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Pop Philosophy riffs its last, so the Great American Music Hall’s for sale. Again.

Wednesday, Dec 20 2000
And we just installed the DSL line When launched in June 1999, CEO Ken Wirt was quoted as saying, "We want to emulate real life." Last week, Wirt got his wish in spades, as his MP3 site went kaput in the same way a real-life ant meets the bottom of a shoe. Visitors to the Web site now find only a misty-eyed reverie to those forward-thinking revolutionaries who founded the company: "Pioneers enjoy the thrills of new frontiers, but must also deal with the risks inherent in uncharted territories." Ride, dear lads, into that lucre-colored sunset.

Still, the story of one more relatively useless dot-com going south isn't big news -- unless the dot-com owns the Great American Music Hall, which Riffage does, or did. Now the venerable music venue is in the hands of the Diablo Management Group, a Danville company that specializes in business reorganization and asset sales. According to Music Hall General Manager Tony Caparelli, the business "is up for sale." (Diablo's Luke Helm was less forthcoming, refusing to admit his company was involved, but hinting he might have information about the sale in the near future.)

Meanwhile the venue's staff finds itself right back where it was this spring, when longtime owners Clare and Kurt Brouwer were looking for a buyer who would maintain the venue's high musical standards. Hopefully, someone a tad more stable will come along this time, someone with a business plan written in something other than Popsicle drippings. "We're sad we can't continue with Riffage," Caparelli says in his sincerest tone. "We were looking forward to the synergy of their new technology with our bricks-and-mortar approach." Yikes. With jargon like that, no wonder it didn't work out.

Beats working Since college radio stations are, for the most part, noncommercial -- meaning they can neither take payola from record labels nor air advertisements for products -- they need to find funding from a range of other sources. Besides holding annual fund-raisers, University of San Francisco station KUSF asks the producers of its specialty programs to obtain a certain amount of underwriting from local businesses. And if they can't? In the case of San Francisco's only live hip hop mix show, Beatsauce, they get bumped.

In a letter that Beatsauce producers J-Boogie, Raw B, and DJ Wisdom sent out to station listeners recently, the trio complained that the show was being moved from its seven-year home on Sundays at 8 to 10 p.m. to the 6 to 8 p.m. spot in order to make room for a 1-year-old, prerecorded techno show Thump Radio. "It isn't that bad of a time slot," Justin Boland (J-Boogie) says when I speak to him, referring to the dinnertime move. "Our biggest concern is that it would be on at the same time as [Stanford station] KZSU's live hip hop program [The Drum]. If artists are in town for the weekend, they hit up all the shows, and now they won't be able to do that."

KUSF Program Director Lisa Yimm explains the change: "They didn't live up to their obligations. We don't ask a lot, but it's unfair to the other shows that do bring money in." Each show must come up with at least $20 per half-hour of airtime, an amount that adds up to $5,200 a year for Beatsauce. While this isn't the largest sum imaginable, the producers profess to being far more interested in playing music than trolling for funds.

Boland is hopeful the show will be able to continue in the future. "Since I sent my letter, a couple businesses said they'll help us out. And there've been lots of e-mails. It's nice to know people really do care and do listen. Maybe [Yimm will] see we do have supporters."

"L'chaim" loosely translates as "Rock on" Did you know Lenny Kravitz is Jewish? How about Joey Ramone, Carly Simon, and Richard Hell? If you're doing a little holiday shopping and want to know whether to get your favorite rock star eight gifts or one, you might want to peruse Guy Oseary's recent book, Jews Who Rock. Not only does it point out that avant-jazz saxophonist John Zorn, lesbian folk singer Phranc, and Jane's Addiction leader Perry Farrell are members of the tribe, but it also dispenses little bits of wisdom. For example: Rush guitarist Geddy Lee's name is actually a Yiddish-accented pronunciation of "Gary," Van Halen singer David Lee Roth was inspired by fellow Jew Al Jolson, and Fat Wreck Chords label head Fat Mike was never bar mitzvahed.

Well OK, the book may not be the most stimulating read. The Bob Dylan blurb, for instance, is possibly the dullest thing ever written about him. In fact, the slim sampler appears to have been tossed together in 15 minutes, max. Still, if it inspires one kid to put down his dreidel and plug in an amp, it's worth it. Just pray he doesn't take the Michael Bolton section too seriously.

About The Author

Dan Strachota


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