The San Francisco and Oakland music scenes are increasingly sounding more like they could become a collective rather than an East vs. West conflict.
Bands in San Francisco are beating the drum louder, literally, for more collaboration with Oakland musicians.
Such a scene played out on Saturday morning at the Blue Six Gallery on 24th Street. Honeycomb, a seven-piece collective of musicians from Oakland and San Francisco, played a five-song set as part of ongoing recording sessions for One Night Music.
The band, conceived by Emily Ritz, who is the lead vocalist and plays the ukulele, is hard to describe. “The easiest way to describe it to people is by naming the instrumentation,” she said.
That lineup includes Nathan Blaz on cello; Andrew Maguire on vibraphones; Joe Lewis on upright bass, Kacey Johansing on drums and vocals and Karin Dahl, Courtney Nicole and Heather Normandale also doing vocals.
Honeycomb, named after Ritz’s obsession with bees, has played with the current ensemble for about five months, when Dahl Nicole and Normandale joined Ritz, Maguire, Blaz and Shelton.
How they came to the hive is a classic story: girl plays open mic nights, boy hears her music, they become friends, they meet each other’s friends, all of them play in each other’s bands.
“It is a really close-knit-community,” Ritz said. “We are all supportive.”
Normandale who plays in another band with Maguire, puts it more bluntly, “It is more like inbred,” she said about the music community in San Francisco.
While many of them know each other and go to each others shows, it’s an expanding community. She didn’t know most of the people at the recording session.
But with many of the musicians playing in so many groups, how can they achieve some sort of identity? Maguire says that is not that difficult.
“When I perform with a certain band, I come in with different things in mind,” He said. “Even if I am playing the same instrument with different bands, they sound different.”
When he plays with Honeycomb, he thinks of how to make the music darker with an instrument that typically sounds joyful.
“That’s the challenge,” he said.
He added that he doesn’t preoccupy himself with the idea that one band might make it and the other won’t.
“It is much bigger than that,” he said. “It is about creating a community.”
Their collective community is transcending countries. Next summer they will embark in a European tour after Ritz finishes school at the California College of the Arts.
Elia Vargas, one of the four founders of the One Night Music project, says he’s glad he can provide a space and a forum for bands.
He too sees both the Oakland and San Francisco music scenes becoming closer.
“In Oakland it is more free spirit — it is about doing things,” he said. “If you have an idea then you do it, you find a house or a bus to play.”
Oakland is more experimental, he said, whereas San Francisco has more established musicians.
“In San Francisco people are much more serious about making a career and becoming professional,” he said. “It’s not that Oakland is not like that, it just comes off different.”
Honeycomb’s next show is at the Elbo Room on Jan. 20.