The San Francisco Bay Area, like any metropolitan zone worth its salt, provides its residents with a healthy concentration of nightclubs, jazz bars, and concert venues. In this series, I’ll be sampling the local flavor and will give you, the reader, insight on our area’s live music scene, along with interviews by the people behind your favorite shows.
If you take a left on Fell Street while driving on San Francisco’s historic Van Ness Avenue, you’re a Subway away from arriving at the Rickshaw Stop. A mere five minute walk from Uber, Twitter, and the legendary Bill Graham Civic Auditorium, the cozy concert venue — described by Katie St Clair of the SF Weekly as like “being in Katie Holmes’ vagina” — has become a local favorite for its intimate, stripped down experience. Since its founding in 2004, the venue has come to boast a history of impressive artists, including MIA, Vampire Weekend, Mac DeMarco, Grimes, and Steve Aoki.
I reached out to Dan Strachota, Talent Buyer at the Rickshaw Stop and former DJ at KALX, to learn a bit about the venue and its history. “The [Rickshaw Stop] founders were two music biz novices who loved music and throwing parties,” Strachota said over email, “they asked me to DJ the opening party and bring my two parties [“Bardot a Go Go” and “Three Kinds of Stupid”] to the club, and eventually I offered my services as Talent Buyer.”
“In 2004, SF was recovering from the dot-com bust. People were dressing in skinny ties and white shirts with asymmetrical haircuts, like it was the 80s all over again,” Strachota said of the venue’s original scene. “Rickshaw tried everything at first —Baby happy hours, singer/songwriter showcases, dance parties of all colors and stripes.”
“The music scene here is never one thing –it’s a million sub-genres and sections and worlds,” Strachota said about the Rickshaw Stop’s place in San Francisco’s music scene, “I’d say we made our early name by hosting Friday dance parties like Club ID and Blow Up. Over time, we built a reputation for good sound, nice staffers, and intimate surroundings.
I’ve personally had a wonderful time at the Rickshaw Stop. One of my fondest concert memories is being thrown around the mosh pit (roughly half the room) at a Deafheaven show, at all times being crushed other concertgoers and barely an arm’s length from George Clarke’s turtleneck. I can also recall the impeccable sound quality, given my physical proximity to the speakers. Despite invading the drummer’s personal bubble, I had no problem making out each band member in the mix — even better from the mezzanine my exhausted corpse watched the rest of the show from.
If there’s anything else you need to know about the kind of results the Rickshaw Stop produces, Strachota has you covered. “Steve Aoki did a lot of crowd-surfing WHILE he was DJing. A guy surfed the crowd in a wheelchair during Monotonix. DJ Assault set at Blow Up was diiiiiirty. MIA sang from on top of our piano. Recently, Kitten dove into the crowd from the 2nd floor balcony,” and it what may have been a pained recollection. “Lady Sovereign played 2.5 songs, then had a meltdown and told the sold out crowd that we should give them all their money back (while still paying her the full amount), and then went to the green room and destroyed every glass in sight.”
Like many good things, the Rickshaw Stop is compact, intense, and explosive — you can keep your eyes peeled for a show here.
Written by Adil Siddiqee