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Riff Raff 

Wednesday, May 5 1999
Postscript: "Bluesman's Blues" At the San Francisco International Film Festival's screening of Genghis Blues on April 29, the approximately 600 patrons were handed envelopes with a leaflet inside as they entered the AMC Kabuki 8's main theater. Those handing out the envelopes -- Friends of Tuva co-founder Ralph Leighton, filmmakers Roko and Adrian Belic, and others -- encouraged people not to open their envelopes until after the screening. That's because the information inside took the shine off the film of bluesman and Tuvan throat singer Paul Pena's bizarre musical trip to the center of Asia.

The leaflet announced that Pena has been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.
He has been given approximately six months to live.
The diagnosis was made about three weeks ago -- just as our story "Bluesman's Blues" was going to press. Pena was scheduled to appear after the Genghis Blues screening, but wasn't able to make it, according to Leighton, who went to Pena's apartment as the movie was showing and came back an hour later without him. In the meantime, volunteers at the theater sold copies of the film's soundtrack, and set up donation boxes to help Pena realize his longtime wish to visit the Cape Verde Islands, his ancestral homeland, before he dies. Since hearing the news, the Belics and others involved with Genghis Blues have been scrambling to gather support and money. Adrian handed out promotional postcards for the film to SFIFF patrons leaving other screenings; an April 30 afternoon screening of Blues at the Roxie -- originally planned solely for a Variety reporter -- was turned into a benefit.

In mid-May, a music festival is held on the Cape Verde Islands, and the current plan is to ensure that Pena is able to make it. The Belics have contacted the Cape Verdean embassy and cultural affairs authorities in Boston in hopes of additional support, though, as Adrian Belic points out, the trip will happen regardless. "I still have a credit card left," says Adrian. "My brother has a credit card left. Paul is going. He wants to go, he goes. Period."

Also, Great American Music Hall General Manager Russ Paul is working with KALW-FM (91.7) DJ Dore Stein (who has played Pena's music often on his Tangents show) to organize a benefit concert in June, though no exact date or lineup has been settled on yet. "In my opinion, [Paul is] the most unique artist I've ever come across," says Stein. "Finally, for him to get the recognition that's so long overdue, and then this .... It's the cruelest twist of fate."

Clarion Music Center's Michael Santoro says Pena's show at Clarion's 75-seat theater on May 7 is still happening; profits from the performance and sales of the Genghis Blues CD at Clarion will

go directly to finance Pena's trip. Donations can also be made through the San Francisco Film Arts Foundation, 346 Ninth St., Second Floor, San Francisco, CA 94103. (Mark Athitakis)

From the Everything Old Is New Again Department Next week, Alternative Tentacles rereleases Not So Quiet on the Western Front, the seminal and heretofore out-of-print 1982 compilation of Bay Area and Southwest punk bands, including the Dead Kennedys, Flipper, 7 Seconds, and 44 other acts proffering slabs of righteous anger. The album -- in both CD and the original double-LP formats -- is being reissued both to combat the three-figure sums folks are asking for an original pressing, and also to celebrate the label's 20th anniversary. Alternative Tentacles has announced a birthday celebration June 26 at the Great American Music Hall. Currently slated to perform the Jello Biafra-MC'd event are polarizing Casio-core primitivist Wesley Willis, Creeps on Candy, Causey Way, and the inevitable "special guests."

Also from the Bay Area punk files: Ever Feel Like Killing Your Boss, a reissue of the 1982 debut album from the Feederz, authors of the to-say-the-least provocative "Jesus Entering From the Rear" (first line: "We nailed you to a cross, but you're still a fucking pain"), "Burn Warehouse Burn," and "1984." Though the Feederz were

originally founded in Phoenix, frontman Frank Discussion was forced to move his band to San Francisco in 1981 after distributing a fake letter from the Arizona Department of Education's superintendent that opened with "Well, school is boring," and offered a cash reward of $20 to any student who wrote an essay on "why I like being a student."

The CD preserves the LP's original sandpaper cover, designed to abrade whatever album it was filed next to (we were never big Feelies fans anyway). Now living in Seattle, Discussion says he's become a high priest of Santeria, a voodoo-related church of mysticism that came to America from Yoruba slaves in Nigeria. "If there was any success or failure to the Feederz at all," says Discussion, "it was in how well we articulated the rage that everybody felt in the first place, particularly the young. And as Littleton shows, that rage is far from forgotten." Plans to re-form the band are under, um, discussion.

Also on the reunion front: Zircus, the seven-member San Francisco band that played, well, pretty much everything -- Beach Boys covers, off-kilter funk, pure pop, outre skronk -- is scheduled to play July 4 at El Rio, the first time it's appeared since its 1994 breakup. The show's technically billed as a CD release party for "...smashes," Zircus' sole CD release, although the album has been out on local imprint Racer for months. Singer Ray Wilcox, who now toils with funksters !Tang and has spent "a long 5 1/2 years" booking shows at the Edinburgh Castle, gives the brief version of the group's demise: a signing to Racer that got tied up in four years of red tape, a planned trip to South by Southwest and follow-up gig touring with a then relatively unfamous Counting Crows, all of which collapsed after the departure of guitarist Jeff Pollock, who currently plays in local trio Six Eye Columbia after a stint in the now-defunct Fish or Fry. Violinist Catharine Clune is now a member of the long-standing avant-jazzbos Club Foot Orchestra and other members are spread out across the state, but all former Zircus personnel are scheduled to play the Fourth of July show. "We're all really close friends," says an enthusiastic Wilcox. (M.A.)

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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Mark Athitakis


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