Slim’s closes after 30 years in San Francisco

Repeat this phrase: 2020 truly sucks.  The world has lost more than words can describe this year, and inc

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Repeat this phrase: 2020 truly sucks. 

The world has lost more than words can describe this year, and included on that ever-expanding list are the many beloved Bay Area staples that have been forced to shutter due to the statewide shelter-in-place orders. 

When news broke in March that Slim’s, one of San Francisco’s greatest live music venues, would be closing, punky hearts everywhere shattered faster than eardrums after a metal set. Although the Great American Music Hall, the sister venue of Slim’s, is still up and running, the city is losing one of its most treasured arts spaces before fans could even say goodbye.

All starting with founder Boz Scaggs’ ribbon-cutting show in 1988, Slim’s has since hosted the likes of No Doubt, Radiohead, Yellowcard, Paramore, Weezer and so many more. No matter the artist’s genre, Slim’s hosted countless evenings of live music in its lifetime, bringing people together in one of the most sacred ways music lovers know.

Slim’s made space for bands and solo artists to find a home in San Francisco — whether it be for one night or several in a row. While there are still other electrifying venues to keep up the grungy tradition, such as Bottom of the Hill and The Regency Ballroom, there is no other venue in the Bay Area that gives you the chance to say, “I can’t remember how many times I got pushed into that pole.”

And while many concertgoers may have gone to Slim’s for the last time without even knowing it this year or last, we can at least still reflect on the fond memories we have of that bright neon sign.

Skylar De Paul, arts & entertainment editor

While I’ve only been to Slim’s a handful of times, the venue impacted me differently from others in the Bay Area. I can’t say if this was due to how often the obstructive poles impacted my view or how physically close they made the crowd feel, but walking up the tall stairs to this iconic venue always brought on pre-show jitters as my friends and I scoured the floor for that perfect view spot.

When I learned that Slim’s was closing, I was flooded with memories of the many artists I’ve seen wax poetic on that modest stage. Built To Spill was my first, followed closely by Dead Sara, Yellow Days, Crumb, From Indian Lakes, Movements — the list is exhaustive after more than two years of covering live music at The Daily Californian.

Dominic Fike gave one of the best performances I’d seen in a while when I saw him at Slim’s in October. Like most times I’ve gone to concerts while in college, I was covering his show for the newspaper’s arts and entertainment section. Taking my own photos for his set, I listened to his silky vocals from the photo pit. It was more than enchanting. His stage presence was reserved yet heartfelt; far from amateurish, his instrumental skills could impress even the most seasoned of string players. 

Those pictures of then 23-year-old Fike are still some of my favorite concert photos I’ve ever taken. Some may say that recording cell phone videos of live shows is corny and annoying, but the digital memories I have of this venue will last far longer than the obnoxious nightclub now taking over our once-cherished space.

— Skylar De Paul

There is something intoxicatingly cool about going to a show on a weekday. Be it my own private reconciliation with the life 15-year-old me was sure I’d be living or the stress-addled existence I led at UC Berkeley, there weren’t many thrills akin to that feeling. And don’t get me wrong, San Francisco holds many old haunts, not to mention many concert venues, but none bred an experience quite like Slims. 

When I arrived at the space for Ryan Beatty’s show in early 2019, there was admittedly little to say about the exterior of the relatively inconspicuous space. Young people lined up — at the time not many, but enough to make it clear the show was worth the trip. A short ID check and I was up the stairs, my mark-free hands a minority in the sea of x’s around me. And it was there, spilling out onto the floor of Slim’s, that history bore down on me in its most significant measure. The space somehow too close for comfort and larger than life. All sticky floors and an eccentric audience — all at once youthful and aged. Beatty ended up starting the show almost two hours after I’d arrived, but it was easy to miss the time pass bathed in the blue and pink lights, as the crowd sang along to the pre-show tunes pouring out of the speakers overhead. 

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