featuring 10 groups at the Golden Gate Park Band Shell with the help of friends, bands, and a couple of tiny record labels. "All day long everyone kept asking, 'Who's sponsoring this and what is the cause?' " says Shagawat. She says those same folks seemed caught off-guard by her response: "The people here are sponsoring it and there is no cause." Shagawat sits at the helm of a collective of musicians and artists called Starcleaners, which promotes concerts in clubs, outdoor venues, and the outfit's own Mission house. Last year, she put down $500 for a deposit, $35 for a sound permit, and $400 for a Rec and Park fee to rent the Band Shell for a similar concert. This year, however, Starcleaners benefits raised the necessary cash. That and the grace of others (including a PA system coughed up by the local Rodent Records) allowed Shagawat to, as she puts it, "bring the nerds and the punks together." Sure enough, the all-afternoon show drew about 500 fans and several disparate bands, seemingly united by only independence and a fondness for thrift clothing. On the (lovingly used) nerd side: Fantasy's falsetto grooves, Natural Fonzie's pop kitsch, and the Chantigs. Leaning toward punk: the drummerless but squealing 50 Million and the Faggz. Somewhere in between (sometimes; and sometimes nowhere close): the lawsuit-waiting-to-happen known as Galaga, textural shoegazers Crash and Britany, Burning Person, the Knittles, and Shagawat's own purveyors of sonic stew, Static Faction. Like any show there were CDs, 7-inches, and T-shirts for sale, but Shagawat proudly noted that all of the event information and products offered at stage left lacked any corporate message or sponsorships. "At arena shows there are always big Pepsi signs," she says. "I don't really think we need that or Josta Cola to do what we want to do. Maybe the bands are not big and famous, but they rock." (J.S.)

Unfinished Business Like the grade-school game Telephone, the charity benefit at Maritime Hall on Thursday, Sept. 25, started with good intentions and ended up riddled with confusion. The show sold out, but a lot of people were disappointed in the shortness of the sets, and some of those who worked the show were assholes. Urban Top 40 radio station KMEL put together the quickie concert with EPMD, Busta Rhymes, and the Pirate DJs to raise money for Racial Unity Inc., an East Bay-based charity organization devoted to blurring the color line. Although the station promoted the concert for one week before the event, it was all alone. Maritime Hall left the event off its monthly entertainment calendar (though it did get mentioned on the venue's voice mail), and the show went unreported in the local press. Judging by the sold-out performance and the sidewalk mob, the newly reunited EPMD and East Coast rapper Busta Rhymes can do without the extra hype. EPMD haven't played in San Francisco in five years, and since getting back together last year they've only played three shows. Add that to the opportunity to witness true old-school rap from Def Jam's heyday at a small benefit, and pretty soon the rumors were everywhere. The problem was that as word moved around, a lot of crucial information got missed. For starters the crowd was confused when they found out that EPMD's set, like all of the others, would be limited to three songs. Oops. And Riff Raff can testify that the people at the door were first-class jerks; one ordered us off a public sidewalk, and at one point we found ourselves surrounded by a posse that was up to no good. KMEL has been sponsoring a series of concerts to help Racial Unity Inc., but the station was also interested in promoting itself: DJ Sway, a longtime KMEL fixture, says he personally asked EPMD to help out with the cause. "EPMD and I go way back, so they were happy to do the show," he says. "They're my boys." EPMD told a different story. "We have an agreement with Def Jam to do open charity work so they hooked us up with [the KMEL benefit]," says EPMD MC Parrish. "We don't really know who this benefits, but it's nice to give back to the community and it definitely helps us out too." (R.A.)

Well, No, But Thanks for Asking Fresh off our pile of press releases: "Are you one of those who still lunges for the volume knob every time a Skynyrd song comes on the radio? Well my friend, it's time you hear the Last Americans."

Yeah, But Did He Pony Up $14.99? No one who caught the television news two weekends ago could have avoided the extensive coverage of President Bill Clinton's latest fund-raising sojourn through the Bay Area. Local swanksters in the TV audience might have seen some unlikely hometown faces sharing screen time with the prez. Forties-style swing band Lavay Smith & Her Red Hot Skillet Lickers were invited to perform for an audience at the Saxophone Club -- the Bay Area's youth-oriented Democratic club -- after Hi-Ball owner Max Young recommended them to local party organizers. (Band director Chris Seibert says that Young may have suggested the Skillet Lickers because of their substantial horn section -- 72-year-old trumpet player Allen Smith formerly of Duke Ellington's band, 73-year-old alto sax player Bill Stewart formerly with Lionel Hampton, Pickle Family Circus founder Harvey Robb on tenor sax, and Larry Leight on trombone. The whole saxophone thing is very important among Democrats these days.) Smith and the gang passed the background security check (even Robb, who has a substantial FBI file for anti-war activism) and arrived at the Terrace Room in the Fairmont Hotel ready to swing. Clinton got onstage and said a few words with the band positioned behind him, giving Smith and her boys coverage on CNN, ABC, NBC, and everything else. The president kept his speech short, saying he wanted to "hear the band play." He turned around and shook each musician's hand, giving the band still more air time. President Clinton went on to compliment them on their "great style" (even going so far as to say that he really liked the flower in Smith's hair), and chuckle at the cover of their album, One Hour Mama, on which Smith is suggestively posed. When Clinton eyeballed the CDs propped up on the piano, Seibert told him to go ahead and take one, to which the Leader of the Free World responded, "Can I?" "He was very charming," says Smith. The rest of the band, even those to the political left of Clinton, agree: He was very charming. The Skillet Lickers say they hope to play Al Gore's Inaugural Ball. (S.T.)

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