Riff Raff

Bent, But Not Broken Beanbender's, the esteemed Berkeley jazz and experimental music space, has had something of an identity crisis in recent months. Changes in ownership and rising rents at the downtown Berkeley building it calls home have thrown its weekly music series into jeopardy; meanwhile, Dan Plonsey and other members of the Beanbender's board have spent the second half of this year looking into a new venue for its showcases. Still, it came as something of a surprise when Plonsey took the stage before pianist Paul Plimley's show there last week and decided to scare the bejesus out of concertgoers by announcing that he was essentially throwing in the towel.

In truth, Plonsey was just hoping for some assistance in helping to keep the shows going. "I figured being a little bit pessimistic was a good idea," he says. Noting that he and other Beanbender's volunteers were "kind of burning out," he's eager to expand the pool of assistants, "if we could just figure out the logistics of booking and sharing the tasks, so that none of us is doing quite as much work as we've been doing."

Meanwhile, the search goes on for a new space; after this month, Plonsey says, shows will probably occur more erratically than the usual once-a-week schedule. He notes that Beanbender's received a $1,950 grant from the city of Berkeley earlier this year and is loath to move elsewhere in the East Bay. "The question is, can we continue doing it every week?" says Plonsey. "It's still a little bit uncertain." (M.A.)

Off the Cross Long-standing San Francisco punk label Alternative Tentacles actually won a court case -- again. The feud between label owner Jello Biafra and his ex-bandmates in the Dead Kennedys is still boiling, but the case regarding the Alternative Tentacles band the Crucifucks and the Philadelphia Fraternal Order of Police is finally over. As previously reported in Riff Raff, the case began almost two years ago, when the Philly FOP took AT to court over the use of a police poster for the back cover of the 1992 Crucifucks compilation Our Will Be Done. The FOP's original case for $2.2 million in damages was thrown out of court last January; undaunted, the FOP appealed but the case never made it to trial.

Two weeks ago, the Philadelphia Court of Appeals upheld the lower court decision and again threw out the case. The FOP could not be reached for comment, but AT spokesperson Jennifer Fisher calls the ruling a relief. "If they had ruled against us, it would have meant the end of Alternative Tentacles," she says. "The cops could still take it to the Supreme Court, but I doubt they're that stupid." (R.A.)

Got a Beef? A recurring topic among local and national hip-hoppers has been a recent scathing editorial in Canada's Vice magazine by respected journalist S.H. Fernando Jr., who's contributed to Rolling Stone, Vibe, and the New York Times. Fernando, who heads the eclectic Brooklyn-based WordSound Recordings (which he also records for under several aliases includ-ing Spectre), took a swing at New York's influential underground hit factory Raw-kus Records and heavyweight indie rap distribution and retail operation Fat Beats. Throwing out his AP Stylebook, the veteran scribe alleged Nazism from the two companies.

Fernando says he visited Fat Beats' New York City shop in Greenwich Village intending to get his WordSound releases distributed in the small but prominent outlet. However, he reports that the store's manager, DJ Eclipse (a popular NYC wax spinner and the DJ for indie rap act Non-Phixion), told Fernando his WordSound product "ain't hip-hop." Grinding his ax, Fernando refers to Eclipse as "a garden variety wigger ... who wishes he had the melanin to back up his weak charade." "Wigger" is a derogatory term for whites who attempt to act stereotypically black -- usually in hip-hop cliques.

"He's frustrated that we don't carry his stuff," Eclipse tells Riff Raff. "It's not Fat Beats material -- some of it was trip hop. Q-Tip, Premier, or Pete Rock come in here and buy records every week. Is [Fat Beats] good enough for them, but not for him?"

Fernando equates the stifling Nazi artistic ordinances of the '30s to the alleged discrimination by Fat Beats, who in his terms are the "Nazis of hip hop." Joe Abajian, the Armenian-American owner of Fat Beats, rebukes the charge. "Yes, we discriminate," he says. "We discriminate against all wack hip hop. Eighty percent of the shit we get [offered to sell], we turn down."

Making similar claims toward Rawkus, Fernando accuses the imprint of marketing to "wanna-be-down-wiggers," declares that "Rawkus and Fat Beats are working their con game from the bottom up," then claims that the hip-hop underground is a facade created by "white overlords." Then Fernando proceeds to plug his own artists.

"He's a punk. He's a bitch. S.H. Fernando needs to see me," says Rawkus Records publicist Blak Shawn, who worked with Fernando on De La Soul associate Prince Paul's Psychoanalysis: What Is It? for WordSound. Shawn went on to say that the answer to this quandary is simply for Fernando to "stop beefin' with Fat Beats and create your own Fat Beats."

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