By Emma Silvers
By Gary Moskowitz
By Alee Karim
By Ian S. Port
By Ian S. Port
By Derek Opperman
By Emma Silvers
By Alee Karim
There's an old joke:
First Banana: What do you call a musician who only knows three chords?
Second Banana: I don't know. What do you call a musician who only knows three chords?
First Banana: A music critic. [Cue throwing of pies, fart sounds.]
It's the awful, awful truth: Those who can, rock. Those who can't, write -- about those who can rock. But here's a secret that perhaps never occurred to many of you: In order to realize that we can't rock, we hacks had to make some winning blunders. My first was a band called -- wait for it -- Tricky Dump Truck. We had a song about a unicycle.
Flash forward a few years to the Downs, my short-lived attempt at creating a Weezer forgery; we never made it out of the garage. My last and most recent go at getting my musical rocks off was in my Oakland warehouse space in 2003. We called ourselves Wildface -- which is a pretty sweet name -- and sounded like a speedy Neurosis. But Radiohead got it wrong when it said, "Anyone can play guitar." I, for one, cannot.
I mention all of this so as to make clear that a) we all make wildly (and wonderfully) foolish mistakes in our attempts to express ourselves; b) they're worth it, if only for the stories we tell late at night while drunk; and c) art is hard. It is a fucking bitch. Art is a plague of locusts. Art is that monster at the end of Clash of the Titans -- the Kraken! -- the one with four scaly arms that eats people whole.
See, I had neither the gift nor the determination to take my music beyond the occasional warehouse gig or Battle of the Bands. But if I had? Well, fuck, that's when the realheavy lifting begins. Because if you have a talent for something that no one else shares, then you, friend, are in the much more demanding position of having to clear a space in this vast and cluttered world for that talent to be expressed. And what's standing in your way? Well, the same shit that's standing in the way of any assistant regional sales coordinator. That and the fact that in addition to keeping your rent paid and your rickets at bay you've got band rehearsals, load-ins, load-outs, the working of the merch table, the securing of the place to crash when your van breaks down in Missoula, Monta--
"Craig, the fax machine's jammed again!"
"Hey, fuck you, I'm on the phone with this small indie label, which, if I'm lucky, will sign my band for the price of a T-shirt and then release our record and then we'll all get fucked by the distributor and so we'll never see a dime from the last six years of busting our asses.
"Can you get the IT guy to repair it?"
See what I mean? This is a bad, bad, awful, bad racket. And so this one's for you, San Francisco music scene, because you have been busting your ass.
Once a year, we, the idiots who write for SF Weekly's music section, put out this Listen Up issue. In the 51 other weeks that are not this one, we make it our business to spit, spew, bark, and whine, to demarcate the musical wilderness in the hopes that you, our beloved and loyal reader, will avoid the many cliffs and potholes therein. This involves the calling of bullshit and the dashing of hopes. We feel bad for doing this, which is why we drink ourselves to sleep each night watching elimiDATE. But for one week a year, we attempt to redeem ourselves.
This is that week, and the issue you hold in your hands is that attempt. The theme of this year's Listen Up is "Will Work to Rock," and the idea is to celebrate, with our bleeding hearts held aloft and on fire, the insane work that musicians put in to bring their art to us, the unappreciative public. (Our flawed philosophy being: 51 weeks of acid can be neutralized by 72 pages of earnestness.)
Herein you'll find stories of great sacrifice and great determination, stories of bands that make millions and bands that make squat; you'll also find some "how-to" stories and a couple of "how'd they do that?" stories. All told, we've put together a collection of articles about what people put into the music scene and what they get out of it. In shining a light on such things, we hope to answer another, more elusive, question: Why, oh why, do they do it? So get ready for some serious blood, sweat, and tears, people. Get ready, once again, to Listen Up.