On April 10, 1996, Backside of the Hill unintentionally turned a mob scene. Radio station Alt 105.three (then often known as Stay 105) had spoiled the venue’s huge shock present that night time: unknown band Quasar was truly the mega-popular Beastie Boys. What was speculated to be a small, word-of-mouth secret snowballed till greater than 1,200 followers had lined up outdoors of the venue with a capability of 246 folks.
“It was actually loopy and the police got here, and it did not look good for us,” recalled Kathleen Owen, one of many Potrero Hill live performance venue’s house owners. “However for the those that have been inside who got here to see the present, it was fairly superb and thrilling.”
Backside of the Hill, which opened in 1991, has its fair proportion of loopy tales like these from the previous few many years. In 1998, Inexperienced Day’s drummer shattered the window behind the stage throughout the filming of MTV’s “The Ten Spot.” A glassblower remodeled the damaged window right into a stained glass murals, just for it to get shattered once more by one other punk band years later.
At first, Backside of the Hill was a restaurant that served breakfast, lunch and dinner, with somewhat music on the facet. However quickly, the venue’s music popularity eclipsed its meals.
“We began chipping away at meals service and removed breakfast as issues within the neighborhood modified,” mentioned Owen. “Individuals additionally didn’t need to exit to dinner and hearken to soundcheck for a band.”
Due to the reserving experience of co-owner Ramona Downey, the venue constructed a formidable popularity for itself amongst indie bands. Many now-famous bands performed BOTH after they have been nonetheless comparatively unknown, together with Arcade Hearth, Dangerous Faith, Demise Cab for Cutie, Marilyn Manson, The Donnas, Elliot Smith, Alanis Morissette, the White Stripes and the Strokes.
At present, you’ll nonetheless discover a whole lot of indie rock bands taking part in at BOTH, from Greatest Coast to Surfer Blood — this week alone, a powerful lineup together with up-and-coming acts Rosie Tucker and Destroy Boys are taking part in exhibits on the venue for Noise Pop Pageant. However Owen claims that the web has made an enormous distinction wherein bands they e book and how briskly they develop. Now, as an alternative of progressively spreading in recognition by phrase of mouth, a musician can get enormous on YouTube or Soundcloud and promote out the venue their first time taking part in there. And all people already is aware of the phrases to all their songs.
However irrespective of the expertise, BOTH can’t deny that location-wise, it’s undoubtedly off the overwhelmed path.
“Once we opened, all people thought that we have been so distant and that no person was going to come back all the way in which out right here, as a result of all of the nightlife was at 11th and Folsom, in SoMa or the Mission,” mentioned Owen. “However the bands beloved taking part in right here. We simply bought a extremely good popularity.”
It seems that San Franciscans will make the trek all the way in which all the way down to Potrero Hill if the music is nice sufficient. Plus, folks within the neighborhood felt grateful to have some life dropped at their streets.
“Individuals say that they like that there’s exercise at night time,” mentioned Owen. “If we weren’t open, it’d be a lifeless zone. It’s fully completely different from day to nighttime right here: Throughout the day, it is tremendous loopy due to Mission Bay and all the things being constructed, however at night time it’s darkish and quiet and creepy typically.”
After all, the neighborhood is altering. Whereas Potrero Hill was as soon as a working-class residential neighborhood within the 1990s, it’s now drawing white-collar professionals who work in close by Mission Bay’s biotech hub. Tons of recent market-rate housing is being constructed to accommodate them.
Naturally, the inflow of recent neighbors might spell bother for a loud rock venue — particularly with the empty lot behind BOTH not too long ago reworking into condos.
“Now that they’re there, I believe we’ll in all probability get extra noise complaints,” speculated Owen. “We’re near 280 and the practice station, and all of the Mission Bay staff need to stay in our neighborhood. However they don’t need to hearken to the music.”
One change Owen has already observed in Potrero Hill is the parking state of affairs.
“We’ve at all times had parking. That’s been a plus as a result of we’re thus far on the market, away from BART — BART doesn’t run after midnight to the East Bay,” mentioned Owen. “However as a result of there have been three,000 new models constructed round us, they don’t all have parking.”
These newcomers, in addition to folks heading to the brand new Chase Heart, snatch up worthwhile parking spots from the venue’s clients, staff and even bands with huge vans and trailers to unload.
In response to Owen, one band BOTH booked not too long ago didn’t apply for a bus allow from the town and took their possibilities on discovering a parking spot. They obtained three parking tickets and have been virtually towed, which might’ve been a catastrophe costing 1000’s of dollars, in addition to conserving them from making it to the following present on their tour.
Whereas some may recommend that every one the brand new neighbors could be good for enterprise, Owen disagrees.
“We’re only a vacation spot place. No one’s strolling down the road, saying, ‘Hey, let’s go right here!’” she defined.
Owen has additionally observed a rise in automobile break-ins, inescapable in SF even of their principally residential, upper-middle-class neighborhood.
“The entire metropolis bought a lot greater actually quick,” mentioned Owen. “We’re one of many final neighborhoods. Town wants housing — I perceive that — however I want it wasn’t on my block.”
With the transformation of Potrero Hill, BOTH undoubtedly has some new challenges to take care of. However in its practically three many years, the venue has survived worse.
In 2003, a fireplace broke out that induced vital harm. In 2009, a crackdown on all-ages venues in SF by the California Division of Alcoholic Beverage Management practically shuttered the membership. BOTH’s loyal group helped it bounce again — in 2009, neighbors despatched in letters of assist, stating that “the venue was an integral a part of the neighborhood,” with mother and father sharing assist for its function in conserving their children off the streets.
The venue has made small adjustments over time to accommodate a altering San Francisco — earlier live shows, selling exhibits on social media — however the truth that they personal the constructing signifies that even rising rents within the space can’t push them out.
This in all probability comes as a reduction to the venue’s many longtime, diehard followers. BOTH has been round so lengthy that they’re even beginning to get second technology Backside of the Hillers — bands that performed within the 90s now see their children carry out in the identical room.
“Time’s passed by actually quick, so I don’t even actually keep in mind the final 20 years,” laughed Owen. “It appeared like there was the primary two years, after which all the things got here up actually quick.”
Backside of the Hill (1233 17th St., San Francisco) is internet hosting a number of exhibits this week for Noise Pop Pageant: Rosie Tucker on Wednesday, Feb. 26; Mirah and Pom Pom Squad on Thursday, Feb. 27; Califone on Friday, Feb. 28; Habibi on Saturday, Feb. 29; and Destroy Boys on Sunday, March 1.
Madeline Wells is an SFGATE affiliate digital reporter. E-mail: [email protected] | Twitter: @madwells22