The Hemlock Tavern has been a staple of the San Francisco music scene for years. More importantly, it’s been a staple of the Bay Area punk scene. With venues currently closing and many places not willing to host punk rock shows, the closing of The Hemlock was a huge blow to many. There were several shows leading up to the demise of this venue, but this was the last of the last, the true end of an era.
As someone who books shows in the general East Bay area from time to time, I wonder what will happen with all these places closing. Where will small out-of-town touring bands who want to play San Francisco go? The options are rapidly decreasing. I find myself pulling out my hair over just trying to help out friends in bands.
After getting over the Bay Bridge and picking up Jay(of Nothington), I found a pretty good parking spot, which is always a surprise to me. It has always been hard to find parking around The Hemlock. But I had a job to do: Jay needed to play and needed to have these balloons. It was a party, and these minion balloons were not about to sit in my car forever, they were to be on stage in all their glory. I pulled the floating banana yellow demon-spawn creatures out of the back of my truck. I handed them over to Jay and sputtered, “These should annoy your bandmates. Enjoy.”
The bar was packed to the brim with people trying to get in their last drink at the infamous bar/venue. It was two hours before the show was even going to start and there was barely any room to walk. The hustle and bustle increased every second that got closer to the start of the show. Once I got in the doors to the back room where the bands play, it already felt like it was a billion degrees. The Lucky Eejits took the stage and people started to file in. I have praised this band many a time and they are always so great. They opened up with one of my favorites, their catchy anthem “Something To Believe In,” and ended with “60 Dollar Conversation” (their music video was premiered right here on Bad Copy!). Not only are these guys total sweethearts, but they work hard and play hard.
We were all sweating by the end of the set, and I didn’t want to give up my spot for camera shots, so I stuck it out until Get Dead got onstage. The last time I saw this band was also at The Hemlock and it was about as packed and sweaty both times. At this point I was starting to get delirious and dizzy from heat stroke and regretting not taking a break outside. Get Dead debuted a few brand new songs, which were pretty good. After each song, the band asked the crowd what they thought and the response was a room full of positive cheers!
At this point, I should probably mention that I can’t sweat properly. Like, I get clammy and my skin has pockets of sweatiness, but I can’t actually cool off like a lot of people do. In my heatstroke delirium, I began to fall over. Nothington stormed the stage and was on fire, but I didn’t get any photos of them. I unfortunately missed about half their set as well, I became so ill from heatstroke I started feeling like I was going to pass out. But they were really good. Jay’s meow-growl vocals were so on point, but I could barely keep my head up. I dropped my camera and fumbled around trying to pick it up. A giant shove landed my arm into a power box on the wall to my right and a speaker to the knee. I then decided it was time to stumble towards the door. I kept thinking about how great those minion balloons were going to look right behind them… but I just could not withstand the heat of that room. I needed air.
Crushed that I managed to only get one very blurry photo before my camera died, I crawled to the liquor store up the street. Defeated, I purchased a water bottle and just pushed it up against my forehead for the next ten minutes. The show filtered out some after Nothington finished playing, but the bar remained packed like sardines. Looking around you could see so many smiles and animated conversations. You could overhear the murmur of those reminiscing while others sat silently and sipped bittersweet farewells.
I will always remember this bar as being a sweaty cramped show space where I was able to see some really great punk bands, but thanks to this last show I will have a lasting memory of almost passing out from heatstroke during Nothington. And I was stone cold sober.
Goodbye Hemlock Tavern. You will be missed.