South of Market music club Slim’s is celebrating its 30th anniversary this week with lineup of shows while highlighting its rich history as a hub for music in San Francisco. The club, which musician Boz Scaggs opened in 1988, has been a home base for local acts just getting started, and hosted the first Bay Area shows for future stars like Radiohead and Bruno Mars, as well as shows for big names looking to get closer to their fans. Metallica played the 500-capacity room. So has David Bowie. And Prince.
The anniversary week lineup includes locals The Brothers Comatose, and singer-guitarist Ben Morrison, who once worked at the club, wrote about a couple of his most memorable experiences on the job as a skinny security guard.
— Roman Gokhman
On a lukewarm foggy evening in San Francisco 11 years ago, I stood in the parking lot of Slim’s. I was working my security shift outside that night when I was bitten—by a human.
I’ll get to that story shortly. But getting bitten was just one in a long line of adventures I had while working security at the legendary venue, and it was the best job I’ve ever had prior to playing in the Brothers Comatose.
Long before I had ever considered working there, I would venture down from my hometown of Petaluma to see shows at Slim’s with my high school friends. It was one of the few all-ages clubs in San Francisco that actually brought in bands we wanted to see. Fast forward several years, and there I was working in the same club I had frequented in my earlier days.
I spent four years working security there, which is funny because I’m a pretty skinny dude—not your typical security guard. At least my grandpa thought it was funny. I spent my nights collecting tickets, searching bags and working through some of the best and some of the worst shows I’ve ever seen. I witnessed bands that have since gone on to play stadiums and ones that I never heard about again. It led me down the path of pursuing music as a career.
Sometimes, I had to kick out people who were too drunk. Other times, I was on back door duty, making sure those same people didn’t succeed in getting back in.
The night I got bit, I did both. I was on parking lot duty when someone else kicked a drunk man out. That’s not unusual in and of itself, but then he started stumbling toward me, obviously looking for trouble. The drunkard made it all the way to me, and as I tried to call for help, he swung and punched me in the face. We fell to the ground and started wrestling.
I managed to get on top and hold him there until my security coworkers arrived, at which point he bit hard into my arm arm. Even as the blood ran down my forearm and dripped off my elbow, I knew this was a job I’d remember fondly.
Some of my fondest memories of working at the club were situations that could have swung either way. One time, I wandered into a Gogol Bordello show, entranced by the gypsy punk mayhem coming from inside. The scene was chaotic: Circus dancers, fans going airborne and the singer riding over the crowd on a bass drum while banging on it and screaming at the top of his lungs. I’d never seen anything like it before. But it was the next thing that happened that both blew my mind and freaked me out at the same time. The crowd had lifted a woman in a wheelchair and crowdsurfed her all over the room. I looked around, and the security staff was on-edge, but the look of elation on that woman’s face was something I’ll never forget.
I’m a full-time musician now. I sing and play guitar in a folky bluegrass string band that was just getting started while I worked at Slim’s. My coworkers there—who all feel like family to me—were some of our biggest and earliest supporters. They gave us opening slots when nobody else would book us, and they came to our shows no matter where we were playing.
In the midst of all the changes in San Francisco, we’re so grateful that this establishment continues to thrive and has kept its place in the local music scene for so long.
This year, Slim’s is celebrating its 30th anniversary with a week of great shows, and we couldn’t be happier to help them celebrate the occasion. This Wednesday we will be playing along with our friends (and former coworkers) Four Year Bender to commemorate the anniversary and all the good times we’ve had at Slim’s.