Riff Raff

Under and Over On April 11, Police and Fire Department officials raided and shut down San Francisco's most important underground music spot. In four years of operation, Starcleaners offered an extraordinary mix of punk and metal bands, performance art, a queer open-mike night, and psychedelic rock that most other venues in town wouldn't book. Every show was all-ages, and the door donation was always low and usually flexible. Where most clubs of its kind start with cockroaches, fleas, and unwashed concrete floors, then add graffiti for ambience, the people behind Starcleaners sculpted atmosphere out of bright paintings, colored lights, bean bags, and comfy couches. "We were a group of friends who started a venue in our basement because we couldn't get shows elsewhere," says Jennifer Shagawat, one of the main organizers behind Starcleaners. "In the beginning it was the Knittles, Noise Star, and 50 Million. We kept playing and then others wanted to get involved. They did, and we did 120 concerts in four years for bands." For most of the space's existence, the Mission police all but ignored Starcleaners, whose owners never obtained proper permits. Much of the slack came from the location. At 17th and Mission streets -- where you can find heroin, crack, flimflam artists, and a $5 blow job within a one-block radius -- the police just looked the other way. Eventually a beat cop told Officer Jim Ludlow, the man who issues permits in the Mission, about the space and asked what he should do. Ludlow told him that the police would shut down Starcleaners during the next concert. When the police arrived on site, Ludlow says it took him a while to flesh out the situation. "I took the Fire Department so I could do an inspection," says Ludlow. "It was a disaster waiting to happen. They were smoking in there; that's a big deal now." Ludlow issued Shagawat a citation and a fine for operating without an entertainment permit. The police also demanded that she close the space to the public. Shagawat complied. In the past several months, she and the other Starcleaners have labored full-time and flex-time to make sure that the space can legally reopen. They've installed soundproofing, put in ventilation, worked on getting more doors, and tried to bring the building up to code. Shagawat hopes to reopen Starcleaners sometime in January. In the meantime, she and the crew are throwing their third annual free concert at the Golden Gate Park Band Shell. On Saturday, Sept. 19, starting at 11 a.m., 78 RPM's, Towel, Lost Goat, 50 Million, Off Da Pigs, FUSO, Thunder Suite, Natural Fonzie, Chantigs, and the Steve Merrit Band will all play. "I want people to come to the band shell to show their support," says Shagawat. "It's important to say they care." (J.S.)

Abbey Road No matter what the old hippies say, San Francisco has always underappreciated its finest local bands. Take for instance the Monks of Doom, who, after coming out from under the shadow of Camper Van Beethoven, were stoned with indifference in their own hometown. Although the band dissipated for all intents and purposes five years ago, members of the clever four-piece are now trying to put a punctuation mark on 12 years of musical history. As playful and eclectic as the late Camper Van Beethoven seemed from the outside, California's princes of college rock couldn't provide a creative outlet for all of the members' interests. By the time the band had reached its peak in the late 1980s, much of the group had already splintered into concurrent bands that seemed even weirder than Camper. At the time, the most significant side project was the Monks of Doom, where four Campers -- bassist Victor Krummenancher, guitarist Greg Lisher, drummer Chris Pedersen, and eventual Camper David ImmerglYck -- made an earthy flaw of prog rock in their spare time. "There was really no way for Camper to embrace our love for Can or King Crimson or Tom Verlaine or Roland Kirk," remembers Krummenancher. "We wanted to play complicated music -- louder and harder -- and that's what we tried to do." In the space of seven years, from 1986 through 1993, the Monks recorded and released four full-length records and an EP. In 1990, when most of the band walked away from Camper frontman David Lowery while on tour in Sweden, the Monks became a full-time outfit, touring a rapidly waning college-rock circuit with long instrumentals, Nino Rota medleys, and prog-ish originals. They bled money all the way: As David Lowery's Cracker slammed alternative rock kiddies with that damn song about folk singers and holes in his head, the Monks took day jobs for the first time in their lives. By 1993, they'd had enough. "We stopped playing," says Krummenancher, "but never really broke up." On Thursday, Sept. 17, at the Bottom of the Hill, the Monks will gather in San Francisco one final time to send drummer Pedersen off to Australia. Krummenancher says the band will record the show and possibly use the tape with some old live recordings for a final Monks of Doom live record. If that goes well, some of the Monks are even considering an attempt at some shows in Germany and Japan. "If there is interest or money we'll do it," says veteran Krummenancher. "If there's not support, then music becomes a romantic hobby at best." (J.S.)

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