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Riff Raff 

Wednesday, Feb 3 1999
Un-punked? In the middle of January, volunteers at the Berkeley punk rock club 924 Gilman were in a panic. From the looks of it, a shutdown seemed imminent for the space, which helped give birth to Operation Ivy, Green Day, Rancid, and countless other smaller acts; the club's neighbor across the street, DiCon Fiberoptics Inc., had complained to the city about vandalism, from graffiti on its building walls to damage of palm trees on its property. Talk of hiring security guards -- in addition to the club's own red-shirted volunteer guards -- began, and word got around that the matter had been placed on the agenda for the Jan. 28 meeting of the Berkeley Zoning Adjustment Board, which was to lead to preliminary discussions about Gilman's future.

That sounded official -- and threatening -- enough to get the Gilman volunteers organized, soliciting letters from the club's friends and neighbors, from Lookout Records President Christopher Applegren to local merchants including Pyramid Alehouse General Manager Alex Krallis, who wrote the board to say that "from our opening [in February 1997] to the present, we have had no problems between us." However, the Gilman-DiCon predicament wasn't on the board's agenda on the 28th, making the matter a moot point -- at least for now.

Wendy Cosin, Berkeley deputy planning director, says there are no immediate plans to get the discussions back into City Hall, though she does plan to continue discussions with club volunteers to reach a resolution that satisfies both sides. "My goal is to work together to find a way to solve the problem," she says. "As time passes, we have more time to see how things are going."

DiCon representative Ken Brown did not return repeated phone calls for comment, but did fax a press release stating that "over an eight-year period, DiCon has endured repeated acts of vandalism, including bottle breaking, graffiti and destruction of property ... [which] coincide with events at the 924 Gilman club." The release also states that since their initial discussion with club volunteers, "the vandalism continued and in fact worsened."

In the meantime, the attention paid to Gilman brought up other issues. Cosin told the club that it hadn't been informing the Community Services Department about the dates of its shows, or notifying the city of which concerts might draw large crowds or sell out. It had also neglected to post no-loitering notices inside the club. Gilman volunteers Mike Limon and John Hart both admitted to not doing so (although they said they are now), but note that they've regularly informed the Berkeley police beat officers about goings-on at the club. Cosin agrees that those are minor points, and that the main issue is having Gilman "assure the city that they'll be a good neighbor."

Also, DiCon is reportedly concerned about the safety of its swing-shift workers who pass Gilman in the evenings on their way to work. "Are they afraid that they're going to be attacked?" says Hart. "I don't know how to respond to that. It's gotten to the point where Gilman is focused on as this massive detrimental problem."

Limon says Gilman volunteers are working to take care of any graffiti problems in the neighborhood -- regardless of whether or not they are produced by the club's patrons. Hopes that both sides could meet and discuss the issue have been rebuffed by DiCon, according to Limon. "We kept asking to set up a meeting with personnel [at DiCon], but they said they're letting the city handle it." It's a situation Limon finds frustrating. "Whether or not we solve all their issues, I know that if they worked with us more directly, they'd be even more satisfied." (Mark Athitakis)

Spun Off "Spundae," the regular Sunday night DJ and dance gathering at Ten 15 Folsom that, in six short years, has grown from the occasional show or street party into a weekend staple (with Friday night's "Nikita" in the mix), as well as a record label, is making another move toward expansion. On April 20, Spundae Recordings will open its own record store, 4:20 Records, in the Lower Haight space currently occupied by dance and fringe-DJ shop Faster Bamboo, which is closing up shop to concentrate on music production.

"It's an extension of what we do," says Spundae Productions Marketing Director Kelly Edwards, who says the shop will specialize in vinyl recordings of the progressive house and trance music that's become Spundae's specialty. "People were asking Jerry [Bonham, DJ and Spundae founder] all the time where he gets his records. Because of the parties and DJs, we have access to a lot of that music."

4:20 Records intends to fill in the gaps. To differentiate itself from the wealth of musical options already available along Haight Street, the store plans to carry "things that aren't readily available, from record bags to T-shirts to full-on jackets," mainly from cutting-edge foreign labels and other companies. Spundae's Third Street offices will move into the new space, and an elevated DJ booth will be installed as well.

An early celebration kicks off on Valentine's Day with Spundae's sixth anniversary party at Ten 15 Folsom; the event features among others DJs Bonham, Scott Hardkiss, and esteemed Chicagoan Terry Mullan, who's putting together the mix CD Interpretations, set for release by Spundae in May. (M.A.)

Feel Lucky, Punk? Ever sing like NOFX's Fat Mike in the shower? Probably not, what with rent so high and touchy roommates to worry about, but on Feb. 8 you can finally show the world your talent: "Punk Rock Karaoke" is coming to Slim's. Filling in for the box and providing their own cheesy backdrop are a smattering of punk heroes -- Greg Hetson (Bad Religion, Circle Jerks), Eric Melvin (NOFX), Mike Watt (Minutemen, Firehose), and Derek O'Brian (Social Distortion). The show is part of a West Coast tour in which audience members pick a favorite punk tune -- or at least one they can slur -- and join the band for 120 glorious seconds.

Hetson says the original idea came from a friend, who three years ago set up a similar night in a downtown L.A. restaurant. "It was a lot of fun and I've been a part [of it] ever since," says Hetson. Although the current lineup represents enough classic groups to perform a wide range of songs, Hetson says the audience as well as the band seem to prefer songs from long-gone outfits. "We do mainly stuff like Sex Pistols, Damned, and Stiff Little Fingers -- anything that we don't usually get a chance to play," he says.

And how do the amateur would-be punk icons fare onstage? "The singers really vary," says Hetson. "Some are just completely hideous and some are really good. But in all it's just good punk rock fun." (Robert Arriaga)

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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