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Riff Raff 

Wednesday, Apr 14 1999
The 3M Corp. Is Breathing a Huge Sigh of Relief For a while there, we were worried that tape -- you know, the stuff you put up fliers with -- was not just potentially illegal, but in truth ... dangerous.

At last week's meeting of the Housing and Social Policy Committee, Supervisor Barbara Kaufman appeared before a packed committee room and put forth her notorious plan to police the posting of fliers: have the Department of Public Works (DPW) establish a registration fee for people who want to post more than 25 fliers on poles, and ban the use of tape to hold them up. Instead of "pieces of tape flapping in the breeze," which Kaufman said she found unsightly, she proposed using plastic wrap.

Two DPW representatives demonstrated just how this might work, clumsily wrapping a flier around a wastebasket, resulting in 1) an unreadable flier, and 2) a whole lot of plastic wrap being used. DPW representatives also mentioned two cases in which city workers had filed workers' compensation claims due to injuries resulting from particulates from dried tape adhesive entering their eyes (Aleeta VanRunkle of the City Attorney's Office says she hasn't heard of any such claims, though that doesn't mean such a claim wasn't made. She also finds the claim "highly unusual." So do we.)

But with protesters lining up to complain and city officials noting that maybe, just maybe, using plastic wrap wastes a whole lot of non-biodegradable material, Kaufman amended her proposal at the end of the meeting, increasing the number of fliers one can post without having to pay registration fees to 50 or more, and allowing the use of tape.

"She could have saved herself a lot of grief if she did that earlier," says Peter Doty of the Ad-Hoc Committee to Defend Free Speech in San Francisco. Kaufman's amended plan goes back to the Housing and Social Policy Committee on April 20, though much of what the Ad-Hoc Committee wanted has been given to it. While he's still displeased with Rick Thurber's routine removal of fliers around town, Doty says, "I'm surprised that I'm getting into the position of almost supporting this." Call off the dogs -- you need only use plastic wrap to preserve last night's casserole. (Mark Athitakis)

Life Is Sweet's For 55 years, from 1924 to 1979, the building at 1933 Broadway in downtown Oakland was a regular haven for ballroom dancing. Founded by William Sweet, a professor of agriculture at UC Berkeley, for the first six years of its existence the second-floor space above the J.J. Newberry's five-and-dime store lived a vibrant life as Sweet's Ballroom, where big band orchestras would perform for audiences both black and white. But not at the same time; Duke Ellington played a "whites-only" show there in 1931.

Times change, and over the years the Sweet's Ballroom name moved to different locations throughout Oakland before finally being laid to rest in 1965 -- but not before it played host to an amazing cast of musicians: Benny Goodman, Tommy Dorsey, Glenn Miller, Count Basie, and Les Brown among others, including a 1939 appearance by Frank Sinatra.

Now, however, the Sweet's Ballroom name -- and its original Broadway location -- is getting a refurbishing job. The 1,000-person-capacity venue is currently being remodeled, brought up to code, and slated to host name-act live shows, potentially providing the East Bay with a contender to compete with San Francisco midsize venues.

Thank God. No, really. The building is owned and operated by the University of Creation Spirituality, which is headed by the Rev. Matthew Fox, a former Dominican priest. "Creation Spirituality is about bringing science, mysticism and art together to allow the spirit to flow and humans to recover their deep and spiritual selves," Fox wrote in the UCS prospectus upon the church's founding in 1996. To that end, the UCS has been holding monthly "Techno-Cosmic Masses" in the abandoned ballroom, melanges of techno rave and religious rapture with lots of lights and New Age-y theorizing.

"It's under way," says a tight-lipped Mel Bricker, assistant to Fox, regarding the current renovations and plans for shows unrelated to UCS. Much of the cleanup job is being done by volunteers, and Linda Lowrance of Oakland-based Lowrance Productions is handling the booking for upcoming shows. Lowrance did not return phone calls for comment, but according to Laurie Murray, who is assisting with promotions and booking, shows at Sweet's Ballroom will be "open format for the first year or so," to test out what works and what doesn't. (M.A.)

There're JoJo Wannabes? In response to last week's column about Brain Wash's permit problems and its weekly music showcase's move to the Paradise Lounge, angry Riff Raff reader Martha Hughes writes:

I can't believe you used an entire page on an Ian Brennan show [we used an entire half page]. Not only are those shows mediocre ... they don't represent half of the music out there!

To your probably total surprise, there is a growing metal scene in San Francisco! I know this must be a shock, but let me clue you in......the Saturday before last, the polish [sic] death metal powerhouse, Vader, cruised into town and packed (I said, packed!) Club Cocodrie on a Saturday afternoon... May I dare say that each member of Vader has more talent in his little pinky than an entire group that usually plays at the Paradise.

Perhaps you don't care for metal, that's your choice. I hate pop and hip hop. But please note in the back of your brain that we are here, and we're gaining numbers. We are a force to be reckoned with, and I'm sure your readers would love to know that there's more out there than JoJo wanna-bes and drug dealers-turned rappers.

Hughes was kind enough to provide a list of "kick-ass local bands to check out," to wit: Vile, Exhumed, Sangre Amado, Old Grandad, Lost Goat, Abscess, Weakling, Ebola, Impaled, and so forth.

The letter knocked us for a loop -- we were busy listening to Britney Spears when it came in over the transom. But let us be clear: While Cradle of Filth and similar black metal acts usually just make us giggle, we'll proudly defend any band's right to play 5,000bpm rhythms and offer us lyrics like "In a tongue hilted in invective rectums/ Over signs and seals the sorceress prayed." We've always wondered how the seals felt about that. (M.A.)

Send Bay Area music news, band stories, or petty gripes to, or mail it to Riff Raff, c/o SF Weekly.

About The Author

Mark Athitakis


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  • Nevada City and the South Yuba River: A gold country getaway

    Nestled in the green pine-covered hills of the Northern Sierra Nevada is the Gold Rush town of Nevada City. Beautiful Victorian houses line the streets, keeping the old-time charm alive, and a vibrant downtown is home to world-class art, theater and music. The nearby South Yuba River State Park is known for its emerald swimming holes during the summer and radiant leaf colors during autumn. These days the gold panning is more for tourists than prospectors, but the gold miner spirit is still in the air.

    South Yuba River State Park and Swimming Holes:
    The park runs along and below 20 miles of the South Yuba River, offering hiking, mountain biking, gold panning and swimming. The Highway 49 bridge swimming hole is seven-miles northwest of Nevada City where Highway 49 crosses the South Yuba River. Parking is readily available and it is a short, steep hike to a stunning swimming hole beneath a footbridge. For the more intrepid, trails extend along the river with access to secluded swim spots. The Bridgeport swimming hole has calm waters and a sandy beach -- good for families and cookouts -- and is located 14 miles northwest of Nevada City. Be sure to write down directions before heading out, GPS may not be available. Most swimming holes on the South Yuba River are best from July to September, while winter and spring can bring dangerous rapids. Always know the current before jumping in!

    Downtown Nevada City
    The welcoming, walkable downtown of Nevada City is laid back, yet full of life. Start your day at the cozy South Pine Cafe (110 S Pine St.) with a lobster benedict or a spicy Jamaican tofu scramble. Then stroll the streets and stop into the shop Kitkitdizzi (423 Broad St.) for handcrafted goods unique to the region, vintage wears and local art “all with California gold rush swagger,” as stated by owners Carrie Hawthorne and Kira Westly. Surrounded by Gold Rush history, modern gold jewelry is made from locally found nuggets and is found at Utopian Stone Custom Jewelers (301 Broad St.). For a coffee shop with Victorian charm try The Curly Wolf (217 Broad St.), an espresso house and music venue with German pastries and light fare. A perfect way to cool down during the hot summer months can be found at Treats (110 York St.) , an artisan ice cream shop with flavors like pear ginger sorbet or vegan chai coconut. Nightlife is aplenty with music halls, alehouses or dive bars like the Mine Shaft Saloon (222 Broad St.).

    The Willo Steakhouse (16898 State Hwy 49, Nevada City)
    Along Highway 49, just west of Nevada City, is The Willo, a classic roadhouse and bar where you’re welcomed by the smell of steak and a dining room full of locals. In 1947 a Quonset hut (a semi-cylindrical building) was purchased from the US Army and transported to its current location, and opened as a bar, which became popular with lumberjacks and miners. The bar was passed down through the decades and a covered structure was added to enlarge the bar and create a dining area. The original Quonset beams are still visible in the bar and current owners Mike Byrne and Nancy Wilson keep the roadhouse tradition going with carefully aged New York steaks and house made ingredients. Pair your steak or fish with a local wine, such as the Rough and Ready Red, or bring your own for a small corkage fee. Check the website for specials, such as rib-eye on Fridays.

    Outside Inn (575 E Broad St.)
    A 16-room motel a short walk from downtown, each room features a unique décor, such as the Paddlers’ Suite or the Wildflower Room. A friendly staff and an office full of information about local trails, swimming and biking gets you started on your outdoor exploration. Amenities include an outdoor shower, a summer swimming pool and picnic tables and barbeques. Don’t miss the free vegetable cart just outside the motel in the mornings.

    Written and photographed by Beth LaBerge for the SF Weekly.

  • Arcade Fire at Shoreline
    Arcade Fire opened their US tour at Shoreline Amphitheater to a full house who was there in support of their album "Reflector," which was released last fall. Dan Deacon opened the show to a happily surprised early audience and got the crowd actively dancing and warmed up. DEVO was originally on the bill to support Arcade Fire but a kayak accident last week had sidelined lead singer Mark Mothersbaugh and the duration of the west coast leg of the tour. Win Butler did a homage to DEVO by performing Uncontrollable Urge.

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