Last week, The Bold Italic released an article with the question, “Is San Francisco’s Music Scene Dead?”. Of course with a statement that strong, an outpour of rage among the current artists, musicians and writers who bust their butts every week to play their music were offended.
Whether it was a poor marketing scheme to draw attention to their site or just complain over San Francisco’s growing techie culture, it drew our attention. And for good reason.
San Francisco has long been known as the cultural epicenter for some of the most significant counterculture movements in the nation. In the mid-1960s to early 1970s came a wave of hippies and psychedelic rock heralded by Jefferson Airplane and Janis Joplin and their “Summer of Love” in the Haight-Ashbury neighborhood. Countering that was the “Beat Generation” style of poetry, jazz, art and literature amongst the coffee houses and bars raiding North Beach and the Fillmore.
Fast forward to 2016 and you’ll see those same coffee houses and bars occupied by Silicon Valley techies meeting together for the next great app.
It’s easy to bash today’s tech-driven culture. I’m right there with you when you say you may miss the free-spirited, politically-progressive, anti-establishment nature of art seen in decades past that we don’t see in today’s media anymore.
Naturally, as San Francisco has welcomed corporate companies and entrepreneurs trying to drive this city “forward,” the cost of living has driven out the artists who once gave this city its charm. Oakland and the East Bay have become new cultural destinations for these individuals–but we can only expect those cities to feel the same repercussions of corporatization our beloved city has faced.
So what for the beloved music fan, creator and artist? Where do they move to next?
As a Bay Area native who moved to Southern California for the past four years, I fell in love with the Los Angeles music scene. Shows were playing every night; my favorite artists were in town regularly; and it was easy to discover a new artist that would quickly “hit it big.”
But as you’d expect, that allure quickly faded. I began to see the same kind of talent everywhere. Bands were playing the same kind of music; young fresh faces were camera and Hollywood-ready as they aimed to become Instagram-famous. There was no real “magic” in the sound or words being sung. There was nothing driving those confessionals, melodramatic rock tunes or dance club hits. It simply offered me an “experience,” a quick getaway, an escape–just as what any millennial craves.
The San Francisco Sound that emerged in the 1960s was rooted in a deeply political countercultural movement. They had something they were trying to say and were able to resonate with individuals and airwaves all around the nation.
But for the millennial age, I question: what movement are we fighting for?
Today’s generation crowds popular music festivals like Outside Lands and Coachella, while the little bars and concert halls that once housed musical greats struggle to pay rent. More people are drawn to the wide-array of experiences offered at music festivals rather than the one-way ticket to an artist’s record release show.
The pure enjoyment and love of music is definitely not dead, and there still are artists and their fans with disposable income ready to support the artists they love, right here in San Francisco.
But (dare I say) there’s no real voice coming out of San Francisco–or anywhere that I can think of–that has the same repercussions our predecessors have made with the “Summer of Love,” “Beatniks” or punk movement. There are still beloved musicians making the music we love everyday, but to compare it to the massive counterculture of San Francisco’s past would be silly.
As technology has risen and the world has become one global interconnected reality, maybe there’s something that can be said of this generation’s interconnectedness.
Musical, political and social movements may not be stemming out of particular cities anymore, but the real conversations are happening in online communities. Maybe San Francisco’s techies are just making that process a little easier for us.
To end this, I will note: The San Francisco music scene isn’t dead. It’s well and alive and still moving, but it’s just changed, as have all generations over time.
But maybe we should pay more attention to what’s going on online (aside from the getaways, vacations abroad, foodie-ventures and destination festivals millennials like to indulge in today). The next big musical movement could be inspiring a whole new generation–or today’s–for all we know.
Do you have any thoughts on this? I’d love to hear your opinion in the comments below.