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Your Favorite Local Band Member Is Serving You Pizza in the Outer Richmond

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Three people in T-shirts stand behind a service counter, with a wall of vinyl LPs in the background.
Alex Wolfert, Eva Treadway, and Max Edelman stand behind the bar at The Laundromat, a restaurant in the Outer Richmond in San Francisco, on June 5. All three play in local bands, and work as part of a musician-friendly staff that support each other's creative initiatives and cover shifts for national tours.  (Beth LaBerge/KQED)

On Wednesday evenings, Alex Wolfert feels like he’s on stage — even if none of his three bands is performing that night.

That’s because Wolfert, 24, works Wednesdays at The Laundromat — a bagels-in-the-morning, pizzas-and-wine-in-the-evening spot in San Francisco’s Outer Richmond that doubles as a micro-community of the city’s indie musicians. Hours pass to the hum of vinyl LPs from its sizable collection, dough and industry advice are thrown and caught, band tees are complimented. Co-workers’ demos are played on shared rides home, and employees cover shifts when others play shows or go on tour.

But mainly, The Laundromat’s supportive, tight-knit staff show that the artist’s tradition of working behind a counter on the nights not spent on stage is alive and well in an increasingly unaffordable, tech-centered city.

Alex Wolfert serves orders at The Laundromat, where he works alongside other musicians from San Francisco bands. Wolfert plays in Uncle Chris, Double Helix Peace Treaty and Starfish Prime. (Beth LaBerge/KQED)

On a typical shift, Wolfert, with his easy smile, might step outside to wipe down a table, passing the hour-long line and white horizon of Ocean Beach. His thoughts will race: He needs to text Joey he can record this week; Korey wants to rehearse next week; that one party needs water; two tables need to be set. Then he’ll grab a mushroom combo, balancing dipping dishes of honey and ranch between his fingers, and slide them all onto a crowded table.

As the phone rings, he’ll notice the Groove Armada record is on the penultimate track of Side B.


“One! More! Song!” he chirps in these moments over the beat to co-workers, Max Edelman, 29 (drummer for alt-rock band Sour Widows and black metal band Roke), and Eva Treadway, 29 (guitarist in the ’60s-style pop band The She’s and the noisy ’90s-style rock group World Smasher). Edelman might be pouring a skin-contact orange wine into one patron’s glass while Treadway — wearing a baseball cap with the word “Laundromat” in a squiggly font, designed by Trey Flanigan of local band Pardoner — pours a chilled red into another. A sausage pie’s ready for delivery. The phone’s ringing again.

Eva Treadway and Max Edelman work behind the bar at The Laundromat. (Beth LaBerge/KQED)

Busy nights like these are exhilarating to Wolfert. It’s like when his fingers are on the bass strings at Kilowatt or the Knockout. He plays with the jazz-inspired indie-pop group Uncle Chris, the rock-driven songwriting-forward alt-pop of Starfish Prime and the gritty, edgy sounds of Double Helix Peace Treaty. Working at The Laundromat can be like the climax of a song, he says. The crowd is rapt. The band’s locked in. The sound engineer is waving a symbol he can half see. His friends are in the front row making heart hands.

There’s a beast flowing through the air at that moment, he says. At The Laundromat, it’s caught and upheld by his co-workers, who are also his friends and some of his favorite musicians, similarly running pizzas or laughing in passing.

“There are parallels in service as in performance,” says Treadway just before their shift on a recent Wednesday. “We have our flow and we’re putting on a little bit of a show. Like, you’re providing this environment, you’re helping to curate it and you’re helping it to run, and you’re really fucking leaning on the people around you as your team.”

Navigating this organized chaos comes naturally to people who’ve worked together in a collaborative way artistically, Treadway adds, “because so much of being in a band is compromise and truly working together and doing hard things together. I don’t know anyone that’s a working musician in San Francisco that’s not working really, really hard.”

Eva Treadway poses for a portrait at The Laundromat. Treadway plays in The She’s and World Smasher. (Beth LaBerge/KQED)

Musicians have worked service jobs since the beginning of undercompensated music and undercompensated labor. But the marriage’s harmony largely depends on institutional support – especially in San Francisco, where rents are always going up, prices are high and anyone making less than $100,000 a year is considered low-income. The Tenderloin rehearsal space shared by two of Wolfert’s bands, a tight room split between five bands total, costs $800 a month. He lives with four roommates, one of whom is a bandmate.

When asked how to best support San Francisco’s musicians, Treadway says to tip well and pay in cash. Break out of the “transaction” mindset. Sometimes people forget their waiter is “a cool person who’s working really hard, who has their own interests, who maybe has their own band,” they add.

“Supporting your local restaurant is supporting your local musicians,” says Treadway. “Never forget it.”

Max Edelman poses for a portrait at The Laundromat. Edelman plays in the bands Sour Widows and Roke. (Beth LaBerge/KQED)

The city’s music scene is a fragile ecosystem, one supported through ticket and merch sales and prenegotiated percentages of the bar. And it’s supported most directly by the musicians themselves, waiting tables and humming a song idea as they grab Table Three’s vegan cheese.

Local music survives, says Wolfert, because of places like The Laundromat, and because people in the scene help each other out. Musicians hook other musicians up with places to practice or record; they ask local acts to open when they headline; they let them know when their neighborhood pizza place is hiring.

Alex Wolfert talks with a co-worker at The Laundromat. (Beth LaBerge/KQED)

“As a musician, I feel like you’re working so many different jobs all at once,” says Edelman. “And then you work your job. And you’re not being paid, usually, for the music aspect.” Edelman, who’s tended bar at The Laundromat for more than a year, learned about the job from an Instagram post by Treadway, right after the two returned to San Francisco from playing South by Southwest.

Treadway calls The Laundromat “a project”; Edelman opts for a musician-artist space as well as a culinary spot. Wolfert jokes that people say from the outside, it looks like “a little cult.” (The Laundromat’s musician staff also includes Keith Frerichs of The Umbrellas, who is absent on this particular day to prepare for a North American tour.)

When Wolfert worked at a prior pizza place, he says he felt validated as a musician. But there’s validation, and then there’s encouragement from managers and owners. Here, your co-workers and bosses will proactively sit down around a calendar of your upcoming tour dates. They’ll work together to cover shifts; they’ll make it happen.

Bumper stickers by Christopher DeLoach (@thatscoolthankyou on Instagram) hang at the entrance to The Laundromat. (Beth LaBerge/KQED)

Laundromat co-owners Kevin Rodgers and Jenna O’Connell don’t play music themselves, but both have histories of working with musicians in the service industry. The Laundromat, Rodgers says, is the most musician-concentrated workplace in his career. With so many band members and music lovers on staff, Rodgers says, they all just get it.

“Feeling like you’re in a place where your actual artistic endeavors are supported, that feels really important to me as someone who has played music my whole life,” says Treadway. “What makes people whole is being able to participate in their artistic endeavors.”

Ever since Treadway started in San Francisco’s music scene, people have said that the scene is dying. That everyone’s moving to L.A. They don’t think that’s true.

“There’s always going to be music in San Francisco,” Treadway says. “It’s in the DNA of the city, and has been since before any of us even were considered to exist.”


The Umbrellas are currently touring North America, and play Saturday, June 29, at Kilowatt in San Francisco. Sour Widows begins a U.S. tour this month, and plays Saturday, July 13, at the Independent in San Francisco. Double Helix Peace Treaty plays Wednesday, August 14, at the 4 Star Theater in San Francisco.

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