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Riff Raff 

Wednesday, Oct 21 1998
The Many Faces of essence Dear Riff Raff Readers: We recently realized that, for the first time ever, we had been holding out on you, hoarding precious materials for ourselves like selfish teen-age girls and so much cheap makeup. Some time ago, you see, we discovered a sheet full of dynamic, exciting essence photos. These are not any essence photos, mind you, but a full catalog of the singer/songwriter's myriad public faces and her halcyon days as a pliable fashion puppet. We at Riff Raff believe the time has come to free the files. Last week at the prestigious Mick's Lounge, essence regrettably played her final show of the year. She will be stowing herself away, depriving the very public who crave her, until January, she tells us, in order to devote herself to recording. Riff Raff would like to make up for her absence by introducing a line of essence trading cards, culled from those forgotten photographs. For the next several weeks, expect the unexpected, ponder the perverse, and fixate on the frivolity. Above all, make sure your clip-and-save scissors are handy every time you pick up the Weekly. (J.S.)

Pray for Play Landing a gig in San Francisco is like playing poker: Sometimes you just have to bet the farm. In order to bypass the normal channels (club bookers) and cutthroat competition (other bands), one industrious group is gambling their credit cards that they can sell out the Transmission Theater. On Saturday, Oct. 24, the local alternative-rockers known as Burke will rent the 500-person hall to try to prove to the Transmission's bookers that their band can draw a weekend-size crowd. This scenario, although unusual for San Francisco, is not entirely new. In the hair-metal '80s, Los Angeles went through a period where several clubs worked on a pay-for-play basis. Bookers would ask bands to play headlining gigs. Then the band would have to rent the hall and sell the tickets themselves, assuming all the risk. (Nowadays bands either hire a booking agent to get them gigs, play on off nights, send demo tapes to clubs, or piggyback on more established friends' bands in order to secure club dates.) The Paradise's Robin Reichert seems unclear on the difference between this show and the shameless '80s. "This is totally different," he says. "The gig with Burke is a special event and no different from a CD release party. This is simply a showcase for the band and different way of marketing." Bottom of the Hill booker Ramona Downey says that Burke's arrangement with the Transmission is both unique and a little bit pathetic. "In a way I kind of admire their ambition," says Downey. "Then again, it makes me wonder, 'Are they that bad?' " Burke sees it as the only way to get ahead in the overcrowded San Francisco scene. "We want to move to the next level," says drummer Chris Golier. "This way we're taking our life into our own hands." (R.A.)

Some Sort of Pun About Storks, Babies, and Rebirth Goes Here Come mid-November Oakland's Stork Club will have a new, ahem, roost. Last August, recent purchasers of the 380 12th St. property terminated the club's lease after expressing interest in building a noodle factory and restaurant on-site. "It's sad," says club owner Mickey Chittock. "We've been located here for almost 50 years, but at least it's not over." Not wanting to see the 48-year-old music venue die, Chittock remained optimistic and found a location just six blocks away. Throughout its history, the club's been not only a second home for working-class folk, but an integral part of the East Bay music scene. Bands like Idiot Flesh, the Buckets, and Ignatius Reilly got their starts there. Chittock assures patrons that the new Stork Club will remain true to the original, right down to the holiday accouterments. "The new place is smaller," says Chittock. "But we're keeping the same Christmas decor and music format." An opening day for the 2330 Telegraph location is still tentative, depending on permits, moving schedules, and money. Many of the bands that felt at home at the Stork Club are helping Chittock with the latter, holding benefit parties at various clubs in the Bay Area. The elderly Chittock says he'll pay back the favor. "I've never let down my kids and they're not going to let me down." (R.A.)

Free Ink Fred Armisen is a funny man. This year the former Trenchmouth drummer and occasional fill-in for the Waco Brothers attacked the annual South by Southwest music conference in Austin, Texas, with a video camera. Every day of the conference Armisen visited industry-heavy panels, discussions, and mentoring sessions. At each panel the poker-faced prankster would ask absurdist questions of the professionals, then sit back and record their responses on-camera. (At one seminar he asked a bubbly publicist if it would be OK for journalists to pull a switchblade on a tight-lipped interview subject.) Armisen edited all of his escapades, including several where he claims to be a clueless German musician, into one 20-minute "mockumentary." Some of the video footage is dully lighted with a flavo-tint, but Armisen's humor is so hilariously dry that the work remains hugely entertaining. Besides, any good fuck-with-the-music-industry is always funny. Armisen will screen Fred Armisen's Guide to Music and SXSW '98 at the Bottom of the Hill on Sunday, Oct. 25, at the afternoon barbecue. (J.S.)

Oops Last week, in his review of altcountry bands, Mark Athitakis wrote that former Replacement Tommy Stinson was a member of Golden Smog. Stinson, in fact, has never been a member. Also, Dave Pirner, who has sung with Golden Smog, is not an official part of the band, as Athitakis wrote. Sorry about the flubs. (J.S.)

Riff Raff riffraff: Robert Arriaga (R.A.), Johnny DiPaola (J.D.P.), Jeff Stark (J.S.), Silke Tudor (S.T.), and Heather Wisner (H.W.). Send Bay Area music news, band stories, or petty gripes to, or mail it to Riff Raff, c/o SF Weekly.


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