The Bay Area has long provided the rest of the country with infusions of musical lifeblood, from the inception of the Grateful Dead in the mid-’60s to the Dead Kennedys in the ’80s. But don’t let San Francisco’s homegrown heroes of yore fool you into thinking the city’s moment has passed: If the annual Noise Pop festival is any indication, the arts scene in Fog City is still very much alive. This February, the week-long, city-wide mash-up of concerts, film screenings, and gallery exhibitions shined a light on local bands and up-and-coming acts from all over the map.
“We’ve always played really fun, kind of zany shows in San Francisco,” says Bethany Cosentino, the lead singer of LA’s lo-fi surf-rock trio Best Coast, who headlined this year’s festival, now in its 19th year. “People get really excited by music here.” Stacy Horne, Noise Pop’s producer for the past six years, couldn’t agree more. “There’s a strong sense of community here among artists and musicians,” she says. “The best thing is to watch a band go from being a festival opener one year to being a headliner the next.” Best Coast and Frisco’s own indie-rock group Geographer have followed that very trajectory in recent years.
At the height of Noise Pop madness, we absconded with a few of the event’s nonpareil acts—Cosentino; Tamaryn Brown of local shoegaze duo Tamaryn; Seth Bogart, “Hunx” of Oakland-based electro-pop outfit Hunx and His Punx; psych-dance maelstrom Dan Deacon; and Nick Zinner of Yeah Yeah Yeahs—to catch our breath at some of San Francisco’s less traveled hideaways.
Nick Zinner – Public Works, 161 Erie Street, Mission District, San Francisco 415-932-0955 During the festival, Public Works hosted a photography exhibition of exactly 1,001 photos taken by Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ guitarist Nick Zinner, many of which he shot over the past few years while touring with lead singer Karen O. Why 1,001? “The name comes from this same show I did in New York a few months ago,” Zinner says. “Originally I’d intended to put up 200 photos there, but when I saw how big the space was I figured, Shit, I’d better put up 1,000. Then I decided to top that—by one.” Of the images he likes best, Zinner says, “The ones that I compose, where I’m trying to do something clever, end up terrible. It’s always the ones that I don’t think about that I end up liking.”
Tamaryn Brown – No. Shop, 389 Valencia Street, Mission District, San Francisco 415-252-9982 “There’s a small group of beautiful, talented girls in the city who have bands, run their own online vintage stores, and publish a magazine called Yes Yes Yes. No. Shop is where they’ve come together,” says Tamaryn Brown, one-half of Tamaryn, who released their debut album, The Waves, last fall. “There’s definitely a scene in San Francisco. It’s made up of younger people—20 to 24—and their style is different than anything that’s been here before. The thing about San Francisco is that the weather forces you to layer clothes in certain ways. It’s all about wearing tons of things that don’t make any sense together whatsoever—but somehow work.”
Bethany Cosentino – Hemlock Tavern, 1131 Polk Street, Tenderloin, San Francisco 415-923-0923 “I spend a lot of time in San Francisco, but I don’t go out very much,” says Bethany Cosentino, the lead singer of LA’s Best Coast. “A lot of my friends have taken me to the Hemlock, and it’s a really cool place.” While hardly a dive bar, Cosentino’s choice watering hole isn’t exactly fancy, either. “Whenever I’m in cities where my friends are from, I just say, Take me to where you would go. Our sound guy on this tour is from Oakland and he really likes this place. Luckily, I love what I do, because after four weeks of playing the same fucking 14 songs every single night, I want to shoot myself—but I come here, I wake up the next day, and I’m excited to do it again.”
Dan Deacon, Cliff House – 1090 Point Lobos Avenue Richmond District, San Francisco 415-386-3330 The morning after his raucous show at the Independent, psychedelic electro-dance musician Dan Deacon wanted to unwind at the Sutro Baths, situated in the ruins of an ornate, turn-of-the-century bathhouse located on a cliff overlooking the ocean at San Francisco’s most northwestern point—and just down the road from Cliff House restaurant. “I first saw the Baths on a 2006 tour with [Deacon’s band] Ecstatic Sunshine,” he says. “We didn’t know anyone here, so we just drove around looking for a park to sleep in when we stumbled upon the ruins. I had never seen anything like them: the caves, the huge bluffs, the mussels, the rad staircases, the crashing waves—no bullshit safety rails. I’ve long wanted to do a performance here.”
Seth Bogart – San Francisco Main Library, 100 Larkin Street, Civic Center, San Francisco 415-557-4400 “One of the girls in our band is studying to be a librarian, and I think it’s really sexy,” says Seth Bogart, “Hunx” of pop-punk band Hunx and His Punx, on why he chose the Main Library as his favorite place to unwind. “I have fantasies about doing it with a hot, slutty guy between the stacks of books.” In addition to his work as part of the band—their sophomore album, Too Young to Be in Love, was released in March—Bogart owns a vintage boutique and hair salon in Oakland called Down at Lulu’s, where he occasionally cuts hair and puts together distinctive ensembles. “I’m wearing a black velvet onesie,” he says. “It has a see-through portion on the chest. I’ve also got on a silver jacket that reminds me of Little Richard. It’s like Little Richard dressed up as Catwoman.”