It's a Thursday night at the Chapel, and members of Thee Oh Sees are shuffling around onstage, setting up their gear before a sold-out show. Over the blaring house music, you can hear the voice of a middle-aged man standing in the crowd near the edge of the stage, shouting threats and mean jokes at Thee Oh Sees frontman John Dwyer. The man has a drink in his hand, and he's surrounded by two or three ladies who also have drinks in their hands, and who are laughing thoroughly as this guy sends some pretty profane statements in Dwyer's direction.
Suddenly, after building his tower of amps and speakers, Dwyer turns around, leans over, grabs the man's cheeks with both hands, and plants a big fat kiss on his lips.
Then they all laugh like they've never seen anything funnier.
The man Dwyer kissed is Parker Gibbs, a 51-year-old record nerd, DJ, former band manager, longtime San Francisco resident, and jocular friend to seemingly everyone in this city's underground rock 'n' roll scene.
Gibbs is the kind of person you see at every show, or at least at every show that the city's indie illuminati deem important. He's there when Thee Oh Sees play. He's there when Shannon and the Clams play. When Mikal Cronin plays. When Ty Segall plays. When Sonny Smith or Kelley Stoltz play. Certain shows are just those kind of shows, and you know because Gibbs is there, alongside the friends or significant others of beloved local musicians, proprietors of certain local vintage shops, former alt-weekly music editors, and so on.
But Gibbs is unique among them, because he's been here since '89, and because he was driving down to shows in the city even before he lived here, as a college student in Chico, and often driving back that same night. He saw My Bloody Valentine back then. He saw Big Black and the Wipers — on the same bill. He pretty much saw everybody. And yet the reason Parker Gibbs — a married white dude with thick-rimmed glasses who by day does sales and business development for a tech start-up — the reason he gets to give John Dwyer shit and get away with it and the reason many of his friends are twenty- or thirty-something musicians is because he really likes what's happening now.
"You don't act like you're one of those old guys, who are like, 'Well, when I used to ...' or, 'Here's how it used to be ...,'" Gibbs says over drinks at Casanova Lounge, one of his haunts. "It's like, no. It's just as exciting today as it was back then. It's just different."
Gibbs is not a musician. His creative outlet is DJing — either between sets at shows, where he often runs into and befriends the artists — or at bars like the Make-Out Room, which is a hangout for local rockers. He performs as DJ FOODCOURT, a name he chose "because it's first and foremost the stupidest DJ name ever ... but it's also encompassing of the kind of stuff I play. I have no problem playing everything from Black Flag to Steely Dan, which would be a food court." He has a regular first-Thursday and bimonthly gig at the Make-Out Room, and he DJs lots of private parties, like Pavement guitarist Scott "Spiral Stairs" Kannberg's Australian wedding.
Another reason for Gibb's popularity: He is very funny, often at his friends' expense. "He's the nicest man in the world," says old pal and musician Mark Eitzel. "He's also the meanest. He's the only one I know that can get away with the most politically incorrect shit in the world."
Every year, Gibbs throws a holiday party at the Make-Out Room that shows off his signature style, where he gets his musician buddies together and has them all play a revue-style show with a house band, performing covers, holiday songs, or originals. In between performers, Gibbs gets on the mic and, as he says, "berates people." Lots of drinks are had. He calls it "The GIBBSMO Holiday Craptacular," a name for which he's gotten some crap. "At the beginning," he says, "people didn't like the name: 'I don't like the name "Crapctacular," it just sounds kinda mean.' I'm like, 'Fuck you guys. That's what it is. We're throwing a bunch of shit on the wall and seeing what sticks. It's fantastic and people love it.'"
Indeed, the Craptacular is now in its 12th consecutive year, with a lineup that features Eitzel and Kelley Stoltz, with Marc and the Casuals as the house band. The show usually sells out. It's a benefit, with the door money going to the S.F. Food Bank; attendees also have to bring a nonperishable item. Gibbs tries to pay the musicians a stipend for their time, but most turn it down. "I just ply 'em with drink tickets," he says. "You keep the talent happy."
Given that, things do get messy. Gibbs recalls one show that went for four hours, and another time a band left because it was going to have to play half an hour later than planned. ("What'd you expect?" he says about that one.) Sometimes it can be hard to remember exactly how a show went. "The problem is, every year we get drunk and forget," he laughs. "I always go through my notes, like, 'Didn't they play the year before?"
But it doesn't really matter. The check goes to the Food Bank, the musicians play, and a certain corner of the San Francisco music scene convenes for one last party before everyone goes their separate ways for the holiday. And Parker Gibbs, the San Francisco rock scene's meanest friend, has had his fun for one more half-remembered night.