The student-run magazine of San Francisco State University

Xpress Magazine

The student-run magazine of San Francisco State University

Xpress Magazine

The student-run magazine of San Francisco State University

Xpress Magazine

Not-for-profit Music

Records, Tapes, CDs and so much more at the Thrillhouse
Tam Vu
The X-Tra band performs as a concert-goer listens at Thrillhouse Records on December 2, 2023 in San Francisco, Ca. (Tam Vu / Xpress Magazine)

On the corner of Mission and 30th streets, sits a record shop — the door and outside window filled with collages of stickers and posters. Inside, the space is filled with even more stickers, posters and other graffiti on the walls and ceilings. The store is stocked with vinyl records of various genres, along with CDs, VHS tapes and DVDs. On weekdays, music is played for customers, but on weekends the music stops as just below the shop local bands begin to tune up and perform.

Thrillhouse Records is a nonprofit record shop that has become a mecca for the San Francisco and greater Bay Area DIY music scene for over a decade. The shop is run on a volunteer basis, with all proceeds from sales in-store and online going back into paying bills and keeping the shop open. The basement has been converted into a small venue that hosts shows open to all ages every weekend with a relatively low cover fee — no more than $15. 

To the left of the record shop is a door that opens to a long and narrow walkway that takes you to the “backyard” of the venue. Once there, attendees walk down some steps into the basement where all the shows are held. Upon entering, on the left is a screen printing press with a table in front, usually set up with some merch from the bands playing that night. 

The stage itself is about 13 feet wide with string lights and a white backdrop that is lit with different images by a projector during performances. Those over six feet should be mindful of the low ceiling once inside. While not very big, the space could hold about 30 people. 

Stickers, posters, and flyers, which echo the political and personal values of the
store and of those who frequent the space, decorate the walls and doors of Thrillhouse Records
on December 2, 2023 in San Francisco, Ca. (Tam Vu / Xpress Magazine) (Tam Vu)

The venue has gained recognition within the local DIY music and the punk scene by being relatively accessible to bands. This was just what cofounder and SF State alum Fred Schrunk envisioned for the space when he and a few friends opened it back in 2007. 

Schrunk said what prompted him and some friends to start Thrillhouse was a reaction to the closing of Mission Records, a volunteer-run record store that held shows in its backyard, much like Thrillhouse. 

“It was both a terrible record store and a really magical place to be at the same time,” Schrunk said. “I really loved it.”  

Schrunk said that when Mission Records closed in 2004, it not only created a void in his own life but also the SF music scene. He and his friends eventually stopped waiting around for something to take its place and decided to create something of their own. 

“We were like, ‘Let’s just do it ourselves, how hard can it be?’” Schrunk said. “And then we did and realized it is really hard.” 

Initially, Schrunk and his friends’ goal was to have Thrillhouse open for about the same duration as Mission Records, which was about five years according to Schrunk. As the years went on, so did Thrillhouse. But the other seven founders left to follow other careers and passions — leaving Schrunk as the last of the original team. 

While Thrillhouse is a music shop and concert venue with a focus on the punk scene at its core, the team has incorporated other community events such as craft meetups, potlucks and movie nights. 

“Really, all we are is a collection of the interests of all the people that are in this space,” Schrunk said. 

Volunteer shifts for the day are divided into two categories: an opening shift from noon to 4 p.m. and a closing shift from 4 to 8 p.m. Most volunteers work about one day a week consistently, but some have more specialized tasks they maintain throughout the week. 

Eric Yee, a long-time volunteer, sits at the front desk on his shift at Thrillhouse Records on
December 2, 2023 in San Francisco, Ca. (Tam Vu / Xpress Magazine) (Tam Vu)

Eric Yee is one such volunteer. Yee has been volunteering at Thillhouse for over a decade, claiming the title of longest-staffed of the current cohort. Yee helps catalog and run the online shop where customers can purchase merchandise and shop digitally. He also creates all the current branding for Thrillhouse, from pins, posters and t-shirt designs down to the tags on the merchandise. 

Yee said that there isn’t anything else like Thrillhouse in SF, and what keeps the shop alive is the community that continues to come back. 

“The young people that come in here that want to volunteer — that’s basically it: the new energy keeping it going,” said Yee. 

Another volunteer is Ryan Cabaaero, who customers can frequently see on Saturdays. He’s not new to the DIY scene and even booked his first show at Thrillhouse on Nov. 25 with his band “Windsor Terrace” along with three other bands. He said that getting a booking at the space is relatively easy, but it helps to be a volunteer and involved with the Thrillhouse community. 

To arrange a show at Thrillhouse, the booker must not only coordinate a date with the Thrillhouse team but also organize the lineup and promote the event — typically using a flyer shared on social media. Additionally, they are responsible for setting up the stage, determining the door operation and cover, overseeing its execution and, most crucially: managing the cleanup afterward.

 On the night, Cabaaero booked his show. It was an optional $5 donation to enter, whereas on other nights, the entrance fee can range from $3 to $15, but if showgoers are lucky sometimes, no cost at all. 

“Because its community ran the scene inside of the DIY community in San Francisco knows about it, they come to Thrillhouse,” Cabaaero said. 

The drummer of the X-Tra band shouts into the microphone as she drums at Thrillhouse
Records on December 2, 2023 in San Francisco, Ca. (Tam Vu / Xpress Magazine) (Tam Vu)

One of the bands that played that night was “Treasure Island,” whose members live in Oakland, not on Treasure Island, and attend the charter school Oakland School for the Arts. For Asher Lockwood, the lead singer, he discovered Thrillhouse in 2021.

“I started going to shows and doing online school,” Lockwood said. “And all that was happening [that year].” 

This is the band’s second time playing at the venue; the band keeps coming back for the chill and supportive environment that Thrillhouse and its community offers. 

“It’s a beautiful space that seems to not be as concerned with money and attracting a crowd as many other venues,” said Lockwood. 

Denisse Escovar and Khalil Greene came out to Thrillhouse to celebrate their friend Brenda’s birthday and enjoy the show at “Brenda’s Birthday Bash,” which was held on Dec. 2. Escovar and Greene both found out about Thrillhouse from living in the area while seeking out records. 

“My first time wasn’t for an event though — I came in and looked at the records, but I came a lot more often once I found out that there were events here,” Greene said. “I was like ‘Oh, that’s cool, it’s a nice little space [that’s] accessible to artists.’” 

  Greene, who’s part of the band “Fundemento,” said that Thrillhouse is a great place for bands to not only promote themselves but also connect with other like-minded musicians in the community.

Both Escovar and Greene said what makes this place unique is the small and homey atmosphere and that the space is here for everyone, being an all-ages venue.  

“It’s a little more dirty, but I mean for punk shows — that’s perfect,” said Greene.

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About the Contributors
Zackery Stehr
Zackery Stehr, Editor-in-Chief
Zackery Stehr (he/him/they) is the Editor-in-Chief for Xpress Magazine. He is a journalism major and is minoring in labor studies. Zackery was born and raised in Sacramento and currently lives in Oakland, California. Zackery previously worked as a Campus Editor on Golden Gate Xpress at SF State and was a staff writer for Sac City Express, the student news outlet for Sacramento City College. Zackery enjoys writing about politics, pop culture, fashion and underrepresented communities.
Tam Vu
Tam Vu, Visuals Editor
Tam Vu (she/her) is a Vietnamese-American photographer for Golden Gate Xpress and Xpress Magazine. She is a photojournalism major with a minor in Asian American studies. She originally entered SF State as a print and online journalism major, but switched to photojournalism in her second year after finding her passion for visual storytelling. Her special interests include Asian American identity and underground music. In the future she hopes to make a video documentary on her parents' immigration story to highlight the generational impact that the Vietnam War has on many families.

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