May 1st 2014
Sad Bastard Book Club and the Bay Area Music Scene
A Note from Party Corps’ Blog Editor:
In the Bay Area, we’ve been exposed to the conversations and attitudes about what is happening to our community as the economics of the region develop and shift the market. We’ve seen some strong opinions about what SF is like, as well as, varying reports on what is bound to happen in our music scene. As a music loving community, we are interested in the diversity of perspective and we’re happy to feature this blog from our intern, Nicholas Schneider.
We know the life of a musician is, generally, never easy. Here’s the highlight reel of ugly realities they have to face on a daily basis: the constant hassle of getting people to come out to shows; balancing that fine line between art and marketability with your music; the hair-pulling, teeth gnashing struggle to break into mainstream consciousness; staving off social pressure from friends or parents to give it up, go back to school (at the risk of inheriting debilitating debt), and take some soul-crushing corporate gig because, for some reason, society views that trajectory as success. Such typical stresses are compounded in a city that is becoming increasingly inhospitable to those residing in the precarious lower income bracket, a place where most musicians and artists unfortunately make their home. Even when rent is halfway reasonable it’s no cakewalk trying to make a living in the arts. The fact that anyone can do it in a place like San Francisco is nothing short of a miracle, a test of Herculean strength of will and determination.
Sad Bastard Book Club epitomizes the sense of strife that comes with living on the edge of life. “We should own our choices,” they sing, “It won’t help to dwell / Once the mallet’s struck you can’t unring that bell / Time will be the death of you unless you use it well.” That sense of desperation permeates their new EP The Crow Nose Quartet’s “Carrion, My Wayward Son” and should strike a limpid chord in any inhabitant struggling to make ends meet in the City by the Bay. Their music is equally unflinching- it’s full of haunting chants, mournful horns, double-bass drum attacks like machine gun bursts, and guitar riffs hanging above the chord changes like specters of death. It’s not quite metal or punk or folk, but it’s a little bit of all three. Any subgenre that primarily emphasizes dark themes and lugubrious situations, SBBC covers it and forces the listener to confront things they, in all actuality, would probably rather like to avoid. But times are tough for many in this city, and some realities can’t be avoided.
If there’s one thing this band isn’t, it’s forgettable. Whether it’s their creeping melodies or winding song structures or unique blending of genres or titles that rival perhaps only Modest Mouse in wordiness, SBBC are by no means conventional, a fact that makes them an undeniable product of San Francisco. Like the city itself, originality and sometimes straight-up weirdness runs through their lyrics and melodies. This fact is what music aficionados point to when they laud arts in the Bay Area; this is why so many want to move here and why so few have the actual means to. If San Francisco loses bands like SBBC to frustratingly high costs of living, if it chooses economics over arts, what does that say about its priorities, about what made this city so great and different in the first place?