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Words + Guitar (+ Beats + Skronk) 

What mattered and what splattered in pop, 1997

Wednesday, Dec 31 1997
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Page 6 of 7

Five of Jill Stauffer's Favorite San Francisco Things

1) Wetgate, the all-projector orchestra Where art-wanking meets why not? Three men and three projectors create sound and image performances enthralling enough to dance to -- if you're not too busy watching. Worth seeing more than once because it's never the same.

2) The Lexington Club A Mission lesbian bar, but a neighborhood bar, too. Atmospheric elements -- of family, of welcome, of hipness, and of suspicion -- complement rather than cancel one another. Owner and manager Lila Thirkield made a space for community in a place where community was supposedly waning.

3) The Dovre Club While it was still open, it was truly a wonder of a neighborhood bar: Old men and hipsters, drunks and pool players, academics and buffoons, locals and visitors, all joined together and made room for each other. And drank a great deal.

4) Fort Funston, that first look when you approach the edge of the cliff After winding down the precarious stairs and navi-gating the sandy paths, you never know what you might see: maybe wet dogs performing canine water ballet or people on horses; maybe sunbathers and swimmers braving icy waters; maybe sun and heat; maybe wind and sandstorms; maybe hang gliders or families or couples or singles. No matter who's there, you'll always find beauty.

5) Waycross This San Francisco band sounds like a cross between Black Sabbath and Pink Floyd; that is, if Black Sabbath and Pink Floyd were powered by girls with a gift for profound lyrics. The four-piece Waycross -- a straight girl, a lesbian, a straight guy, a gay guy -- draw audiences as sexually diverse as the band. And they rock!

Andi Zeisler's Top 10 (In no particular order)

1) Elliott Smith, Either/Or, and live at the Bottom of the Hill Smith is the human embodiment of the ego conflict faced by many artists -- desperately wanting people to respond, shrinking away in horror when they do. He suspends acoustic narratives like "Rose Parade" in a matrix of pure tension, while "Cupid's Trick" gives his voice, lightly strangled misery on the folkier tracks, a stomping release.

2) Portastatic, The Nature of Sap Mac McCaughan's follow-up to 1995's Slow Note From a Sinking Ship finds the normally manic Superchunk frontman in an extended soporific spelunk through the caves of his waking dreams. With narcotic klezmer ("A Lovely Nile"), echo-chamber punk ("Impolite Cheers"), and the wandering wobble of "You Know Where to Find Me," I like to imagine that this is the album playing in Steve Buscemi's ice cream truck in Trees Lounge.

3) Bob Dylan and Ani DiFranco live I saw the pair performing at an antiseptic new venue in rural Connecticut that looked like a metal kleenex box, smelled like a dentist's office, and was staffed entirely by cranky senior citizens. With Jakob Dylan's Wallflowers racking up the glossy magazine covers, some media types looked for a 1997 father-son duke-out between the two musical Dylans, but the elder's blistering set this night confirmed that timeless material will beat the cover of Details every time. Opening act and one-woman youth movement DiFranco was, nevertheless, the bigger star to a significant portion of the crowd. Best overheard comment, from one suedeheaded teen-ager to another: "Should we stay for Dylan?"

4) Hermenaut No. 11/12 "The Digest of Heady Philosophy for Teens," truant from the newsstands since last year's Bruce Lee spectacular, is back with a thick issue on camp. It mines the predictable sources (Liberace, Nancy Sinatra & Lee Hazlewood, Tiny Tim) with equal parts humor and critical bile, proffers twin tributes to irony kingpins Oscar Wilde and S¿ren Kierkegaard, and blames Susan Sontag for almost everything.

5) Stay Free!'s "Marketing to Kids" issue This supersmart zine, formerly a melange of music, cultural criticism, and random bubble-bursting, is now devoted solely to the exploration of consumerism. The current issue features ad spoofs alongside writing about how toy marketers induct tiny, diapered pawns into a lifetime of brand loyalty and character fetishism.

6) Rolling Stone's "Women of Rock" 30th-anniversary issue Yes, that's women of rock, not women in rock. Gerri Hirshey's history of the XX chromosome in the male musical treehouse rocked like it needed to, but the interviews throughout the rest of the issue found a surprising number of women unwilling to expand the definition of the word "feminism" to include their own groundbreaking selves. That done, the magazine scrambled to fulfill its naked-women-on-the-cover quota before year's end; the underwear-clad "Girls of Scream 2" foldout followed shortly after.

7) Matthew Sweet, Blue Sky on Mars Cynical lyrics and starry-eyed, synth-heavy arrangements ("Where You Get Love"; "Behind the Smile") reappear on this record about love that's not of this Earth. This is pop music for the people, especially when the people are watching The X-Files in syndication, following Hale-Bopp across the sky, and obsessing about alien autopsies.

8) Cleavage TV Between Tori Spelling, Kim Fields, Cybill Shepherd, Kirstie Alley, and Kathy Najimy, prime time's women are putting the boob back in boob tube. Russ Meyer employs more subtlety, but it's somehow gratifying to see zaftig women -- particularly older ones like Alley, Shepherd, and Najimy -- flaunting their natural bounty amid sassy one-liners. Spelling, whose ill-placed silicone rises ever chinward, just looks like a train wreck in a tanning salon.

9) Helium, The Magic City The lavender-hued, unicorny lyrics and song titles ("Lullaby of the Moths"; "Lady of the Fire") of The Magic City's retro-prog-rock are thoroughly belied by singer/guitarist Mary Timony, a tree goddess in high dudgeon fucking shit up in the court of the Crimson King.

10. The Spice Girls Currently rivaling smoking as far as guilty pleasures go, with everyone protesting that they only do it socially. Can't wait for the movie.

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