So I’m getting my fabulous ride home from the Union Chorus on Thursday when Glen, the man sitting next to me says “If you’re not doing anything Friday the San Francisco Folk Music Club is meeting. It’s 885 Clayton Ave at 8pm. I’ll be there. It’s been meeting since 1968 every other Friday.”
This is what seems to happen in San Francisco more than anywhere else I’ve been – people say “If you’re not doing anything…. there’s this – and what about this – and can you come to this?”
So I go. Why not? It’s a steep climb from Haight Ashbury which is still crawling with the druggy – peacenik – transvestism of the 60s but also features a purple Ben & Jerry’s whose motto is PEACE LOVE AND ICE CREAM.
885 Clayton is the home of Faith Petric, now 97. She started it way back when but now there is a committee who organises the entire thing and a lovely thing it is too. A big old wooden San Francisco home, one room is singing, one room is jamming. It’s free but food is a dollar. In our room I counted 8 guitars, 2 banjos and a mandolin. There is always a theme and people find songs and learn them on this theme. Tonight’s theme is FRIENDSHIP. You can sing a song a capella, asked to be accompanied (though you probably will be anyway. As soon as anyone starts singing, all the guitars start picking, and harmonies develop). You can request a song, or ask everyone to sing a song. There is no clapping after the songs. You go round and round the room til eventually everyone gets exhausted and goes home. Faith sits in state, Queen of proceedings. She goes to bed at 10 and is sung off in style. She is adored and cherished.
I sat next to Rick who told me: “I went to the first two sessions of this in 1968. Then I got wasted, into drugs, and for 40 years was lost, man. Then I got clean, came back to San Francisco, and vaguely remembered this place. I knocked on the door, and said “Did there used to be a folk club here?” Faith said ‘Every other Friday.’ I couldn’t believe it. I’ve been coming every since.”
The singing is everything between patchy and fabulous. It’s hard to leave. But just before I do, Rick says, “If you’re not doing anything Sunday……….”