Riff Raff

No, Mike, It's an All-Day Sucker What happens when several hundred gallons of liquor collide head on with a multitude of walking egos? The newly named California Music Awards, of course. (The awards are still called Bammies.) Last Saturday, all sorts of folks — from the “who are you?”-squawking publicists to glittery-faced teen-agers — filed into the Bill Graham Civic Auditorium to witness the aftermath when liquor unhinges the mouths of rock stars. Some highlights:

1) “We won the golden butt-plug award.” (Mike Dirnt of Green Day accepting the suggestively shaped award for the best rock/pop album)

2) “To all my fans, I see you on the street we gonna kick it /Have a hamburger and kick it.” (Coolio accepting the award for the best hip hop/rap album)

3) “This is the first time I've ever played a song drunk off my ass. My dad's here. Shit!” (Steve Jenkins of Third Eye Blind, prancing around the stage in a leopard coat)

4) “I can't believe I won because Sheryl Crow's rad and those other girls are fucking sexy.” (Gwen Stefani accepting the award for best female vocalist)

5) “This is for Coolio for being so crazy, so wack funky.” (Smash Mouth accepting the award for best single) (R.A.)

This Is the Way the World Ends On Friday the 13th, appropriately enough, Idiot Flesh will play their final show. With the breakup coming just a few months after the release of the band's second full-length record, fans are perplexed. After all, this is the album that those who knew the group thought would break Idiot Flesh nationally. For the uninitiated, Idiot Flesh are multi-instrumentalists Gene Jun, Dan Rathbun, Wes Anderson, and Nils Frykdahl, whose collective sound combines arty (Gentle Giant) and harsh (Slayer) aesthetics. The live shows — vaudevillian nightmares of freakish costumes, fire dancing, and savage puppet theater — are even more bizarre. Dren McDonald, self-proclaimed “creepy label guy” at Vaccination Records (the Oakland-based home of Idiot Flesh and other offbeat locals like Charming Hostess, Rube Waddell, Giant Ant Farm, and Nine Wood), is naturally disappointed that his label's banner act is disbanding. McDonald says he's going to miss the group's relentless commitment to innovation. “Even after seeing them and touring with them a million times, I still heard sounds I never heard before,” he says. Ever elusive, no one in the Idiot Flesh camp is willing to explain the split. Did the concept play itself out? Were the labor-intensive performances becoming too much work? After 10 years, were the players tired of one another? Were they upset over momentum lost when Anderson got sick last October and the band had to cancel a major tour? No, says the band. Riff Raff pressed on and the group issued the following statement: As devoted practitioners of the Wrong Way, we have, above all else, our invisibility to consider. We long ago agreed that at the first signs of becoming bullet proof (i.e., achieving popular success) we would disband and head for lower ground. We leave the fanciness to you, the people, and assume the labor of the Invisible. Beware of the head-breakers. 1 = 0, A > A. I recognize you. Get away from me, sincerely. Idiot Flesh. Manager and fire-twirler Lorrie Murray brought us back to planet Earth, albeit a planet Earth with perverse contrarian ethics about success. “We've successfully completed our mission to undermine our work,” she says. “Idiot Flesh is a family. And it's definitely sad, but it's the right time to re-evaluate.” Frykdahl says that “musical differences” are a factor, hinting that there will be some spinoff bands “with different orchestrations.” Idiot Flesh will not vanish entirely, but — sadly — after the March 13 show at the Transmission Theater, one of the great ritual rock experiences found around these parts in the last 10 years will be gone. (Sam Prestianni)

All That Union Jazz Yoshi's Restaurant & Nitespot, arguably the West Coast's premier jazz club, was slapped with a bargaining order by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) on Feb. 23. Back in November a majority of Yoshi's employees moved to unionize under the aegis of the Hotel Employees and Restaurant Employees Local 2850 by signing union authorization cards, a commonly practiced method of gaining union recognition. But Yoshi's management called for its employees to put the matter to a vote. The NLRB found that Yoshi's engaged in unfair labor practices. In particular, the NLRB investigation uncovered evidence that the 21-year-old Oakland club threatened to close down if employees unionized and interrogated individual employees as to their organizing activity. (It is illegal to prohibit union organizing.) The NLRB ruling states, in essence, that Yoshi's so poisoned the work environment that the probability of a fair election on unionizing would be “slight.” Now the NLRB wants Yoshi's to accept the employee union at a scheduled March 23 meeting. “Our position is that all these charges are unfair and untrue,” says Kaz Kajimura, a club co-owner. He specifically denies that Yoshi's did anything to deprive employees of their collective bargaining rights. He says that employees never actually voted to unionize. That's not how Local 2850 union organizer Stephanie Ruby paints the picture. She says that the initial push to unionize came from employees fed up with inequitably set wages, a lack of job security, undefined working conditions, the lack of promotion of women employees to higher-paying positions like head bartender, and a general lack of respect from club management. Along the way, she says Yoshi's consistently threatened to close if it became a union shop. “Threats of shop closure are considered hallmark violations of the National Labor Relations Act,” Ruby says. But Kajimura says that the Local 2850 union twisted statements of Yoshi Akiba to its own ends. At a November employee meeting, Kajimura says Akiba told employees, “This is not the time to divide the workers or Yoshi's won't make it.” Kajimura says that, at the time, the club was losing “tens of thousands of dollars a month” and was “on the verge of bankruptcy.” While still denying any charges against the club, Kajimura says, “We're not against the union. If the workers go for it, we'll go for it.” He says that Yoshi's will accept the bargaining order. Ruby portrays Yoshi's tactics as commonplace among businesses facing the prospects of a union. Jesse Kupers, an expediter at the restaurant, says that all the employees want is a structured work environment. “I like working there,” he says, “but there are no rules.” (Philip Dawdy) [page]

In Other News(papers) It's been a bad couple of weeks for Courtney Love. Nick Broomfield's Kurt and Courtney, the documentary film that claims that Love drove Cobain to swallow a shotgun, continues its three-week run at the Roxie. Meanwhile, The Stranger, the Seattle alternative-alternative weekly newspaper where sex columnist Dan Savage is an editor, managed to document a nasty, longtime rumor about Love — that she stole her husband's songs. The Stranger's argument hinges on a 1991 Nirvana song, recorded on a boombox, that a reader mailed in after hearing the song “Old Age” on My Body, the Hand Grenade, a European collection of Hole B-sides. The paper has a minute or so of the songs available for listening on its Web site (www.thestranger.com). Riff Raff tuned in, and can attest that the melodies and the chord progression are awfully identical, suggesting that Love appropriated the song sometime between 1991 and 1993, when it was released as a B side of the 12-inch European single of “Beautiful Son.” BMI music-publishing records list Love as the sole writer. The Stranger's straight-faced Kathleen Wilson documents the story as if it were of presidential importance, but stops short of saying Love snaked the tune. “If in fact it is Cobain's song … Love taking credit for writing the song in its entirety is like scratching the name off a Picasso and replacing it with the name of the person who bought it,” writes Wilson. Nirvana bassist Krist Novoselic is blunter. “That's a Nirvana song. Kurt wrote that song.” … In other alt-weekly scooplets, free-lance writer Jim DeRogatis smacks Marilyn Manson biographer — and New York Times critic — Neil Strauss for some pretty serious conflicts of interest in New Times Los Angeles, SF Weekly's SoCal relative. “Strauss seems to have sold his soul to the self-proclaimed 'Antichrist Superstar,' ” DeRogatis, who's the pop critic at the Chicago Sun-Times, writes. “In the last 14 months, the young writer has served as a virtual one-man hype machine for the garish star.” Strauss and Manson consummated their relationship while the writer was on assignment for Rolling Stone in November 1996. The resulting cover story led to a ghostwriting deal that gave Strauss a reported $200,000 advance. (Strauss disputes the amount.) DeRogatis writes that in the year-and-a-half since, Strauss has continued to produce copy about the star for Rolling Stone and the New York Times. John Pareles, the chief pop critic at the Times, maintains that Strauss was merely writing about Manson because he was in the news. DeRogatis says keeping Manson in the public eye — a “bolster to Manson's controversial public image” — helps Manson sell more books. Strauss wouldn't agree to be interviewed; in a short fax to DeRogatis, he tries to explain away some dates, and to make some justification for continuing to cover Manson, but in the end, the story is devastating. Strauss can't argue with the simple premise of the article: Journalists shouldn't do business with the people they write about. The story's available at www.newtimesla.com. (J.S.)

my After expiring a year-and-a-half ago, Little My are showing remarkable twitches of rigor mortis. The screwy Oakland-based rock band, whose bent-note sparseness, quirky lyrics, and ignitable live performances put them somewhere near the middle of a musical spectrum bookended by Ed's Redeeming Qualities and Thinking Fellers Union Local 282, recently self-released The Six Fingers of Rick, its first full-length record. And next week, on March 20, the band comes together for a reunion of sorts at the Edinburgh Castle. (It's quite a bill, really: Captain Fatass and someone calling herself “Buns of Butter” will also play.) Here's the quick Little My rockumentary: Singer Nathaniel Parsons (Nat), guitarist Matt Stahl, bassist Tynan Northrop, and drummer Adam McCauley met at CCAC in 1989. The short-lived lineup never got around to releasing a record before Parsons left to pursue art — the first time. The band broke up, but Northrop soon reformed the outfit as a trio to make a record for a thesis project. She, Stahl, and McCauley carried on without Parsons for three or four years, honing a manic live act that regularly drew loads of other musicians to their shows. Even though they'd made a definitive split, Parsons and the band continued to share a West Oakland studio for painting and practicing respectively. Stahl says one day someone caught Parsons jumping up and down and lip-syncing to the band's practice. After that, the other members easily lured him back to the group. More releases and many shows and even more bass players later, Parsons decided that he would leave once again in the summer of 1996, this time to study art at the University of Iowa. The impending collapse freed the band members. “That was the best period,” says Stahl. “It released us from the band grind.” In its final six months, the outfit played all the time and recorded the 12 originals and the Souled American cover that appear on The Six Fingers of Rick. The break means that Little My haven't ever played a show in support of this record. Stahl says that Parsons was planning on coming back to the Bay Area for spring break so the rest of the band decided to re-form for one show. “We thought we owed everyone a show, ourselves too,” he says. “Little My was a joyful thing and it's good to spread the joy whenever possible.” (J.S.) [page]

“This part's real simple: 'Wa do dig, wa do dig.' 'Cause anyone can make a record, ya know.”: 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 jstark@sfweekly.com, or mail it to Riff Raff, c/o SF Weekly.

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