And the Winner Is ... Last week, Northern California folkie Ramblin' Jack Elliott received the prestigious National Medal of Arts. The president and the first lady presented the award to Elliott on Nov. 5 in Washington, D.C., where he and 11 other individuals were honored for their contributions to "the excellence, growth, support and availability of the arts in the United States." The 68-year-old Elliott, known for his interpretations of Woody Guthrie and Roy Acuff, as well as his work with nearby folk legends such as Nevada County's Utah Phillips, joins the esteemed ranks of Fats Domino, Gregory Peck, and Ella Fitzgerald. Says Elliott in a press release: "I am truly honored to be included with such company in receiving this prestigious award. As Henry David Thoreau might add, 'What a time, what a beach, what a dog.' " (R.A.)
If It's Wednesday, It Must Be essence Words could hardly describe our excitement when essence, our favorite local post-capitalization singer/songwriter, graced us with a custom-made song baring her soul to the Weekly ("Words that Rhyme," Nov. 4). We're flattered, really we are. But we're hard-headed folks here at Riff Raff central, and flattery goes only so far. So, Ms. essence's hopes for a "big four-star review" notwithstanding, we're sticking with our trading cards for the time being. Here we find her presenting a rare and intriguing combination of foreboding vamp (those Medusa-esque gothic locks!) and approachable waif (that please-love-me pout!). We'll have more samples of photographic epistemology as we stumble over them. (M.A.)
Spin Control Clad in a tuxedo, Invisibl Skratch Piklz lead turntablist DJ Q-Bert held a press conference worthy of a rock star last Saturday. The purpose of the gathering, held in the basement of San Francisco's Grand Hyatt Hotel, was to announce the release of his first solo full-length album, Wave Twisters. Normally, a CD premiere isn't worthy of such a classy gathering -- 50-plus reporters and photographers were there -- but as Q-Bert explained, it's no ordinary project. "It's a scratch album where every song is a chapter," he said. "Basically, it's the soundtrack to an animated movie we're currently putting together." That soundtrack, featuring contributions by ex-Pikl DJ Disk, DJ Flare, and Giant Robot 2 guitarist Buckethead, provides the music for a Yellow Submarine-style animated movie for the hip-hop generation. It tells the tale of a space-faring dentist who battles villains on a quest to spread the lost art of hip hop to the far reaches of the universe. Q-Bert says fans will be able to see it as early as next year. "We will tour the video with the Piklz next year," said Q-Bert, "but there is still a lot of work to do until then." Wave Twisters and the first single, "Sneak Attack," are currently available on the Piklz's own Galactic Butt Hair Records. (R.A.)
Free Ink The Clarion Music Center celebrates its first year of world music concerts on Friday, Nov. 13, with a concert hosted by Dore Stein of KALW with Kutay Kugay and Stephen Kent of KPFA. Featured performers include Alan Kushan, Jumping Buddha Ensemble, Habib Khan, Irina, and others. The festivities start at 9 p.m. at 816 Sacramento. There will be three sets; tickets are $15 per set or $40 for all three. Call 391-1317 for details. (M.A.)
Riff Raff riffraff: Robert Arriaga (R.A.), Mark Athitakis (M.A.), Johnny DiPaola (J.D.P.), Silke Tudor (S.T.), and Heather Wisner (H.W.). Send Bay Area music news, band stories, or petty gripes to firstname.lastname@example.org, or mail it to Riff Raff, c/o SF Weekly.