Music

The Kids Are Alright

The She's Optimistic Take on SF's Changing Music Scene

The Bay Bridged recently ran a great profile on The She’s, the 19-year-old pop rockers who’ve been playing in SF since 7th grade.  The whole piece is a compelling read, but their take on the whole “Is the SF music scene dying?” conversation is a particularly refreshing change of pace:

The She’s approach the shifting scenes in San Francisco with such a level-headed cool that it makes me wonder how anyone could question the fact that the music scene is alive. For all the talk of locals and transplants, New San Francisco versus Old San Francisco, here are four artists, born and raised right here in the city, who understand its dynamic nature and see nothing less than opportunity.

Hannah continues, “Maybe certain figures are leaving right now, but that just gives room for more. Part of being a figure of the San Francisco music scene is inspiring people like us. That’s how we were inspired.”

“It’s like passing the torch in a way,” Eva agrees. “I don’t really think of it as abandoning San Francisco as much as giving space for the new headliner, the new ‘San Francisco Band.’ Like this is the San Francisco music scene. It used to be like five names that were listed off every time, and they’re all great bands and they’re still great bands, but it needs a fresh breath of air.”

Read on.

Unplugged

"Funeral Dirge" is the Hot New Sound in San Francisco

Not since the shutdown of Downtown Rehearsal in 2000 have things seemed so dire for San Francisco’s music scene.  While there was some rebound over the last decade, and venues are doing well, the population of working musicians have decamped for Oakland and points beyond. Wednesday’s SF Weekly cover story by Ian S. Port offers some further perspective on how the flood of real estate money is drowning the small fry and even making the big fish search of eddies in shallower water.  Some choice quotes:

John Vanderslice (Tiny Telephone):

Any newcomer would be fucking crackers to try to set up in San Francisco.

John Dwyer (Thee Oh Sees):

NOBODY can square-up a joint like rich people.

Dawn Holliday (Slim’s Presents):

To me, [Dwyer] didn’t live here long enough to qualify. Moving to Santa Cruz is a luxury, and moving to L.A. is bad taste.

Noah “DJ Dials” Bennet (1015 Folsom):

Honestly, if it wasn’t for Google and Twitter and all this shit, half the club scene in San Francisco wouldn’t exist, period.

Guy Carson (Cafe Du Nord):

Every community wants to have their own innate culture. Otherwise it just becomes a tourist culture.

Vanderslice:

If we leave here, we would take everything over to Oakland. Eventually it will happen. It’s inevitable.

It’s not all pessimism! There’s a lot of sincere faith that the kids are alright, and Oakland is actually pretty cool. A panel discussion will be hosted by Port at 7:30pm on Tuesday, April 1st at The Chapel. Here’s hoping it doesn’t prove to be a requiem mass.

[Photo: Christopher Michel]

Everybody Take a Deep Breath

Elbo Room Landlord Assures Venue's Lease on Life

According to Susan Ring, co-owner of the building that houses Elbo Room with husband Dennis Ring, plans to redevelop the site into condos are just that—plans. “If we do anything, it’s not going to be for years,” she assured Uptown Almanac when reached by phone.

That echoes further assurances of the venue’s continued tenure by Matt Shapiro, booking agent and co-owner of the club with Erik Cantu. After contacting the club last week, Shapiro wrote in an email this morning that “Our lease is long and will be honored.”

Ring, who seemed entirely sincere, offered that “we had to submit something to the city” because “they won’t even have a discussion with you without submitting plans.”

“That’s all we’ve done. We haven’t made any decisions,” she added.  So relax, Afrolicious will still be holding their Thursday services through 2014 at the very least.

The proposal was submitted for assesment in September of 2013, and the Planning Department response gave the owners until May of 2015 to complete the work necessary for consideration, which includes required meetings with neighborhood stakeholders. News of the plans were first reported by SocketSite at the end of January, which later suggested that the expense of the plans, including drawings by Kerwin Morris Architects and the $5,000 application fee, were signs that the project would continue moving forward. However, Ring shrugged that off, saying “it costs a lot of money, but that’s how it goes.”

[Photo: Tim Lucas]

Noise Pop Poster Retrospective, Tonight at Bender's

In anticipation of this year's festival, Noise Pop is having a big poster retrospective and sale tonight at Bender's.  The details:

The Noise Pop Poster Retrospective highlights the past and present of Noise Pop Festivals: from the eye-burning colors to the minimalist icons of hand-printed limited-edition screenprints. Bring your poster tube because all of the posters are available for purchase! Artists include:

Lil Tuffy
Alan Forbes
Jason Munn (The Small Stakes)
Matt Leunig
Gregg Gordon (GigArt)

Starts at 8pm!

Elbo Room at Risk for Demolition to Make Way for Condos

Valencia Street continues its turbocharged tailspin into terrible as developers and landlords club the last shreds of tolerable into a permanent state of soothing unconsciousness.  The latest victim is poised to be the undeniably important two-story venue Elbo Room, which SocketSite reports the owners have “quietly drafted plans to raze the bar and construct a new five-story building in its place.”  The grim details:

Early plans for the development include nine (9) residential units, three one-bedrooms and six two-bedrooms, ranging in size from 500 to 1,000 square feet over a 770 square-foot commercial space and parking for six (6) cars on the ground floor.

While the existing building at 645 Valencia Street wasn’t deemed to be historic when reviewed as part of the Inner Mission Historic Resource Survey in 2011, the Planning Department has since “received additional information that suggests that the subject property may have associations with the history of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) individuals in San Francisco.”

After SocketSite's story broke, Elbo Room quickly shot it down, writing on Facebook:

Once again, despite what the real estate blog says, Elbo Room is Not Going Anywhere, Anytime Soon! But thanx so much for the concern, the kind words, and the support! We appreciate you!

Of course, “anytime soon” is subject to interpretation.  “Our report isn't based on rumor or speculation,” SocketSite fired back. “But rather the Preliminary Project Assessment for the development which was submitted to San Francisco’s Planning Department for review.”

Ugh.

We all agree building more housing is important, and landowners have the God-given right to cash out when the market is drooling over Mission real estate like a starved dog.  But not like this.  Nine units is a drop in our drought-stricken bucket, and won't move the housing cost needle anywhere.  And what do we get?  The undignified death of another venue and stripping away of one of the very institutions that make people want to move here in the first place.

At least the bus stop is nearby…

Don't Be an Idiot and See Local Music Tonight

You'd be hard-pressed to find any night where there's not a worthy concert in the Bay Area. But with a slew of local acts putting out new records this month, and bigger groups coming home from fall tours, tonight is just one of those nights were it's hard to pick just what show to go to.  Let's take a look:

We've gushed about Kitten Grenade's melodies before, and have even had frontwoman Katelyn Sullivan in for a live session during our BFF.fm radio show.  It goes without saying we're a fan of this emerging vocal talent, even if bands that incorporate ukuleles aren't our usual jam.  And tonight, they're releasing their first EP on Breakup Records.

Opening is Sad Bastard Book Club and Halcyonaire, the later being a quasi-country/folk band that's becoming one of the main squeezes of the local music press. $6 / The Hemlock.

As we mentioned in our previous post about the release of POW!'s “High-Tech Boom” video, they'll be turning The Make-Out Room into a sweaty room of loud music and tech angst.  We cannot imagine this will disappoint.  $8.

Finally, for fans of bands who put out posters featuring cute bats and terrifying pyramids, local psych rock group Wooden Shjips will be at The Chapel tonight.  Tickets are available online, but thanks to The Chapel's unconscionable service fees, save yourself the money at get them at the door. $16.

And Now, the Video for POW!'s "High-Tech Boom"

After the fledging garage rock group POW! was unfortunately (fortunately?) dragged into John Dywer's gentrification temper tantrum, we were left anxious to see what their first video would look like—and get a taste of the tunes that spurred Dywer to pound out such a visceral press release in the band's favor.

Now we have that video. While it lacks molotovs being chucked at Twitter's office and guitars smashing a Google bus piñata, it does feature plenty of CGI-polished shots of kids gambling and being in a band.  Helluva tune, too.

(And should you want to see this live, POW! is having a record release show tonight at The Make-Out Room.)

[via The Bay Bridged]

Bizarro Omer Travers Serenades the Symphony

Obviously the portrait is not of Omer Travers, the man once king of Valencia Street's buskers and bawlers, but it might as well be.  Had he traded up his swag rags and guitar for a white tux and piano, well, this would be him.  The resemblence is uncanny.

(Also, we've heard a few rumors that Omer has returned to the neighborhood following his relocation to Arizona, but neither we nor anyone we've talked to has spotted him.)

[Thanks Lindsey!]

How Not to Leave San Francisco (Or Thee Oh Sees' Gentrification Temper Tantrum)

Certainly you've heard Thee Oh Sees' frontman and Castle Face Records' co-owner John Dwyer has moved to Los Angeles.  How could you not?  On December 18th, on stage at the Great American Music Hall, he announced the band was going on hiatus “for a long while,” and he hasn't let up since.

“He's been living in the Mission on 17th and Valencia, and watching that neighborhood as well as the city transform has been enough for him,” Oh Sees' booking agent Annie Southworth told SF Weekly after the Great American show. “He's over it.”

Over it. Yes, lots of people are “over it,” but they don't necessarily pack up all their toys and run away either, especially not by announcing it through their 'representation team'.

Dwyer himself must have realized he let his fuming furor get the better of himself, and quickly dialed back the “long while” hiatus as a “well deserved transitional period” for the band.  And the “over it” was a stray remark by a representative, so we let that slide, too.

But then yesterday, safely distanced from San Francisco's woes in LA, Dwyer puked up a blathering screed about the city's cultural decay. It took the form of a Castle Face press release for POW!'s forthcoming album (edited down for length):

San Francisco has long been filling up with noobs…but now we face the most dangerous, the most egregious and blandest of them all… people with lots of money.
NOBODY can square-up a joint like rich people.

POW! have written a punk eulogy to our fair city.

Evictions!
Pop up shops!
Parklets!
Specialty shops!
What the fuck is happening???

There goes the taqueria that used to kick ass, replaced by a deli with a line of assholes a mile long. “I wonder what the sandwiches are like and do they make their own salsa?”
It's enough to be the catalyst for a bad day or a great fucking song. […]

Heed the warning bell about the streets of our home being clogged with the cholesterol of normals…next they could be knocking on your door…

The whole media campaign is starting to look like a desperate attempt for his move to be seen as a watershed moment in gentrification.

However, John Dwyer made a choice.  He wasn't evicted.  He wasn't priced out.  He's in a famous band; no one was making him go anywhere.  One day he said “fuck this noise,” loaded up a U-Haul, and drove to Los Angeles—which is fine, because people do similar things all the time.  But then, from hundreds of miles away, he waved his middle finger at the city he just gave up on and lashed out at it.

Instead of admitting he had a great run in SF but he felt was time to move on, he voluntarily left kicking and screaming.  His resulting tirade was worse than pointless and petulant, it was snot-filled loogie spit in the face of community that nurtured his storied career.  And what for?  Did any of this help?

Say what you will about the Mission's current state of affairs (we certainly have), but it's not irreparably fucked.  The neighborhood has grown to have three flourishing independent radio stations, venues like The Chapel (where Thee Oh Sees recently had a residency) are opening, not closing, and worthy bands are still springing up.  Never mind all the people sticking around, fighting to reverse the vile trends Dwyer called out.

This isn't to say that I don't love Thee Oh Sees—I've trashed my ear drums to Help more times than I can count, and blared their other albums almost as much.  And their live show was always among my favorites around.

But if you decide you can't take it anymore, at least push off with some dignity. Because there's nothing punk rock about being smug.

[Photo via SF Weekly]

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