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The Sultan of Rap Sometimes you're just laying down some soulful grooves at your favorite local club and a prince walks in, or very nearly. Last winter, Manifest Yesterday -- the funky groove collective that last week released a self-titled album -- was playing at Blues when Alawi Q. Zawawi dropped by. The 29-year-old son of the deputy prime minister of Oman was so impressed by the group that he offered to fly them to the United Arab Emirates. There, they would take up a two-week residency at the Blue Marlin, one of Zawawi's supper clubs in the maritime Sultanate of Oman. Far be it for Manifest frontman Lance B. Freeman to turn down a near royal request. "It was paradise," says Freeman, who recently returned to the States. "I recommend [Oman] to anyone who can go." During their stay, the band was housed in condos on Zawawi's palace grounds, with a staff of servants and a fleet of cars at their disposal. By day, they jet skied and drove across sand dunes in Zawawi's Hummer; by night, they entertained the Oman elite. Nice work if you can get it. "The 'Prince,' " as Freeman calls Mr. Zawawi, "is just a regular guy. He's extremely well-educated and born into incredible wealth, but we hung out with him and watched Beavis and Butt-head." Zawawi has asked Manifest Yesterday to return to Oman one day, which isn't a bad offer when you're playing gigs at local bars. Says Freeman, "A person could definitely do worse." (S.T.)

Selvin Watch: And Justice for All ... Last summer, when the Chronicle's Joel Selvin took a six-week vacation, an eager James Sullivan stepped in to cover for the top crit. Sullivan did his job and Selvin's, ably and accurately covering both music made in the last two decades and Selvin's stable of tired warhorses. When Sullivan took a three-day working vacation two weeks ago, Selvin couldn't return the favor. God knows that Young James wouldn't have botched the scene report on the Metallica MTV special recorded at a SOMA sound stage on March 21. We'll just address the mistakes as they cascaded from Selvin's word processor. First, the chuckleheaded MTV host is Matt Pinfield, not Mark. Second, someone in the audience asked for "Fade to Black," but the band did not honor the request, much less "whip out" or "ride off into the sunset" with it, as Selvin wrote. (The band actually closed with an expletive-laden cover of the Anti-Nowhere League's "So What," which, coincidentally, MTV chose to censor out of the taped broadcast.) Onward into a flurry of minor boo-boos: Jason Newsted became Jason Newstad. Selvin was stingy with the T's in Kirk Hammett's name, but paradoxically flamboyant with S's, putting an extra one on the end of "Low Man's Lyric," and moving another on the most idiomatic of all Metallica titles, "For Whom the Bell Tolls," rendering it "For Whom the Bells Toll." They tolls for thee, Joel. Speaking of which, in other, bigger Selvin news, Riff Raff hears that the man is leaving for a one-year writing sabbatical in New York. We shudder at the thought of one more addition to the Selvin library, but we're quite happy that the Chron will have to hire another writer in the interim. (Note: Riff Raff doesn't have anything against Selvin or his paper; we just like reading well-thought [and accurate] stories about pop music.) We tried to find out if the Chron would be spending two years finding a fill-in, the amount of time it took to hire Sullivan, but Entertainment Editor Liz Lufkin didn't deign us worthy of a return phone call. (Something we said?) Anyway, more on this story later. (J.S.)

One Setback Last week Riff Raff marveled at the New York Times' new weekly arts columnist, Berkeley's Greil Marcus. We're distressed to hear that the column was summarily canceled late last week. Marcus is in Europe, and the Times editors we called didn't get back to us. Details as we hear 'em. (B.W.)

Frank Zappa Should Be Alive for This Another conservative attack on rock and rap fired up last Wednesday when Assemblyman Keith Olberg (R-Victorville) held a special hearing on his bill AB 2357, which would prohibit California's $130 billion Public Employees Retirement System (PERS) pension fund from owning stocks of companies that sell "lewd" music. Olberg's argument: Rock, punk, and rap make kids act violently, and the state shouldn't invest in the practice. If enacted, the bill would require PERS to dump over $1.9 billion in music-related stocks. PERS isn't happy about the proposition. Its board opposes the bill because it will hamper its ability to invest its funds in the most profitable places. "It would be a bad precedent," says PERS spokesperson Patricia Macht. She says that the state's Constitution requires PERS to get the best possible return on its investments, not to engage in morality plays. Concerned about First Amendment issues, and maybe just a little bit about their stock prices, the music and movie industries are fighting back. They argue that Olberg's bill is a back-door attack on free expression. "It is unfair to try to chill the speech of American performing artists," testified Hilary Rosen, president and CEO of the Recording Industry Association of America. Opponents say the bill's definition of proscribed music is so broad that it would include songs that merely describe acts of violence, drug use, and other street realities. Furthermore, Assemblyman Kevin Murray (D-Los Angeles) says the legislation unfairly targets rap music, which is of course mostly recorded by African-American and Latino artists. White rockers, he notes, have gotten away with violent lyrics for decades: "Now that some black guys are doing this, it's a horrible thing." (Philip Dawdy)

Fit to Be Signed Many musical artistes have rolled their eyes at industry conventions, where the "buzz" bands have been targeted months beforehand and A&R folk line up like cocktail weenies to feign dazzling foreknowledge. Still, they're a damn good excuse for a hometown showcase, and sometimes that's all it takes. On March 6, local indie PopSmear Records and the folks behind South by Southwest, the massive music conference held in Austin each spring, presented a send-off party at the Transmission Theater for several Bay Area bands making the pilgrimage to Texas. For the non-industry maw, the show, which included Mensclub and the Fitsners, among others, was simply a strong weekend bill. But something funny happened on the way to Texas. The Fitsners, who relocated from Rochester, N.Y., to San Francisco in early '96 and signed a one-off deal with PopSmear, caught the fancy of local producer Michael Rosen, whose last two projects -- Rancid and Less Than Jake -- both went gold. Rosen was so taken with the Fitsners that he decided that night to fly down to Austin to chat with his pals in the biz about the band. The buzz was on. During SXSW, industry badges swarmed to the Fitsners' showcase, at a club called Bate's Motel. The scene gave PopSmear President Scott Llamas a good view and a chuckle. "You could tell people were coming in with an agenda," says Llamas. "The badges would drop by, check out two or three songs, then pop back out. It seemed like everybody was there at one time or another. It was great." The folks at Capitol Records decided they want a more exclusive peek. Rosen has set up a showcase for the Fitsners later this month at L.A.'s Viper Room. (S.T.)

Out to Stud After a year, trendsetter KatoSpace is moving his popular downbeat DJ night "Royal Jelly" from 2925 16th Street -- the Space Formerly Known as Liquid (until a friend of Madonna's got a national trademark for their Miami club of the same name) -- to the Stud. In the past, Royal Jelly's ultrahip reputation has drawn such luminaries as Irvine Welsh, Hope Sandoval of Mazzy Star, DJ Shadow, and Gavin and Robbie Hardkiss. Now, in a larger space that accommodates after-hours dancing (until 4 a.m.), Kato hopes to incorporate live performances and interactive art with the already smoldering dance mix provided by DJs Mike Lefebvrier, Toph One, and Travis. The club opened last week. (S.T.)

Oops Riff Raff loves our readers because they hold us accountable -- as they should -- when we make errors. Like we're fond of saying, everyone makes mistakes, but good newspapers 'fess up when they do. A couple of readers told us that the song played at KUSF DJ Jason Knuth's memorial service was actually "Diamond Sea" from Sonic Youth's Washing Machine, not "bits of Daydream Nation," as we were told by two others who were there. Sorry about the misinformation. (J.S.)

"Oh here it goes again. As soon as he starts talkin' about sex, he starts talkin' about Nietzsche.": Robert Arriaga (R.A.), Johnny DiPaola (J.D.P.), Karl D. Esturbense (K.D.E.), Jeff Stark (J.S.), Silke Tudor (S.T.), Heather Wisner (H.W.), and Bill Wyman (B.W.). Send Bay Area music news, band stories, or petty gripes to, or mail it to Riff Raff, c/o SF Weekly.

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Jeff Stark

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