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Riff Raff 

Wednesday, May 7 1997
Soft-Boiled Riff Raff likes it when boomers try to be hip. Exposes them as poseurs. Take the new Lively Arts column in the Chron. News tidbits on the arts, compiled by feature writer Jerry Carroll. Who writes like this. With sassy little verbless sentences for punch. A few columns back he dismissed Sinead O'Connor as a "flash in the pan." Dumb thing to say. O'Connor's first album was a sensation. Her second made her a worldwide star and produced one of the biggest singles of the last 10 years. Horrified at her stardom, she's spent the time since deliberately confounding her audience. O'Connor can be annoying, but to taunt her for not selling records displays bad values. And is clueless. Better to have made a bald joke. Last week the hyperobservant Carroll had some more piercing insights to share. Noticing "Blitzkrieg Bop" on Good Morning America, he filed the fact away for the confirmation he knew would come. "Tempted" in a Burger King commercial clinched it. "What was out there on the edge is mainstreamed and marketed faster and faster by Big Business," Carroll commented cannily. Yup. A full 20 years in the case of the Ramones song, a good 15 with out-there-on-the-edge Squeeze. Hold on tight. (B.W.)

Burned Out Psychedelic garage popsters the Burners called it quits two weeks ago after a two-year residency in the burgeoning scene based around Starcleaners, an underground Mission District club. Bassist Dan Miskulin says singer Aaron Turney left both the band and the city to pursue a career as a solo artist. "It's just people going in different directions," says Miskulin. "I'm disappointed because I didn't feel like the music played itself out." Recently, six months after the release of their Heavy Wants to Eat LP on local label Rodent Records, the band began drawing larger crowds at venues like the Bottom of the Hill and the Fillmore. Miskulin says he and drummer Greg Piper, who have played together in both the Burners and a Fresno band called the Quagmires for a total of 10 years, have been approached by other singers, but the rhythm section isn't making any decisions yet. In the interim, Piper will continue creating electronic music in his wonderfully named pet project, Horse Pucky. (J.S.)

Home Invasion The homespun tranquility of Bay Area blues artist James Armstrong was abruptly shattered on the morning of April 28 when an intruder broke into his Sunnyvale home and savagely attacked him with a knife. Armstrong, who was at home with his wife and two small children -- 2-year-old James Jr. and 1-year-old John-John -- suffered three major wounds to the chest and back. James Jr. also sustained serious injuries when the assailant threw him from a second-story window. Police apprehended the suspect only a few hours later after an unsuccessful car-jacking attempt led him to break into a nearby hotel room. As of yet, a motive has not been established. James Jr. was released from the hospital on May 1 and is recovering nicely. Armstrong is expected to be released from the hospital later this week, but will probably require rehabilitation. With great regret, HighTone Records -- the label that released Armstrong's 1995 Sleeping With a Stranger -- has been forced to cancel the bluesman's first extensive national tour, scheduled to begin in Southern California on May 21. Adding insult to injury, the Armstrongs are not covered by health insurance, so friends and fellow musicians have come together in a fervent display of emotional and fiscal support -- even Wells Fargo of Sunnyvale has gotten in on the act, establishing an account to help cover the family's extensive medical expenses. For more info, contact James Armstrong c/o HighTone Records, 220 Fourth St., Suite 101, Oakland, CA 94607. (S.T.)

The Young and the X-less, Part 6 Another clip from "cyberpun-dit extraordinaire" Douglas Rushkoff's forthcoming novel, Ecstasy Club. In this segment of the "novel destined to be a cult classic," our squatter-cum-raver protagonists romp through subcultures for a quick stop in goth city. (J.S.)

Henry pumped our sound system as loud as it would go and put on an old Renn A. Sanz recording, "Znas A Nner." It was raw sound. Pure assaulting noise. The bass was so low and loud that I could feel my bones separating from the flesh around them. The only discernible rhythm in the lengthy track was the vibration of the PF building itself. The mass of sound created a palpable pressure against the skin. It had weight and an almost numbing effect, like being in an isolation tank.

Renn got ahold of a wireless hand mike, and started screaming over his old recording, wagging his tongue at his fans like a serpent. The gentle Goth kids all retreated outside or into Nomie's Lounge while the Industrial guys took charge of the main space, slam dancing, climbing up beams and leaping off, and having a tug-of-war with Renn's chains. Renn pretended to enjoy the harsh yanks of the dominatrixes, wide-eyed and desperate for them to unleash him. He was getting flung all over the place. When the dominatrixes grabbed hold Renn's waist to keep him still, the tugs on the chains practically pulled his head off.

I couldn't watch.

Riff Raff riffraff: Robert Arriaga (R.A.), Michael Batty (M.B.), Johnny DiPaola (J.D.P.), Jeff Stark (J.S.), Silke Tudor (S.T.), and Bill Wyman (B.W.). Send Bay Area music news, band stories, or petty gripes to, or mail it to Riff Raff, c/o SF Weekly. No flack, please.


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