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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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Kowal: S.F. still has amazing clubs. It's a great place to work. If you can figure out the rest, you can work.

Perkins: We are definitely far ahead of where we thought we'd be and what we'd planned on [with Brick and Mortar]. That's why we're opening another club [in Oakland]. I don't think it's the tech people that are fueling our calendar.

Bennett: Music is music, and there are all different kinds of tastes. I can't sit here and tell you that one kind of person with one kind of job likes one specific thing.


Holliday: That's kind of like crying over Jerry Garcia dying. What can you do?

Theis: Before I moved [to Oakland], I started to feel like, "Man I'm getting old, 'cause I can't get any of my friends to come out [in S.F.] unless it's a weekend." And what it was is that most of my friends just don't live around here. It's a very limited number that do, and most of them are the ones who have real jobs, 'cause they're the only ones who can afford it. But over [in Oakland], all of a sudden it's all my same friends — it's not younger people necessarily, but it's where all the people who are more bohemian live now. That all is going to translate, there's going to be more of those kind of off-night residencies where people try more experimental things and new projects. I'm definitely thinking about that, too. It's real.

Kowal: There is a tipping point at which you cease to be a super city, and end up being Manhattan, you end up being a big empty wasteland. You end up being a bedroom community for a small industry. And we're at that tipping point. We're probably over that tipping point. If I can't find bands to book, if there's no mafia in the Jazz Mafia anymore, what the hell are we going to do?

Clem: There's a collective creative energy that's around here and people are feeding it or not. San Francisco historically has had that thing that people are drawn to, that free-spirited thing that's a place where you can come and do whatever it is you do. If musicians can't live here and afford to be here and have that happen, some of that pulse is going to go away.

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

Siegan: You have to remember that the beatniks moved in and replaced the old Italian families that were in North Beach. And the hippies moved into the Haight in the '60s and replaced a lot of working class families there. So we've seen this happen before. A lot of artists are moving out of S.F. And it's hard for me to assess whether that means that we're going to have less creative people available, but it doesn't look that way to me yet.

Bennett: There's a bunch of people moving in here, and because of that, there's a bunch of people going out. The S.F. I love and moved into [in 2001] has changed, and it's gone, that's all. It's different. It doesn't mean that it's worse, it doesn't mean that it's better, it's just different. San Francisco was a weird town. And the more money that is in here, the more hybrid cars, the more condos, the less weird it is.

Theis: I felt a connection to the neighborhood back when we were doing the Tuesday residencies and doing a lot of the more experimental stuff. I really felt like money didn't matter, because we were interacting with the community. I know how cool it is, because when I first moved into this neighborhood [the central Mission] in 1997, I would stumble down to spots every week and see really cool experimental music. If people don't live here, they're not going to be as likely to put that sweat equity into something. They'll go do a gig at the Boom Boom Room on a Friday night, or they'll try this or that. But as far as things that really bring the community together ... I think it's just going to get harder and harder.

Brown: With everybody moving away, or moving to L.A., or whatever they're doing, it'll be interesting to see where that goes in two years. Because the last time that happened, that's where we were 10 years ago. No offense to the bands that were around then, [but] there wasn't really shit going on in the city 10 years ago.


Bedard: That's the real fault line in San Francisco arts, is the first tech boom. That wiped out people in the visual arts and music. That combination of [a] new influx of noise-sensitive people came in at the same time there was also a lack of practice spaces.

Unnamed S.F. club booker: This one just feels worse. The last one, I had lots of friends who worked in dot-coms, and it was just this kind of Gold Rush mentality: "This may all fall apart tomorrow." There was an excitement, and also an anger. But this time it just feels so revolutionary. Like we're just going to rip out the roots. We're not going to trim the tree, we're just going to rip the whole thing out.

Eric Shea, singer, Hot Lunch; singer-guitarist, Sweet Chariot; employee, Pandora: A lot of it seems like deja vu from the late '90s. If that's the case, then maybe we'll elect a Republican president and then the economy will bust and everyone will move out of S.F. and all the artists will come back again.

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Ian S. Port

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