Vogue Theater’s Business Is Movies, But Its Operations Are Fueled By Famous Musicians | Culture
For nearly two decades, Tony Molina quietly plied his trade at the Vogue Theater, a boutique cinema on Sacramento Street in San Francisco. As part of his duties, Molina worked the concession stand, taking tickets, running the projector, and cleaning up after everyone left, often working alone to keep the operation independent.
Yet unknown to most Vogue moviegoers, Molina was also a full-time musician – a nationally recognized artist who has long been a staple of the Bay Area punk and hardcore scene (and who has since mastered the art of the ultra-short power-pop song.)
Although Molina’s story may seem unique – a semi-famous face working in relative anonymity – he is actually just one of countless musicians who have been employed at Vogue Theater over the past two decades. On Saturday, Molina and his former Vogue colleagues will host a benefit concert at the theater. It will be a rare live performance on the site, and will showcase the singular artistic nature of the peaceful residential theatre.
“In my experience, pretty much every boss I’ve had at Vogue came from music in one way or another — it was just this kind of weird coincidence,” said Molina, who worked on and off at the theater from 2003 to 2019. “Like, my first boss, he saw Black Flag a long time ago. So I think at first it was just this thing where they wanted to hire employees like-minded. And it works well for musicians, because, to be honest, it’s a very easy job. And it allows us to tour and come back to work.
Molina made her Vogue debut at age 18 after being recommended for the job by fellow musician and longtime friend William Weber-Kneitel. The two played together in many local bands and acting seemed like a natural choice for Molina.
During this first stint at Vogue, Molina met musicians like Andrew Kerwin, Morgan Stickrod and others. Kerwin then formed alternative country band Trainwreck Riders and eventually played in Molina’s punk band Ovens. (Similarly, Molina was a frequent contributor to the Trainwreck Riders.) Other bands with roots in Vogue Theater and its sister operation, the Balboa Theater, include The Four Eyes, the She’s, Pllush, This is My Fist, and Slow Motion Cowboys. .
“Some of my absolute best friends I met at Vogue,” said Molina, who grew up in Millbrae and started playing in local bands when she was 14. “To this day, I still talk to these guys all the time.”
During the pandemic, when all musical activity came to an agonizing halt, Molina found himself increasingly returning to the bands and relationships he formed at Vogue. On a whim, he began reaching out to his vast music community to create a mixtape of bands tied to both theaters. With feedback from his friends, he eventually compiled a collection of songs from 28 different acts, titled it “The Vogue’s Greatest Hits, Volume 1”. (“I called it ‘Volume One’ because there are still so many other Vogue bands and songs that aren’t included on this tape,” Molina said.)
When Molina contacted Vogue Theater operator Adam Bergeron to release the mixtape, the idea quickly escalated to include a launch party celebrating the compilation. Although the Balboa Theater has increasingly shifted to more musical performances, live performances at Vogue are still infrequent, but with support from Bergeron and Vogue General Manager Chloe Ginnever, Molina quickly gathered a cast of star performers for the album release show. On Saturday, Trainwreck Riders, The Four Eyes, Slow Motion Cowboys, World Smasher and The Vogues (Molina’s alter ego) will all play at the Vintage Theater.
“It was crazy how quickly everything fell into place,” said Molina, who will release her latest solo album, “In the Fade,” on August 12. “When I started connecting with my friends to play a show at Vogue, they were all super excited to participate.
Molina will distribute the mixtape at the show and all proceeds from ticket and tape sales will benefit Planned Parenthood, the organization matching donations raised during the proceedings.
Molina recently moved to Concord in the East Bay, which is why he quit working at Vogue. He said if he lived closer, he would continue to work at the venerable venue, even as he established himself as a musical mainstay in the Bay Area.
“I have so many amazing memories of Vogue and feel so lucky to have been able to be a part of such a special place,” Molina said. “I can’t wait to be with all my best friends to celebrate Vogue. It should be a really good night.
IF YOU ARE GOING TO:
Trainwreck Riders with The Four Eyes, Slow Motion Cowboys, World Smasher and the Vogues
Where: Vogue Theater, 3290 Sacramento St., SF
When: 6 p.m., Saturday July 9
Contact: (415) 346-2228, www.voguemovies.com