Fantasy Lineup: Six Great SF Bands Not Included in the City Hall Centennial

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Legendary SF Bands (clockwise): Chrome, Frightwig, the Rip Offs, Jawbreaker. Huey Lewis and the News, Primus

This Friday, to celebrate the 100th birthday of its city hall, San Francisco will be treated to a concert that honors its expansive musical heritage. Curated by the city's rock 'n' roll ambassador Chuck Prophet, the two-part set list features a wide variety of monster hits baked in the City by the Bay, all sung by local heroes like the Kingston Trio, Jello Biafra and Kelley Stoltz.

It doesn't need to be said, but I'll say it: Prophet did an amazing job lining up this show. From what I've seen, the set list looks fantastic. Seeing Roy Loney, founding member of the Flamin' Groovies, kick off the second set with "Slow Death" will be a not-to-miss moment; likewise, the Dead Kennedys' "California Uber Alles" accompanied by strings is an inspired, unexpected pairing.

But being a music nerd, I can't help but make my own fantasy additions to the lineup, with emphasis on "fantasy" -- it's impossible for the majority of the acts on this list to reform. Still, to give these passed-over groups some props, and to expose myself to some serious taunting, here are my dream additions to the festivities.

1. Jawbreaker - "Kiss the Bottle"

For me, including Jawbreaker in a list of influential San Francisco bands is an absolute no-brainer. Sure, you could blame them for later musical atrocities like Fall Out Boy, but that doesn't mean you should push aside this band's greatness. Numerous young fans around the world learned to deal with their emotions thanks to Blake Schwarzenbach's words and their emo-meets-pop punk riffs. Out of the extensive catalog, "Kiss the Bottle" is a given for a SF-centric event -- it's about the drunks and derelicts of the 1990s Mission District, and was first released on 17 Reasons, a box set of songs about the rapidly changing neighborhood.


2. Frightwig - "A Man's Got To Do What A Man's Got To Do"

Frightwig has the tough distinction of being so ahead of their time that they're influence isn't widely recognized. Let's be clear: Before there was the Riot Grrrl movement, there was Frightwig. They were unabashed feminists who held their own when playing with the dude-dominant punk bands of the early '80s like D.O.A., G.B.H. and the Dead Kennedys. Though "I Got Lost" is probably the bigger hit -- you can hear its influence on bands like Babes In Toyland -- the track that would need to be played in a celebration of San Francisco would have to be "A Man's Got To Do What A Man's Got To Do," their no wave-tinged dance number that, when included in their sets, would find the band prompting male audience members to join them on stage to strip.

3. Chrome - "TV As Eyes"

The first wave of San Francisco's punk scene was so varied that it's impossible to pick one group that truly represented all the different sounds coming out of the city in the late '70s. For example, you had the sloppy, raw rock 'n roll of Crime; the experimental-yet-catchy electronic punk of Tuxedomoon; and the proto-hardcore of Negative Trend. But one band that stands on the shoulders of them all, and that's Chrome, who had already released an LP before punk rock became a thing. When the core of the group became Damon Edge, a fantastic drummer, vocalist and experimental tape musician, and Helios Creed, a shredding guitarist that would take Stooges-style riffs and phaser pedals to new heights, music in general would never be the same. And though Chrome had SF-themed songs like "Meet Me In The Subway," the moment they grabbed the music world by the face and smacked it until it paid attention was "TV As Eyes," the perfect encapsulation of their oeuvre.

4. Huey Lewis and the News - "Hip to be Square"

Obviously in a list of experimental, underground San Francisco bands, Huey Lewis and the News are the odd man out. But they're here for a good reason: their impact as a band and their pride in their hometown cannot be underestimated. They've been written off as a '80s pop band, when in actuality they were quite ballsier than the much of the dreck being forced down our throats on mid-'80s pop radio. And they didn't keep their love of the city a secret; they not only featured San Francisco in their video for "I Want A New Drug," they had the 49ers (specifically Joe Montana, Ronnie Lott and Dwight Clark (The Catch!)) sing backup vocals on "Hip To Be Square," their retort to critics of their clean image.

5. Primus - "Jerry Was A Race Car Driver"

Out of all the hard-rocking groups that came out of San Francisco in the '90s, Primus is definitely the most representative of the city's pervasive weirdness. They loved the Residents and had the technical ability to play with the best prog musicians, but they weren't afraid to dumb it down and just rock. And even though they're responsible for popularizing one of the most horrendous musical genres to be created, funk metal, a.k.a. "thrash funk," it's not like they did it on purpose. Really, they were just kicking out the jams they only way they knew how, and "Jerry Was A Race Car Driver" is a prime example of why they would become so influential.

6. The Rip Offs - "She Said Yeah"


Greg Lowery, bass player for the Rip Offs and mastermind behind the influential '90s punk label Rip Off Records, will probably despise me for including him in this article. Sadly for him, this is one of the side effects of being in an band as awesome as the Rip Offs. In an era when pop-punk in all of its various forms ruled the indie record store, the Rip Offs were a breath of fresh-yet-spit-stained air. They had fun with their hometown -- the back of their LP pictured the four members urinating on a SFPD van -- but they also brought the tracks, with each cut being a two-minute burst of snotty punk energy. Out of all the songs on this list, "She Said Yeah" is the one I could have on repeat for hours, months -- heck, maybe even like City Hall itself, for 100 years. It never gets old.