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Arts + CultureMusicNoise Pop report: Tommy Guerrero's psychedelic vamp at 4-Star...

Noise Pop report: Tommy Guerrero’s psychedelic vamp at 4-Star Theatre was quintessential SF

Noise Pop show put the revival of a beloved neighborhood cinema on display.

As folks made their way down Clement Street, strolling, pushing baby carriages, looking into Bill’s Burgers and Gordo’s Taqueria for possible snacks despite the foggy, windy Outer Richmond district haze this past Sunday, sounds of lo-fi jazz, trip-hop, rock, and downtempo vibes emanated from the 4-Star Theater.

They weren’t coming from the screening of a music documentary, but rather, a crash course on how to monetize a struggling community business. The vibrant but still low-key Clement Street corridor stacks local businesses next to and on top of each other. Its community is in the midst of championing something already present, just with a certain, winning enhancement.

To whit: Noise Pop Industries, celebrating its 31st year as San Francisco’s premier music festival and the beginning of the city’s festival season—had booked a two-day installation of homegrown former pro-skater Tommy Guerrero, playing his funk-blues, in the lovingly restored movie house.

Tommy Guerrero at 4-Star Theatre for Noise Pop, February 25.

Guerrero currently has two albums slated for reissue on the highly influential Manchester-based label Be With Records. According to Rob Butler, label boss and founder of the vinyl-only imprint, “it’s timeless music.”

But this Guerrero show moved patrons in different ways.The politely seated attendees golf-clapped after each song, in contrast to the standing-room-only section at the back of the theater, where it was swelteringly warm and chatty. Former skater dads and hot moms sipped on beers, passed around bags of popcorn, and joked with each other like it was a winning day for the Giants at Oracle Park. Or to get real specific: It was a fun and rowdy vibe, similar to what you would have found in the pool room of the now-defunct Capp Street bar affectionately called Uptown.

After each track, folks in this section would extend their well wishes: “Go get em, Tommy.”

Healing Gems, a Los Angeles-based outfit who describe themselves as “Space Age Tequila Sunrise, Trash Lounge, and Lava Pop,” played an entertaining opening set that bordered on hallucinogenic, country and stoned tropicalia. An outfit built for easing into that lazy Sunday afternoon, for sure.

In between live music sets, Ruffy TNT, DJ’d obscure dub, cumbia, bizzaro rock, and hard-to-find funk that numerous patrons attempted to Shazam, to no avail.

All they had to do was get up, turn around and ask.

Ruffy TNT, who works at Discodelic on 24th Street is a rare record finder that many a DJ or wax fanatic in SF would be smart to link up with.

Dude can play.

Healing Gems at 4-Star Theatre for Noise Pop, January 25.

This is the third year I’ve attended Guerrero’s show at Noise Pop because, hey, he’s just that good. The local legend represents a certain demographic in SF who sometimes gets overlooked by all the shiny tech hoodoo.

He’s quintessential Ess Eff, from an era when the national press gushed daily about this city’s on-goings. That fusion of skateboarding, reaching international acclaim from the likes of Thrasher Magazine, all types of beats, from hip-hop to drum and bass and a little house too, flowed from record stores and tiny but internationally influential clubs all over Haight Street.

While last year’s show at The Chapel was great, especially with Ray Barbee’s opening, the “bro-factor” dumbed down the ambience. Patrons who maybe don’t attend skateboarding events but could have been curious about them, got nudged and pushed around just a bit too much.

More on the pain in ass side of things, I dipped out mid-show. That wasn’t what I came for nor what I was assigned to cover.

But 2024’s show hit the perfect mix of Sunday Mission vibe and Outer Richmond politeness, all while bringing new business to a revamped movie house trying to make it’s fiscal way in a quasi post-pandemic economy. Not an easy trick.

Guerrero opened with the atmospheric “Directions of Possibility” from his recent release, Amber of Memory. Patrons got seated and prepped themselves for the Lynchian undertones.

A whole cavalcade of record junkies rushed in from the Tunnel Record Shop next door, where Guerrero’s discography was on full display, alongside a healthy and detailed sampling of jazz, soul, and rock. Physical media is their thing, and they do it well.

As Guerrero explored the acoustics of the theater with a standout psychedelic soul vamp, “B.W’s Blues,” the room started to boogie and move. While some patrons tried to (again) Shazam the tune, other couples embraced the lo-fi shuffle and swayed together sipping on cold and bubbly.

As the track burrowed on, with each stanza reverberating, visual artist Brian Barneclo’s live projections of skateboarders, figures of the sun, and spectral, earthy-toned illustrations—all grounded in brown—filled the screen above the live performance, accompanied by the shouts and “yeah”‘s from the boisterous back row.

It reminded me of the scene Ashley Graham, promoter, with musician Andrew St. James for Fast Times Presents!, introduced me to the Balboa Theater a couple of years back, when local bands were playing these high-octane shows that featured up-and-coming bands—Juice Bumps, Fake Fruit—utilizing the indie space, and bringing new and different patrons to the spot.

It makes you wonder. Could this model have worked at another local landmark theater across town that just went corporate?

“I think the indie spirit will always be alive and well in San Francisco. There’s just enough of us willing to do what it takes to keep these little gem venues alive, a boundless stream of creativity on the artist side, and an audience that is completely on board with wacky experiences,” stated Adam Bergeron of CinemaSF, which runs the 4 Star, via email to 48hills. “It really seems like SF is on the precipice of another exciting wave of artistic energy. You can see it in the street art, the local filmmaking culture, the drag scene, and the music scene is in a great place right now too. It’s important that there are venues for all of these mediums to exist in.”

Check out the rest of Noise Pop’s programming here.

48 Hills welcomes comments in the form of letters to the editor, which you can submit here. We also invite you to join the conversation on our FacebookTwitter, and Instagram

John-Paul Shiver
John-Paul Shiverhttps://www.clippings.me/channelsubtext
John-Paul Shiver has been contributing to 48 Hills since 2019. His work as an experienced music journalist and pop culture commentator has appeared in the Wire, Resident Advisor, SF Weekly, Bandcamp Daily, PulpLab, AFROPUNK, and Drowned In Sound.

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