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Rock 'n' Requiem The Day of the Dead was the appropriate setting for the death of live music at one of the Mission District's most sprightly venues, a place where many of the patron saints of underground rock, pop, and noise have deigned to play. The Kilowatt ended its three-year run of live shows Sunday, Nov. 2, by getting back to the base with a night of dirty boys and gritty garage rock. But since no one at the show dwelled on the club's closing, we won't either. The Vectors, a four-piece we'd never heard of, were dead men walking, providing an utterly pedestrian flip through the Ramones hymnal. Lacking charm and vigor about their buzz-growl exercises, the tepid ensemble strummed and stumbled with the bureaucratic efficiency of overly self-conscious grown-ups playing charades. The Infections, a local outfit that runs with the classic punk crowd, were predictably outlandish. Celebrating the extinct style and attitude of N.Y. punk, these four fresh-faced dudes mimicked the macho-man guitar strokes and flaccid audience-baiting histrionics of their obvious forebears, the Dead Boys. Their dumb-ass pseudo-punk posturing included insults to the audience, dick-sucking and childish sex jokes between songs, a Rolling Rock busted over the guitarist's GI helmet, and -- no surprise -- the Dead Boys' signature tune, "What Love Is." Finally, the three gentlemen of the Memphis rockpocalypse known as the Oblivians casually took the stage and proceeded to parade the zombified carcass of American youth culture through the club. The trio -- Eric, Greg, and Jack Oblivian -- rotated among two lived-in guitars and a minimal yet soundly thwacked drum kit. Using rock's essential uptight, neurotic backbeat, the band -- T-shirted, bejeaned boys next door -- squealed, crunched, and gnashed out an urgent reanimation of the shuddering orgiastic shimmy of Jerry Lee Lewis, Elvis Presley, and Little Richard. Shutting the Kilowatt with such sounds was a stroke of bittersweet genius. By the time the band strolled offstage -- without a much-deserved encore -- rock 'n' roll had again collapsed, taking with it the Kilowatt's reign as a venue that, like rock, celebrated the promise of death and the brevity of life. (Dave Clifford)

Shaking Through It is a staple in rock journalism to romanticize the hard-working, unsung backing musician. We deplore this tendency; now that the drum machine has been perfected, Riff Raff looks forward to the time when a lead-singer machine will achieve a similar currency. That said, we note with respect the departure of Bill Berry from R.E.M. The band's most recent albums have been disappointing, its last tour a charade. But in the 1980s, the group helped to re-establish the stature and tone of American rock by grafting an alluring brand of songwriting onto the energy of punk; over a long and improbably successful career, the individual band members have acted with impressive restraint and grace. Besides Michael Stipe's artsy leanings and Peter Buck's record-geek riffs, R.E.M. had going for them the secret-weapon musicality of Mike Mills and the steady foundational skins work of Berry. Mills and Berry played for years in cover bands around Athens before meeting up with Buck and Stipe. They knew soul, knew funk; they were no Sly and Robbie, but their swinging assault at once implicitly acknowledged the importance of dancing (which there used to be a lot of at R.E.M. shows), even as it refuted the laziness of some of their indie compatriots. Berry's departure is not, contrary to perception, the first breach in the band's organization: R.E.M. always considered themselves a gang of six -- the four band members, manager Jefferson Holt, and lawyer Bertis Downs -- and Holt left under somewhat odd circumstances in 1996. (A Los Angeles Times report said he'd been accused of sexual harassment.) Berry, who suffered a brain aneurysm on tour in 1995, essentially says that he doesn't want just to go through the motions. His departure isn't the end of R.E.M., just the end of a unit that, barring perhaps Pearl Jam, was possibly the last traditional American rock 'n' roll band of any significance. The remaining members are already talking brightly about their drum-machine experiments. We, uh, can't wait. (B.W.)

Come and Get It Not one to offer an easy endorsement, especially of a commercial institution, Riff Raff nevertheless welcomes Amoeba Music to its new Haight Street digs. The massive music store -- a fraternal twin to the 7-year-old Berkeley shop -- opens this Friday in the suitably cavernous 24,000-square-foot spot formerly occupied by Park Bowl. We know some bemoaned the loss of the venerable Rock 'n' Bowl, and that some neighborhood folks couldn't stand the thought of a terrific music store with an imposing selection of new and used titles on the Upper Haight corridor. For the former, we point to wonderful lanes in South San Francisco; to the latter, we say go back to your own record shop and sulk. (J.D.P.)

Banda on the Run San Francisco was good to Los Super Elegantes, but Mexico City was better. In less than a year and a half spent in the Mexican metropolis, the Elegantes signed with a major label, recorded their first album, and even got themselves booked at a music and arts festival in Johannesburg. And that's not even the real news: The group's also produced a pilot for a TV soap opera starring itself and has a couple of big names -- filmmakers Pedro Almodovar and David Lynch -- interested in doing more. OK, the whole story is a little bizarre -- kind of like Los Super Elegantes' mariachi-punk performances -- so we're going to play it slow. Martiniano Crozet, who grew up in Buenos Aires, and his partner, Tijuana native Milena Muzquiz, met a few years back at the California College of Arts and Crafts in Oakland. The band was formed as a lark in 1995, but was well enough received for the pair to keep at the sound, which combines their Spanish vocals with hyper rock songs and Latin guitar atmospherics. They did fine in the Bay Area, but Crozet says the duo knew they could do even better in Mexico. In Mexico City they put together another set of musicians, and before long were working on a record, Devorame, for the very major label BMG. Not just a record -- a concept record, the soundtrack to an imaginary TV soap opera. That and the pervasive soap opera devotion in Mexico got the band thinking: Why not write a real soap opera? The pair came up with a plot loosely based around the band. The two singers, of course, star: Muzquiz as a virginal innocent, Crozet as a karate teacher. The two end up on the wrong side of the law and go underground by joining a band and touring. They funded the pilot themselves; now they've got MTV Latino and others bidding on it. Meanwhile, through a convoluted set of circumstances, Muzquiz and Crozet ended up talking with Almodovar (the flamboyant auteur of Tie Me Up, Tie Me Down and many other wild films), who said he'd been looking for a vehicle for a Twin Peaks-style TV series. (An early Almodovar film, Labyrinth of Passion, is about a Middle Eastern terrorist who hides out in a rock band.) Almodovar told them to call his pal Lynch, who has since expressed interest in designing the band's stage set and by extension the look of the series. They're taking a meeting with him in January. Whew. Los Super Elegantes finished a smallish U.S. tour at the Paradise Lounge two weeks ago. For the next month they'll be in Mexico City, then Spain, and finally, Los Angeles, where the two plan to settle. Muzquiz says they're deeply influenced by both Almodovar and Lynch and are beside themselves at the chance to work with either. She notes that the directors are getting something out of the deal, too. "For them, in those high places, you know -- they want to work with club people, with people on the street, punks." (J.S.)

Riff Raff riffraff: Robert Arriaga (R.A.), Johnny DiPaola (J.D.P.), Karl D. Esturbense (K.D.E.), Jeff Stark (J.S.), Silke Tudor (S.T.), Heather Wisner (H.W.), and Bill Wyman (B.W.). Send Bay Area music news, band stories, or petty gripes to jstark@sfweekly.com, or mail it to Riff Raff, c/o SF Weekly.

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Jeff Stark

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Silke Tudor

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Heather Wisner

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Bill Wyman

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Johnny DiPaola

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Robert Arriaga

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Karl D. Esturbense

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  • Nevada City and the South Yuba River: A gold country getaway

    Nestled in the green pine-covered hills of the Northern Sierra Nevada is the Gold Rush town of Nevada City. Beautiful Victorian houses line the streets, keeping the old-time charm alive, and a vibrant downtown is home to world-class art, theater and music. The nearby South Yuba River State Park is known for its emerald swimming holes during the summer and radiant leaf colors during autumn. These days the gold panning is more for tourists than prospectors, but the gold miner spirit is still in the air.

    South Yuba River State Park and Swimming Holes:
    The park runs along and below 20 miles of the South Yuba River, offering hiking, mountain biking, gold panning and swimming. The Highway 49 bridge swimming hole is seven-miles northwest of Nevada City where Highway 49 crosses the South Yuba River. Parking is readily available and it is a short, steep hike to a stunning swimming hole beneath a footbridge. For the more intrepid, trails extend along the river with access to secluded swim spots. The Bridgeport swimming hole has calm waters and a sandy beach -- good for families and cookouts -- and is located 14 miles northwest of Nevada City. Be sure to write down directions before heading out, GPS may not be available. Most swimming holes on the South Yuba River are best from July to September, while winter and spring can bring dangerous rapids. Always know the current before jumping in!

    Downtown Nevada City
    The welcoming, walkable downtown of Nevada City is laid back, yet full of life. Start your day at the cozy South Pine Cafe (110 S Pine St.) with a lobster benedict or a spicy Jamaican tofu scramble. Then stroll the streets and stop into the shop Kitkitdizzi (423 Broad St.) for handcrafted goods unique to the region, vintage wears and local art “all with California gold rush swagger,” as stated by owners Carrie Hawthorne and Kira Westly. Surrounded by Gold Rush history, modern gold jewelry is made from locally found nuggets and is found at Utopian Stone Custom Jewelers (301 Broad St.). For a coffee shop with Victorian charm try The Curly Wolf (217 Broad St.), an espresso house and music venue with German pastries and light fare. A perfect way to cool down during the hot summer months can be found at Treats (110 York St.) , an artisan ice cream shop with flavors like pear ginger sorbet or vegan chai coconut. Nightlife is aplenty with music halls, alehouses or dive bars like the Mine Shaft Saloon (222 Broad St.).

    The Willo Steakhouse (16898 State Hwy 49, Nevada City)
    Along Highway 49, just west of Nevada City, is The Willo, a classic roadhouse and bar where you’re welcomed by the smell of steak and a dining room full of locals. In 1947 a Quonset hut (a semi-cylindrical building) was purchased from the US Army and transported to its current location, and opened as a bar, which became popular with lumberjacks and miners. The bar was passed down through the decades and a covered structure was added to enlarge the bar and create a dining area. The original Quonset beams are still visible in the bar and current owners Mike Byrne and Nancy Wilson keep the roadhouse tradition going with carefully aged New York steaks and house made ingredients. Pair your steak or fish with a local wine, such as the Rough and Ready Red, or bring your own for a small corkage fee. Check the website for specials, such as rib-eye on Fridays.

    Outside Inn (575 E Broad St.)
    A 16-room motel a short walk from downtown, each room features a unique décor, such as the Paddlers’ Suite or the Wildflower Room. A friendly staff and an office full of information about local trails, swimming and biking gets you started on your outdoor exploration. Amenities include an outdoor shower, a summer swimming pool and picnic tables and barbeques. Don’t miss the free vegetable cart just outside the motel in the mornings.

    Written and photographed by Beth LaBerge for the SF Weekly.

  • Arcade Fire at Shoreline
    Arcade Fire opened their US tour at Shoreline Amphitheater to a full house who was there in support of their album "Reflector," which was released last fall. Dan Deacon opened the show to a happily surprised early audience and got the crowd actively dancing and warmed up. DEVO was originally on the bill to support Arcade Fire but a kayak accident last week had sidelined lead singer Mark Mothersbaugh and the duration of the west coast leg of the tour. Win Butler did a homage to DEVO by performing Uncontrollable Urge.

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