Thrillhouse Records, an accurate approximation of SF in the early ’90s

The fine folks at Bernalwood today shine a spotlight on a local business which has managed to cultivate a vibe that is not ’10s SF or ’00s SF or even late- or mid-’90s SF — but early-’90s SF:

Want to know what counterculture looked like in the analog days before Tim Berners-Lee unleashed his Prometheus on our unsuspecting planet? What were the sensibilities of a young and alienated generation in an age of ascendant Reaganism, cassette tapes, and desktop publishing euphoria? What were the totems and signifiers of this edgy, halcyon time?

What did it look like?  What did it smell like??

Wonder no more: It looked and smelled exactly like Thrillhouse Records.

Read on for more info and photos.

(For me it’s also a time capsule of mid-to-late ’00s nostalgia.)

Thrillhouse Records, that record store way out Mission Street you barely knew existed

The Bold Italic takes a look inside:

The vinyl carried in the shop varies wildly in genre and you can generally count on leaving with some unexpected finds. On one particular visit, I scored a long lost Black Sabbath album I’d been looking for, a collection of classic country LPs, and a couple 45s by local bands that have since broken up. The house stereo is just as eclectic. I’ve heard “God Save the Queen” followed by a Billy Idol hit and a Billy Childish ballad. This wide cultural smattering extends to the name of the shop itself – which was taken from a segment of a Simpsons Christmas episode in which Bart is caught shoplifting. Sounds pretty punk to me.

Read on for more pics and storytelling by our pal Joshua Cobos.

Let's All Go See Airfix Kits Tonight at the Knockout!

I’ve been raving about these guys for years, and yet they’re not on top of the pop charts. Inexplicable.

In any case, Airfix Kits are still pumped to play the Knockout, which is exactly what they’re doing tonight. Let’s go!! In the meantime, let’s listen to “Flex Time” and rock out:

Bands Shredding Licks and Screaming Through Choruses at Thrillhouse Records

San Francisco State University’s Golden Gate [X]press (wow, that rolls off the tongue almost as good as “Mission Loc@l”) this week published a nice little love letter to Thrillhouse Records, one of our favorite Southern Mission stalwarts:

The economy may be in the toilet, but that isn’t slowing some young concert goers from seeing their favorite bands shred licks and scream through choruses. Au contraire: Bay Area music fans are continuing to be a part of what the underground punk scene has always been about: all-ages, do-it-yourself shows.

Link. It’s not quite as awesome as their Fat Mike profile from a couple months back, but it’s a good read.


Thorns of Life Rock Thrillhouse

Thrillhouse Toilet Graffiti: Little Bo Peep

Warthog-Faced Little Bo Peep Returns!


She’s back! In the bathroom at Argus Lounge!


Warthog-Faced Little Bo Peep in the Bathroom at Thrillhouse Records

Thorns of Life Rock Thrillhouse


By James Stevens / Photos by Matt Rubin

Thorns of Life loaded in their own equipment as about a hundred kids looked on in a scene that must have been reminiscent of Blake Schwarzenbach’s humble beginnings playing houses and small clubs in San Francisco, L.A and the East Bay. Schwarzenbach, considered one of the biggest influences on punk and emo music, is back playing and writing music with his new band Thorns of Life after nearly a six-year hiatus.  Last night they played Thrillhouse Records.

Thrillhouse, next to the 76 on the corner of 30th and Mission is the prototypical punk rock record store.  The store is a non-profit collective and part of a house where six of the members live.  It houses a DIY record label and is also a show space (although the Fire Marshall shut down the basement last summer). The venue embodies the ethos of Schwarzenbach as an artist- entirely focused on the music and having a good time with no attention paid to making money or drawing huge crowds.  If Jawbreaker is the sound of the Mission, then this is how the Mission parties.


The atmosphere was distinctly different from the show Thorns of Life played at the Hemlock on Monday.  The only famous musician I saw at Thrillhouse was the Mission’s own Adam Pfahler who was the drummer in Jawbreaker and now owns Lost Weekend Video (as opposed to Fat Mike from NOFX and Billie Joe Armstrong of Green Day at the Hemlock).  There was no guest list, no line to get in and no obnoxious bar owner telling people to leave or that there wasn’t any room.

At Thrillhouse there wasn’t any room, either, but everyone who made it was invited in with open arms.  At the Hemlock, crowd members rudely shouted out names of Jawbreaker songs and at Thrillhouse the crowd bantered with members of the band and songs were dedicated to Harvey Milk and Mayor Moscone, “Don’t forget about Moscone, he got blasted too.  Every time you go to the Moscone Center think about that,” Schwarzenbach quipped.

The show itself was great.  If a comparison has to be made to Schwarzenbach’s other bands (and plenty are being made already), the music was the same combination of literature as lyrics and three chord punk that Jawbreaker fans love, with certain songs dropping the tempo and building in complexity in ways that are similar to Schwarzenbach’s second band Jets to Brazil.   However, because of the three person guitar-bass-drums set up of Thorns, the sound is decidedly more punk and upbeat than Jets to Brazil.  Blake’s telltale growl shines through it all, a familiar voice we never thought we’d hear live again.  Thorns of Life play 924 Gilman Street in Berkeley on Saturday.


Thorns of Life house show in Brooklyn (Video) at (Thanks, Thaddius!).

The Sound of the Mission on Mission Mission.

Thrillhouse Toilet Graffiti on Mission Mission.

Warthog-Faced Little Bo Peep Graffiti

She’s popping right out of the toilet bowl at Thrillhouse Records. Adorable, right?

Tonight: Airfix Kits at Thrillhouse Records

Show starts at 7pm sharp. From the official press release:

@ Thrillhouse Records, 3422 Mission St near Cortland, SF 7pm, all ages, donation$ for the touring band please

Shows are usually over by 10pm at Thrillhouse, and we are playing first. Our set is only about 16 minutes long. Fashionably late? too bad for you.

Link to Airfix Kits on MySpace. Previous gushing about the band here.

Who Ganked Thrillhouse Records' Fire-Breathing T-Rex Signage?

thrillhouse-records-t-recs.gifIf the sitch is not rectified, all that will remain of this great signage is this Google Maps Street View imageUpdate: I guess it’s just being painted or something, should be back soon (see comments).

The Bay Area A.V. Club Guide To How To Have Fun This Summer If You Live In SF And Your Best Friends Live in Oakland

[I did this feature for the Bay Area print edition of The Onion. They ran a trimmed version in their summer double issue last month, but since they don't put anything online, here it is. --Allan]

If your best friends live in Oakland, you’ll probably be spending a lot of time in the East Bay this summer. Today, the A.V. Club presents a guide to making the best of it.

First, try to think of every trip to Oaktown as a mini-vacay to a bustling mini-metropolis. Stroll Lake Merritt’s shoreline and you’ll swear you’ve landed in some tiny little bastard version of Chicago or something. Enjoy the view for a bit, then walk a couple blocks down East 18th Street and finally see a movie at the Parkway Speakeasy (1834 Park Blvd., 510-814-2400, As you’ve surely been hearing for years, it’s an historic movie house full of couches and beer and pizza, and it is every bit as fun as it sounds.

For slices and pints sans cinema, head over to Lanesplitter (4799 Telegraph Ave., 510-527-8375, It’s somewhat less polished than your beloved Little Star, but it has a longer draught list and equally mouth-watering pies.

Speaking of long lists of beer, on August 11th you can all take a mini-road trip down to Hayward for the Bistro’s 10th Annual IPA Festival (1001 B St., 510-886-8525, India Pale Ales will be ferried in from microbreweries all over the world, so designate a driver and drink up.

On your way back north, go to an A’s game. A’s games are great because you can enjoy the Great American Pastime without all the Bonds-related drama and T-Third-related transit confusion. Plus, the Coliseum is doing that cool thing where instead of sending you tickets, they just text you an image of a barcode.

Now that you’re back in Oakland, if you’re not familiar with the Oaklandish organization (, read up. They sponsor subcultural events throughout the year, including this week’s shadow-puppet production of Sinbad the Sailor by Teatro Penumbra at the Parkway.

Suppose one of your friends just graduated from Mills and is in need of a place to host a celebratory barbecue. Redwood Bowl in Redwood Regional Park (10570 Skyline Blvd., 888-EB-PARKS) is an ideal place to grill up some bockwurst and toss around the ol’ Frisbee. The meadow’s uneven terrain means barefoot Ultimate can be hazardous, so be careful.

In the evening, check out one of those fabled warehouse shows, perhaps at a place like Ghost Town Gallery (2519 San Pablo Ave., 510-393-1876, They’re cheap and laid back and charmingly sketchy – welcome respite from the too-familiar routines at the city’s proper rock clubs. You might meet local superstars like Brian Glaze and they might regale you with advice about how to get rid of clingy groupies (tell them you have AIDS) and how to pick up girls you actually like (tell them you’re friends with the Time Flys).

If local superstars aren’t enough, plenty of international ones play in the East Bay too. Canada’s Fucked Up will grace the stage at Gilman (924 Gilman St. in Berkeley, 510-525-9926, on June 30th, and Daft Punk and the Rapture will rock UC Berkeley’s Greek Theatre on July 30th. Either of these would be a great sendoff for your friend that’s moving to Germany or somewhere the following week.

Lastly, if one of your friends tries to drag you to Ikea, there might be a sick view of the melted 580 connector from the parking structure, but other than that, leave your wallet at home and resist, resist, resist.

Whatever you end up doing, the looming question all damn night will of course be how the hell to get back to the city. Inevitably, we all end up sprinting toward a BART station at 12:26. That sucks, because you find yourselves sweaty and winded, and half the time you don’t even make the train. Alternatively, you can search the cryptic maze of schedules on for info on the All Nighter bus, but you’re drunk for goodness’ sake.

Instead, just opt for a sleepover. This way, you can drink ’til the bars close, stumble over to Taqueria Sinaloa (2138 International Blvd., 510-535-1206) for some carnitas, and then go home, watch Moonwalker again and pass out. In the morning, maybe you can all go to the city together…

East Bay kids are perfectly adept at coming to the city an Amoeba run and a show at the Fillmore, so be sure to turn your friends on to something new this summer! Show them Thrillhouse (3422 Mission St.) and Force of Habit (3565 20th St., 415-255-PUNK, in lieu of Amoeba, and then drop into Rite Spot Cafe (2099 Folsom St., 415-552-6066, for a much more intimate concert experience (The A.V. Club recommends Ash Reiter‘s girl-with-a-big-electric-guitar crooning on June 25th or Toshio Hirano‘s little-Japanese-man country twang on June 30th).

By the way: Since your friends have nothing but a tape deck in their ’92 Acura Legend, be sure to have a few choice cassettes (think NPG-era Prince or the Ghostbusters soundtrack) ready to go for their ride back to Oakland. They’ll appreciate it.

 Browse more Mission Mission coverage of music, travel, food and drink, Muni, and The Onion.