Bay Area Venues Bounce Back
Now that the pandemic has become endemic, here’s news about venues, and some anti-vax musicians that have survived, more or less. First up is a musician caught misleading his band mates about his vaccination status. He was in three bands, now he’s in none. Then there’s the case of a certain lead singer who was resisting vaccination. When his girlfriend played the Lysistrada card, he sang “Get Me to Doc on Time” as he hustled to the clinic.
As for San Francisco venues, Amnesia, the once-popular Valencia Street dive, was sold just before the pandemic. The new owners have changed the name (to what we don’t know since there’s no sign), torn out the stage, and refashioned the interior from one of the more interesting bars on the street to one of the least. The good news is that Jimmy Touzel, and especially Joe Lewis, both of whom were active at Amnesia, have resurfaced at nearby Zeitgeist which now offers Americana-oriented bands on Wednesday evenings and various bands on Sunday afternoons. For now, first Wednesdays feature Mitch Polzack & the Royal Deuces, third Wednesdays are filled by Nashville Honeymoon, and 2nd and 4th Wednesdays are reserved for Ted Savarese‘s latest band.
The Revolution Cafe, on 22nd Street between Mission and Valencia, had booked bands that belonged in a coffee house rather than a bar. It closed during the pandemic and is now open, undergone remodeling and has been renamed Ivory & Vine; Ivory because they have a baby grand piano and vine because coffee has given way to wine. Their live music plays regularly Wednesday through Sunday.
Gestalt, a dive on 16th between Mission and Guerrero, continued throughout the pandemic with music in its parklet, though limited to 10pm. Bands are playing later now indoors though one band HWS follows, Whiskey Pills Fiasco, has been dropped and Classical Rev, a more-than-tolerable group of young classicists who used to play at Revolution Cafe, has been added. Madrone Art Bar in SF has a full music schedule, booking mainly jazz, but the Pine Box Boys, under the guise of Hollins & Hollins Mortuary Entertainment Services, have restarted their Apocalypse Sunday shows featuring different guest bands every first Sunday.
SF’s newest music venue is Madam Racecar at 21st and Bryant. It was Asciento and catered to the Burning Man community. Now Sven Forner, who’d been booking weeknight events at Blondie’s Bar and No Grille, has bought an interest in the business specifically to change its direction.
The Page at Page Street and Divisadero has been hosting acoustic shows in its parklet. Skillet Licorice, an old timey band, plays on Tuesday evenings and when they can’t make it the Dust Bunnies, which is a post-Shut-Ins band, fills in. The Vivants will be there Sunday July 17th. Hotel Utah on Folsom at 4th had stopped music altogether during the pandemic but is up to speed now. Pier 23 on the Embarcadero is one of the few SF venues where live music is in doubt. It sputtered to life in May 2022 only to fizzle again in June and July.
In the East Bay, Askenaz is working its way back under new management with Sarah Travis at the helm, and Speisekammer plans to restart its music in August. The Ivy Room in Albany, The Back Room and Freight & Salvage (both in Berkeley), and the Black Star Pirate BBQ in Richmond have been going strong, but the venerable Starry Pough on Shattuck in Berkeley — while keeping its Irish, open mic and poetry going Sunday thru Wednesday — has been eerily quiet on Fridays and Saturdays. Let’s hope that after a half century of bringing fine music to the Easy Bay, the Plough will soon get it’s mojo workin’.
Farther afield, Lucca Bar and Grill in Benicia has been hosting Valerie Jay & the Americanos, once each month, Danny Montana plays the Papermill Creek Saloon in West Marin, and Jinx Jones, the master of finding gigs in lesser known places, has found his way Middle 8 in Pleasanton and the Slow Hand BBQ in Pleasant Hill.
Links to the calendars and Facebook pages of these, and all the greater Bay Area venues that regularly book Americana music, can be found on the Hicks with Sticks Venues page.