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Riff Raff 

Tuvans! Everywhere!, (Insert Carnegie Hall Joke Here), and There Are No Current Plans to Change the Name to Club Y2K

Wednesday, Sep 1 1999
Tuvans! Everywhere! Riff Raff isn't in the business of declaring what the Next Big Trend is -- it's thankless work, makes our head hurt, and changes every nanosecond in the high-pitched late '90s anyhow. (Remember the Latin pop boom of May '99? Those were the days.) Still, we took notice when a song by Tuvan throat singer Kongar-Ol Ondar started showing up in -- of all things -- a back-to-school TV ad for Mervyn's California. It seems everybody has some sort of story about Tuvan throat singers, vocalists from a tiny region near Mongolia who can voice multiple guttural or whistling notes simultaneously. Nightlife Correspondent Silke Tudor took Ondar to "Bondage A Go-Go" when he visited town in 1995, and we've written at length about Paul Pena, the now-ailing local musician who (among many other things) crafted a beguiling combination of traditional blues and throat singing, showcased in the film Genghis Blues, currently screening nationally.

And then there's Darryl Henriques, the Tom Lehrer-esque political satirist, author, and KSAN radio personality who spent the late '60s and '70s as a member of groups like the San Francisco Mime Troupe and East Bay Sharks, "making the world safe for Ronald Reagan." That's a half joke: As Henriques puts it, the Mime Troupe gave the then-California governor valuable foreign policy experience by inspiring him to "invade a sovereign territory: Berkeley." Henriques left the Bay Area for the L.A. suburbs in the early '80s, which is where the Tuvans come in. About seven years ago, he spotted Ondar and a number of other visiting Tuvan singers marching at the Tournament of Roses Parade; through an acquaintance with Friends of Tuva coordinator Ralph Leighton, he was introduced to the singers, and figured Disneyland would provide the group with the appropriate American experience. "How many people can say they've taken a Tuvan to Space Mountain?" he asks.

"Every time they're here, we see them," says Henriques. "We can't resist the dulcet tones of those wild and wacky throat singers."

In keeping with the Tuvan trend, Henriques' performance on Sept. 4 at the Freight & Salvage (1111 Addison St., Berkeley) will be a benefit for Paul Pena, who has pancreatic cancer and is raising funds to cover medical costs and a trip to the Cape Verde islands, where he wishes to move; a benefit in July at the Great American Music Hall raised approximately $10,000. Tickets are $14.50 in advance ($15.50 at the door); call (510) 548-1761.

(Insert Carnegie Hall Joke Here) The worst part of the first issue of Practice Videomagazine, a new Berkeley-based hip hop video journal, is that it's over too early. Over the course of its half-hour, it hopscotches across the country, featuring candid interviews with New York's Shawn J. Period and El Da Sensei, a scene report on Philadelphia focusing on the Mountain Brothers, and an interview and live performance showcase of Souls of Mischief from Oakland's Hieroglyphics conglomerate. All the conversations have an insiderish, chatty, open-ended feel that doesn't (ahem) make it into print's hip hop coverage, while the journal keeps a keen eye on the underground. Footage and interviews were taped by Editor Hiro Matsuo (who's done previous video work with Souls of Mischief and other Bay Area acts) and East Coast correspondent Joseph Pattisall, inspired by his belief that "hip hop is going in the wrong direction" -- more art and less commerce is Matsuo's selling point. Speaking of which, the first issue is $15, available by writing to 2721 Shattuck Ave. #1004, Berkeley, CA 94705, e-mailing, dropping by Amoeba Music in San Francisco, or going to The next issue of the quarterly -- due to come out in November -- is mainly a West Coast affair, featuring interviews with Jurassic 5, Cut Chemist, and Dilated Peoples.

There Are No Current Plans to Change the Name to Club Y2K The grand opening party for the Club Millennium in North Beach was a quirky resurrection of the old Palladium to create (says the press release) "an exciting new upscale late-night option to the patrons of North Beach, Russian Hill, Cal [sic] Hollow and the Marina district's bars and restaurants." Lights flashed and swirled. People sipped free champagne and chitchatted, one going so far as to exult, "Yeeeah, baby!" And, just as the fog machine began to spew and an MC called out, "Is everybody ready to party?" everything fell apart -- the video screens died, the lights shut off, and the '80s pop beats were replaced with the blurting and flashing of the fire alarms -- a sonic and visual experience that was entertaining in and of itself, if you're a fan of retinal damage. The SFFD showed, and for the better part of a half-hour, the club alternated between lurching back to life and shutting down again. Everybody kept sipping champagne. A Club Millennium spokesperson said the shutdown was due to a blown fuse, and assures Riff Raff that all the bugs are now worked out; North Beach, Russian Hill, Cow Hollow, and Marina bar patrons needn't fear a thing.

Send Bay Area music news, band stories, or petty gripes to, or mail them to Riff Raff, c/o SF Weekly.

About The Author

Mark Athitakis


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