welcome (back) to Dilettante

In dilettante by summerburkes

At the turn of the last century, alternative weeklies made of newspaper resided in metal boxes on American street corners, telling Generation X about all the goings-on in town. Summer Burkes’s “Dilettante” (that’s me) became one of the Internet’s — and the world’s — first “Web-exclusive” nightlife columns in the late ’90s.

Before social media blew up, the newspaper nightlife columnist lived in the big city and told you details of the parties and performances you missed, or didn’t remember, or couldn’t get to from suburbia. And I became one of those as my job. Really it was about the free music, let’s be honest.

Moving from Chapel Hill, North Carolina to San Francisco, California in 1996, and settling in the Mission District, I scored an internship at the Bay Guardian in 1997. After watching me climb the arts-editorial ladder to become Local Music Editor and then Associate Calendar Editor, our Online Editor gave me a column in cyberspace.

Then the Bay Guardian moved the column, “Dilettante,” to the front page of the printed A&E section in early 2000, where I basically retained a journalist’s tiny perk-filled salary to do the most spectacular things happening each week in the best city on planet Earth.

The events in these “Dilettante” columns took place in the Bay Area, California from the years 1997 to 2001. The Bay Guardian was a nationally-acclaimed bastion of ethical news — the last remaining independent family-owned alternative weekly paper in America.

There was a whole thing about how the rival paper, corporate-bought SF Weekly, tried to destroy the SFBG with no regard for the Fourth Estate rule about a two-paper town being the key part of a functioning democracy, but we won’t get into that here. The Bay Guardian is now physically gone, along with most weekly print media, but thankfully it still lives on in its newer, leaner form online.

The “Dilettante” column, along with most of the Bay Guardian, was obliterated two decades ago by a wayward I.T. professional, so in our opinion these reposts needed to exist online — for fun, for recent history’s sake, and for the featured artists in the column (and their fans and parents) who may appreciate new hotlinks, bonus photos, and fresh introductions to each installment.

The quantum leap in tech makes the millennium change seem like an eternity ago. Friends would find each other by calling from a land line and then gathering at a place at a certain time. Then during “Dilettante”’s reign, cell phones became omnipresent. The online community blossomed out of nowhere to give us the world in the palms of our hands.

Now, in the digital age, surveilled at every turn and bathed in monetized rot, a body can long to find a Xeroxed punk show flyer at a cafe, or put a paper dollar in a jukebox to play a song again. We all feel a little … dematerialized.

“Dilettante” offers a glimpse into the Bay Area just before life made the big split into meatspace and cyberspace. Before sentences were short, before emojis existed, before anybody but Prince talked in numbers and sigils.

Sometimes these articles show out the young me as having been rather cynical or naive, wet behind the ears, wordy, and/or limboing under deadline — so please excuse the brashness of my hyperactive adrenaline-filled youth. There are ’90s quality disposable-camera film pictures, too. These 20-year-old pictures of the City ain’t photoshopped.

San Francisco has been a freak stronghold throughout modern history. In 1997-2001, this writer was a fly on the analog wall when the dot-com wave roared and crashed into the Fourth Estate, nearly obliterating it.

Enjoy “Dilettante,”
Summer B.


go to the first Dilettante post, Hootenanny

Dilettante. from Latin, ‘delectare’ – to delight. One who dabbles in art and literature in a stuporficial way

Follow Summer Burkes on Twitter.