By Emma Silvers
By Gary Moskowitz
By Alee Karim
By Ian S. Port
By Ian S. Port
By Derek Opperman
By Emma Silvers
By Alee Karim
Silly RabbitMeet Jeff Byrd. Half man, half bunny, no shame. Last Thursday Byrd, clad in a borrowed bunny suit and toting a megaphone, made a slow walk across South Park at lunchtime. Now, there are two reasons a person might wander around SOMA in costume on a day that isn't Halloween. First, you might be certifiably insane. But since Byrd doesn't appear to be nuts, that leaves option No. 2: He's promoting a new technology. "Attention Web people," announced Byrd the bunny-man. "Attention non-Web people. We are giving away the Toadstool Video Magazine. There are no viruses on this disc. It is completely free. That's f-r-e-e, not f-e-e." A dog barked at him angrily, seemingly fully prepared to gnaw off the bunny suit if given half a chance. Befuddled small children stared at him; befuddled and cynical Multimedia Gulch types stared harder, wishing only to consume their burritos and lattes in peace. One such type would accept a copy of Toadstool "only if it's not another CD-ROM."
Tough crowd, but lucky for Byrd, Toadstool is not just another CD-ROM. Byrd is a jack of all trades at SOMA studio Mr. Toad's Recording, which handles recording and CD replication, as well as providing a home to the Toadophile Records label. Toadstool itself, a year in the making, is a combination of CD, cross- platform CD-ROM, and DVD. Byrd says that to the best of his knowledge it's a new concept, and the studio's looking into patents. But regardless, it's the contents of Toadstool that make it better than your average slab of promotional swag. Coordinated by staffer Tom Byrne with the assistance of the Mr. Toad's employees, it includes a live performance from Liar and videos from the metallic Land of Thin Dimes and post-Kinksy Applesaucer, all signed to Toadophile. Interspersed are goofball skits that promote the company as a multimedia conglomerate. Heads explode, blood runs down the floor, fast-talking corporate-types speak, and computers are consulted to run numbers. "The recording industry holds its breath awaiting the Toadophile Corporation's latest offering," says the opening narration. "This scrappy little multimedia company is all the buzz as plans are made, fortunes pondered, demographics courted."
Videotaped, mastered, and created almost entirely at Mr. Toad's, making the video disc took about a year. "The concept was to do one every four months, but we just laughed that off quickly," says Byrd. "We originally planned it as promotional materials for the band and our label, but as we got more into the concept, we decided we should make some skits, instead of it being, 'Hey, here's a couple of videos.'" They certainly have the room to work with; when the Bluxome Street space was purchased back in 1995, it was "7,000 square feet of nothing." Toadophile hit a jackpot of sorts fairly quickly: Its release of the Mermen's A Glorious Lethal Euphoria led Atlantic to buy the band's contract, and Mr. Toad's is now transformed into a recording studio, digital editing room, and CD duplication firm that's handled five-figure print runs for Steve Lucky, Indigo Swing, and the Future Primitive live discs.
The follow-up to the first Toadstool magazine shouldn't take quite so long; Byrd is planning on having another one released by the summer. "We're starting to get some ideas for the next ones, concepts for the skits and things," which will most likely include Byrd's bunny-man South Park trip, caught on videotape. "We're mocking ourselves more than anything," he says.
From the Guitar Desk ...Through no real fault of his own, local roots-rock guitar virtuoso Jim Campilongo will find himself playing as a sideman at Rickie Lee Jones' two concerts at Noe Valley Ministry on Nov. 26 and 27. Last week, Campilongo says, he got a call from Jones' management; they'd heard his work on Cake's latest album, Prolonging the Magic, and asked him to perform alongside her for the concerts. Campilongo, who says he's "99 percent sure" they won't be doing any rehearsing apart from sound checks, has scrambled to catch up on Jones' back catalog, and still isn't certain what he'll be asked to play. "I just know she's not going to play 'Chuck E's in Love,'" he says. Sergio Leone Versus Mothra, Campilongo's fourth album ("Something of a cross between 'Flight of the Bumblebee' and Ennio Morricone"), will be released in January.
From the Turntable Jazz Desk ...Last week, New York City big-indie label Matador -- which has recently moved into the world of hip hop and electronic music, with less-than-thrilling results -- signed local jazzbos-cum-DJs-cum-breakbeat technicians Live Human. The trio -- drummer Albert Mathias, bassist Andrew Kushin, and DJ Quest, a head-spinning veteran of the Bulletproof Scratch Hamsters -- released its brilliant first full-length album, Monostereosis, earlier this year on England's Fat Cat Records. A Matador rep says there are no plans to reissue that record and no immediate plans for new singles from Live Human on the label; a new disc is expected around the fall of next year.
Send Bay Area music news, band stories, or petty gripes to Mark.Athitakis@sfweekly.com, or mail them to Riff Raff, c/o SF Weekly.RiffRaff