Across the International Date Line Riff Raff has long had a soft spot for taffy-sweet Japanese pop acts trying to crack the U.S. market. Seiko Matsuda, Shonen Knife, Pizzicato Five -- we've been pulling for them. The latest (and most talented) export to hit these shores is Dreams Come True, which we caught at their sold-out show at the Fillmore last week. Dreams Come True is different from other products of Japan's bubble-gum factories in its willingness to mix audience-friendly dance numbers and ballads with more intriguing jazz blends and Okinawa-inspired rhythms. The group also boasts the astounding voice of Miwa Yoshida, who says she spent much of her childhood in Hokkaido listening to the likes of Sarah Vaughan and Ella Fitzgerald. She gamely sang almost her entire set in English (and nobody seemed to mind if the translated lyrics didn't always make sense). But the hourlong wait for the band to take the stage didn't sit well with the largely Japanese audience. One young woman holding a long-stemmed sunflower -- Miwa's trademark -- told us that not only would such tardiness not be tolerated in Tokyo, but that it's just plain "too American." We suppose Dreams Come True could take that as a compliment. (David Lazarus)

Words + Monitors Yes, that was Sleater-Kinney drummer and Quasi singer Janet Weiss testing her vocal cords at the Mint last week, the night before her band's sold-out show at the Great American Music Hall. "She has a really good voice," says a Riff Raff scout. "She's a little tentative as a karaoke star. She was holding the mike really tight and reading lyrics off the screen during Madonna's 'Like a Prayer,' but by the time she did 'Born to Be Wild' with a friend she was a bit more ... animated." (J.S.)

Braver The corner of Fulton and Masonic is ready to rock. Since the bar and club Brave New World died seven years ago the only music that's been heard at the quiet intersection is the sleepy sounds of jazz (from Storyville) and jukeboxes from a few creepy watering holes. But on July 17 a new club, aptly named Fulton Street, opened its doors in the old home of Pasquales Pizza (once the hangout of underage USF students boozin' pitchers of cheap beer), two doors down from the new Starbucks and across the street from Plaza Foods. The spacious two-story club offers cozy booths, two pool tables, and a bar (wine and beer only) on each floor, but owner Riley O'Callaghan says it's still a work in progress. "We're taking things slow," says O'Callaghan. "Right now we're a neighborhood bar but in three months we'll be offering a full bar, and once the liquor permits are in place we'll start on the entertainment." The entertainment won't match the mayhem of Brave New World -- where young upstarts like Green Day used to play for beer money -- because O'Callaghan is worried about noise complaints. He says that neighbors were objecting to even having a jukebox in the place, but he's since worked out a deal that will allow the bar to feature live acts. "The neighbors feared loud, drunken people spilling out onto the streets," says O'Callaghan. "We worked with the neighbors to agree to bands, but it's going to be mellow." (R.A.)

Roses Are Red/ Violets Are Blue/ If You Think Jewel's Poetry Sucks/ You Should Read the Crap Her Fans Write If you've been keeping an eye on Riff Raff lately, you probably know that not only is multiplatinum pop-folkie Jewel Kilcher a singer, she's also a poet ("Jewel Kilcher: Poet" said the graphic on the bottom of the TV screen when she appeared on The Charlie Rose Show a few months back). And if you've read her debut book of poetry, A Night Without Armor, you might also know that she's a pretty awful poet. But all the negative press has made the one-time Alaskan even more diligent in her attempts to bring poetry to the people. Indeed, she's a giving sort -- sensitive, well-meaning, etc. -- so she's doing a little something for the fans: letting them write bad poetry as well. Not too long ago, the respected literary magazine TV Guide asked fervent Jewel fans to submit their own poems. The winner (chosen by Jewel herself!) gets an autographed copy of A Night Without Armor and $500, with a matching $500 donated (by Jewel herself!!) to a charity of the winner's choosing. Over 5,000 entries later, the winners of the contest were announced about two weeks ago. Riff Raff offers congratulations to Joe Householder, a 33-year-old broadcaster from Houston, Texas, for his lament about his inability to catch insects or get a girlfriend when he hit puberty. A snippet from "August Evenings -- Age 14":

Those are the nights of girls and fireflies
As I stood upon that bridge
Between pure childhood and adolescence I'd
chase them both
And catch nothing.

The runners-up poems take on deep concepts like mailing a letter, a very expensive engagement ring, installing a household intercom system, God, and how breaking up with somebody feels a lot like the Kennedy assassination. The complete "texts" of the poems are available at TV Guide's, ahem, "Jewel Box" Web site: www.tvgen.com/jewel/. (Mark Athitakis)

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