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Thursday, March 10, 2011

Is San Francisco Too Obsessed with Garage and Indie Rock?

Posted By on Thu, Mar 10, 2011 at 1:50 PM

click to enlarge Hey! Any music writers in that crowd?
  • Hey! Any music writers in that crowd?

In an interview this week with the excellent British music website The Quietus, San Francisco electronic artist oOoOO (real name: Christopher Dexter Greenspan) commented on the local popularity of garage/indie-rock:

On the subject of synths, you're from San Francisco. Your music isn't a brand I would assimilate with the usual sun-fried sound that emanates from the area.

CDG: Yeah, San Francisco is really big on garage rock right now, and rock/punk/guitar music in general. It's a weird place to be for me musically. People in New York and London -- even people in L.A. -- expressed an interest in what I'm doing before anyone in San Francisco. Even now, I get asked to play shows and do stuff way more often in New York than here. I did a DJ set in Chicago a few weeks ago and it got more press than I've got over the last year in San Francisco.

Leaving aside the fact that there is a ton of synth-based music coming out of S.F. -- and that the city has long been a hotspot for electronic music of all intentions (dancing or otherwise) -- Greenspan raises an interesting question here (not that he's the first):

Are we, both Bay Area music fans and journalists, too obsessed with the local garage/indie-rock scene? Is our obsession causing us to overlook other worthy local happenings?

Um, probably.

Why? There are a lot of reasons, but among them -- by way of explanation, not excuse-making -- are:
- The relative ease of writing about music that includes words (which a lot of electronic music doesn't), and the difficulty of telling a good story about someone pressing a button or turning a knob.
- The all-out popular explosion of indie/hipster culture -- which although not rock-exclusive, is certainly rock-friendly.
- The seeming "alt-ness" of weird-looking people holding guitars in a world where most mainstream artists are singers backed by invisible bands/machines. (We love our "alt-ness" in S.F., don't we?)
-  The transformation of Pitchfork -- which is rock-biased, don't kid yourself -- into the premier online tastemaker. (So that when a good local band gets a very positive Pitchfork review, new doors suddenly open.)
- And of course, the fact that S.F. is truly seeing a flowering of quality rock bands right now.

We'll include ourselves in Greenspan's critique, even though we actually did write about his S.F. show last week, along with those of two other forward-looking electronic artists. (And we write about the electronic scene fairly frequently.)

But Greenspan wasn't just talking about the press. And his comment could be taken to mean that local music fans and writers are overlooking other interesting scenes as well, not just electronic music.

So what do you think? Does Greenspan have a point? Should S.F. music fans get out of the garage more? Tell us in the comments section below.

Follow us on Twitter @SFAllShookDown, follow Ian S. Port @iPORT, and like us at

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