June 18, 2024

Little Hill Lounge in El Cerrito, The Page in San Francisco and Baltic Kiss in Point Richmond are good news for the post-pandemic music scene. Little Hill Lounge, a comfortable bar about a half-mile north of the Ivy Room on San Pablo Avenue, is a live music start up with only 4-5 shows per month, but Nashville Honeymoon and one of the Bay Area’s newest bands, Trans-Pecos Department of Dust and Wire, have both played there.

The Page is located at Page Street and Divisadero, a few blocks south of the Madrone Art Bar. Since 2022, it’s been booking acoustic country, bluegrass and old-time in it’s parklet when it’s warm, and inside in the lounge room when it’s not. The Dust Bunnies and Betty Jacks are among the groups who’ve played there: Tuesdays and Saturdays, 5-7, (maybe or maybe not). The Page’s website doesn’t have an events page, it’s Facebook page gets infrequent updates, bands sometimes cancel, and it all adds up to make planning to go to their shows next to impossible, though HWS will do it’s best to add whatever dates come our way to the Calendar page.

Some may remember The Baltic in Point Richmond when it booked country, blues and Cajun bands in the early 2000s. It’s had a lengthy closure and now been remodeled and rechristened the Baltic Kiss. It has a very active schedule though nothing coming up in the twang and honky-tonk range. But, these bands are bound to find their way to Baltic Kiss eventually and Hicks with Sticks will carry their shows on its calendar. The flip side of this is that the Black Star Pirate BBQ, which was booking bands in nearby Richmond, lost its lease and closed. HWS heard of some new connection between ex-Black Star and current Baltic Kiss, perhaps in doing the booking though this has not been confirmed.

Hotel Utah is another venue that’s ramped up since the pandemic. Though not up to pre-pandemic levels, now booking only a dozen or so shows each month including Laura Benitez and the Heartache and Mike Hellman‘s band.

Among venues that have closed, beside Black Star Pirate BBQ mentioned above, are Madam Racecar in San Francisco, and Reel & Brand in Sonoma. Madam Racecar, which had hoped to present live music never really got off the ground and has changed back to being Asiento. Hicks with Sticks spoke with the bar’s owner just before the change-over nine months ago. The story then was that the bar’s Burning Man crowd was aging out and hopes were high that re-imaging Asiento and bringing in Sven Forner, who’d managed music nights at Blondie’s, would attract a younger crowd. Asciento’s Facebook page says, “We had a great 5 month pop up as Madam Racecar. Come re-visit Asiento and see what we kept!”

Reel & Brand closed again after having had more than a few ups and downs over the years. It’s one of those rare restaurants that was built with a large dance floor. Western Swing Hall of Famer Tommy Tompsen, Atilla Viola and the Bakersfield Boys and the Lonestar Retrobates are among the bands that have played there. It’s up for sale so, fingers crossed, maybe something will stick. Meanwhile, venues like The Mystic, Big Easy, Starling Lounge, Murphy’s Irish Pub, Ernie’s Tin Bar and the Lost Church are keeping the wine country entertained.

A final note concerns Gestalt, a 16th Street bar in S.F., that was booking music regularly, is now booking it irregularly, and has been reported as being up for sale. Anybody want to buy a bar with a music permit?

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