Urban Cowboys: The Bay Area’s Twang Scene

Exploring Bay Area’s hidden country music scene: Aidin Vaziri | People in the Bay Area tend to think country music sucks. And the truth is, a lot of it does – especially the kind that the major labels in Nashville have been sending our way for years, all big hair and slick chords, easy cliches and smug flag-waving. The only thing that makes it different from any of the other dross on the pop charts is the Southern accent. Well, it doesn’t have to be that way. “One of the most common things we hear at a Red Meat show is, ‘Are you sure that’s country? Because I don’t like country music,’ ” says Smelley Kelley, the singer of the long-running Mission District honky-tonk group. “What we do is more of an old-school thing. It’s more rootsy.” This isn’t Nashville, and the people making music with a twang here have little time for that kind of pretense. They are former punks and metal heads from the Midwest who moved here long ago and eventually got tired of the racket, grew nostalgic for the old George Jones and Tammy Wynette records their parents used to spin on Sunday mornings, and settled in for a life of cult stardom, knowing the Bay Area’s deep-rooted aversion to anything served under a cowboy hat.
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