San Francisco of the Early 1990s Is Alive and Well and Open for Business at Thrillhouse Records


Amid all the current whinging about gentrification, The Change, tech buses, and coffee boutiques, it’s good to know the “real” San Francisco of bohemian memory is alive and well — if you know where to look for it.

Thrillhouse Records is such a place. Hiding in plain sight on Mission Street at Kingston right here in Bernal Heights, Thrillhouse is an enduring monument to underground San Francisco, circa 1991.

Want to know what counterculture looked like in the analog days before Tim Berners-Lee unleashed his Prometheus on our unsuspecting planet? What were the sensibilities of a young and alienated generation in an age of ascendant Reaganism, cassette tapes, and desktop publishing euphoria? What were the totems and signifiers of this edgy, halcyon time?


What did it look like?  What did it smell like??

Wonder no more: It looked and smelled exactly like Thrillhouse Records.


BONUS: This is what Reddit looked like way back then:


A woman named Caitlin was behind the counter when Bernalwood visited Thrillhouse on a recent afternoon, and she told us that the place is run by volunteers. They’re open from noon to 8 pm on most days, unless things are really really slow, in which case they may close a little earlier.  Stop by soon, before the 21st century reasserts itself.

PHOTOS: Telstar Logistics

12 thoughts on “San Francisco of the Early 1990s Is Alive and Well and Open for Business at Thrillhouse Records

    • Yep. Blacklist Mailorder was run out of the back, if I’m not mistaken.

      There was a rumor for a long time their demise was due to the clothes-by-the-pound place downstairs suing them over a burst pipe during caused by a rowdy show-goer. I doubt that’s an accurate depiction of things, but there’s no rumor like a punk scene rumor and it sank in just enough to feel some schadenfreude over that business finally leaving (which I don’t wish for, just saying…)

      • This rumor is true. I worked at Epicenter at the time. We experienced a burst pipe at a show and after a long lawsuit and declining sales we had to close up shop. It was definitely a sad day when we decided that was the only choice.

  1. Let’s not play these folks down as relics, please. Vinyl is alive and thriving, as is rock and roll and punk. If you want to know what 2015 looks and smells like, go here. Or go to Aqurius Records or any other decent record vendor. This is the future that we wish for. iTunes us the future we dread.

  2. Thrillhouse has more in common with the early ’00s Mission Records than Epicenter, but the underbelly is still thriving regardless. Also “burst pipe” kinda glosses over how tragically colossal that HIS HERO IS GONE/GAUZE/ASSFORT show at Epicenter was….

    Thrillhouse is hands down the best spot in SF for garage/punk/hardcore records and tapes.

  3. Glad some peeps that were around settled the burst pipe thing. I wasn’t at the show and couldn’t remember if I remembered it right, if that makes sense.

  4. It’s so nice to walk down the street and have records of all kinds in Thrillhouse. it use to be just Punk Rock, but now they sell everything.

  5. There will always be a place for vinyl records, for shellac 78s, for wind-up phonographs, movie projectors, mimeograph machines, dial telephones, teletype machines, and even blacksmiths because there will always be a rarefied class of people willing to pay for them. It’s a small group of people, but it’s indeed possible to make money if you’re willing to reach out to them. I know a guy who makes high-end drawers for cabinets, not the cabinets themselves but just the drawers. He has orders from around the world and employs a staff of 15. And last I checked, SF still had a blacksmith South of Market.

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