SONIC REDUCER Hey, subliminal kids, watch out for those Music and Lyrics billboards all over town they're as deadly as Pretty Ricky's between-the-sheets crunk, chased by Justin Timberlake covers such as the Klaxons' strings-laced "My Love" and Rock Plaza Central's mead-soaked "Sexy Back." The poster pic is so mundane that it catches then holds your attention: Hugh Grant and Drew Barrymore shyly demur from meeting the viewer's, and each other's, eyes, choosing instead to moon over what? Music, lyrics, Craigslist casual encounter ads, old mug shots? With Valentine's Day shuffling furtively around the corner, I'd venture that it's best Hugh and Drew weren't out bonding over some cozy Cattle Decapitation appearance, because as all we brave, San Francisco live-music lovers know, hot hookups and cool shows don't necessarily mix.
Unspoken rule number 14 of San Francisco rock, according to your cruise director on the Glumboat: don't hit on the local wildlife at shows. San Francisco's SFMFs (single female music fans, for all you acronym haters) know, Joe. Single is an increasingly obsolete format in vinyl, CD, and skin and bones consider it a mission impossible to meet nonattached men, women, or potted plants at shows. I don't care which way you swing (if caveat you're not in the band itself), you're more likely to have a close, personal relationship with the bouncer who's forcibly removing you from the club than someone you'd potentially want to date. You have a better chance meeting some fast ninetysomething at a retirement home than at a show.
If you've just moved to town: so sorry to bust up your illusions of glam romance, but concerts here are simply not pickup scenes for anyone other than the guys and girls in the band. Hip-hop, folk, C&W, blues, pop, and rock lovelorns you're all outta luck, though indie rock is the absolute worst. You know that cute, floppy-haired, gangly boy rocker in a polo shirt and Converse by the side of the stage? He may be by himself (and likely he has a futsy partner tucked away at home), but that doesn't mean he actually wants to talk to anyone let alone get a phone number.
All this is what I've gathered during my many years of showgoing and a quick, extremely unscientific poll of singletons in Guardian editorial bears me out. Sample responses: "Everyone's all cliqued up at shows." "You go with your friends, find your spot, and you don't talk to other people. Ever." "At dance clubs you meet other people because you're actually dancing with each other. At live shows everyone's looking at the stage." "It's too loud to talk." "San Francisco has a reputation of being aloof." "Maybe you can talk to someone when you're standing in line at the bar?"
"Either it's all guys or the one girl you want to hit on will be someone in the band's girlfriend," said calendar editor Duncan Scott Davidson, who's also clocked time as a doorguy at Slim's, the Endup, and 111 Minna. "The only time I ever tried to pick up someone was at a Bomb show, and she turned out to be Bomb drummer Tony Fag's girlfriend." Irony abounds.
He's actually seen guys trying to hit on women at shows, he added, "But what do you say? 'This band really rocks, huh?' "
My favorite answer is "People are just there for the music," which does say something about our fair scene's integrity if you believe music lovers are simply there to see and hear, not to hook up. And perhaps it imparts even more about the nature of local original music, which is less about the damsels than going dumb, less about the sex than the noise sax solos with the Lovemakers in the horny minority. Chalk it up to the Bay Area's feminist legacy and the p.c.