Riff Raff

Cow Town It's too early to tell, but Holy Cow may get its nightclub permits back sometime this week. The SOMA nightclub lost them four weeks ago on something close to a technicality: Police discovered that Cow owner Jeff Thompson -- who bought the bar a year ago -- hadn't renewed them properly. In the face of noise-sick neighbors and stringent police enforcement, Thompson feared that the Cow's dancing days were over. Last week SFPD's Noise Abatement division began work on finding an acceptable noise level to both neighbors and club owners. "There're going to be some conditions to getting our permits back," says Thompson. "We will be forced to operate at much lower levels and put in additional soundproofing." (Though this is no guarantee: V/SF's owner recently spent several thousand dollars to buffer noise, yet the club's permits are still in jeopardy.) SFPD Southern Station Capt. Dennis Martell says the difference is a new toy, an electronic device called the "noise restricter." "It's basically a device that will be added to amplifiers inside the club, which will prohibit volume from going over an agreed-upon level," he says. "The only way in which someone could change it is by entering a secured area where volume is controlled, and tampering with the device directly." Thompson says that while the Noise Abatement team is determining the new levels, the Cow's allowed to operate as before. If everything goes according to plan, complaints from neighbors won't affect the club once everyone agrees on a set level. "The volume will be locked in place," Thompson says. "If someone complains, it can't affect us as much because we have an agreed-upon level with the Noise Abatement squad." Other club owners in the area don't view the increased meter readings as benignly. They see them as another tool for the police to use in the ongoing crackdown in SOMA. On Friday, April 24, Noise Abatement officers conducted several meter readings at private homes along Norfolk Street, which runs behind the Paradise Lounge. "Noise readings are just another means of shutting down SOMA clubs," says Robin Reichert, owner of the Paradise. Reichert says officers warned him that he was operating above noise limits, although there were no neighbor complaints. Mitch Hallerin, a Noise Abatement officer, says that cops were there for another reason entirely. "The readings were not in response to complaints and they were not for the purpose of citations," says Hallerin. "They were simply to find out the average level in which an 11th Street club conducts shows." Hallerin says, however, that the test could help police check violations in the future. "We will come back to do more readings in order to see if the soundproofing is adequate," he promises. (The police returned the following week to cite the Paradise for a noise violation.) Whether an actual agreed-upon noise level will diffuse the volatile situation between clubs and their complaining neighbors remains to be seen, but Martell makes it clear that noise restrictions are the sound of the future in SOMA. "We have to be responsive to the neighbors," says Martell. "Things have changed and there are more neighbors, and club owners are going to have to comply. We are not out to yank permits; we will be as flexible as possible in aiding these clubs into compliance." (R.A.)

Say It Ain't Sloe In most cases, the death of a bar band is no great tragedy; a bunch of guys with no ambitions beyond free beer on Saturday nights and a chance to work on their chops in public calls it quits, and the world's no worse off. (In fact, sometimes it's better off.) But the demise of the Sloe Gin Joes counts as a genuine loss: The local rockabilly trio, who approached their chosen genre with rare wit, energy, and skill, and none of the typical pompadoured flash, play their final show at Berkeley's Starry Plough on Friday, May 8, after over two years in business. The rationale is bar-band typical: Drummer Mike Burns is leaving to pursue the proverbial Other Interests, while bassist Dez Mab will concentrate on his alternate band, the Demonics. "No great reason why," says guitarist and songwriter Frank Novicki, "it's just been a struggle for a long time." The band has tentative plans to reunite briefly to record a track for an upcoming CD tribute to the Blasters, another California rockabilly bar band with solid roots and a little something more. The Joes' planned cover? Culled from the Blasters' second, self-titled album: "This Is It." (Mark Athitakis)

Overheard: Dial M for Misinformed Lest there were any lingering questions about just how popular British folk-rocker Robyn Hitchcock is here in the States, here's the latest proof, overheard moments before the film-fest screening of Storefront Hitchcock, Jonathan Demme's documentary on the singer, at the Castro: "It's not about Alfred Hitchcock?" (Mark Athitakis)

Riff Raff's First-Ever Big Contest: Still Going As we announced last week (and the week before that), we're having a big name-that-dumb-quote contest. For the past five months we've closed this column with an inane remark made on a live concert album. All we want you to do is identify those remarks. (Hint: You can find back issues of the Weekly online.) The prizes are pretty spectacular already, and -- as we promised -- they are going to get better every week. The grand-prize winner gets a priceless night out on the town with Night Crawler and -- if you're fun or interesting -- a pleasant write-up in that column. As we said, first prize also includes pairs of tickets to any show in the next six months at the Great American Music Hall, the Bottom of the Hill, and the Fillmore. (Six tickets total!) And finally, we'll let you write your own Riff Raff item about whatever you want. (Accompanying this prize is another: an awesome session with the Riff Raff editors.) The second-prize winner gets a random assemblage of rock books, some kung fu movies and strange documentaries on videotape, and no less than 40 high-quality, top-of-the-line promotional CDs, most of them produced by international music conglomerates. The third-prize winner gets 50 of said CDs, a bunch of cheap promotional items lying around our offices, and a stack of Bay Guardians piling up in the corner. The winning entry will have the most matches between the 22 quotes that this space has printed and the names of the albums they came from. Get your entries to Riff Raff, c/o SF Weekly, 185 Berry, Suite 3800, S.F., CA 94107 (or jstark@SFWEEKLY.COM), BY MAY 15 AND WE'LL PRINT THE WINNERS THE FOLLOWING WEEK. (J.S.)

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