The newest addition to the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History is called the Lemelson Hall of Invention and Innovation, and its inaugural exhibit, “Places of Invention,” focuses on spots in the U.S. where the new, unique and wild have thrived.
One of those places is San Francisco, which the museum’s Lemelson Center for the Study of Invention and Innovation pinpoints as a kind of fertile crescent — and not just for BDSM, techies and multinational banks. It says thrash metal, the misbehaving child of metal and punk rock, flourished in the Golden Gate City, too.
A short film co-produced by the Smithsonian, Slayer: The Origins of Thrash in San Francisco, CA, looks at the role that San Fran’s music scene played in the growth of the pioneering thrash band formed in 1981 in Los Angeles.
According to the film, L.A. didn’t embrace thrash metal early on. Hair metal ran the scene. Extreme bands like Slayer couldn’t get gigs in town.
Slayer was “a little bit about being the anti-L.A. band, because L.A. was [where] all the hair bands were getting popular,” says guitarist Kerry King, a founding member of Slayer. “It was difficult for us to get bookings.”
Meanwhile, San Francisco venues opened their arms to thrash.
“I think the Bay Area was great for thrash because… we were really kind of ground zero for all this European metal making its way over stateside,” says Gary Holt, a Bay Area native who’s played guitar in Slayer since founding member Jeff Hanneman died in 2013.
Slayer: The Origins of Thrash in San Francisco, CA is part of an interactive map on view at the National Museum of American History in downtown D.C., and it’s also viewable online (watch it below).