San Francisco is Back: Psyched! Radio Tenderloin Music and Arts Festival.

By Wenceslao Bruciaga for Milenio Diario

A couple of weeks ago, a friend returned to Mexico City after a vacation in San Francisco. He wrote to tell me he would never go back. “How can you live there?” he said.

I understand there were many anonymous encounters. That’s what’s expected from a visit to what is still somehow considered the gay capital of the world. “It’s not all about sex, Wences,” he told me. I think what disappointed him the most was the incomplete fantasy. Sex with men without deodorant in the corners of Powerhouse on Folsom Street, but hardly any shopping. San Francisco’s historic downtown is the most affected by the pandemic in the entire USA, even worse than economies like Detroit or Philadelphia, which don’t enjoy the tourism reputation like the city of the Golden Gate. Nowadays, downtown San Francisco is practically a ghost town with very few businesses operating. The only department stores still opening their doors are Bloomingdales and Macy’s, and the latter has announced it will close forever in 2026. Nevertheless, I believe the last straw that ruined his experience was the number of unhoused people with urine-stained pants and backs bent like the most elastic acrobat of Cirque du Soleil due to strong doses of fentanyl. My friend says that at night, the homeless people crowded at the entrance of his hotel intimidated him in a way he had never experienced in Mexico. They wouldn’t let him sleep until dawn. He definitely wouldn’t return to the Bay Area. Never.

His hotel was in the neighborhood known as Tenderloin, next to the historic downtown and near the leather district just across Market Street. San Francisco’s main street. Together, they represent the epicenter of San Francisco’s unhoused crisis, which is currently experiencing an unprecedented peak. It’s a problem that has been going on for years but has worsened in the post-pandemic period.

“The Tenderloin is one of the most ethnically diverse neighborhoods in all of San Francisco, which is a very white city in itself. It’s a different neighborhood. A tough neighborhood, so to speak. More because of the sad things you see every day, like the fentanyl crisis, than because of inherent danger. Living in the Tenderloin is like living in a piece of Latin America, like in the Bronx, Queens, or East LA. When I moved to Tenderloin in 2010, the hustle and bustle on the streets resembled that of a big city, similar to Mexico City, which is why I ended up staying here. My immigrant nostalgia made me enjoy seeing the crowds on these streets. Today, things around here are completely different,” says Guillermo Goyri. 

“Historically, this neighborhood has been a working-class neighborhood. Most of the buildings in the area were built to house the thousands of Chinese, Italian, and Irish immigrants who arrived in this city during the first half of the 20th century. They were mostly hotels that over time were adapted to become one-bedroom apartments or micro-studios. The Tenderloin is also known as San Francisco’s Trans Cultural District, in memory of the 1966 Compton’s Cafeteria riots when a group of trans women, tired of police harassment, rose up, fought, and protested, which helped solidify the gay movement in this city. This happened three years before the trans community protests at Stonewall in New York. Additionally, it’s one of the cheapest neighborhoods in the entire city. There is a significant number of Arab, Chinese, and Yucatecan immigrants.”

Goyri is the director of Psyched! Radio in San Francisco, an online radio station with a genuinely independent spirit in its mission to disseminate the underground scene, which is inexhaustible here in San Francisco. He’s also the founder of Psyched! Fest, inspired by psychedelic rock and punk, which contributed to San Francisco’s consolidation as a city of constant counterculture. Guillermo is one of those cultural promoters of whom there are very few left. Those who truly see cultural diffusion as a generator of thought and not just a business.


Now, he embarks on a new project: the Psyched! Radio Tenderloin Music and Arts Festival.

“It’s personal. For me, it’s an ode to Tenderloin, the neighborhood where I’ve lived for over 10 years. From the moment the possibility of doing this festival arose, we knew it was what we had to do. The first studio of Psyched! Radio was also in the Tenderloin, on the corner of Hyde and Ellis, which is sadly the epicenter of the fentanyl crisis, which, from my point of view, is the result of the failure of radical capitalism and institutional racism in this country. It’s sad for me to see places like Edinburgh Castle, which will be part of the festival and which today doesn’t have the same influx of people it had ten years ago. Now it’s on the brink of bankruptcy. Also, the fact that Tenderloin has been negatively portrayed by right-wing politicians and media like Fox News played a role in our decision to conceive this festival. This malicious negativity against the Tenderloin has inspired us to rise up and show that things aren’t as they strive to paint them. Like the hippies who confronted rifles with flowers, we do it with music and art. It’s our way of sending a message to all those who attack this neighborhood for political purposes. Also, to those who have left this neighborhood in neglect. The support from the bands on this lineup has been pleasantly overwhelming as well. It’s as if everyone immediately understood what we were trying to do,” Guillermo tells me.

The Tenderloin Music and Arts Festival will feature a lineup of artists, writers, stand-up comedy sessions, visual artists, performances, painting, and music. Lots of music. According to Guillermo Goyri, what’s happening in San Francisco’s music scene right now is very interesting and special. Especially because it’s been almost two decades since San Francisco had a scene like the current one. Since bands like OSees, Ty Segall, and The Brian Jonestown Massacre decided to move away, the first two to Los Angeles and the latter to Germany, the scene fell into a brutal stagnation, becoming elitist and very closed. Today, things have improved radically:

“Toward the end of the pandemic, there was a musical explosion throughout the city. There are too many projects of high quality that deserve recognition. It hasn’t been difficult at all to fill this lineup with interesting local bands. Maintaining the greatest racial, ethnic, and cultural diversity at the festival, as we do with everything at Psyched! Radio, has been an absolute priority,” emphasizes Guillermo.

But who will be performing on the festival stages?

“Of course, it’s worth not missing any of our acts. But summarizing, I could say that False Flag is a very interesting band, originally from Tenderloin, and currently spearheading the hardcore punk movement here. They’re a very young band with a lot of talent. Shutups is also a very important band that has achieved a lot nationally and internationally. Juicebumps has been pillars of this new San Francisco scene for four years, as well as Buzzed Lightbeer. The Snares and Rabbit are also very interesting bands that have grown meteorically. Also, Pink Stiletto is a fantastic project that is on the verge of national explosion,” Guillermo responds, trying to be as fair as possible.

False Flag. Photo by Rob Coons

Despite everything, San Francisco continues to produce an endless array of cultural proposals. Festivals happen all the time. It’s often the case that there’s not enough time to enjoy them all. So I ask Guillermo what sets the Tenderloin Music and Arts Festival apart from other festivals, especially those geared towards music lovers.

“Most festivals around here cater to very closed groups. For example, Mosswood Meltdown in Oakland aims at nostalgia, and the majority of attendees are older and predominantly white. Mosswood is characterized by not supporting the local scene like we do, as they usually include one or two local bands in their festival. Noise Pop is a bit more open but also lacks the racial and cultural diversity like that of Psyched! Fest, in this case, the Psyched! Radio Tenderloin Music and Arts Festival. They also support the local scene but not at our level. Our festival features bands from the entire San Francisco Bay Area. And we did this by our own decision, proudly, and with the intention of supporting these bands massively as they deserve. You won’t find all that anywhere else. I am convinced that at the Psyched! Radio Tenderloin Music and Arts Festival, we are making history alongside all these bands that are creating this new San Francisco music scene. You will see projects that will be recognized globally in the short and medium term, and we are excited to help them with that.”

Buzzed Lightbeer. Photo by Gabi Denny

Not only my friend, even locals are afraid to venture into Tenderloin, so I ask Guillermo if there will be something like special security during the days of the festival:

“Not really. Our intention is to keep the entire festival as safe as possible, but with the intention of involving the police as little as possible. From our point of view, there are people who, for better or worse, consider those streets their only home, and many of them inhabit these streets by choice. We don’t want the police or any other government branch to affect the people who occupy those spaces, which sadly are all they have because there has never been any approach from politicians with us to do something like this.”

The Tenderloin Music and Arts Festival will take place from May 24th to 26th, as Guillermo Goyri says, in the tough neighborhood of San Francisco. Performances will be held in legendary neighborhood bars and all shows will be free. For more information on schedules and lineup, you can visit the Psyched! Radio website.

Finally, I ask Guillermo if the festival is part of a strategy to revive the desolate downtown scene:

“It’s nice to be able to help a place like this where I’ve had good times during my stay in San Francisco,” he responds.

1920 1081 Psyched! Radio. San Francisco