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Storied: San Francisco

Feb 20, 2024

We begin Part 2 where we left off in Part 1. Anita had been away from their Arkansas college town and missed Lester. Upon her return, she went to see him and they soon shared their first kiss.
Soon after that day, Anita had a pregnancy scare, and so Lester asked her, "Would you marry me if you are?" She said yes, but ended up not being pregnant. It didn't matter. They got married anyway. It was 1990 and they were both 22.
Lester had a semester to go in college, which meant that the young couple couldn't live together or he'd get kicked out of the Christian school.
He had started his first serious band—Cosmic Giggle Factory. Anita worked at Captain D's, a regional seafood chain fast-food joint, and then at a hotel. They moved to Little Rock a few years later. ​Eventually, she landed a job at Spectrum Weekly, an alternative paper in the Arkansas capital. Looking back, they say that they really loved their community there.
After four years in Little Rock, and after Bill Clinton got elected, they decided to leave before they would begin to hate it. Spectrum Weekly closed and Lester's band broke up. They took these as signs to leave.
Neither of them had ever been to San Francisco, but knew that they wanted to be in a city and many people they knew and trusted had good things to say about SF. Anita was working with an ESPN producer and through them met a person who lived here and offered them a place to live. So they packed up their Geo Prism, sold a lot of stuff, and maybe had $500 between them. It was November 1994.
Upon arriving in the Bay, Lester worked at Tower Records and Anita found work at a temp agency. She had "toyed" with art while living in Little Rock and picked that up again in SF. But she says she didn't take it too seriously until around 2015. She worked several academic and corporate jobs that she didn't like until around that time, when Annie at Mini Bar gave her a show there. She ended up being in a show at Mini Bar every year for the next four years.
One day in 2018 or so, Anita was at Fly Bar on Divisadero and learned that the owner needed someone to do art shows there. "I wanna do that!" she told them. Her first show at Fly was based on travel photography. Anita ended up curating shows at Fly until the pandemic, and had become involved in the Divisadero Art Walk. When COVID hit, the other Fly curator left town and Anita took over. She also did shows at Alamo Square Cafe, which stayed open during the pandemic. As other places started to open, she expanded her venues.
When Annie left Mini Bar and Erin Kehoe took over, Anita reached out and they decided to alternate curating art shows at the bar (where we worked with Erin to do Hungry Ghosts in summer 2023). Anita has since added even more venues, including Bean Bag Cafe, and says she has moved around $50K of art in five years.
This leads us to Anita's newest thing: KnownSF, which will officially launch later this year. For her shows, she likes to have one artist whose first show it is and one artist 50 or older. She says she wants to stick with the venues she's already showing at. Stay tuned and follow KnownSF on Instagram.
Then we get to Lester's band, The Pine Box Boys, who recently celebrated 20 years of existence.
When he first moved to The City, Lester had a hard time getting music going. He was dealing with confidence issues, which didn't make anything easier.
He enrolled at SF State, got a degree, went into a teaching credential program, and started meeting people. Through some of these new teacher-to-be friends, he started playing with a band that was already established. He says he was stoked to play a show in San Francisco, but that band fizzled out and broke up.
But Lester and another member kept playing together. It was a noisy, abstract band called Zag Men. As Lester tells us, the saying went, "If the Zagmen are playing, nobody's getting laid." He started creating soundtracks to silent films at ATA on Valencia. He was teaching and doing music on the side.
Pine Box Boys started in the same studio space at Fulton and McAllister that we recorded this podcast in. Lester showed his buddies some blue grass stuff he'd picked up when he was younger. And we learn that his mom used to sing him to sleep with old British murder ballads when he was a kid. So, Lester taught these friends some of those darker songs.
At first the band was a side project to his side project at ATA. But Lester points to the 2000 movie O Brother, Where Art Thou? which sparked a general societal interest in Americana and genres like blue grass. People began to want to hear Pine Box Boys more than Zag Men, so Lester went with it.
They played Cafe du Nord a lot and eventually started touring, both the US and Europe. Lester quit his teaching job and from 2006-2009, the band kept touring. They started to put out records (look for a new one, their sixth, soon). Eventually, he started teaching again, and when he got into school admin work, it ate into his music, but not so much that he had to quit.
During the pandemic, they did some streaming shows and online festivals. Eventually, when it was safe, they played a handful of parklet shows. He and Anita were regulars at Madrone already. Anita had an idea and asked Spike, who owns Madrone—what if Lester did a residency at the art bar? And so, the first Sunday of the month became "Apocalypse Sunday." November 2023 marked the two-year anniversary for the monthly show. Lester tries to always bring different genre bands in to play with his own. Mark your calendars! We've been to a few and they're a lot of fun!
We end with Anita and Lester responding to this season's theme on the podcast: "We're All in It." Anita points to wanting to see neighborhoods, which are thriving, mingle more and get to know each other. Lester ends with a rather choice quote about casseroles.
Photography by Jeff Hunt
We recorded this episode at Antia's art studio on Divisadero on a rainy day in January 2024.