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Riff Raff 

After Hours Clubs, John Vanderslice, Missing Apples at the Fillmore, and Jello Biafra

Wednesday, Feb 9 2000
Club Fighters Proponents of after-hours club life in SOMA scored a victory last week, when members of the San Francisco Board of Appeals, in a 5-0 decision, voted to remove the Permit Board's recommended restrictions on the DNA Lounge's hours of operation. In other words, pending any further appeals (which the SFPD has until Valentine's Day to make), the DNA should be able to stay open until 6 a.m. seven nights a week. "I couldn't have wanted it to go any better," says new owner Jamie Zawinski, who's held the club in escrow since last summer pending the resolution of the permit issue. Since the DNA's permits weren't transferable to Zawinski from its previous owners -- John Schneider and his actor brother Rob -- he's been spending the better part of a year battling the SFPD's recommendations on operating hours. Which, to wit, were: closing at 2 a.m. Sunday through Thursday, a 4 a.m. closing time on Friday, and permission to host six "special events" a year that run until 6 a.m.

A packed hearing room at City Hall brought in a large number of supporters of after-hours clubs, as well as SOMA residents living near the DNA, most of whom argued that their gripe was not with the DNA's (or any SOMA club's) very existence but instead with the idea of giving constant late-night operating rights to Zawinski, who hasn't operated a club before. Rose Meyer, permit officer of Southern Station, argued that, unlike Zawinski, none of the recent new owners of SOMA venues have requested after-hours permits.

Zawinski, however, promises to make the DNA Lounge a good neighbor in SOMA, appearing regularly at community meetings and setting up a hot line where residents can make calls regarding issues with the club. But he also argues that, to an extent, everybody will have to come to terms with a changing neighborhood. "You can complain all you like," he says, "but today there are clubs, residents, and businesses in SOMA. You can't roll back the clock."

Negativland, Call Your Agent The last time we heard from John Vanderslice, he was trying to hoodwink a lot of people into thinking his song "Bill Gates Must Die" had genuinely angered the legal folks at Microsoft. Last week, however, Vanderslice's Microsoft fixation ran him into a genuine roadblock. He wanted to press a few promotional copies of his first post-MK Ultra effort, Mass Suicide Occult Figurines, which includes the Gates track, and enlisted the services of Los Altos-based CD manufacturer Media Technology Services to do it. MTS, however, declined the job. According to Parvis Ghajar, sales associate at the company, the decision wasn't a matter of censorship of the song, or even the song at all. The problem was the cover art Vanderslice submitted, which spoofs Microsoft logos and imagery. "By looking at [the CD], it implied that it was by Microsoft, and we didn't want to have Microsoft come after this," says Ghajar. A sympathetic Vanderslice has taken his business elsewhere; those curious about what the fuss is all about can find "Bill Gates Must Die" on Fortune Records' new local music compilation Fortune Cookies.

An Apple a Day ... Aw, Screw the Apples A couple of years ago, we dropped into the Fillmore to check out an all-ages concert by Green Day. Walking up the stairs to the main floor, we thought a little bit about the irony of a punk band that cut its teeth on the concrete floors of 924 Gilman now playing the grand chandeliered space of Bill Graham's rock palace. And as we thought about it, we made it into the foyer, where they usually keep the bucket of apples given away free to Fillmore patrons, a tradition that goes back to the hall's early days -- except on this night, no apples were to be found. And last week we dropped into the Fillmore again to see another all-ages show, by Powerman 5000, a Boston metal band whose members look a bit like the Backstreet Boys dipped in a vat of Blade Runner. Again we made our way to the apple bin. Again, no apples. So we watched the show, which was pretty much the musical equivalent of repeatedly smashing cinder blocks with our forehead, feeling just a little miffed about the whole apple situation.

The rationale for the lack of apples, as you might guess, is that sometimes adolescents simply can't be trusted with produce. "The apples were removed in fear that the patrons would wing them at the band and hurt them," says Fillmore spokesperson Michelle Eisenberg, who notes that Fillmore house manager Joe Paganelli has watched it happen. "There are about three shows a year where we're so sure that people are going to do damage with the apples that we just don't do it."

Not to Be Rude, But What About '80s Rock? Jello Biafra has re-entered the industrial zone to collaborate with Ministry for his occasional Lard project, recently releasing the 70's Rock Must Die EP on his Alternative Tentacles label. The title track is a spoof of glam rock in which Biafra rails against the inherent idiocy of me-decade rock 'n' roll, though it should be noted that Biafra sure does sound like he's having a hell of a lot of fun singing it. To promote the record, AT headed over to eBay and is auctioning off a 1979 Pinto, the economy car infamous for its affordability, ease of handling, and habit of exploding into a fireball. The Pinto is loaded with lots of, er, crap, including LPs by Boston, Journey, Foreigner, Peter Frampton, and other reasons why Biafra started the Dead Kennedys. Bidding started at $100 on Feb. 7 and continues through the 16th.

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

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Mark Athitakis


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