The Modesto Invasion

The San Francisco rock scene is alive and well -- 90 miles from San Francisco

Stories like that seem to vaguely mirror Grandaddy's own recollections of touring, which Fairchild and Lytle characterize as a liquor-soaked travail through a world they were unfamiliar with before. "Jed is a mechanical martyr with a message," says Lytle. "And his message is that alcohol and electronics do not mix."

Sophtware's themes of high-tech in the rural landscape actually do reflect a bit of some of the real changes taking place in Northern California. The San Joaquin Valley is one of California's fastest-growing population centers, and the area is struggling not only with a double-digit unemployment rate, a lack of high-tech industry, and its notorious meth trade (Modesto's fastest-growing occupation is registered nurse) but also Bay Area "equity refugees" who are moving into the region to take advantage of the cheap home prices, even if it means lengthy commutes into the city.

"There's certainly a lot of debate in the northern part of the San Joaquin Valley about the influence of Bay Area commuters," says Carol Whiteside, former mayor of Modesto and president of the Great Valley Association, a Central Valley think tank. About 10 percent of all residents in the greater Central Valley commute into the Bay Area to work, and a majority of new home sales in Modesto are to Bay Area commuters. "Many times, people who commute to long distances are too tired to participate in family activities, or participate in their communities," says Whiteside. "It leads to unhealthy neighborhoods."

In the meantime, the region is beginning to recognize the importance of supporting home-grown artists to bolster its communities, as Modesto is in the planning stages of creating a regional performing arts center. As more industry moves within the Central Valley city limits, the area can arguably be poised to become a cultural center in its own right.

Whether San Francisco will remain one is increasingly an open question. Ian Brennan, who's worked as a San Francisco-based concert promoter and producer for young bands in the Bay Area, isn't surprised. "The whole bohemian thing has been driven from the coast, which is where that sort of thing traditionally happens," he says. "I think people are going to have to go inland."

As for San Francisco, he argues, "they're creating a suburb in a city. Housing tracts look a lot to me like live-work lofts. So they're vertical instead of horizontal. Big deal."

Grandaddy plays Friday, June 30, at 8 p.m. with Yo La Tengo and Lois at the Warfield, 982 Market (at Taylor), S.F. Tickets are $17.50; call 775-7722.


Additional Links:

Charlie's Spirits (the club mentioned in the story's opening): www.charlieslive.com

Grandaddy: www.grandaddylandscape.com

Future Farmer Recordings: www.futurefarmer.com

Devil in the Woods: www.devilinthewoods.com

Great Valley Association: www.greatvalley.org

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