Music City To Expand With New Cafe And Bar, Resources For Local Musicians

The Board of Supervisors gave San Francisco's musicians and live music junkies something to celebrate Tuesday by passing legislation to protect entertainment venues — operating within their entertainment permits — from potential lawsuits from sleepless neighbors as residential construction continues to boom.

As we recently reported, District 5 Supervisor London Breed introduced the ordinance last December as many live music venues were forced to spend thousands of dollars on legal fees to defend their operations and others, like Lexington Club and The Sound Factory, were closing their doors.

But city supervisors aren’t the only ones looking to protect the Bay Area’s live music scene. Rudy Colombini, a real estate entrepreneur and the Mick Jagger of The Unauthorized Rolling Stones tribute band, has been working for years to build Music City, an affordable hub of services for local and traveling artists and musicians.

Photos: Brittany Hopkins / Hoodline

Music City opened in 2011, turning the Encore Hotel at 1353 Bush St. into affordable shared living spaces for traveling musicians and students, and converting the basement into 14 rehearsal studios — fully-stocked with audio equipment — that can be rented for $20 an hour or less. They host 1,500 hours of band rehearsals and more than 300 local and international musicians every month, said General Manager Ben Givarz.

Most nights the rehearsal spaces are sold-out, Givarz said, but in about a year the operation will expand into the space next door with 50 total plug-in-play rehearsal studios, a public cafe and bar, and a potential music education program for musicians and local youth.

The first floor will be home to the bar, cafe and live performance stage, while additional rehearsal studios will fill the back of the first and second floors. Walking through the construction zone's exposed steel beams and dusty concrete floors, Givarz said he imagines musicians with diverse backgrounds, styles and levels of experience walking through the halls, networking and being inspired by each other’s rehearsals. 

The rehearsal rooms will also double as lecture and conference rooms; Music City is currently in the process of determining whether it’s feasible to offer an in-house certification program or perhaps making the new space a destination for local schools that have limited access to space for music education.

If all of that isn’t enough, the entire space will serve as a museum, paying tribute to local and international legends from the 1950s through the 1990s. Lining the sidewalk out front will be a 'Walk of Fame', created with 300 bricks engraved with the names of local music legends, and display cases full of artifacts and artwork depicting the Bay Area’s musical past will be built into the hallways of the rehearsal studios.

Music City is Colombini’s life-long dream and his “personal quest”, Givarz said. With musicians and artists being pushed out of the city, “the time is right” for Music City’s expansion. “If we don’t offer these types of resources, we could be at risk of losing something awesome.”

While the new venue won’t be ready for at least a year, there’s no need to wait to get involved with Music City. Bands can book the current rehearsals studios online, and if resources are an issue, bands shouldn't hesitate to give them a call. True to their mission of giving everyone the opportunity to participate in the local music scene “no matter their situation,” Music City offers the rehearsal studios for free between 11am and 1pm, Mondays through Wednesdays, and people do take them up on the offer, Givarz said.

You can also tune into Music City Radio any time to hear bands that will be playing local venues that week, and keep tabs on the Music City Rehearsal Facebook page for updates on shows Music City is hosting around town and classes they’re holding on-site, like the new monthly Karaoke Clinic.

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