It's a common complaint among the creative class in World Class Cities, but here's the deal, I sometimes think there might be something there. Why is SF so indifferent to music, especially the "L-word." No, not that one. Local music.
If you talk to any band, they will almost always tell you that they aren't appreciated back where they are from. That's just the way it is, but the near heroic level of apathy that San Francisco seems to display absolutely baffles me. Perhaps it came from growing up in the Central Valley and not only not having the choice of which one of the five incredible shows to go to on any given night, but not having the choice to see anything. I try not to take for granted what an incredible array of live music choices we have on any given night.
There really is a certain kind of near noble indifference that seems to happen with SF that I have rarely seen in other cities. Mind-meltingly amazing bands playing to 12 people, when I know for a rock-solid fact at least another two dozen people are not only not too busy, but would be loving every second of it. Is everybody too busy working on their blogs? Are they working overtime at their web 3.0 job? Wallowing in the misery of unemployment? Convinced that they are just "too busy"? Overwhelmed by so many amazing choices that they just shut down and watch House M.D. on Netflix?
What's interesting is that more and more venues have shut down, while the number of (L-word again) local bands has either remained constant or increased. Match that with so many touring acts, both known and unknown, always coming to the Bay Area to play. Well that's a whole lot of music to take in. So yes, maybe being overwhelmed is part of the problem. Still, there has to be more to it than that.
The local weeklies are in a bind, with advertising revenue down, attracting the attention of the people in the suburbs is all the more important than pushing or, nay, even paying that much attention to the next great thing. So you have "safer" coverage that infotains rather than brings you the next crazy and wild thing. KUSF is in exile, the War On Fun by the ABC is still a very real thing, NIMBY neighbors (such as the one causing so much trouble with Slim's) often just get their way. Yet the answer seems to be a collective shrug. The city government doesn't seem to care, heck it's so difficult to open and maintain an all-ages venue that most places don't even bother. But should we look to big government for answers about live music!? Nay friends, we need to turn to ourselves.
So what do we get? A closed circuit of a very few people that go out to shows. Some of which "support" their friends bands, but really do it out of friendship or obligation than anything else. I call this "friend rock." Meanwhile many people continue to think that "local bands suck" because they aren't being exposed to anything interesting. Let's face it, a lot of bands, local and otherwise suck... that's just a numbers game. But there are amazing bands out there if you are willing to look.
I'm not sure what it is. Sure, there are filters out there, especially for stuff that is the mellower side of indie rock, and the metal scene certainly seems to be tight knit and supportive. But on the whole? San Francisco just doesn't seem to be "into" live music. There are rare exceptions, usually involving national touring acts with a lot of hype behind them or serious genre/sub-genre cliques.
But man, we're talking an area with well over a million people, and that's just counting SF, Oakland and Berkeley. Most of whom totally give a miss to some of the amazing stuff that happens here, unknown touring bands as well as locals.
Look man, I'm not saying people should slavishly get into something just to support local bands and unknown touring bands blindly. That way lies madness. But have you noticed how many large touring acts play SF on a Monday now? Boy, I sure have. It's not outside the realm of possibility to suggest that we've somehow lost touch with the same spirit that brought Jefferson Airplane, Metallica, Faith No More, and the Dead Kennedys to the rest of the world.
Why on Earth do we, as a region still look to New York for culture in music when it's right under our nose? Give it a try, for Pete's sake.
Or moreover: "Hey San Francisco, Why don't you like live music?"