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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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Vanderslice: Part of the sadness of the people that want to hurl rocks at Google buses, what they're getting at, is that if you do have the schooling, the self-confidence, and the money to go to Stanford and tip-top engineering schools and then get funneled onto Google — there are things that happen before you get hired at Google that are sad about this country. The economic split starts early. Sometimes we see people that are making a lot of money in the tech industry and they're not exactly super bright. So you've got to wonder, how viciously unfair is this country?

Carson: We have to plan for fun. There's very little planning for fun going on right now, because of the value of residential real estate is so high. But you have to take a longer view. Why not have a set-aside for artists [in mid-Market], kind of at the hub of the city? It would be a good investment.

Kowal: No, I'm not optimistic. I'm going to keep fighting, because I love this place. I want to live here, I want to stay here. I want to keep this place meaningful, relevant, and worth living in. But do I think I can fight the forces of history? No, I don't have that kind of power. I think Ed Lee does.

Carson: We can do anything in this city if we focus. It depends on if we want to do it or not. If we don't do it, the developers will do it for us. I know that for certain: I've sat in enough of these meetings. They're not from San Francisco, and don't give a shit about the culture. They're thinking about return on their investment per square inch. So if we don't demand it, we'll lose it. But San Francisco has a history of being very vociferous. That is why we have so much great stuff, because we San Franciscans, particularly in the gay movement and elsewhere, stood up and demanded it. So if we roll over and say fuck it, we won't have it.

Flowers: I'm trying to be a lighthouse, man. Our practice space is still here, we're at Turk and Taylor. We got that. And where the hell else is my bandmate gonna sleep if we get drunk after a show? I'm the last couch in the Mission or something.

San Francisco's doomed, just like L.A.

San Francisco's doomed, all the kids say

San Francisco's doomed, it's all in the air

San Francisco's doomed, and we don't care

— Crime, "San Francisco's Doomed," 1978


Does San Francisco's music scene need saving? Is the tech-boom helping or hurting? Can we make it easier for artists to stay here? And what about the many efforts happening right now to help artists here — from nonprofits like the Root, which wants to build a permanent home for the music community in San Francisco, to tech companies like GitHub, which is generously paying local musicians to perform at its offices?

There's a lot more to talk about. So at 7:30 p.m. on Tuesday, April 1, SF Weekly and the Root are presenting a free public panel discussion at the Chapel about the city's music scene and the issues explored in this story. Sitting on the panel will be Entertainment Commission Executive Director Jocelyn Kane, Tiny Telephone owner and solo artist John Vanderslice, and former Cafe Du Nord Owner Guy Carson. Your author will be moderating. We invite you to come, listen, ask questions, and share your thoughts — whether you think things here are doing just fine, or you believe San Francisco's music scene is doomed.

About The Author

Ian S. Port

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