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Free Lars Ulrich!; New Groove; Sound Off

Wednesday, May 10 2000
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Free Lars Ulrich! Metallica has done some exceedingly silly things in its time -- we're still trying to figure out that whole San Francisco Symphony thing the band perpetrated last year. In fact, it's pretty easy to write off most of what it's done musically since ...And Justice for All. But in engineering a photo-op in front of Napster's San Mateo offices last week, the band's pulled something that can only be described as downright dopey. On May 3, Lars Ulrich swam in the media pool as he dropped off approximately 335,000 user names of people accessing Napster's MP3 trough and downloading Metallica songs.

He should have gone farther south, to the Los Angeles offices of Metallica's label, Elektra Records. There, he could've dumped that big pile of names on the appropriate desk and said something like this: "Hey, as our record label, you're responsible for controlling the proper distribution of our music, and here I've got a whole bunch of people who are downloading Metallica songs for free. What are you going to do about this?"

In other words, while nobody could say Napster,, and other downloadable music sites are unquestionably ethical when it comes to copyright, it seems to make just as much sense to question the folks responsible for protecting copyright as those who are purportedly violating it. What Metallica's done is a bit like strolling into the offices of Pioneer and having a hissy fit over its making tape decks with a record function. Back in the '70s, the big labels concocted their home-taping-is-killing-music propaganda plan mainly because record sales were dropping, but with CD sales still rising, the industry's problem isn't the tape-trading-esque method Napster facilitates, but its own difficulty coming up with a distribution model for downloadable music that actually works.

An assortment of technology and music companies were supposedly going to get a Secure Digital Music Initiative going by last Christmas, so we could all enjoy our Celine Dion albums on our hard drives, properly paid for to boot. But with SDMI essentially dead and each record company claiming it's working on its own model, it's hard for labels to be shocked -- shocked! -- about people trading MP3 files both legal and illegal when they've yet to devise a better system. Sure, artists deserve to be paid, and yes, pirated MP3 files are a violation of copyright. But with record companies consolidating, CD prices rising, and radio playlists tightened into pointlessness, it's hard to blame people for taking their business elsewhere.

But no matter -- a method to compensate Lars Ulrich for his terrible, terrible pain is already in place. Late last month, San Francisco Internet firm August Nelson -- tongue firmly in cheek -- launched, which is designed to let users donate money to Metallica to make up for the purported musical losses it's suffered at the hands of Napster. "Metallica and the recording industry are justified in being concerned [about Napster]," says August Nelson CEO Mark Erickson, "but I don't think that their way of demonstrating that concern is useful." According to Erickson, about 150 people have sent in cash to the band -- at press time, the total number of donations added up to a whopping $247. "A lot of people are sending 10 bucks to Metallica and telling them to shove it," says Erickson.

New Groove Awhile back, we noted that Mick's Lounge, located at the yuppie nexus of Union and Van Ness, was changing ownership, with promises that the musical offerings would be a step above the usual slate of cover bands and similarly intentioned hacks who held court at the place. Since Mick's changed hands earlier this month, that appears to have happened. Ron Kirkpatrick, the venue's new co-owner, renamed the place Tongue and Groove, threw DJs into the mix, and dimmed the lights in the name of atmosphere and to "have each night take on its own personality," as he puts it. Cover bands still toil on Thursdays, but changes are most evident on Wednesday nights -- designed by booker Candida Martinez, "Jazz II Jungle" regularly rotates six local acts who together fall into the trip hop, live jazz, and drum 'n' bass categories, including Kooken & Hoomen, Hector Welsh Project, Transmission, Mushroom, Connector, and Vasuvilla. "It comes out of my own biased interest in jazz and drum 'n' bass, and that in terms of that music, I always appreciate seeing that stuff live," says Martinez. "My intention is to build a scene, so that people don't come to just see Mushroom, but to know that there's a certain crowd there, a certain kind of music." Tonight's show does feature Mushroom, however, on the heels of a new 12-inch single, an epic appropriately titled "Leni Riefenstahl." The show starts at 9 p.m.; tickets are $4.

Sound Off After over a year of back-and-forths with neighbors, police, and permitting, the CoCo Club is closing up its live loud music career on the 14th with a final show featuring 10 bands: Matterhorn, Old Grandad, Drunkhorse, Sister Kissers, Clinics, Subtonix, the Blackouts, Broken Low, Moss, and Bite. Last month the complaints piled up against the SOMA club, and since it's been permitted only for acoustic performances, booker Jo Ann Arnold was forced to move the bands elsewhere (mainly to Kimo's on Polk Street).

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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