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SFO3 Diary 

Wednesday, Jul 31 1996
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Page 3 of 4

The Saturday afternoon writers' forum, livened by the irreverent wit Perry, ended with several panelists expressing contempt for the industry practice of wining and dining the press. Afterward, several writers and editors headed to a SOMA Thai restaurant with Virgin records publicist Wendy Weisberg, who picked up the tab. (J.S.)

Panel: "It's All in the Downbeat (Or Is It the Backbeat?): The Producers Panel" S.F.'s Norm Kerner, owner of Brilliant Studios, began introducing the panelists by saying, "Let's not talk about credits, since they mean nothing," though of course they came regardless. Surprisingly, only two panelists wore sunglasses indoors. The only hint of studio despotism came when Kerner described co-producing albums with bands. "Musicians have to have the ability to believe me when I say a guitar part has to go. If they argue, it's not co-producing." Tinnitus war stories ensued before we broke for lunch. (M.B.)

Transmission Theater A packed house turned out to see the hotly discussed buzz band Train, an earthy outfit whose music was summed up in three words by one onlooker as "little reggae hats." At press time, there was no word on whether the fat cat with the contracts ever materialized.

Next door, on the second stage at the Paradise, one of the area's most truly promising young acts won over plenty of converts, overcoming some vexing technical difficulties. Led by singer/keyboardist Joshua Rifkin, the four-piece known as Mumblin' Jim came across like a buoyant composite of Tim Buckley, the Raspberries, and the Beastie Boys. With their unabashed appreciation of Mike Post-era faux-funk and their cadre of glitter-dusted female fans, Mumblin' Jim put on the best, most infectious set this correspondent saw during the conference. Rifkin's beaming appreciation for his audience's enthusiastic response is exactly what SFO was established for; may his band return next year with a growing success story under its belt. (J.S.)

Slim's There are those who will wear their convention laminate out of duty -- usually business types who realize the importance of knowing who's who. There are those couldn't be paid enough to wear one -- usually cool musician types who think wearing your name on your chest is geeky. And there are those who have always dreamed of wearing a laminate but never got a really good opportunity. A gentleman standing outside Slim's seemed to be just such a man. "Hi, uh, Silky," he said struggling to read my name phonetically. The purple sticker attached to his brown flannel supplied the correct response. "Hi, Bob!" I said. "Now, that's what I like to hear," he smiled, pulling a packet of "Hi, my name is ..." labels out of his back pocket and offering them to passers-by. "No reason the bigwigs should get all the perks," he said in a conspiratorial tone. (S.T.)

Heartbreak I hadn't intended to spend a substantial portion of the evening here, but upon walking in I noticed an epitaph over the bar: "R.I.P. Heartbreak bye bye," with a sketch of a valentine ripped in half. Even more funereal: a sign saying "This is all we have," indicating two or three brands of beer and cider. No one checked my badge at the door or asked for money. Onstage, 45 minutes after their scheduled start, Pink Noise Test fiddled with cables and picked lint off their shirts.

My intentions in staying weren't charitable at first. I wanted to see just how bleak it could get. The sole barmaid scurried about, picking up empties, answering the phone every two minutes, and patiently pointing to the sign above the bar whenever someone ordered something unavailable (as I'd done). Pink Noise Test started playing to the best of their limited ability. I ordered another drink and asked her if they were shutting down soon; she said either "Totally" or "Tonight" -- silly Stockton noise pop interfered -- and went back to work without time to answer my stupid questions. To my surprise, I started having a good time -- not listening to the dumb band, but watching this woman do more labor every 10 minutes than I'd done in the past five years. She was stomping butt in the face of fiscal death, or bankruptcy, or unemployment, or lost profits, or sheer annoyance. Adversity of any scale would do; she was my heroine.

A skinny woman in a Kiss T-shirt arrived at 9:30 to help tend bar. Someone finally manned the door. Even with more staff, the pace of work remained the same. A Polvo clone started distracting me in the background. Ordering another drink, I asked the new bartender when they were shutting down. She said either "After the second" or "Any second" and resumed her backbreaking efforts. The nuisance combo in the background, waving guitars about and singing off-key, rendered hearing impossible. (M.B.)

Sunday
Bottom of the Hill Sunday afternoon, nursing a triple hangover, overbudget for booze, and shoveling down platefuls of cheap chow, I expected nothing of note. I was surprised. Slim Cessna's Auto Club played spooky neo-country music that I'm not well-versed in enough to judge but loved regardless. Clumsy Dwight Yoakam knee-swiveling, lyrics rhyming "looker" with "$10 hooker," ersatz rebel-yell crowd responses, and a spiritual that made the resurrection of Christ sound like something out of Tales From the Crypt all did right by me.

Soul Divine came out for a while, offering a sorority-band soul sound with some ability. "Able" isn't good enough. Vocals full of Linda Perry affect will always crawl upon my skin, no matter how passable the vocalist is. They looked awkward and uncomfortable in their budget glam outfits -- so awkward, in fact, that I started rooting for them despite myself. The guitarist played some leads somehow both Greg Ginn sloppy and cold-fish stiff, attributable to either genius or nerves. A balding, Calistoga-sipping 50-year-old in geek-strapped wraparound shades grooved nonstop on his bar stool during the performance. Gee, I wonder if he was an A&R guy.

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