Oh, how impressionable are all you newcomers to San Francisco. I can already see the freshmen naively dancing with the dirty, burnt-out, deadheads on Haight Street and in Golden Gate Park. I can hear the rush of scraping heels and shuffling sneakers swelling on the sidewalk in front of Rickshaw Stop, Ruby Skye, Madrone and many other clubs, all to experience city life. And yes, even all you who have returned to the city are just as guilty!
It’s easy to fail to explore this city because the Richmond is pretty comfortable. Strictly taking the Muni to accessible popular downtown places is pretty comfortable, too. Hell, even religiously eating Papalote, the only decent burrito place around school, is pretty comfortable. For all those in the City who are curiously new, or complacently old, here is a crash course guide in diving into the San Francisco scene through music, of course!
DJ’s have always been the architects of hip-hop and the privileged few trusted to get the people moving with fresh beats. Normally hip-hop is restricted to a guy or gal rapping over two plates of wax or mp3s, but the weekly Afrolicious party at the Elbo Room takes the dance experience to the next level. A wide array of live percussion instruments, DJ’s and guest MC’s combine forces as a wonder team to save your feet from a horrendous dance night. Their beats have exotic sensibilities that improvise on heavy African tribal music, fiery Spanish salsa, bass-y electro and even tasteful dubstep.
Never underestimate the art gallery scene in San Francisco. Whenever you get a chance, pick up a copy of the San Francisco Arts Quarterly publication and mark some of the many interesting gallery events.
The popular Divisadero and Lower Haight art walks, as well as the open gallery first Tuesdays, guarantee live music and good local art. There are so many artists and so many spaces in San Francisco fighting to get some love that the young ones generally are not snobs and throw a party for their new exhibits. Lift the black tarp around your imagination and let your brain breathe in some colorful visuals to the score of ambient disco rockers.
San Francisco can be a mean place for punks, metal heads and rockabillies. It seems 90 percent of venues are not all-ages and all the decent acts play at bars.
So, if you’re not 21 and just want to release some energy, where can you stomp around? Submission on Mission St. has hardcore music playing in all genres practically every week. The Thrillhouse on 30th and Mission invites bands from all over the state to play in a dingy, sweaty living room every now and then. Thee Parkside, next to Bottom of the Hill, has purebred local acts play for an all-ages hour during the day. 924 Gilman in Oakland is also a cornerstone all-ages venue for the Bay Area. SF State’s The Depot brings in some quality up and coming acts. But, nothing proudly expresses “Independent” and “Anarchy” like the occasional free generator shows at 16th and Mission BART station.
When you just want to sit and listen to music in a pleasant atmosphere with diverse people, go to Revolution Café on 22nd and Bartlett. Every day there are jazz or gypsy bands playing beautiful renditions of old standards.
At night, nothing is more enjoyable than sinking into a seat, letting warm dusk pass over you and listening to Beethoven, Brahms or Debussy played by classical musicians from the Conservatory of Music.
Going to Fisherman’s Wharf and Union Square are not enough to say you live in San Francisco. To really begin to know the City, you’ve got to walk down the unimportant streets, duck into the random coffee shops and explore what is not on the maps. These interactions with new people, new places and new sounds will eventually guide you to that perfect niche that you can claim as your spot in the harlequin tapestry of San Francisco.
Editor-in-Chief: Heather Spellacy
Chief Copy-Editor: Burke McSwain
Scene Editor: Tamar Kuyumjian