Today is March 5, 2014, the date of the great pizza band pie-off in San Francisco. Over at Neck of the Woods in the Richmond District, Macaualay Culkin's slicey Velvet Underground tribute band, the Pizza Underground, is performing an early show, complete with 'za from noted local cheese peddler Escape From New York. Later on, at the Hemlock Tavern, a band of pepperoni-obsessed ruffians by the name of Personal and the Pizzas will perform for free, as a saucy rejoinder from some locals to the invading New Yorkers and their cult of pizzalebrity. (Personal and the Pizzas have previously threatened the Pizza Underground with death and/or lawsuits, so the stakes here are high.)
Who will win the pie-off? We don't know -- but here are four ways to figure it out (provided, of course, that your pizza-full belly makes it from one show to the next).
1. Who eats the most pizza.
Obvious, yes, but very important. Pizza-eating, as everyone knows, is a street sport akin to bare-knuckled boxing and blacktop basketball, and real musicians take it very seriously. The favorite here may seem to be The Pizza Underground, since Escape From New York is sending pizza to the show and all. But, well, we've seen the kind of pie-eating mayhem Personal and the Pizzas are capable of onstage, and we wouldn't count them out.
Advantage: The Pizza Underground (slightly)
2. Who has the best songs.
Very important, too. Tonight's shows will be a battle between a band of New York goofballs covering the Velvet Underground, and a band of wannabe New Jersey goofballs from San Francisco playing songs that will sound an awful lot like the Ramones. Now we love the Ramones, but in a battle between the Velvet Underground and the Ramones, the Velvet Underground wins. However, this is not that battle. Tonight's contest is between a somewhat original tribute band and a less-than-original original band, which muddles the equation considerably.
Advantage: Personal and the Pizzas
3. Who draws the biggest crowd.
Despite the Internet fever surrounding the Pizza Underground -- everyone loves a good pizza/'90s moviestar meme! -- tonight's early show is not sold out. And the Personals show at the Hemlock is free. This could mean anything in terms of a crowd. But the fundamentals here matter: Neck of the Woods' upstairs venue holds 500 people and the later show is already sold out. Tthe Hemlock's music room holds about 150.
Advantage: The Pizza Underground
Let's be honest. Tonight's pie-off not a competition about musical quality, or popularity, or stomach capacity. It is a competition about embodying the universal, cheese-slathered greatness of pizza in song. It's a contest of gooeyness of spirit. Sauciness of character. Crustiness of performance. And in this realm, our contenders take very different approaches. The New Yorkers go literal, with lyrics about pizza itself. Locals Personal and the Pizzas, meanwhile, take a more holistic approach, celebrating the culture of the U.S. pizza belt and the blue-collar roots of the food's popularity. Both approaches have so many merits and shortcomings that we can't pick a favorite here. We'll just have to see how the shows go tonight.