The Musical History of San Francisco

The San Francisco Bay Area has long been a hotbed for new music, birthing major acts and underground heroes in classic rock, pop, punk, metal, hip-hop and soul. It was famously a gathering place for a mass exodus of young people in the Sixties, as Scott McKenzie sang in his hit single named for the city, "If you're going to San Francisco, be sure to wear some flowers in your hair. . ." ."

He sings of "a whole generation with a new explanation," just as the Grateful Dead, Creedence Clearwater Revival, the Jefferson Airplane, Carlos Santana and others were pushing rock music into bold new directions. McKenzie's lyrics of love-ins and the "gentle people there" meant little to the Seventies punk scene that followed and swirled around Flipper and the Dead Kennedys, but the basic sentiment remained true then and now: the city's role as venue for leading popular culture. ."

The great rock & roll impresario Bill Graham was a major force in promoting rock to an ever-widening audience, both at home in San Francisco and at venues across the country. His concerts at the Fillmore West and Winterland were a launching pad for many acts, and led to the arena shows Graham would eventually pioneer and grow until his death in 1991. In media, Rolling Stone magazine began life in San Francisco (before leaving for New York a decade later). ."

Haight-Ashbury spawned the Grateful Dead and Janis Joplin (initially as singer with Big Brother and the Holding Company), but the music has come in all styles and locales, from the power-pop of the Flamin' Groovies to the bruising funk-punk of Faith No More. Soul and hip-hop from the Bay Area materialized in the form of the groundbreaking Sly and the Family Stone (1968's "Everyday People" and 1971's "Family Affair"), continuing through the decades from Oakland's Digital Underground (1990's "The Humpty Dance") and En Vogue (1990's Hold On" and 1992's "Giving Him Something He Can Feel").."

After playing their first thrash shows as a young metal act in Southern California, Metallica settled in San Francisco after fleeing the glam hair-metal scene of the Sunset Strip, where spandex and hairspray reigned supreme, not the darkness and raw power that interested them. The like-minded Berkeley thrash-metal act Testament was there to greet them. ."

Punk rock has thrived all across the area, from the first wave led by the heavily political Dead Kennedys. Hardcore evolved into its own scene, spawning both the pop punk of Green Day but also 924 Gilman Street, a crucial all-ages DIY punk club since 1986. ."

In 1969, the Rolling Stones hosted an infamous free concert at the Altamont Raceway (outside San Francisco), where security was mishandled by volunteer Hell's Angels and ended with the stabbing death of one man and the accidental death of three others. Even Jefferson Airplane singer Marty Balin was punched and knocked down by an Angel. ."

Better news was to come – a generation later, San Francisco began hosting the Outside Lands Music and Arts Festival amid a long strip of grass and forest in California at Golden Gate Park, with annual talent lineups of both major acts and cutting edge voices that reflected the Bay Area's eclectic musical history.