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Riff Raff 

Wednesday, Jan 13 1999
Things That Should Not Be Last Nov. 1 at the Great American Music Hall, local math-rock trio A Minor Forest played what turned out to be its final concert. Drummer Andee Connors closed out the band's six-year career of making a beautiful racket -- showcased on a slew of original songs, but also on a cache of spot-on Metallica covers -- by crashing through his drum kit to massage some white noise out of a pair of turntables set up onstage; guitarist Erik Hoversten politely offered a few words of thanks that, with the benefit of hindsight, had an air of finality about them; bassist John Trevor Benson plugged a Mumia Abu-Jamal rally.

Shortly afterward, the band's label -- Chicago-based Thrill Jockey -- started bandying around the word "hiatus," the entertainment industry's favored shibboleth for "game over." The band members themselves remained tight-lipped -- Hoversten declined to comment shortly after the show -- but around New Year's Connors made it official. In a message posted to "Washer," an e-mail list devoted to Slint, Rodan, and other math-rock groups, Connors wrote "we have decided to stop playing together. ... Thanks to everybody who was so cool and supportive."

"Six years is a long time to be doing anything," adds Connors from his day job at Aquarius Records. He also notes that he and Benson have a new band called Ticwar, which he promises will be "more experimental and loud and challenging." Hoversten, for his part, will continue playing with his chamber-pop group the Threnody Ensemble.

A Minor Forest's legacy on record includes a weal of vinyl singles and compilation tracks, as well as two full-length albums with cover designs as complex and elegant as the actual music: 1996's Flemish Altruism (Constituent Parts 1993-1996) and last year's Inindependence, both released on Thrill Jockey. Promised for future release are a CD singles compilation and a split 7-inch single with the Champs of Metallica covers.

The breakup left us wondering who'd be keeping us in those Metallica covers from now on, but about half a second later we found ourselves in the San Francisco Symphony's conference room, listening to Metallica itself announcing their sold-out collaboration with the symphony on April 21 and 22 at the Berkeley Community Theater. Instead of Michael Tilson Thomas, baton duties will be handled by Michael Kamen, who's already orchestrated "Nothing Else Matters" for the band, and whose previous arrangements for Bryan Adams, Queensryche, Pink Floyd, Sting, and Kate Bush have allowed rock critics to keep the word "bombastic" in circulation for years now. But drummer Lars Ulrich noted that the collaboration isn't such a weird idea, really; the band's first bassist, the late Cliff Burton, would play Bach for the group in its early days.

Kamen said the goal is to let "Metallica be Metallica, let the San Francisco Symphony be the San Francisco Symphony" for the evenings of Metallica-only songs. Ulrich said the shows will be recorded on both audio and video, which leaves us wondering what the title will be for the inevitable CD and video that will result. Live Shit II? Fade to Black Tie? We vote for Cello Up Your Ass. (M.A.)

The Continuing Psychic Anguish of Tommy Lee The night after Motley Crue's show at the Warfield on Dec. 16, the band spent a few hours at "Stinky's Peepshow," the rock 'n' rollin'/go-go dancing Thursday night affair at SOMA's CW Saloon. "They had to be on the guest list, even though they're the only people who can afford to get in," joked booker Audra Angeli-Morse. But most interesting was the moment when a pot pipe got passed around and Crue drummer Tommy Lee was heard to politely decline, saying, "I'm on probation. I can't touch it." Gratuitous Metallica-related factoid: Angeli-Morse says that the Crue crew left just when Metallica guitarist Kirk Hammett showed up. (M.A.)

Bent, Broken? As we reported earlier in Riff Raff, the Berkeley jazz and experimental music space Beanbender's has been searching for a new home. Dan Plonsey and other members of the Beanbender's board had been hoping to keep their performances housed in the Berkeley Store Gallery Annex, but as the downtown building recently fell under new ownership, moving has become a necessity. "The new owner wants us out at the very end of January and that's that," says Plonsey. As the search continues for a permanent space, the two February shows that have already been booked -- Chicago Underground Orchestra and Brokeback on Feb. 6, and Henry Kaiser on Feb. 7 -- will happen at Berkeley's Capoeira Cafe. (M.A.)

Rock Math A breakdown of the David Bowie covers performed at the "Bowie Birthday Bash" on Jan. 9, featuring local bands the Eric McFadden Experience, Red Planet, Blue Period, Capsule, See Jane Run, JoJo, and 100 Watt Smile:

Percentage of songs performed from The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars: 30

Percentage of those songs that have the word "star" in them: 100
Percentage of songs performed from the '70s Low/"Heroes"/Lodger trilogy of records that critics go on and on about: 0

Percentage of songs performed that were recorded after Bowie Started Sucking (with 1980's Scary Monsters as the arbitrary cutoff point): 15 (cf Red Planet's introduction to "Blue Jean" as "the last great Bowie song")

Percentage of songs from the Tin Machine catalog: 0
Feather boas in attendance: innumerable. (M.A.)

Riff Raff riffraff: Robert Arriaga (R.A.), Mark Athitakis (M.A.), Johnny DiPaola (J.D.P.), 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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