Riff Raff

A Fair Excuse If they stay in the business long enough, every promoter faces a disaster of a show. But promoters don't usually face catastrophes twice in a row. That's exactly what happened to Karin Conn and Steve Ringow two weeks ago at the Marin Music Festival, when the 4-year-old concert flailed for the second year. The annual event at the Marin County Fairgrounds showcases mostly local acts and one or two national headliners in a summery, outdoor setting. Last year, Conn and Ringow took a hit when a ticket counterfeiting operation scammed the promoters, who in turn couldn't pay the bands. The pair ate production costs and Marin County officials -- who had demanded that their ticket takers be used instead of Conn and Ringow's -- refused to accept the blame for letting phony tickets flood the box office. It shouldn't have happened again, but it did, or might have. The promoters blame another, unconfirmed ticket scandal and too many nearby appearances before the event by the bands; Marin County folks say they didn't see any fakes; the bands are confused. But the real reason for this year's failure is simple: apathy. Before the concert, Ringow was convinced he and Conn had booked a strong bill -- Jefferson Starship, Undercover S.K.A., Marin's Vinyl. He was wrong. "The bands simply didn't have the pull that we thought they would," says Ringow, who is also known as "Magic Steve." This year attendance dropped from 1997's 2,000 to a meager 874 people, even though the promoters say they tripled last year's advertising budget. Conn says that they grossed $13,500 in ticket sales, then were billed by Marin County for $10,500, leaving just under $3,000 to pay several bands. (Starship alone had been promised $7,600.) When a few of the groups tried to collect their cash after the show the promoters told them there had been another rash of scalpers and phony tickets, which had supposedly dug into the take. Conn and Ringow would only be able to pay half of what they had promised. "We were told that there was no money to pay us because of another ticket scandal," says Undercover S.K.A. manager Jay Siegan. When we called Conn she conceded, at first. "We had another ticket scandal this year," she said. "Fortunately we caught on to it early." Marin County officials, however, say that's not the case. "We are not aware of any counterfeit tickets," says Jim Farley, who manages the fairgrounds. "Every stub was checked and we didn't find a single counterfeit." Later in the afternoon, Conn maintained her story, but then admitted that only 10 percent of the total tickets collected were fake. Even if there were no phony tix, the festival would have crumbled because of poor attendance. Ringow says that the fault lies clearly with the bands. "We helped so many of the bands over the years and they screw us," says Ringow. "Many of the bands played all over the Bay Area in the week prior to the festival. They wore out their constituents." Later, Ringow admitted the main reason the festival flopped was that the bands simply didn't have the draw he and Conn had brokered on. Conn assures Riff Raff that all the acts will be paid in full. Will the promoters try to fix the problems next year? "We want it to continue to its fifth year," says Conn. "But I definitely won't be using my own money again, or BASS tickets." (R.A.)

Say It's Your Birthday Attend most 10th birthday party celebrations and you'll generally find kids gorging on cake and ice cream and running amok with frosting smeared all over their faces. Meanwhile, the parents will be knocking back tumblers of highballs and wistfully thinking of time's fleet feet. You'll probably find a similar scene -- set to a set or two of Boz Scaggs -- at Slim's this week when the 11th Street nightclub celebrates a decade of open doors. As a representative of Slim's early days, co-owner and R&B singer/guitarist Scaggs makes a fitting Friday night opening act for the one-week-long fete. On Sept. 16, 1987, Scaggs bought the building -- then a restaurant known as the Warehouse -- from the owners of the old Oasis club, transforming it into Slim's 333 nightclub, the only blues bar in town with an all-ages policy. It remained a blues club under the direction of then-manager Queenie Taylor, a ringer from Bill Graham Productions who brought notable acts like Albert Collins, Bobby "Blue" Bland, and Soloman Burke to Slim's stage. But the all-blues format was short-lived. The transformation of Slim's into a predominantly alternative club was inevitable, says booker Dawn Holiday. "By 1991, there simply wasn't enough blues to sustain the club," she says. The transition was one of the rockier times for Slim's. "It was rough," says Holiday. "People would walk up and have to ask the type of music before coming inside. It led to a lot of confusion, but it eventually worked out." Although the club enjoys solid footing these days, it still takes a few knocks from patrons who complain about the huge pillars that block sight lines and the gruff door staff. Holiday brushes the grievances aside. "There's nothing that can be done about the pillars if the roof is going to stay," she says, "and the door staff has to be extra careful because of our all-ages policy." Slim's anniversary week will feature a lineup of popular draws and old friends who best represent the club's past 10 years. The festivities begin on Sept. 11 with Scaggs, cake, and a few bottles of champagne. Bring the kids. (R.A.)

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