On the Rise

Spaced-out electro-pop, Ethiopian-influenced jazz, feminist hip-hop, and a string quartet partial to Radiohead: 11 Bay Area artists who will keep you on your toes this year

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Meklit Hadero
Guardian Photo by Keeney + Law Photography

>> MEKLIT HADERO
>> CATHEDRALS
>> USELESS EATERS
>> ANNIE GIRL & THE FLIGHT
>> TONY MOLINA
>> NU DEKADES
>> ASTRONAUTS, ETC.
>> FRICTION QUARTET
>> MAJOR POWERS & THE LO-FI SYMPHONY
>> AVALON EMERSON
>> ROCKY RIVERA

Have you heard the news? Bohemia is dying. All the musicians are leaving San Francisco. Our favorite venues and dingy little clubs are all closing up shop, and being replaced by artisan cocktail bars filled with Google Glasses and reclaimed wood toilet seats.

OK, so some of that is true. The music scene is changing, to be sure; how could it not, with the influx of wealth over the past few years? Yes, we're sad about Cafe du Nord. Yes, we're worried about the Elbo Room.

What's also true: We still have one of the richest musical histories anywhere in the world, and artists aren't going to stop flocking here anytime soon. One glance at our listings section will tell you there's live music to be found every single night of the week, and San Francisco's small size relative to its population -- a major factor in the current wave of gentrification and the state of the real estate market -- also means that the vast array of genres here, and the communities that exist around different music scenes, all hum along pretty much on top of each other.

In one night, you could take in a jazz jam session in the Haight, a hardcore band in the outer Mission, an Irish folk quartet in North Beach, a synthwave producer in SoMa, a hip-hop show in the Western Addition, and, um, Macaulay Culkin's pizza-themed Velvet Underground tribute band in the Richmond. (I've done all of these recently, and I only regret that last one.) That's not even touching on the East Bay, which -- despite being pronounced almost like an epithet in the city lately, as in "Everyone's having to move to the East Bay" -- is arguably fostering some of the most interesting, nascent micro-scenes in music right now.

With that in mind, we at the Guardian set out to pick 10 artists that we thought deserved our attention in the coming year. We couldn't narrow it past 11. (Click that first photo up there for a slideshow.) This year's On the Rise acts come from so many different worlds, have been inspired by so many different artists -- Freddie Mercury, MC Lyte, and the 19th century composer Hector Berlioz all make appearances, to give you a taste -- and, unsurprisingly, they all make incredibly different kinds of music. Some of these artists are Bay Area natives; some were born on other continents. What they have in common (aside from talent) is a love of this place, its people, its weirdness, and yes, its challenges.

We love them back. And we don't plan on letting them go anywhere else anytime soon.

Comments

I liked quite a few of these artists. Too bad there is so little cross pollination in the variety of scenes to lift many of these acts up. This balkanized environment just hasn't got any coherent infrastructure, so the few hundred people who might go see these acts in a given month creates no living wage in super pricey SF. It's tough to make a buck as an artist, a promoter, or a a venue, especially if you are coloring outside the lines.
In a less culturally diverse place like Minneapolis, or even SF back a few decades ago, you had a local rag everyone read, a local station everyone listened to, and a just few venues, so a coherent scene could come together.
I just don't see a tipping point being possible for any artist who is not so profoundly great that they can't be denied.
Good luck to them, and to us all.

Posted by Bobo Bubalisky on Mar. 20, 2014 @ 4:49 pm

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