Riff Raff

Working on the Bomb Six weeks ago, the time it takes for some spring flowers to grow from seed to bloom, three members of the Gun & Doll Show -- who headline the Fillmore on Saturday -- made an illegal two-hour late-night gardening run. The goal of the excursion was to promote the San Francisco band's then-unreleased record, Working on the Bomb, which they intended to do by planting a message that passing motorists could read from Highway 101. Bassist Joe Castiglione's Honda held bags of fertilizer, a tangled length of climbing rope, and thousands of alyssum seeds, small white flowers that, when planted correctly, are supposed to deliver a "carpet of snow." Riff Raff tagged along as Castiglione pulled over to the foot of a steep hill above 101 just north of the county line. Singer/guitarists Killian MacGeraghty and Shana Kingsley and a friend who wanted to help removed supplies from the trunk. Castiglione then rounded a corner, blinked at a security guard, and parked in a lot for Heald Institute of Technology. The bassist caught up with the others and the entire crew climbed a soggy ridge. Fifteen or 20 minutes later they reached a flat pitch several hundred feet above the highway, a spot that MacGeraghty had scouted days before. "It's just perfect, isn't it?" he said. From here the cars looked like streaks along the highway and the distant radio beacons winked atop San Bruno Mountain. Severe light pollution blotted out any stars that might have been in the sky. MacGeraghty had the whole thing figured out, mostly. First he picked a point about 10 feet down from the crest of the ridge. Next, someone made a line of white fertilizer parallel with the ridge. Then MacGeraghty set the rope at that point, and unrolled it about 30 feet down in a plumb line. The band members methodically traced the line, punching holes with their fingers, and placing seeds in shallow cavities. For the next hour or so, the group repeated this process -- drawing a line with the rope, estimating curves, and moving along like hunched grandmothers tending their gardens. "You know, Joe, it's funner than rehearsal," said MacGeraghty, with a fistful of seed. Finally, they reached the last point on the last letter. With completion came disappointment. "It's like a drug thing," said MacGeraghty. "Is that all?" Just then, a full moon peeked over the top of the hill. "Oh guys, check that out," said Kingsley. "That's awesome. It's a sign." "You'll never see it," said MacGeraghty. "But you know what? I'll bet we'll be inspired to come up here again because we'll almost be able to see it." With that, they gathered their things and went. Last week, a dozen days before the show at the Fillmore, MacGeraghty went to the foot of the hill to see how the project was coming along. It didn't look good. In fact, it didn't look like anything. "I have to tell you, a lot of these crazy ideas don't work. You have to keep trying. Everything that's hard is hard for a reason. Hell or high water, we're going to get a message on that mountain," he said. Why? "To read the word 'BOMB' in flowers is very Gun & Doll-ish." (J.S.)

Good Question of the Week From Radiohead frontman Thom Yorke, speaking to the audience about guitarist Johnny Greenwood, two-thirds of the way through his band's sold-out show at the Bill Graham Civic Auditorium on April 2: "You know, Live 105 refused to let Johnny play Public Enemy today. Ring 'em up tomorrow and ask 'em why." (J.S.)

Fool Hardy! Last Wednesday, on the day celebrating April Fools, Live 105 became KGAY, adopting an "all gay, all day" format. DJ Lord Martine, borrowed from the Examiner for the duration, had twice the jock of longtime 105er Big Rick Stuart. "Nonstop homopop," he squealed. "We're here, we're queer, we're in your ear -- KGAY." The song programming was inspired too: the Pet Shop Boys' "Go West," the Go-Go's "Our Lips Are Sealed," Billy Bragg's "Sexuality," the Smiths, Madonna remixes, the Supremes. We almost came out. It was a really good joke, but the funny thing is that the alternative rock -- or modern rock, or whatever they're calling it now -- station has never sounded better. For the first time in recorded history, Riff Raff, having tuned in around 10 a.m. (hey, sometimes we get to work late), stayed faithful all day long. But of course that wasn't the only on-air hijinks last Wednesday. Over at KUSF, every hour on the hour, DJs read a news release that claimed the University of San Francisco was selling the station's license. Another owner, the university supposedly said, might make "better, more responsible use of the 90.3 frequency." The DJs were convincing. Mandy Rubin, self-proclaimed KUSF "office chick," said the phone calls, both serious inquiries about the transfer and words of support and astonishment, were incessant. "It's been hell all day," she said. KFOG, a station whose listeners uniquely understand the concept of hell all day, went with a joke playlist for its "10 at 10" segment, airing a set full of big-band tunes, and a "Fog Files" phony news story that claimed the Warriors and the A's are suffering because the Oakland Coliseum was built over an ancient burial ground. The shticks would have been funnier if baby boomer Chris Isaak fans weren't already just around the corner from Glenn Millerdom. Or if sports humor was funny. (J.S.)

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