“It’s good to remember, the internet is awesome, but reality is way the fuck better.” - Brett Cline
Remember the I-Beam? Leg-en-dar-y. How about Club Cocodrie? The Sound of Music? The Fab Mab? The Kennel Club? I snuck into my first punk show at 13 – my first live show ever – at The Deaf Club just before it closed in 1980. All gone long ago. Don’t forget the more recently vanished Sub-Mission, Viracocha, Red Devil Lounge, Yoshi’s, and Pound SF. Or the endlessly harassed Bottom of the Hill and Elbo Room. And what the hell is up with Café du Nord? All memories, or soon to be, of places where I’ve seen live performances or played live shows at in San Francisco. We could get sucked into the bitterness of things that only exist in the past or mourn what hasn’t left us yet. Or… we could try and figure out how to create venues to replace the ones we’ve lost. And to make sure these are around for generations to come.
I am optimistic this can be done. I know it’s easy to bitch and moan about the many changes we’ve seen our beautiful city undergo – I do it quite often. However, I am ultimately optimistic because there are people with romantic enthusiasm for that indescribable, undeniable spark that takes place between performer and audience. I call this optimism The Lost Church. The Lost Church is a lush 50-seat theater in San Francisco’s ground-zero for economically and culturally changing times, The Mission. It has been hallowed ground for five years for performers of every ilk sharing their talents with appreciative and enthusiastic audiences. It stands as beacon to all that is sacred and absurd in baring your soul live, or bearing witness to someone doing so. We need more of these.
The Lost Church was founded in 2011 by Brett & Elizabeth Cline after years of touring as Juanita & the Rabbit and deciding to return to SF. They put down roots by starting a family and turning part of their home into an intimate theater where Brett could produce his musicals (he’s done ten so far), and their talented friends could play or curate shows. Less than a month after opening, there was already a waiting list of people who wanted to play the beautiful performance parlor.
San Francisco and the Bay Area has plenty of venues with capacities in the hundreds and thousands, but the Clines found what the community desperately needed was smaller spaces. When they looked around at other real estate in the city, they found there were numerous small spaces that were stand-alones or part of restaurants that could be turned into self-supporting 50-seat theaters. Ultimately, there could be a chain of Lost Churches run as a non-profit. To make this a reality and to ease the cultural blood-letting, the non-profit THELOSTCHURCH.ORG has been established to help the live performance community and its supporters create, sustain and defend its spaces. There is so much money and so many resources in this city. There are a lot of people who want to do the right thing for the live arts. There is a growing backlash towards the dismantling and mangling of the city’s culture, economy, and identity.
The Lost Church Times within THELOSTCHURCH.ORG aims to examine what is going on with live performance spaces in SF, to spotlight individuals and groups performing in, sustaining or starting such spaces, and to show how you can take action to sustain, defend and create live performance spaces wherever you are. Mostly, it’s a forum where we can discuss, relationship build, and take action to claim and reclaim the spaces where the oldest art form is performed and enjoyed.