I threw my first dance party in San Francisco two years ago. Like a lot of early parties, it was held in an apartment. There were no set times, no lineups, no genres, no egos. I had fun with it; decking out the small living room with colored light bulbs, putting art on the walls, and transforming the space into a place to call my own. A few friends brought over their DJ equipment, turned down the lights, turned up the music, and played whatever they wanted. This was before I really knew anything about throwing shows or music and nightlife in general, especially in a city like San Francisco.
Skip the track to today, I’m doing about the same thing, just a bit bigger, more organized, lots more artists, and the party actually has a name – SPACE2950 (named after the apartment number where the first party was held). The event still takes place in San Francisco and throughout the greater Bay Area. I love it, I really do! It’s purposely different than other events in the city. It highlights underground producers and DJs from the Bay Area but also brings to the city new exciting performers from across the country. The event’s become known for pushing sounds not often found in the mainstream club scene – the deep cuts, the future beats, everything from experimental hip-hop to dancehall and the niche genres of house music. It’s growing fast and I’ve been fortunate enough to book some of my favorite artists while garnering support from record labels like Soulection and HW&W Recordings. I’m excited about where it will go.
But full disclosure, it hasn’t been easy. If I’ve learned anything over the last couple of years, it’s that throwing shows in San Francisco is actually really hard, and trying to make it as an up-and-coming artist may be even harder.
Surviving the music scene in San Francisco is tough. It’s tough because it’s a tech city. It’s tough because rent is over 2.5 times the national average. It’s tough because living comfortably requires a bigger bank account. It’s tough because venues and nightclubs are closing at alarming rates in favor of high-rises and office buildings. It’s tough because fewer people are interested in and have an appreciation for music and the arts.
When’s something tough, you often question it and question yourself. Is this the right city for music? Are there enough people that care about non-mainstream acts? With so many artists fleeing the city, should I move too? How about LA or New York? How do you grow an event in a city that is moving and changing so quickly?
I am by no means a veteran. I’m still a newbie in the music world and still finding my creative voice in San Francisco. But I do have a fresh lens and a hopeful take at trying to make music work here.
Over the last two years, I’ve had the pleasure of speaking with, working alongside, and sharing the music of 100+ artists from across the Bay Area and beyond. With each interaction, show, and new piece of music that I get to promote within the city, I get closer to finding answers to the questions I’ve posed.
So why create against the odds in a city like San Francisco?
Because it’s home.
For many artists, myself included, the Bay Area is where we first walked. It’s where we first ran. It holds a special place in our hearts. It’s loyalty to the community that raised you. Your relationship with your city influences how you make music and what music you decide to create. It’s important to document what’s happening around you and to share the stories of the underground communities so that people can look back and have an understanding of what was happening in the scene at this point in time.
Because of the need to shift the culture.
As a city like San Francisco becomes less and less habitable for artists, it’s more important than ever to try and change that. Many major promoters and venues are taking fewer risks when booking acts because of the financial demands that the city puts on them. With that, event lineups generally lack diversity and we lose the opportunity to hear and experience everything that’s not “popular.” I created SPACE2950 to highlight artists and genres that push boundaries and take risks so that the city can hear and learn about a variety of different places and faces.
Because of the community.
Simply put, there is love and support among artists within the Bay Area unlike any other place. Maybe it has to do with the tough restraints that bring people together. It’s a build-up culture. Promoters help other promoters. Producers share their techniques with other producers and play each other’s songs live at shows. There is a general understanding in the area that you need to stick together and work together so that everyone can win. It’s refreshing and one of my favorite parts about the current community. And even though the community is small and the odds are not always in our favor, there is no other place I’d rather be than the Bay Area.