One of our favorite independent music venues celebrates 10 years of rockin' -- with a week of great shows
TOFU AND WHISKEY The Rickshaw Stop has a pretty basic modus operandi: Shows should be fun and bands should be treated well. Hey, it's a method that's worked so far. San Francisco's eclectic, two-story, rock-pop-dance venue on the edge of Hayes Valley opened in January 2004 — exactly 10 years back. The popular independent and locally owned venue has since hosted a slew of then-rising major acts across genres and weekly packed shows for all ages (depending on the night in question).
"God, there are so many great memories," says longtime Rickshaw Stop talent buyer Dan Strachota.
MIA played the 400-person Rickshaw Stop many years back and climbed right up on the piano while performing. Once, Jens Lenkmen walked through an awestruck crowd and kept singing on his way to a couch, taking a load off mid-show. During a raucous, out-of-control Monotonix gig, a fan in a wheelchair crowd surfed through the Israeli punk trio's San Francisco set. South Africa's Die Antwoord brought clamoring crowds, as has DJ Funk at Blow Up, Jonathan Richman, Toro y Moi, Glass Candy, Jessie Ware, Grimes, Vampire Weekend, tUnE-yArDs, Sharon Jones, and Mayer Hawthorne. There was once an iTunes showcase that featured back-to-back sets, weirdly enough, by Jolie Holland, Sammy Hagar, and E-40.
And to think, during all those shows, at least one guy was likely trying to finagle his way into one of the actual rickshaws scattered around the venue. (The comedian Robin Williams once did it too, if you're curious about random star power).
So in celebration of those 10 years of fun and mayhem, the Rickshaw Stop (155 Fell, SF; www.rickshawstop.com) is throwing a near week-long mini fest, inviting back old favorites including gifted rocker Mikal Cronin with fellow locals Cool Ghouls and Cocktails (Wed/8, 8pm, $17); dramatic, synth-popped Geographer (Thu/9, sold out); experimental pop duo YACHT (Fri/10, 9pm, $20); and queer dance party Cockblock (Sat/11, 10pm, $10). There's also Leslie and the Lys with Double Duchess and DJ Kidd Sysko (Sun/12, 8pm, $16), which should be an extra-fun dance pop evening. (There was a show Jan. 7 as well, kicking off the fest, with the Spits, Violent Change, and Crez DeeDee.)
The venue is offering a weeklong pass for the event at $65, for those who know they'll be showing up nightly. And it'll be giving away free limited edition posters for all the individual shows during the fest.
"The idea behind the headliners was [that] we wanted bands that had all played the club before, that we loved both musically and as people, and that had gone on to play larger venues. For openers, I wanted to do what we always try to do — pick great, fun local bands that will fit nicely with the headliners," says Strachota.
Strachota has been involved with the venue since day one, in one form or another — DJing the opening night celebration, then throwing a regular party dubbed Three Kinds of Stupid. He began booking some six months into the venue's run. The western Massachusetts native moved to San Francisco in 1990 and worked previously as the music editor at SF Weekly and as a freelance music writer. But booking was something new when the Rickshaw first opened. "I liked the challenge of starting a club from scratch," he says.
While the venue has had its fair share of hits, including breaking major acts and hosting ingenious yearly Noise Pop nights, there are also those rare times when it misses a chance at a touring act. It had a first shot at booking Lorde in SF but didn't realize how quickly she'd blow up. It also, incredibly, never hosted Thee Oh Sees (and yes, it might be awhile now. See below).
Strachota notes his only other main frustration comes from "when no one shows up for a great band and you have no idea why."