Riff Raff

No, Mike, It's an All-Day Sucker What happens when several hundred gallons of liquor collide head on with a multitude of walking egos? The newly named California Music Awards, of course. (The awards are still called Bammies.) Last Saturday, all sorts of folks -- from the "who are you?"-squawking publicists to glittery-faced teen-agers -- filed into the Bill Graham Civic Auditorium to witness the aftermath when liquor unhinges the mouths of rock stars. Some highlights:

1) "We won the golden butt-plug award." (Mike Dirnt of Green Day accepting the suggestively shaped award for the best rock/pop album)

2) "To all my fans, I see you on the street we gonna kick it /Have a hamburger and kick it." (Coolio accepting the award for the best hip hop/rap album)

3) "This is the first time I've ever played a song drunk off my ass. My dad's here. Shit!" (Steve Jenkins of Third Eye Blind, prancing around the stage in a leopard coat)

4) "I can't believe I won because Sheryl Crow's rad and those other girls are fucking sexy." (Gwen Stefani accepting the award for best female vocalist)

5) "This is for Coolio for being so crazy, so wack funky." (Smash Mouth accepting the award for best single) (R.A.)

This Is the Way the World Ends On Friday the 13th, appropriately enough, Idiot Flesh will play their final show. With the breakup coming just a few months after the release of the band's second full-length record, fans are perplexed. After all, this is the album that those who knew the group thought would break Idiot Flesh nationally. For the uninitiated, Idiot Flesh are multi-instrumentalists Gene Jun, Dan Rathbun, Wes Anderson, and Nils Frykdahl, whose collective sound combines arty (Gentle Giant) and harsh (Slayer) aesthetics. The live shows -- vaudevillian nightmares of freakish costumes, fire dancing, and savage puppet theater -- are even more bizarre. Dren McDonald, self-proclaimed "creepy label guy" at Vaccination Records (the Oakland-based home of Idiot Flesh and other offbeat locals like Charming Hostess, Rube Waddell, Giant Ant Farm, and Nine Wood), is naturally disappointed that his label's banner act is disbanding. McDonald says he's going to miss the group's relentless commitment to innovation. "Even after seeing them and touring with them a million times, I still heard sounds I never heard before," he says. Ever elusive, no one in the Idiot Flesh camp is willing to explain the split. Did the concept play itself out? Were the labor-intensive performances becoming too much work? After 10 years, were the players tired of one another? Were they upset over momentum lost when Anderson got sick last October and the band had to cancel a major tour? No, says the band. Riff Raff pressed on and the group issued the following statement: As devoted practitioners of the Wrong Way, we have, above all else, our invisibility to consider. We long ago agreed that at the first signs of becoming bullet proof (i.e., achieving popular success) we would disband and head for lower ground. We leave the fanciness to you, the people, and assume the labor of the Invisible. Beware of the head-breakers. 1 = 0, A > A. I recognize you. Get away from me, sincerely. Idiot Flesh. Manager and fire-twirler Lorrie Murray brought us back to planet Earth, albeit a planet Earth with perverse contrarian ethics about success. "We've successfully completed our mission to undermine our work," she says. "Idiot Flesh is a family. And it's definitely sad, but it's the right time to re-evaluate." Frykdahl says that "musical differences" are a factor, hinting that there will be some spinoff bands "with different orchestrations." Idiot Flesh will not vanish entirely, but -- sadly -- after the March 13 show at the Transmission Theater, one of the great ritual rock experiences found around these parts in the last 10 years will be gone. (Sam Prestianni)

All That Union Jazz Yoshi's Restaurant & Nitespot, arguably the West Coast's premier jazz club, was slapped with a bargaining order by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) on Feb. 23. Back in November a majority of Yoshi's employees moved to unionize under the aegis of the Hotel Employees and Restaurant Employees Local 2850 by signing union authorization cards, a commonly practiced method of gaining union recognition. But Yoshi's management called for its employees to put the matter to a vote. The NLRB found that Yoshi's engaged in unfair labor practices. In particular, the NLRB investigation uncovered evidence that the 21-year-old Oakland club threatened to close down if employees unionized and interrogated individual employees as to their organizing activity. (It is illegal to prohibit union organizing.) The NLRB ruling states, in essence, that Yoshi's so poisoned the work environment that the probability of a fair election on unionizing would be "slight." Now the NLRB wants Yoshi's to accept the employee union at a scheduled March 23 meeting. "Our position is that all these charges are unfair and untrue," says Kaz Kajimura, a club co-owner. He specifically denies that Yoshi's did anything to deprive employees of their collective bargaining rights. He says that employees never actually voted to unionize. That's not how Local 2850 union organizer Stephanie Ruby paints the picture. She says that the initial push to unionize came from employees fed up with inequitably set wages, a lack of job security, undefined working conditions, the lack of promotion of women employees to higher-paying positions like head bartender, and a general lack of respect from club management. Along the way, she says Yoshi's consistently threatened to close if it became a union shop. "Threats of shop closure are considered hallmark violations of the National Labor Relations Act," Ruby says. But Kajimura says that the Local 2850 union twisted statements of Yoshi Akiba to its own ends. At a November employee meeting, Kajimura says Akiba told employees, "This is not the time to divide the workers or Yoshi's won't make it." Kajimura says that, at the time, the club was losing "tens of thousands of dollars a month" and was "on the verge of bankruptcy." While still denying any charges against the club, Kajimura says, "We're not against the union. If the workers go for it, we'll go for it." He says that Yoshi's will accept the bargaining order. Ruby portrays Yoshi's tactics as commonplace among businesses facing the prospects of a union. Jesse Kupers, an expediter at the restaurant, says that all the employees want is a structured work environment. "I like working there," he says, "but there are no rules." (Philip Dawdy)

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