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Living on the Faultline

Okay, let's cut to the chase. We don't have room in our beautiful San Francisco Bay Area for all of you AES attendees to move here, much as you'd like

Okay, let’s cut to the chase. We don’t have room in our beautiful San Francisco Bay Area for all of you AES attendees to move here, much as you’d like to. Look, the housing prices here are ridiculous. We pay more for gas than freakin’ Hawaii does. And what’s with that “summer” weather? Don’t forget to pack your parka. Swimming in the ocean? Fuggedaboutit! The Bay Area invented political correctness, so keep that attitude of yours at home, buddy. What do you mean you don’t like arugula or goat cheese? Heard any good jokes about L.A. lately? Gavin Newsom for president in 2012! Don’t call it Frisco — unless you’re a Hell’s Angel. And you might as well stay over through Halloween and enjoy the big night on Castro Street: That Judy Garland costume you have will be perfect!

Why is it that the Bay Area has always been a magnet for noncomformists, eccentrics and wackos? Or, put more nicely — for artists, visionaries and trendsetters? Is it the fact that we are on the edge of the American mainland, separated from the East by mountains and desert, and perched on the limitless expanse of the Pacific Ocean? Does our hedonism stem from the knowledge that in less than a minute, the carefree life we’ve built here could be reduced to heaps of rubble by the Big One so we might as well have fun until that moment? (Just a little something to think about in your high-rise hotel tonight!)

Whatever the case, this is an area that has always reveled in its diversity — racial and social — and its stubbornly independent spirit. It’s not a coincidence that the Beat movement flourished in San Francisco’s bohemian coffee houses and art galleries in the ’50s; that the Free Speech Movement got its start across the bay in Berkeley exactly 40 years ago; that the seeds of the hippie counterculture were sown in Haight-Ashbury. Down the San Francisco peninsula a ways, a bunch of iconoclastic guys wearing goofy glasses and pocket protectors changed the world — changed the way all of us work — in an area that became known as Silicon Valley. Punk was huge here. So was speed metal. Gay rights, women’s rights, the environmental movement — everyone finds their niche here; hakuna matata!

It was the late Grateful Dead guitarist Jerry Garcia — a Bay Area native — who once referred to the appeal of San Francisco as “The call of the weird.” And who are we to argue? The current Mix editorial staff is populated by folks from Indiana, Tennessee, Illinois, Massachusetts, New York and San Diego, with only the redoubtable George Petersen being a local product. Each of us was drawn here for different reasons, but we’ve all stayed because, somehow, miraculously…we can! How else can you explain why so many musicians, filmmakers, recording engineers, producers, writers, actors, poets and artisans of every stripe stick it out here when the safer career path would take them to New York, Los Angeles or some other higher-profile area?

The fact is the Bay Area has always been a secondary market. We just don’t have the numbers — our geography won’t permit it. So many people, particularly in the arts (and I include our business, which is really “arts technology,” in that group), have to work a little harder sometimes to scrape up clients and make ends meet, and I guarantee you there isn’t one among us who hasn’t thought, “I could live in a palace in most places for what I’m paying for my rent (or mortgage) out here.” But at the end of the day, here we are, in what is unquestionably one of the most beautiful and enlightened places on Planet Earth. Admit it — you’re a little jealous.

Mix was born here 27 years ago and we’ve always been proud of our roots, even as we’ve been accused (fairly) of being a bit provincial from time to time. Now that AES has returned to our fair city for the first time in six years, we thought it would be fun to take you all on a Magical History Tour: to look at how our local industry has evolved through the years, highlighting some of the personalities and facilities that have thrived (or in some cases, fallen by the wayside) and investigating the current state of things. We’re starting right on the next page, with our journey down memory lane in our look at the San Francisco studio scene over the decades.

Beautiful place, cool history. But remember…(you are getting sleepy, verrrrry sleepy…look into my eyes…)…you do not want to live here.

Ciao, baby!