Riff Raff

Black Comedy To outsiders, goths might seem like angst-ridden drama queens parading around in vampire pajamas. Well, they are. But goths share a dark, festering secret beneath the cloud of doom that surrounds them: They're funny. Take a look at S.F. Goth, a local Web site dedicated to all things creepy and Crowley. While you're there, examine the self-help guide titled "How to be Goth in Less Than an Hour." The step-by-step instructions suggest that goths have a ticklish sense of humor tucked underneath their corpselike exteriors. For the full version go to www.sfgoth.com/other. Highlights below. (R.A.)

Step 1: Hair, Face, Skin! -- There is no wrong way to make hair look spooky, just so long as it does. In fact, your hair style doesn't even need to make sense. If you need to shave some areas, feel free.

Step 2: Expression, Attitude -- NEVER, EVER, EVER SMILE. There is nothing to be happy about.

Step 3: Accessorize! -- Don't forget, genitals are great when pierced! I have a tire pressure gauge through mine and I couldn't be happier!

Step 4: Practice! -- Many Goths wear capes or really long clothing. If you don't have long capes or clothing, practice with items from around the house. If you have black drapes, use those.

Step 5: Social Situations! -- One of the favorite pastimes of Goths is dancing. It doesn't matter if it is slow or fast the moves are the same. ... Ever watch Kung Fu or Jackie Chan movies? Just imitate the motions you see but do it very slowly.

Step 6: Rate Yourself -- You should feel comfortable by now. ... Ask yourself these questions: Do I feel spooky? Would I frighten my friends and family? Do I look like The Crow? Could I dress like this for Halloween? If you answered yes to any of these, you are Goth! It's that easy!

Another Roll in the Hey In the early 1990s, Rolling Stone named San Francisco's Heyday Records "one of the 10 most adventurous small labels in the world." As early as 1988, co-founders Pat Thomas and Ron Gompertz were signing musicians with punk sensibility who had turned to acoustic instrumentation -- Stephen Yerkey, Penelope Houston, Barbara Manning, Buck Naked & the Bare Bottom Boys, the Aqua Velvets, Chris von Sneidern, and, loosely, the Club Foot Orchestra -- putting their indie label at the forefront of the alternafolk trend. Of course, it didn't make them millionaires and it wasn't always fun. (When Rough Trade, the company's distributor, declared bankruptcy, Heyday's entire catalog got locked away in the shipping warehouse.) Eventually, Thomas left Heyday to work for Normal Records, Heyday's German licensee. Gompertz's love of music kept him at Heyday's helm for another five years, but his attention was diverted by his own art company, Modern Options, which makes popular antiquing stains. (According to former office worker Robert Walker [more on him in a bit], Gompertz's company was producing substantial dividends, somewhere in the ballpark of $1.5 million last year.) The last record produced by Heyday was the Dave & Deke Combo's fabulous Hollywood Barn Dance, which was released in early '96. And that seemed the end of it, until a few weeks ago, when Riff Raff received an invitation to check out two new bands recently added to the Heyday roster. The bands were the very unfolk Baby Snufkin and the non-acoustic Phoenix Thunderstone. Something seemed askew. Sure, Baby Snufkin have a certain Latin tang, but it is their punkish 'tude and danceable pop-disco arrangements that got them booked supporting No Doubt's European arena tour last year. And Phoenix Thunderstone may have a harmonica player, but they're about as loud and sleazy as you can get. (Their second album was Stained Glass Trash, released on Scratchie, the side project of Smashing Pumpkins James Iha and D'Arcy Wretzkyel; it sounds like a junky cross between the Cramps and the Birthday Party.) So what's the deal -- has Gompertz been whiffing too many solvents? Actually, the trail leads back to 29-year-old Robert Walker, who, until last March, was the guy at Heyday who answered the phones, handled shipping and receiving, and made coffee at the office. Things have changed. Walker's prez now, and while Gompertz will continue in a consultant position for another year, things are sounding a little different over at Heyday. "I don't want anyone to get the wrong idea," says Walker. "This will never become a punk label. These bands are not such a radical departure from what we've done in the past. We're looking for what we've always looked for: interesting music." Baby Snufkin's latest album, Pokey in Bobo, will be released by Heyday March 15 (Bottom of the Hill release party on March 19). In April, look for Phoenix Thunderstone's new disc, Picnic With the Dead, which features Vadge Amore from the Dwarves, Stephen MacMurray from Tina Age 13, C.S. Nutting from Family Scott, Grawer from KPFA, and Re/Search author Jim Morton on mandolin. (S.T.)

Selvin Watch: The Envelope Please ... Isn't the one thing that separates, say, a daily newspaper in a major metropolitan area from, say, a fanzine its professionalism, most notably its approach to things like factual accuracy? Sometimes we think pop music critic Joel Selvin should leave the Chron and start up his own little zine. (Suggested title: Stuff I Think That May or May Not Be True, or Just a Guy Talking About Things He Might Not Know Much About.) In his Feb. 22 pink section preview piece on the Grammys, Selvin wrote a couple of weird things. "At times a crucial Grammy award has brought a deserving album to the public's attention," Selvin wrote, citing Paul Simon's Graceland as an example. Well, no. Graceland came out half a year before the 1987 Grammys, and was safely ensconced in the top 10 for months before it won. Later, he wrote that the awards are voted on by the 12,000 members of NARAS, who are "professionally associated with the record industry, from musicians to record company mail clerks." Well, no. The Grammys are voted on by people who make records: musicians, producers, engineers, and so forth. (People involved in "the creative and technical processes of recording" is how NARAS puts it.) The kids in the mail room can't vote -- unless they've also recorded six sides. (B.W.)

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