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Music Producer Brogan Bentley Taps Into San Francisco's Parks to Recharge

"You'd never know you're in a city when you're down in there."
April 12, 2016, 10:38pm
​ Brogan Bentley. Photo by Sean Culligan

Brogan Bentley is a San Francisco–based music producer who has lived in the city for ten years. Along with releasing music on Leaving Records, he hosts, organizes, and curates events in venues and guerrilla spaces, and he can be found walking the streets late at night, smoking spliffs around town. Here we track him down to talk about his favorite San Fran spots.

Where do you take out of town visitors in San Francisco?
I've been taking people to Sutro Heights just because it's literally on the edge of the Western world. Overlooks down the coast, strange mystic thing going on there, especially with the old bathhouse being mysteriously burnt down. It's different day to day depending on the weather—sometimes I want to go to Washington Square Park and gaze up at that big church. That's usually late at night when the city's quiet, and I feel like I have a part of town to myself, not a bunch of random people. Anywhere I can reclaim the city and feel like it's just me and and the person I'm with. Where do you go when you want to be around people?
I head out to the Tenderloin and hit the dive bar the Brown Jug, because the people you're going to encounter there are not yuppie San Franciscans, they're OG, triple OG, all walks of life. It's incredible. You'll meet anyone to an old cab driver to some Central American crystal meth dealer. We're all hanging out, we're all putting music on the jukebox, we're all getting turned up together. I've met so many down to earth people there. I don't go to any yuppie bars. Basically my overarching theme in anything I'm doing day to day is avoiding the bullshit that pervades the city. There's still a lot of special spots with really genuine people, but it's just getting harder and harder. But the thing is, the more people move away and less people are holding it down, it kinda makes it obvious who is keeping it really real. It's a blessing in disguise—it forces us to come together, seek each other out that much more.

Do you have a favorite coffee spot?
I'd rather go somewhere where the people know me and appreciate my business, and I appreciate the service, and we have a mutual understanding. It's not just fast-food style, and it's not just get in, get out. No, let's all just hang out. I get myself a chai latte, and I've been going to Java Beach Cafe. I've been going to the one on Sloat Blvd, out by the zoo—it's less traffic than the one on Judah, so the food quality is better. I'm in a nice part of town where it's tucked away in the southwestern quarter of the city. I get to tap into these cutty spots, though until recently I'd never hung out on Sloat before. You can get your chai. The guys are always playing good music there like J Dilla and classic R&B, and then you post up at the ocean and smoke a spliff and do your thing.

What San Francisco neighborhood are you excited about right now?
Ingleside! I've been throwing shows at this dive bar, the Ave. They've really welcomed me. They trust me, the dude who runs the spot, I'm like his apprentice. He will school me, mentor me, sit me down, and have a life talk. Places like that, where I have a relationship with someone, that's what make certain places, the city, so special. It's easy to get lost, the connectivity gets lost. So that's what makes the places so precious when you do find a diamond in the rough, not IKEA white-washed like the rest of the city is going through right now.

What are your current feelings about San Francisco?
It's hard to stay optimistic sometimes. It's so hard keeping your head above water—financially, emotionally. It's getting taxing out here. It's not all that forgiving or kind out on the streets. There will always be these redeeming qualities, though, parts of town that are sanctuaries like Stern Grove or the Presidio—you'd never know you're in a city when you're down in there. There are ways to remedy the shit that's ailing us right now, and it's all about tapping back into what has already been here and what will always be here: the parks, the local businesses that (hopefully) will remain, the characters that you've seen for years before ever getting to know them.

What do you feel like your role in San Francisco is?
I just want to bring people together. Whether it be through music or art, there's something so important about bringing people together and making people recognize we do have each other and we can keep pushing it. It's not going to be easy, but we can do it. There's a lot of bummer energy floating around the city, a lot of uneasy spirituality still stuck here in a number of ways, hella ghosts in the city. If you're not bringing joy and creating something, being radiant, not serving any purpose, making an effort to lift people up, what are you doing?