Scene Not Heard

Could there be a silver lining to the mass eviction of musicians from Downtown Rehearsal?

A project of that size, however, takes a great deal of time, effort, and focus, something bands don't always have in large supply. Luckily, Listen.com Editor Nick Tangborn, "PR guy" Sean Garrett, and NoisePop organizers Jordan Kurland and Kevin Arnold have offered to spearhead the effort. Committees have been formed to focus on specific tasks, including keeping Downtown Rehearsal open, staging events and protests, creating a nonprofit music foundation, and finding immediate solutions to the rehearsal crisis. To gain more political clout, Sfmusician.com has placed a petition on its Web site that calls for part of San Francisco's $3.5 million arts budget to help fund a rehearsal and performance space; so far, more than 3,000 people have signed it.

A bit ruefully, local promoter and musician Ian Brennan surmises the closing may prove beneficial. "It may weed out the uncommitted -- those in bands because it gets them laid or because it's cool. And people will have to go underground to put on shows."

Anthony Bonet, assistant booker at the Bottom of the Hill, suggests that the closing is "an unfortunate ecological correction. Where would all these bands play anyway? I think of it as amputating a leg [that has] gangrene.

"This city's changed from "Let's check out a new band' to "What a tough week ... let's have fun, let's go see that Abba cover band,'" Bonet says. "Even national bands want the middle slot on the bill. No one wants to play at midnight. Everyone's going to bed early."

In the end, the music scene will survive only as long as people -- or rather non-musicians -- want it to. If no one supports the bands, it doesn't matter how much they rehearse.

One basic fact remains: There's a lot of money to be made in the rehearsal business. The average rent at Downtown is $500 per space per month. Multiply that times 155 rooms and you get $77,500 in monthly revenue. Per year, that makes a little less than a million dollars. That's for a space that demands very little upkeep. What a bargain. You'd have to be stupid not to finance that deal. Wouldn't you?

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