Riff Raff

Mark Eitzel at Hotel Utah, Clit Stop, Arhoolie Records' 40th Birthday

Hello, Pork Pie HatYou don't need a good excuse to go to the Hotel Utah; the Utah's old-timey saloon atmosphere has always been enough. Still, you'd be forgiven if you felt a bit more pressured than usual these days, what with an impending change of ownership after the end of March. Tonight, March 1, may very well be the final episode of the Wednesday-night songwriters-in-the-round showcase hosted by local jazz-pop-rockers A Night of Serious Drinking. The band's frontman, Anthony Bonet, has roped in Mark Eitzel to perform. Actually, it's more the other way around: Eitzel recently asked the group to accompany him on his upcoming tour this month, which makes the Utah gig a chance for Eitzel to try out new material from his recently finished album.

"I was hired to take care of some mentally retarded people, and I ran into Anthony," jokes Eitzel on the phone. Actually, it's a pretty obvious match; Eitzel asked Bonet's group to open for him at a Great American Music Hall show late last year, and both revel in the clever line, the artful chord change, and the whole beautiful-loser thing in general. Eitzel's last record was 1998's Caught in a Trap and I Can't Back Out 'Cause I Love You Too Much, Baby, but the former American Music Club frontman has been without a contract since the lukewarm response -- to the extent there was a response at all -- to West, his 1997 collaboration with REM guitarist Peter Buck. His former label, Warner Bros., let him go after that ("They dropped my ass," as Eitzel blithely puts it), so without benefit of a recording advance, making the new album (with producer Jason Carmer, who's worked with locals Orixa and Third Eye Blind) has been a catch-as-catch-can process, working on the cheap at local studios Toast and Pig's Head. "When you do things for free, it takes a long time," says Eitzel. "If I had a huge budget, it would've been done faster." So no release date is planned, and Eitzel hasn't even nailed down a title for the record yet. "Probably The Eyes Are Floodlights to the Mole," he says. "You know, 'the eyes are windows to the soul,' ha ha ha ha. Otherwise we'll just call it Pussy Magic."

Bonet calls what he's heard of the new tracks "positive love songs." Eitzel himself calls them "wonderful songs, full of light and shadow," in a what-else-am-I-gonna-say tone of voice. The March tour with A Night of Serious Drinking will begin at Austin's South by Southwest music festival on a bill with Daniel Johnston and John Cale, then through to Phoenix, Tucson, and San Diego, finally ending with a gig opening for Luna at the Fillmore on April 1 and 2. "They're pretty rockin'," he says of Luna. "We're pretty rockin' too, right Anthony?" he calls to Bonet.

"Uh, um, yeah," Bonet replies.

"See? We're rockin'."

Name Game On March 25, the weekly experimental music series known as the Clit Stop will celebrate its first anniversary of shows at SoMa's Delivery Room. In the past year, Jake Rodriguez has been dutifully e-mailing the local listserv ba-newmus about show announcements -- concerts which have featured esteemed experimentalists like Gino Robair, David Slusser, Tom Nunn, Matt Ingalls and others. But it was only recently that somebody on the e-mail list stopped to ask the obvious question: What the hell kind of name is "Clit Stop" for a venue, anyhow? As it happens, the Clit Stop bookings -- and name -- were and are selected by a committee of revolving members, of whom Rodriguez is just one, though he was called upon to answer for it. Not that anybody was particularly angry about the name -- just...curious. Rodriguez explains it was but one of the names under active consideration. Others: Crackpot Club, Muni's, Sphincter Samba, and Pol Pot's Czar Trap. But amid the flurry of questions and raised eyebrows, a new name's been voted on. For the anniversary show, the new name will be -- drum roll please -- Hot Rodney's Bar and Grill.

"I voted for The Boob Stop myself," says Rodriguez.

From the ArchivesThis year is the 40th anniversary of Arhoolie Records, the El Cerrito-based archival label run by the indefatigable Chris Strachwitz out of the best folk and roots music record store on the West Coast, Down Home Music. To celebrate, the label is now in the process of putting together a four-CD anthology. "We're shooting for something along the lines of The Anthology of American Folk Music," says Arhoolie's Hilda Mendez, referring to Smithsonian Folkways' legendary archival collection. The box is still in the planning stages, but the label has a gold mine from which to draw: country from the Carter Family and Maddox Brothers, blues from Sonny Boy Williamson and Lightnin' Hopkins, Cajun music from legend Clifton Chenier, and a whole host of other people later musicians would rip off and make truckloads of money from. Critic Elijah Wald has been commissioned to pen the liner notes, and the label will start promoting the set in the summer with a series of concerts around the Fourth of July, according to Mendez. 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.

 
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