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New music venue the Rickshaw Stop is a welcome addition. Its "Funtime Talk Show" is not.

Wednesday, Sep 29 2004
There are few things as hopeful and jaunty as a new club. The owners have decorated it just so, the staff has been carefully chosen based on friendliness and dependability, and the calendar has been as carefully attended to as the weekly menu at Chez Panisse.

Scientific studies have shown that it takes 3.7 years for the club owner to become hopelessly addicted to booger sugar, the bathrooms to be stripped of all stall doors, the house sound-guy to stop washing his crotch, and the booker to give in and schedule Bud E. Luv to pick up the midweek slack. This, gentle reader, means you still have 2.8 years to check out the Rickshaw Stop at Fell and Van Ness.

The club is housed in a building that was once a recording studio, though inside the ceilings are high and the space is open. Red velvet curtains flank the sides, a warm, homey glow fills the expanse, and the stage sits like a perfect little nub at the head of the room. It's like being in Katie Holmes' vagina. The hipper, Pieces of April version, of course.

The only annoying thing about this place is that they have refused to put a sign outside because signs aren't cool. When are clubs going to learn that it's not what you look like on the outside, it's what's inside that counts? A place like the Hush Hush can get away with it because, well, it's called the Hush Hush. But when you call yourself the Rickshaw Stop, I better damn well have a coolie appear at the clap of my hands under a big-ass Oriental-scripted sign.

Last Wednesday the club was trying out a new idea that sounded intriguing. Billed as a "real talk show," it was called the "Funtime Talk Show" and promised comedy, political discussion, and informative, interesting guests like a chick from Erase Errata, a flame-y gay guy who moved out here from points east because he heard we had good "butthole," and none other than everyone's favorite former mayoral hopeful, Matt Gonzalez. To top it all off, the band T.I.T.S. was scheduled to play.

Well folks, "Funtime Talk Show" is apparently an attempt at irony, because it weren't so fun. First, a few disclaimers. There is nothing harder than doing stand-up or trying to be the next Spalding Gray, especially when you look and dress like Real People's Skip Stephenson (sorry, host Jarrett Hillarrious). And far be it from me to critique someone who is out there doing something new for the scene. There is no way I would have the balls to start my own talk show. But as they say, those who can't, criticize, so I shall wear my yoke of shame and continue to trash the "Funtime Talk Show" forthwith.

Indie scenesters are criticized for many things, most especially their narcissistic melancholy known as "navel gazing." If zine culture did anything deleterious, it was encouraging hordes of clueless nerds that they had something to say and that people wanted to listen. In some cases, they did. In most cases, they didn't.

So what happens when you give an S.F. indie rock hipster his own talk show? Apparently he talks for an hour about himself, his life, and the "fucking fascist" state of America. It was all one big MaximumRocknRoll letter to the editor. Hillarrious began his soliloquy by warning us that there was gonna be some fucking cussing tonight, so if you don't like fucking swear words you better leave. Then he talked about his week, about how he just got back from a trip, and then, in true stand-up fashion, he actually said, "It's great to be back in San Francisco." Apparently he had to sit next to an annoying person on the plane -- now that's fertile, untouched ground for a comic. He interspersed his stand-up with some standard, knee-jerk political comments about the state of the union, managing to get a chuckle out of me when he said that San Francisco is America's greatest city, and that he knew that because KFRC told him so. I think he's got some monologue potential, he just needs to plan ahead and trim about 90 percent of his material before he goes onstage. (And if he was trying to do a Neil Hamburger it's-so-unfunny-it's-funny-thing ... didn't work, homie.)

After a fashion -- like, 40 minutes -- some audience members retreated to the door, visibly frustrated. By the time the guests hit the stage, few people were interested in paying attention anymore. I busied myself by eavesdropping on a conversation between a guy from Comets on Fire and that dude otherwise known as Gold Chains, who had conveniently situated themselves directly behind me. For reasons of decorum I shall leave out the juicy bits, but I can say that neither of them wants to tour longer than three weeks, and the Comets guy had been tripping balls the weekend before. Surely mushrooms are a tax write-off for that band?

Sadly, at 12:30 T.I.T.S. still hadn't played. Jesus, even Oprah knows when to shut up. I decided to skedaddle, but it's a testament to the club that I stuck around that long. The owners have worked hard to make it a cozy spot, and I hope it pays off for them. And as for the "Funtime Talk Show," well, in the interest of leftist politics, "Keep hope alive. Keep hope alive."

About The Author

Katy St. Clair


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