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Exit Music: Musicians Are Leaving San Francisco. Can the City's Legendary Scene Survive? 

Wednesday, Mar 12 2014
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Jay Siegan, former owner, Red Devil Lounge: I've nothing sexy to say about the [closure of the] Red Devil Lounge. Nothing went wrong. It was a wonderful 19-year run. I want to spend more time with my family and focus on my other businesses.

Jello Biafra and the Guantanamo School of Medicine, "Dot Com Monte Carlo," Enhanced Methods of Questioning, 2011:

Never knew geeks

Could be so damn mean

Artists and workers

Bulldozed out by the thousands

Can't afford to be black

Or teach school in this town

My vet had to relocate

To his garage

Where can we go

Oakland, then to Portland then L.A.?

Their Gold Rush immolated like Pompeii

But they're back!

Dot com Monte Carlo

Yuppie San Francisco

Nowhere left to go

Eric Silverman, guitarist, The Tropics; software team manager, Apple: Nothing can actually be that black and white. There's a continuum between everything. I studied software engineering in college and I've been working at Apple, and I feel really creative there, and I like it. I also have been making music since I was 5. That's a huge part of my life. I'll be up for the next eight hours working on stuff for [the Tropics' upcoming] record. And I don't think it's fair to say that just cause you're on one side, you can throw mud. It's a city full of a lot of different people, that's what's so awesome about San Francisco.

Vanderslice: We see Google employees more than anyone [recording at Tiny Telephone Studios]. It may just be the way they foster creativity there. We do get some Facebook people for sure, and we get a few Twitter people. But like 80 percent is Google. And what's very common, and this is what confuses people, is there will be a band where there's one Google employee and he's paying for everything. Sometimes those bands are weekend warrior bands, sometimes they're very good. Because they're smart, creative people and they're like, "If I'm going to be in a band, we're going to make this fucking roll." It's very confusing. The narrative doesn't hold up.

Dawn Holliday, general manager/small-time owner, Slim's, the Great American Music Hall, and Hardly Strictly Bluegrass: Out of the 40 people next to us in a small space [tech start-up], I doubt but one knows there's a nightclub across the alley that has live music. And I think probably five are aware of Hardly Strictly Bluegrass. They don't have any interest.

John Dwyer, frontman, Thee Oh Sees (press release for the band POW!, Jan. 2, 2014): Stepping over them, eyes glazed, feet dragging, blank face aglow in the eerie luminescence of the smart (?) phones underfoot, is the spirit of these songs. 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.

Kowal: I agree with [Dwyer]. I think it was a statement that needed to be made loudly and publicly. And you're always going to need a radical point of view to make the measured middle make sense to people who are naysayers.

Holliday: I can't take that seriously. 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. Tell me a real reason to leave San Francisco.

Siegan: What about the 22-year-olds? They're not all making six figures. There's a bunch of kids, and yes, they take the Google bus to work. Yes, they live four of them in an apartment, and they're also in a band, they're also artists and graphic designers and they're doing some cool shit in San Francisco. They're not all just these robots that have come from somewhere else and are sucking our resources dry.


Noah "DJ Dials" Bennett, DJ and talent buyer, 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.

Silverman: When people say, "Oh the music scene's dying," I don't see it, and I'm looking out from the stage. Black Cobra Vipers was doing a residency at Chapel, and every week it was packed and it was awesome. There's a huge music scene, and everyone's interested in it, everyone wants to participate in it, everyone wants to support it.

Patrick Brown, owner and engineer, Different Fur Studios: Musicians are moving away, but we've got the most business we've ever had in the 10 years that I've lived in the studio. It's probably a large positive and a large negative that's happening at the same time.

Aaron Axelsen, music director, Live 105: I haven't seen it affect what I do. I still think the quality of Bay Area music hasn't waned at all.

John "DaVinci" DeVore, Fillmore rapper: There's a lot of up-and-coming talent out of San Francisco and Fillmore particularly. There's a lot of even younger cats that's earning their stripes right now. I feel like it's at a point where it's sprouting again. ... So I'm excited about it. I see [the economic boom] as a good thing.

Siegan: There's more people in the streets, more people have moved into the city, people are spending money, some of them don't seem to respect the city and are running around like assholes. Others really integrated into the arts community and are active contributors. I get contacted a lot by various companies, including tech firms, to provide pretty unique creative events, and I see the city alive with events. I see a lot of opportunity for the musicians I work with to be working with these companies as opposed to feeling confronted. I watch musicians who are playing for these tech firms make enough money that they're able to then build their home studios and pursue their other creative artistic pursuits.

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Ian S. Port

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