Riff Raff

We Didn't Think It Was Bad -- We Thought It Was Terrible Last week, when CBS Radio executives marched into Live 105's Harrison Street offices and revved up their corporate WeedWacker, morning DJ Johnny Steele was one of the first to get mowed. At 9:30 a.m., Steele was nearing the close of his show -- and was just a minute from the end of a commercial break. Acting General Manager Bill Lynch called Steele and partner Lori Thompson into a meeting, where Lynch, backed by CBS Radio brass, blew them away. Steele never went back on the air. He was told to pack his junk and go. "It took everything in me to not lean across the table and spit in his face," says Steele. "But CBS owns a lot of stations." Steele wasn't entirely surprised. Ever since he started his show after longtime jock Alex Bennett was nicked last July, Steele had heard rumors that CBS was going to be bringing Howard Stern up into San Francisco proper from KOME, Live 105's retarded altrock stepbrother in San Jose. When General Manager Pat McNally lost his job a couple of months ago, Live 105ers knew changes were on the way. The bomb dropped last Wednesday. CBS Radio has concurrently dumped KOME; they sold the 98.5 FM frequency to Jacor, another radio powerhouse, and then cleaned out Steele and most of Live 105 (KITS-FM 105.3) to make room for members of the KOME staff. DJs Roland West and Web Fingers, Programming Director Richard Sands, and Director of Marketing and Promotions Gabby Medecki were all thrown out. (Live 105 wasn't our favorite station, but Riff Raff extends best wishes to those who got fucked over. We're not going to miss the puerile KOME, its safe programming, or its raunchy sloganeering.) The Live 105 office was nearly empty by 10:30 a.m. "They were chopping heads with an automatic guillotine," says Steele. The new regime is acting fast: The few specialty shows that made Live 105 worth listening to are gone; Stern and his idiotic banter will rule the morning; and the syndicated Lovelines will take over at night. "If you thought the state of alternative radio was bad yesterday," says one former Live 105 employee, "just you wait." (J.S.)

essence Has a New Look Riff Raff readers will remember essence, the lowercased local singer/songwriter whose promo-pic harpoon and ocelot bomber cap only hinted at the deep wells of talent promised by her hard-working manager. We are delighted to share the news -- and the photos to prove it (see below) -- that essence has eschewed both headwear and weaponry, if not also the decolletage, of her previous look in favor of a more sultry, post-Morissette sulk. Updates as they happen. (B.W.)

Sound Riot in Aisle 9 Minutes before Sonic Youth hit the store's stage -- located, ironically, next to the folk and country sections -- for last Wednesday's Amoeba Music appearance, an anxious fan elbowed his buddy. "Hey man, I hope we get something different today," he moaned. He was referring to the two nearly identical sets the band had feverishly played Monday and Tuesday at the Fillmore. In a typically Sonic Youth move, the experimental noise-art rockers had eschewed old, beloved songs at the shows for the new, psychedelic material from A Thousand Leaves. At Amoeba, as drummer Steve Shelley and frequent Thurston Moore collaborator (and Mills College instructor) William Winart started banging away at random, the worried fan got his wish. After a couple of minutes Thurston Moore's and Lee Ranaldo's screeching, noodling guitar scrapings joined the flailing drums. The fan left. Five minutes of free-form feedback and dissonance later, we expected bassist Kim Gordon to explain the dense indulgence. "Ladies and gentlemen, you're witnessing the latest incarnation of Sonic Youth: Noise Odyssey! Thurston Moore on lead guitar -- he wrote this." (Or something like that.) There was only one problem: There wasn't a microphone. The response to the 30-minute set was decidedly mixed. Most of the 600 or so folks who crammed Amoeba's aisles looked either downright confused or scared, or left quickly. Obviously they'd missed or forgotten Youth's last Haight in-store experiment in 1995, where Moore promoted his solo Psychic Hearts album by only playing the jarring instrumental "Elegy for All the Dead Rock Stars" for an hour. If no one remembered, the earplugs that Amoeba staffers handed patrons when they entered shoulda been a clue. On the flip side, hard-core fans -- the same ones who hate records like Goo and Dirty, while defending SY's early, shapeless ear-bleeders like Kill Yr. Idols and Confusion Is Sex -- tried to get the group back out for an encore. Our opinion? Well, it's good to see the band still giving the finger to expectation and stubbornly following their underground muse. With the members all hitting middle age, it's safe to say Sonic Youth isn't mellowing, or growing old gracefully. But nevermind all that. The half-hour headache provided ample time for at least one revelation far more important than questions about Sonic Youth's musical direction: Did you ever notice how many great posters Amoeba has lining its walls? (Dave McCoy)

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