Tony Bennett might have left his heart in San Francisco, but the City by the Bay has never been particularly famous for its musical heritage - except for one brief period between the mid 1960s and the early 1970s, when a collection of San Francisco rock groups made, what jazz critic, newspaper columnist and founder of Rolling Stone Magazine, Ralph Gleason, once described as a “serious contribution to musical history.”
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That is not to suggest that culture ever took a back seat in “The Paris of the West.” The city has always had a diverse arts scene. Its theaters, clubs, musical venues, renowned museums, unique architecture, and many festivals and street fairs, have historically combined to make San Francisco one of the world’s foremost tourist destinations.
But it was the San Francisco Sound of the ‘60s, spawned by the area’s counter-cultural community, that truly put the city on the musical map. Groups that encapsulated this newer form of “psychedelic” rock music were: Jefferson Airplane, fronted by lead singer/songwriter Paul Kantor and abetted by vocalist Grace Slick; Quicksilver Messenger Service, featuring the guitar licks of Dino Valenti and John Cipollina; Big Brother and the Holding Company, starring the gritty-voiced, Janis Joplin, and, most importantly, The Grateful Dead, one of the era’s most influential bands, led by Jerry Garcia on lead guitar, Bob Weir on rhythm, and Phil Lesh on bass.
Many of these home-grown bands performed at venues such as the Fillmore Auditorium, the Avalon Ballroom, Winterland, and the Carousel Ballroom (later renamed the Fillmore West). Many free outdoor concerts were also given by these, and many other groups, in such places as Golden Gate Park and even, once in awhile, at the intersection of Haight and Ashbury Streets. In addition, from 1966 to 1971, an unprecedented quantity of graphic art was produced in the Bay area, to accompany the demand for posters, handbills, and flyers advertising the rock concerts and dances in the city’s musical venues. Many of these iconic posters have become today’s high-priced objets d’art.
While the heyday of the San Francisco Sound is long gone, the city still has a vibrant musical scene that includes rock’n’roll, jazz and classical. According to one travel website, there are 179 live jazz venues in the city, alone, and hundreds more in the surrounding cities and suburbs. The SFJAZZ Center is a music venue in the Hayes Valley neighborhood that opened in 2013. It is home to SFJAZZ, a jazz music organization that has produced the San Francisco Jazz Festival, every year, since 1983.
Classical and opera venues in San Francisco include the San Francisco Symphony, the San Francisco Opera and the San Francisco Ballet. They all perform at the San Francisco War Memorial and Performing Arts Center. The Ballet and Opera are two of the oldest continuing performing arts companies in the United States. San Francisco is also home to the 200-member San Francisco Gay Men's Chorus, the world's first openly gay chorus.
San Francisco is not particularly known as a film production town, either, although the eponymous, 1936 film, San Francisco, is an early movie classic that featured incredibly well-shot scenes that recreated the city’s devastating 1906 earthquake. Other well-known films that used San Francisco’s rolling hills, architectural attractions, or gritty streets as a backdrop include: Pal Joey, The Birdman of Alcatraz, Bullit, Dirty Harry, Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner, High Anxiety, Pacific Heights, The Conversation, The Towering Inferno, and Vertigo.
At Bison Disc, however we are well-known for our contributions to both the music and film industries, by way of our custom-designed packaging solutions for CDs, DVDs, and Blu-ray discs. We make the jewel cases, wallets, jackets and Digipaks that hold and protect what the artists have created and recorded. We also have another connection to San Francisco’s cultural legacy, because we also design and make posters and flyers - reminiscent of the times when the San Francisco Sound was heard ‘round the world.
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