Riff Raff

Critic's Corner: The End of a Long, Long Story The Chronicle promised us a horse race but didn't even provide a winner's circle after the handsome steed, bloodied but unbowed, finally made it across the finish line. When the paper quietly hired James Sullivan as second pop critic last Thursday, Datebook Editor Liz Lufkin ended a saga that's gone through more twists and turns than a cheap spy novel. A recap for those who might have missed a chapter in this epic story: For two years now, the Chron's haphazardly tried to find a youthful counterbalance to elder critic Joel Selvin's warhorse coverage. After several flirtations with writers both in S.F. and across the country, the paper asked regular free-lancer Sullivan to fill in for Selvin for six weeks earlier this summer. Riff Raff thought Sullivan performed sassily; but then, like a Saturday night Lothario in a North Beach bar, the paper's attentions wandered. Enter the extremely well-qualified Natasha Stovall, a New York emigre who during her trial period slayed the Chron with strong copy. Tensions mounted: Both were told the job was theirs to lose. Stovall and Sullivan behaved with grace, meeting for beers two weeks before the decision to forge a working relationship. "We were pitted against one another," says Sullivan. "But neither of us wanted to be scraping and clawing at the other." Sullivan is the 31-year-old hard-working Boston transplant who's written for Option, Request, BAM, and lots of other publications, including this one. He says the changes at the paper will be slight but noticeable now that he and Selvin share oversight of the daily's pop coverage. "Supposedly Joel and I will be sharing all responsibilities," says Sullivan. The two are meeting later this week to discuss changes for the music-news section in the Pink Pages. He says he'll also make sure that important shows don't get ignored and that the record reviews stay broad. We take his word for it. (J.S.)

Save the DJ It's about time DJs receive the respect and attention they deserve. We're talking about the first Global DJ Mix Awards, held last Sunday at 1015 Folsom, which honored the talents of turntablists from around the world. There are, of course, tons of DJ competitions out there, but the Global DJ Mix Awards were broader in scope -- they included all types of DJs from hip hop and jungle to techno and house -- and the judges for the competition were members of the Global DJ Academy, a collaborative that helps DJs with health insurance and legal issues. At 1015, when MC Foxee Brown finally quit rambling, the results showed how deep the Bay Area's talent pool really is. Local DJ Doc Martin cleaned house as the best Club DJ, DJ Shadow won best hip-hop DJ, and the Invisibl Skratch Piklz were awarded the best technical trick DJs. (R.A.)

Thanks But Thanks Most awards don't mean shit. Sure, local avant-popsters M.K. Ultra got the 11th track on a compilation CD for winning Musician magazine's "Best Unsigned Band" competition, but the perks really ended there. John Vanderslice, the band's guitarist, says the group sent in two songs from its Original Motion Picture Soundtrack CD back in 1996; he'd forgotten he'd even entered. (The Mo'fessionals, another San Francisco band, were also selected, along with 10 other groups from around the country.) Vanderslice says a Musician rep who called to tell him the group had won said that the band might have a chance to perform at a show in New York. "He said, 'We're not sure we can fly you out,' and I said, 'I guess we're not playing New York,' " says Vanderslice. The best part, says the guitarist, is imagining the Musician judges -- supposedly rock stars like Tori Amos, Bob Mould, and Buddy Guy -- sitting around together listening to M.K. Ultra songs. In the end, the Musician award provided personal amusement, but didn't attract much attention from peers or friends. You want real fame? You need Travel & Leisure. Among the photos in a spread about Portland, Ore., in last month's issue was a close-up of a bicycle graced with one of M.K. Ultra's distinctive red stickers. Vanderslice's phone rang like a fire bell on the Fourth of July. Friends from the East Coast, a cousin, and, most importantly, Vanderslice's mother in Bethesda, Md., all called him to report the sighting. Vanderslice says that's the power of images and huge circulation, which is fine with him because his band appreciates pure publicity more than trinkets from Musician magazine. "We are self-sufficient," says Vanderslice, dryly. "We don't have to win a Steve Vai guitar or a wireless microphone to propel us to stardom." (J.S.)

Selvin Watch Some people complain about this recurring Riff Raff feature: They say it's mean, say it's picky. Au contraire: We remind readers that in big-city journalism accuracy is supposed to matter, and that the multitudinous mistakes made by alleged Chron pop music critic Joel Selvin cry out for correction. Latest: In his review of Neil Young's Bridge Concert Monday, Selvin wrote: "[Smashing Pumpkins' Billy Corgan] scowled his way through 'Bullets With Butterfly Wings' and 'Rat in a Cage,' his raspy yowl sounding particularly naked in front of the spare acoustic sound." For the record, the song is "Bullet With Butterfly Wings." And there is no Pumpkins tune called "Rat in a Cage" -- that's just the chorus from "Bullet." (B.W.)

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