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Still Two Dailies, Still No Rock Critics. What's Up With That? The local newspaper guild is starting to put some pressure on the Chron and the Examiner for both papers' squirrelly inability to hire a rock critic. Most people would say that decent pop-culture coverage is de rigueur for a respectable big-city daily, particularly as the mainstream press frets about losing young readers. If you're just tuning in, let Riff Raff recap the pathetic situation in San Francisco: The Chron has one nominal rock critic, Joel Selvin, who rarely writes; another position has been empty for close to two years. In the interim, the paper's been making do with free-lancers -- in violation of union rules. Next door at the Ex, their nominal rock critic, Barry Walters, had been working at a Selvin-esque never-break-a-sweat level himself for the past year; but he finally quit in April, after being reassigned to the business section. The Ex has been using two arts-section staffers -- Jane Ganahl and Craig Marine -- to fill in. Pretty sad, hmmm? A recent front-page article in the union newsletter, which is published under the rubric Ralph, goes further, charging that the two papers are leaving positions unfilled as "an important back-door route to shrinking the Guild-covered work force." The article reminds the papers that you can't use free-lance material to replace the work of guild employees (which the Chron by its own admission has been doing); nor can free-lance writers be assigned work by editors (this too has been the regular practice at the Chron). Finally, and most ominously, the paper could be forced to cough up back pay and benefits to the free-lancers involved. (B.W.)

Kunt-Free Country The Kuntry Kunts were scheduled to play at an outdoor grand opening of a Guitar Plus music store in Pleasant Hill on June 7. Store Manager Rob Barrett says his boss, owner Jeff Gill, and the Planning Commission blocked the Kunts from the bill because of -- you guessed it -- their name. "Mr. Gill cited moral trouble with the name and didn't want his children picking it up," says Barrett. "I pitched the idea that they play under their other name, the Kuntry K's, but Mr. Gill still objected." Barrett says he also had trouble with the Planning Commission when he called to inquire about permits for the show. "I told them about the upcoming show and the names of the bands and they said that they wouldn't permit a band with that name." Gill, for his part, says the band's name is not an issue -- yet. "It's not a band issue at the moment, it's whether we will even be allowed to have an outdoor event. Pleasant Hill is pretty strict about outdoor permitting, and we've been getting the runaround; but if we do get past permitting then it could be a band issue." The Planning Commission, however, denies both stories. "We received one phone call from Guitar Plus about the process, but we have not received any requests for a permit and this is the first we have heard of that band," says Louie Gonzales, public information officer for the city of Pleasant Hill and spokesperson for the Planning Commission. Guitar Plus has postponed the show until June 21. As we went to press, the Kuntry Kunts were not on the bill. "The whole situation is pretty unbelievable. We're not bad people," says J. Byrd Hosch, lead singer for the Kunts. "We've played all around the Bay Area without incident, and this is the first time we've been treated like this. It's pretty upsetting." (R.A.)

Love for Sale As if the foofaraw over attempts to service mark the phrase "Summer of Love" weren't enough, Riff Raff just uncovered a Butterfield & Butterfield press release buried under a mound of flack on our desk (aka the trash). It reads, arbitrary capitalization and all: " 'Summer of Love' Mementos Sought For Auction Slated for September." Seems that B&B is seeking consignments for a charitable auction, coinciding with a Muggy Days of Filial Affection (trademark that) celebration scheduled for fall. Deadline: the end of June -- admittedly, late notice on our part, but hey, sometimes ... we forget. Now, B&B's intentions are good, of course, or as good as intentions get when there's money to be raised. (Some of the proceeds will purportedly benefit the Haight Ashbury Free Clinics, Wavy Gravy's Camp Winnirainbow Scholarship Fund, and the Bill Graham Foundation -- assuming, of course, that the consignors are feeling altruistic in this great "Love" revamp, and not just opportunistic.) But something about the press release, and the whole idea of a hippie auction, got us salivating. Not over the merchandise itself, said to include the billiard table from the Jefferson Airplane's house, Jerry Garcia's handwritten lyrics for Mars Hotel, Peter Max originals, a note to Black Panther Huey Newton from John Lennon and Yoko Ono beginning "Dear Comrade Huey," and all the assorted long-haired, long-toothed bric-a-brac you'd expect. Instead, we drool for the accumulation of all of it in one place, for one event. Because, frankly, a lot of those items are combustible. Hey! Riff Raff doesn't condone arson or any other sort of criminal activity, and we certainly won't be the ones with the matches, but if that were to happen, and all the Crawdaddy archives, the old BGP receipts, and the Hog Farm's "psychedelic painted bus" were reduced to soot and scorched patchouli, we'd be just that much closer to being able to forget about something that happened 30 years ago, and which still seems to be San Francisco's only claim to pop culture. Just imagine. (M.B.)

Aloha Livermore After 10 groundbreaking years, DIY punk magnate Lawrence Livermore has retired as founding owner of Lookout Records. The East Bay's favorite "successful musical renegade" sold his interest in the lucrative indie (which spawned Green Day) to co-owner Christopher Appelgren, a man who Livermore promises is still intensely passionate about making records. (Patrick Hynes, the third owner, also sold his portion of the business to Appelgren, but will remain on staff.) Livermore first launched Lookout in 1987 in order to press copies of One Planet One People -- the debut album by his punk band, the Lookouts (christened after Livermore's zine of the same name), which he formed with a 12-year-old drummer named Tre Cool. After a somewhat less than flush first-time business run, Livermore shut down the label, but continued to play with his band at Gilman Street, the now legendary East Bay punk warehouse. As much fun as he was having, it didn't take long before Livermore was drawn back into the recording biz by ska-punk sensations Operation Ivy. With the help of David Hayes, Livermore revived Lookout Records in order to put out an Op Ivy EP, as well as some by Crimpshrine, Corrupted Morals, and East Bay-sound archetypes Isocracy. The new records sold like wildfire. By the time Isocracy split up in 1988, Gilman Street was at its height and folks were expecting the big crash-and-burn. But then, Isocracy drummer Al Sobrante formed a band called Green Day with two 16-year-old Gilman Street regulars. Two years later, the Lookouts' drummer, Tre Cool, replaced Sobrante, and Livermore was right there to nurture and cajole the band to stardom. The rest is history. Lookout now has 170 releases to its credit, with a host of new artists waiting in the wings. At 43, Livermore is able to retire comfortably in order to pursue other interests. He is currently on tour in Los Angeles with Hynes, and their surprisingly melodic band, the Potatomen. Livermore also plans to focus on writing (including his zine, which he has never let lapse) and to pursue a master's degree at Oxford. Appelgren, who assumed full ownership of Lookout last month, says that he is deeply committed to maintaining the spirit of the label, and is excited about the next 10 years. (S.T.)

Life After Death The Berkeley nightclub Ashkenaz (1317 San Pablo Ave.) is reopening as a community center. The club closed last December following the murder of owner David Nadel by an angry patron. Nadel's brother Ron became executor of the estate and established Ashkenaz as a new California nonprofit, now called Ashkenaz Music & Dance Community Center. The nonprofit's board plans to continue with David Nadel's work, maintaining the space as a cultural center for all forms of folk and world dance music, and giving the community a place to hold benefits in support of social and political causes. The reopening is set for June 21 -- the first in a series of benefits scheduled on Fridays and Saturdays throughout the summer. The proceeds will go to raising money for operations and the purchase of the building, in hopes of maintaining a full schedule of programming by the fall. The Grand Reopening starts at 8:30 p.m. with live performances by Aquarela Dance Group, African Rhythm Messengers, and Tropical Vibrations. (R.A.)

Love for Sale, the Remake Back in 1966, you couldn't beg yourself a drink at Bill Graham's Fillmore Auditorium. Hippies preferred pot and psychedelics to beer and alcohol, and Graham -- a notorious miser -- sold them watery soda with measured scoops of ice to combat cottonmouth. Now, the hippies are (mostly) gone and alcohol flows like Hetch Hetchy at the Fillmore. No one is complaining -- especially not Fillmore owners Bill Graham Presents (BGP). In fact, if a new three-year Miller Genuine Draft sponsorship contract is any indication, BGP is feeling downright sudsy. BGP Vice President Steve Welkom says Miller moved into the Fillmore two weeks ago. "They are a sponsor, but it's more of a marketing and promotions relationship," says Welkom. "There will not be a large Miller presence, only some subtle things." So far, there's a Miller welcome mat at the Fillmore's front door, a framed Miller poster disguised among the rock ephemera on the walls, and "identification at the bars," but no signs near the stage or on the outside of the building. The Fillmore sponsorship is consistent with Miller's stepped-up campaign to target young adults through rock 'n' roll. Kari McGrath, a Miller spokeswoman in Milwaukee, says the beer giant already sponsors venues like the Cabaret Metro in Chicago and the Grand Olympic Auditorium in Los Angeles. Miller also shells out for huge concert tours like the Page-Plant warhorse reunion, as well as local S.F. acts like Tommy Castro and Undercover S.K.A. "Ten or 20 years ago this [Fillmore sponsorship] might have been a headline," says Gary Bongiovanni, editor of the concert business trade magazine Pollstar. But these days, he says, the only conflicts over sponsorship occur when products collide -- a tour sponsored by Pepsi plays in a stadium that sells nothing but Coke. "Everybody's come to realize that it's just something you deal with," says Bongiovanni. Cheers. (J.S.)

Altered Vista If you have been wondering about that odd "Vegas Preacher" mural that cropped up at Sixth Street and Harrison earlier this year, wonder no more. Vegas Preacher is a band headed by Glen Sievert, an artist better known for his large sculptures on and around Contra Costa County's Mount Diablo that he carves out of dead trees with a chain saw. Like Sievert, Vegas Preacher is a band that is "aware of the tremendous American Indian spiritual energy in sites around the Bay Area." The ideal placement for the mural art, which depicts "a spirit-like being beckoning with raised arms in a desert setting" (also the cover art for the band's first CD), came to Sievert in a clear vision. He saw "the spirit-being looking out towards the direction of Mount Diablo, from somewhere near the Bay Bridge approach." Strangely, guitarist Erik Sorenson was able to locate the perfect place only two days later. Sievert says that their good fortune is much "more than a coincidence." Through the use of "advanced astrology," Sievert was able to calculate the perfect day on which to finish and dedicate the mural: March 26, when both Venus and the Sun were "trined" with Pluto. Hale-Bopp loomed on the horizon; and a lunar eclipse happened just three days before. A day like that only occurs once in a century. The folks at Heaven's Gate agreed, taking their lives on the same day that Vegas Preacher unveiled their great work. Coincidence? Maybe. Sievert, who now practices his music on the site of the Cypress Structure collapse, in direct line with the Mount Diablo and Vegas Preacher wall, says that people have dreamt of the mural, of seeing through the spirit's eyes, looking into oncoming traffic. (S.T.)

Riff Raff riffraff: Robert Arriaga (R.A.), Michael Batty (M.B.), Johnny DiPaola (J.D.P.), Karl D. Esturbense (K.D.E.), 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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