Unfinished Business Like the grade-school game Telephone, the charity benefit at Maritime Hall on Thursday, Sept. 25, started with good intentions and ended up riddled with confusion. The show sold out, but a lot of people were disappointed in the shortness of the sets, and some of those who worked the show were assholes. Urban Top 40 radio station KMEL put together the quickie concert with EPMD, Busta Rhymes, and the Pirate DJs to raise money for Racial Unity Inc., an East Bay-based charity organization devoted to blurring the color line. Although the station promoted the concert for one week before the event, it was all alone. Maritime Hall left the event off its monthly entertainment calendar (though it did get mentioned on the venue's voice mail), and the show went unreported in the local press. Judging by the sold-out performance and the sidewalk mob, the newly reunited EPMD and East Coast rapper Busta Rhymes can do without the extra hype. EPMD haven't played in San Francisco in five years, and since getting back together last year they've only played three shows. Add that to the opportunity to witness true old-school rap from Def Jam's heyday at a small benefit, and pretty soon the rumors were everywhere. The problem was that as word moved around, a lot of crucial information got missed. For starters the crowd was confused when they found out that EPMD's set, like all of the others, would be limited to three songs. Oops. And Riff Raff can testify that the people at the door were first-class jerks; one ordered us off a public sidewalk, and at one point we found ourselves surrounded by a posse that was up to no good. KMEL has been sponsoring a series of concerts to help Racial Unity Inc., but the station was also interested in promoting itself: DJ Sway, a longtime KMEL fixture, says he personally asked EPMD to help out with the cause. "EPMD and I go way back, so they were happy to do the show," he says. "They're my boys." EPMD told a different story. "We have an agreement with Def Jam to do open charity work so they hooked us up with [the KMEL benefit]," says EPMD MC Parrish. "We don't really know who this benefits, but it's nice to give back to the community and it definitely helps us out too." (R.A.)
Well, No, But Thanks for Asking Fresh off our pile of press releases: "Are you one of those who still lunges for the volume knob every time a Skynyrd song comes on the radio? Well my friend, it's time you hear the Last Americans."
Yeah, But Did He Pony Up $14.99? No one who caught the television news two weekends ago could have avoided the extensive coverage of President Bill Clinton's latest fund-raising sojourn through the Bay Area. Local swanksters in the TV audience might have seen some unlikely hometown faces sharing screen time with the prez. Forties-style swing band Lavay Smith & Her Red Hot Skillet Lickers were invited to perform for an audience at the Saxophone Club -- the Bay Area's youth-oriented Democratic club -- after Hi-Ball owner Max Young recommended them to local party organizers. (Band director Chris Seibert says that Young may have suggested the Skillet Lickers because of their substantial horn section -- 72-year-old trumpet player Allen Smith formerly of Duke Ellington's band, 73-year-old alto sax player Bill Stewart formerly with Lionel Hampton, Pickle Family Circus founder Harvey Robb on tenor sax, and Larry Leight on trombone. The whole saxophone thing is very important among Democrats these days.) Smith and the gang passed the background security check (even Robb, who has a substantial FBI file for anti-war activism) and arrived at the Terrace Room in the Fairmont Hotel ready to swing. Clinton got onstage and said a few words with the band positioned behind him, giving Smith and her boys coverage on CNN, ABC, NBC, and everything else. The president kept his speech short, saying he wanted to "hear the band play." He turned around and shook each musician's hand, giving the band still more air time. President Clinton went on to compliment them on their "great style" (even going so far as to say that he really liked the flower in Smith's hair), and chuckle at the cover of their album, One Hour Mama, on which Smith is suggestively posed. When Clinton eyeballed the CDs propped up on the piano, Seibert told him to go ahead and take one, to which the Leader of the Free World responded, "Can I?" "He was very charming," says Smith. The rest of the band, even those to the political left of Clinton, agree: He was very charming. The Skillet Lickers say they hope to play Al Gore's Inaugural Ball. (S.T.)
Two Drops of Beano There comes a time in a zine's life when its editor realizes no one cares what he or she thinks about every record released over the course of three months by every two-bit independent label this side of Matador. Really. Cool Beans Editor Matt Kelly learned the lesson somewhere between his last issue and the new one, No. 7. "Honestly, I got kind of tired of feeling like I was working for all of these record labels creating press for them," Kelly writes in the introduction to the double-themed "San Francisco and Bikes" issue, now at better newsstands. Instead of the record-review piffle that's standard in approximately 852,667 other micropublications, the editor concentrates on the stuff that distinguishes his zine from the rest. Kelly drives a cab for a living and the best stories in Cool Beans come from the back of a taxi. In "Sex for Sale in San Francisco" he extracts from other drivers lurid stories about ferrying prostitutes between gigs, the scariest of which contains these lines about a trio of whores arguing about money and fumbling in the rear: "The debtor, Taneesha, needed some time to produce the money, as she had packed $1,000 in her butt. The other two tried to help her out by getting her onto all fours in the back seat and digging around in her, looking for cash." Yuck. Elsewhere in the 56-page zine are cab-driver short cuts, a San Francisco bike tour, and, yes, band interviews -- Kelly hasn't dissed music altogether. Songstress Chan Marshall reveals that the name of her band Cat Power has nothing to do with kittens (the name is stolen from advertising for heavy machinery); S.F.'s cutie-pie death metal trio Little Princess mythologize their extraterrestrial roots; and My Bloody Valentine's Kevin Shields explains in two words what's delaying the follow-up to his lauded 1991 Loveless album: "mental illness." There's actually even more music on an accompanying plastic flexi disc (called "Soundsheets" these days), including two cool covers by the lamentably extinct Henry's Dress, and songs by other Bay Area bands like Shotwell, Queen Cobra, and Hot Sandwich Lads. Sure, that's a lot of music, but hey, the record reviews are banished to the recycling pile. Cool Beans is available for $4 from 3181 Mission #113, S.F., CA 94110. (J.S.)
Riff Raff riffraff: 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 email@example.com, or mail it to Riff Raff, c/o SF Weekly. No flack, please.