Different Fur Studios is esteemed by the current generation of music fans for churning out a staggering variety of hip music from San Francisco — A B & the Sea, Main Attrakionz, Lilac, the She’s — and beyond. Given the storied studio’s long history, however, it’s no wonder it’s still helping define the sound of the Bay. It was founded in 1968, at the height of San Francisco sonic weirdness, by Patrick Gleeson, an energetic electronic music composer who brought in the likes of Herbie Hancock, Jonathan Richman and the Modern Lovers, Stevie Wonder. The Fur stands on end: alert to the changing times and latest trends. Nowadays, it’s known for being highly Web-savvy, recording live iTunes-exclusive tracks, and uploading videos of in-studio sessions (like those of Little Dragon, Girls, Toro Y Moi, Big K.R.I.T., and more). Praise be to a different Pat — current owner and engineer Patrick Brown — who as a champion of local acts and labels alike keeps tradition alive in the heart of the Mission.
Best of the Bay 2013
Oh, how we love Sister Spit — that incubator of radical feminist artists and punk-lit creators, host for two decades of some the best Bay Area spoken word performances. But the performance series (birthed by Michelle Tea and Sini Anderson back in 1994, and then again in 2006) may well hold more significance to those outside of the Bay. After all, when Sister starting touring in the late ’90s, packing its erudite rabble-rousers into a series of ramshackle vans, towns like Detroit and Tucson got a very special dose of San Francisco’s “talented, tattooed, and purple pigtailed” poets, writers, sexual outlaws, and more. Cultural ambassadors, we deem them all. The series continues to go on the road — with writers like Ali Liebgott, Eileen Myles, Robin Akimbo, and many more — and grow. Earlier this year publisher City Lights debuted its new Sister Spit imprint with a glorious anthology of pieces performed at past events, Sister Spit: Writing, Rants and Reminiscence from the Road.
How long does it take to make a tradition? Surely a longevity spanning four decades denotes a yearly gathering that has taken hold of a group’s psyche. If this is indeed the case, consider the pagan faction Bay Area Reclaiming’s Spiral Dance a full-blown, locally born folkway. The rite takes place each year during the Halloween season, or Samhain, as the pagan holiday of death and regeneration is best known. During the gathering — which also serves as Reclaiming Bay Area’s biggest fundraiser of the year — dance, acrobatics, elaborate altars, and song mark a program largely geared around the spiral dance itself, in which group members move in a whorl (widdershins, as the counterclockwise movement is known in faiths from Wicca to Judaism) that invokes rebirth as the cold season approaches. It’s a gorgeous, all-inclusive sight, regardless of the number or character of the deities to which you pay homage. (You’re invited too, atheist babes.)
When it was announced in 2011 that legendary Soma gay leather biker bar the Eagle Tavern was closing, much of the queer population was stunned. Sure, although charitable Sunday afternoon beer busts and renowned Thursday Night Live local rock showcases were packed, the large bar and patio were not exactly swarmed the rest of the time — and the owners had recently sunk much of their money into the revamped Hole in the Wall Saloon. But the Eagle’s closure became a flashpoint for what many saw as the homogenization of SF’s gay population and the gentrification of traditional queer spaces. A determined activist coalition rallied the city’s political forces and helped find new gay buyers — Alex Montiel and Mike Leon — who vowed to keep the spot’s rough-and-tumble, rock and roll gay vibe while revamping the interior and programming to appeal to a new generation of sexy, bearded, kinky men and friends. The SF Eagle flew again in 2013, and has been by all accounts a success: still down and dirty, but the coolest “new” gay hangout in the city.
398 12th St, SF. www.sf-eagle.com