If gnashing guitars, thundering drums, and growling vocals are suddenly silenced, will faces still find places to melt? It’s been five months since Pound-SF closed, after reportedly being evicted by the San Francisco Port Authority. (As early as May 2006, owner Tony Carracci spoke at a San Francisco Entertainment Commission meeting about his frustration at not being able to obtain a long-term lease for the space.) The all-ages club, tucked into San Francisco’s industrial bayside, hosted a large portion of the city’s metal shows during its five-year lifespan. The music may be thriving without the Pound, but what’s up with the local metal scene now that it has no sprawling, single venue at its hub, one that booked major metal touring acts and budding local bands, in addition to the occasional hip-hop or indie group?
Matt Shapiro, head booker at the Elbo Room and founder of metal club night Lucifer’s Hammer, has noticed a few changes. "Since the Pound closed, other people have had to step up. I was hoping that Slim’s would really pick up on it, and they’ve taken some of it," he says, adding that venues such as the Oakland Metro, Bottom of the Hill, and the Great American Music Hall have also begun booking more metal shows. However, he continues, "I’ve noticed that we’ve lost a lot of [metal shows], because a lot of the tours are skipping over the Bay Area now."
Leila Rauf, vocalist and guitarist for Saros, agrees that certain venues have increased their metal bookings to make up for the Pound’s demise. On the other hand, though, "places like Slim’s and the Great American aren’t going to book a band unless you draw at least 300 people," she says. "For smaller bands, that’s not really doable. There’s Balazo [18 Art Gallery] we just played there are few weeks ago. But I definitely think we need another all-ages venue for smaller bands that’s organized and in a convenient location, because the Pound was kind of in the middle of nowhere."
Feo Berumen, vocalist from Arise, points out that other key metal venues including the Maritime Hall and the Cocodrie have shut down in the past and the scene has continued to flourish, though at a certain price. "It’s almost like the only people you’re cutting out is the underage crowd, which sucks," he offers. "The all-ages shows that Arise predominantly plays are up north, past Petaluma."
If the audience demands a Pound equivalent, it’s likely one will eventually emerge. Pete Ponitkoff, formerly of Benumb and now the vocalist for Agenda of Swine, has a suggestion: "I’m surprised somebody doesn’t take Broadway Studios and start having [metal] shows there again. That place would be an awesome replacement for the Pound."
No matter what happens, local metal hardly seems in danger of dying out. Rob Cavestany, lead guitarist of the influential Bay Area thrash band Death Angel and a former Pound employee has seen the scene change a lot over the past 25 years, with one proud constant. "The Bay Area metal scene is legendary in the metal world. Any metal fan, all over the world that we go, knows straight up, ‘Bay Area! You guys are from the Bay Area!’ They know it’s the scene that spawned Metallica, Exodus, Testament some of the hardest-hitting thrash bands."
PLAY AT HIGH VOLUME: A SELECTED GUIDE TO BAY METAL
Agenda of Swine "The new big shit," Berumen declares.
Arise "As of recently, I’ve seen an influx of new, Bay Area thrash," Shapiro says, and Arise is one of his favorites.
Asunder From Oakland, this band got props from Shapiro, Ponitkoff, and Saros drummer Blood Eagle.
Dekapitator Witness the truth of their MySpace headline: "Head-splitting metal!!!!!"
Hatchet On Ponitkoff’s list of new favorites; bands like this make him say of the Bay Area, "We’re the thrash capital of the frickin’ world."
Ludicra Hammers of Misfortune’s John Cobbett plays guitar in this black metal band, guided by Laurie Shanaman’s eerie vocals.
Saros In an interview with Thrasher magazine, Rauf described her band’s music as "simultaneously complex and cyclical." And it rocks.
Saviours "Saviours are really making a name for themselves and touring constantly," Blood Eagle says. See their killer live show, and you’ll see why.
Watch Them Die "The band," Berumen says. "By far one of the best bands out of the Bay Area."
Wayward Son "Young kids who play some of the best goddamn thrash on the face of the planet," according to Berumen. (Cheryl Eddy)