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Better, Later, and on the Air: A Wish list for S.F. Music in 2012 

Wednesday, Jan 4 2012

Optimists say that if you want to have your dreams come true, you should write them down. We frankly doubt that elucidating the things we want to happen in S.F. music in 2012 will make them come to pass. But then it's not like things are particularly shabby, musically speaking: 2011 saw local artists get more attention than in many previous years (even if those artists weren't always the ones we wanted), and brought numerous other encouraging developments (also many depressing ones). We can't help feeling a trifle optimistic at the start of this leap year, so it's with a pinch of hopefulness that we offer a wish list for Bay Area music in 2012. If any of them come true, remember whom to credit.

KUSF returns to the airwaves.
The FCC hasn't approved the transfer of the broadcast license from this once-mighty community radio station to a classical-music radio group partly owned by the University of Southern California — at least not yet. We hope it doesn't go through. Finding a way to return the 34-year-old volunteer-run station to its former glory would be a tremendous longshot. But without KUSF, Bay Area radio doesn't represent the cultural diversity that makes this such an interesting place for music lovers to reside. So, gods above: Shake the earth, shoot lighting bolts, make the sky spew broadcast licenses, whatever. Just please get KUSF back on the air.

A Bay Area rap star breaks out who isn't gimmicky — and is good at rapping.
In 2012, join us in saying whatever to White Girl Mobs, fashion labels, Mickey Mouse ears, and sub-par moves on the mic. Now that the national rap mags have come to investigate the Bay, can they please champion a local hero who rhymes well, says interesting, funny things, and has put out more than one decent song? It could be Roach Gigz, DB Tha General, the Jealous Guys, IamSu, DaVinci, Young L, or someone we haven't yet heard of. It won't be Lil B — he's on his own trip. It could be LoveRance, even if we aren't down with "Beat the Pussy Up." But it'd be a shame to waste this brief moment of attention by letting the world think that rhyming "Barbie" with "Arby's" is the best the Bay can do.

Local rock bands find a new, or newer, sound.
San Francisco bands are great at garage. But there's more to rock than reconnecting the dots between Duane Eddy, the Nuggets comps, and Nirvana. As much as we love the current stable of S.F. rock outfits, we'd love them even more if the charges of "throwback" didn't sting so much. Groups like Ty Segall and Thee Oh Sees took innovative steps on their 2011 releases, and we hope more local rock bands aim to do six-string damage outside of a 40-year-old comfort zone in 2012.

The Noise Pop festival gets a lineup worthy of its 20th anniversary.
The biggest club-based indie music festival in S.F. turns two decades old next month. So far, the partial lineup is solid, if not thrilling: Built to Spill, the Dodos, Wye Oak, Veronica Falls, Archers of Loaf. But this is the festival that had Spoon in '97, Modest Mouse in '98, the White Stripes in '01, and the Flaming Lips a year before The Soft Bulletin. Those were incredibly prescient bookings, and we hope to see a few like them when this year's full lineup is out.

Hardly Strictly Bluegrass continues ... forever.
Before Hardly Strictly founder Warren Hellman died late last year, he endowed the city's sprawling, free, roots-music festival so it could continue for at least 15 years. That's quite a while, but it's not long enough. If we had our druthers, this year would see the start of an effort to preserve the free festival indefinitely. Hellman can't have been the only local rich guy who likes music and generosity.

Groundbreaking electronic artists who don't leave for L.A., New York, or Berlin.
S.F. isn't quite the navel of the electronic dance music world. But it is at least a finger or a mouth, right? Given the huge popularity of the music here — and the growth of clubs catering to a bass-loving, beat-worshipping crowd over the last two years — it's surprising how few world-class producers remain in the city. Our colleague Shawn Reynaldo — managing editor of electronic music mag XLR8R and founder of the Icee Hot parties — recently pointed out that while S.F. boasts a sizeable crew of house and hip-hop DJs, it seems cutting-edge electronic producers who get a taste of success often take off. We'd love to see them stay.

More late-night everything.
It may seem tangential to the vitality of the local music scene, but it isn't: Having places to eat, drink, and soak up tunes late at night is part of having a world-class cultural center. Right now, San Francisco feels like a dustbin for drunk tourists and pizza addicts after 2 a.m. There are a couple clubs that keep the music going till 4 or later, and a few late-night restaurants scattered around. But we'd like to see S.F. become a true 24-hour city. Some of the best creative inspiration comes during that murky period between midnight and sunrise. And working musicians (and music journalists) have to eat, too.

About The Author

Ian S. Port


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