My dad grew up in Oakland and is always telling me about rock shows in the ’60s and ’70s in San Francisco. At a lot of these intimate concerts, you’d see the bands grabbing a whiskey after the show, mingling with folks. Hittin’ on your chicks. It was a scene, man.

And not that this is a major news flash, but it’s just not like that anymore. Even a few years ago it was a different feel at these smaller shows. But now bands are usually back in the green room, or don’t show up until they’re nearly on. There’s a little us-and-them thing going on sometimes — and we get it. It’s not always the time and place to mingle and dingle.

“A lot of people don’t get out to shows that much anymore,” says Andrew St. James, curator of the Fast Times! series. He grew up in San Francisco. “Bands were always throwing these parties for each other, and everyone would go out and listen to the music and just hang out and party. I just feel like that’s a lot harder to find now.”
(photo: Syra McCarthy)
St. James made his first record at 17. Got picked up. Moved to LA. And through various circumstances found himself back in the city a few years later to a different vibe. “People felt more separated, a little more jaded…so I thought, ‘What if we threw a party and slipped some great shit in there?’”

What’s he mean by great shit? Killer bands, baby. For the last year, St. James has been throwing a party series at Amnesia called Fast Times. This fall, they moved up the street to the Chapel, a venue with a little more space for the bustling party. “We had the first show and it was super slammed out, and people were like, ‘Whoa, that was super fun!’ It was just very casual and was a party.”

St. James has been connecting with folks like Tyson Vogel (Two Gallants), Sonny Smith (Sonny and the Sunsets) and folks from Geographer. This month’s series features the Gonks, Burning Curtains, some tunes by Andrew St. James himself, and some numbers by Fast Times — the band named after the series. Or was it the series after the band? Regardless, they’ve got a killer new song out. I asked him how to find the band.

He says, “Just look up ‘Fast Times xx.’”

I type it in. “It’s just porn,” I tell him.

He laughs and tells me to just go to their Instagram. “We’ve only got one song up right now,” he says. It’s called “10th Grade” and it’s got kind of a Killers meets Neutral Milk Hotel meets Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers thing going.

Come on out this Thursday night. Mingle, maybe dingle. It’s a low-pressure vibe with no strings attached, and as little pretension as possible. Think of all the dads that will tip their hats to the feel of that low-key scene. And a tip of the hat to Mr. St. James for giving the San Francisco music scene hope and parties.

Andrew St. James Presents: FAST TIMES! with Andrew St. James & Friends, Burning Curtains, Fast Times, The Gonks
The Chapel
December 19, 2019
8pm, $15