Is the San Francisco music scene dead? We search for clues.
Hot Flash Heat Wave at the Rickshaw Stop, January 31, 2016
I recently heard the music scene in San Francisco was dead, and being a writer for a website dedicated to covering the music scene in San Francisco, I was obviously a little concerned. To get to the bottom of this, I went out to find some comments from some members on the scene. But man, it was kind of difficult.
I thought I’d start with Chuck Prophet, who at this point should be considered one of the deans of the SF scene (if it still exists). Unfortunately, he had no comment. He was still steaming after dropping a blistering protest song honoring Alex Nieto and preparing for a show at Great American Music Hall, one of the few remaining music venues in San Francisco.
What about Sonny and the Sunsets? They practically made me cry last week on BART, maybe they have some thoughts? Unfortunately, Sonny was last seen breakdancing on Ocean Beach in a video featuring a large, strangely-shaped pink dong and various San Francisco musicians that I can only assume are now deceased. Maybe I’ll ask him when he performs in June at The Chapel, one of the few remaining music venues in San Francisco.
Con Brio? Surely we could glean something from their soulful sounds in a city that no longer has a soul? Aha, they haven’t released an album since 2015! They aren’t even performing in San Francisco until AUGUST, and it’s just some gig in a park, probably because they couldn’t find a proper stage in the city. For some reason, they seem to perform in parksa lot.
OK, how about San Francisco rap? Wine and Bowties recently highlighted overlooked hip-hop from overlooked neighborhoods in the 415, but W&B is based in OAKLAND, so I guess they don’t count. I’ve enjoyed Adam Vida‘s work when he was A-1 — maybe he could clue me in on the lack of music in his hometown. Unfortunately, he was busy putting the finishing touches on his upcoming album. I suppose I could track him down at his May 13 show at The Independent, one of the few remaining music venues in San Francisco — but that might require some planning, as his last San Francisco headlining show was sold out.
How about the studio owners? Patrick Brown, owner of Different Fur Studios, was too busy managing his studio that is nearly always booked to capacity and hanging out on Facebook describing a show in some cave he organized. Apparently it was a soft launch for a loose organization named “LMSFN“, which he describes as “a collaborative way to organize works and events that might inspire people in the Bay Area to continue creating works and events of their own.” I mean, I don’t even think a cave counts as a real venue, so perhaps he was the wrong person to ask anyway.
And what about younger bands?
Heartwatch, who also played Phono del Sol last year? Ahh, just released an album and playing the Elbo Room tomorrow night, one of the few remaining music venues in San Francisco. They’re so desperate they’re also playing a gig in Napa next month. Napa!
The She’s played our Rock Make event way back when they were just kids in high school and SF definitely had a music scene. I later heard their holiday song at a Starbucks and was immediately wrapped up in the holiday spirit. I couldn’t reach them; perhaps they will be available for comment at their upcoming headlining slot at Thee Parkside, one of the few remaining music venues in San Francisco.
What about other labels? Father/Daughter has been killing it on the national scene with PWR BTTM and Diet Cig rightfully blowing up, but what about San Franciscans? Unfortunately they have no plans to release an album from a San Francisco band until Saturday night when they host Plush‘s record release at Bottom of the Hill, one of the few remaining music venues in San Francisco.
Empty Cellar‘s last seven albums may have been from San Francisco artists, but they haven’t released one since February. Maybe they’re dead, too?
So, is San Francisco music dead? After failing to get in touch with all those folks before my deadline, I’m still not sure. I think I speak for my fellow writers at The Bay Bridged when I say that we’ll all be on the lookout, but you should probably keep an eye out yourself.
You can obviously start here to check for signs of the scene’s demise, because, well, we care about it. For example, we are currently giving away tickets to a San Francisco show full of San Francisco artists that’s taking place this evening, so your first research project might be free! Maybe visit Aquarius or Amoeba or 1234 Go and see if anyone working there is aware of the end of San Francisco music. If they find one of those rare San Francisco records, buy it and decide if there is any soul present as you listen at home.
You could also search for clues on a Sunday night at the Make-Out Room or a Monday night at the Hotel Utah or a Tuesday night at The Knockout or The Hemlock Tavern any night of the week. I’ve heard rumors that my colleagues are finalizing plans for the 2016 edition of Phono del Sol – maybe you can attend and find signs there, as well. (Volunteer to get in for free!) Heck, maybe you can travel all the way to *gasp* Oakland to the Out of Focus TV Music and Video Festival to see if Sonny’s new video is played on the big screen and we can spot hidden clues in his glowing, strangely-shaped johnson.
If you’re still not sure, maybe even put on your own show at your house or start your own band and make your own scene. Who knows what you’ll find? If you come across any signs of life (or create them on your own!), let us know and we’ll try to spread the word.