By Ian S. Port
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By Ian S. Port
By Ian S. Port
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Thirsty Bear Brewing Company: Though most patrons come out for the selection of home-brewed bevvies, Thirsty Bear has recently become something of a live music venue. A cast of downtempo DJs spins on Thursday and the Sunday night residency by Toque Flamenco provides some tuneful ambience. 661 Howard (at Third St.), 974-0905.
Timo's: The wandering flamenco minstrels and dancers at Timo's provide the perfect soundtrack to the celebrated tapas. Weekly engagements from guitarist Benjamin Woods (Thursday) and flamenco music and dance act Arte y Compás (Sunday) might be more wallpaper than main attraction, but they are a key ingredient. 842 Valencia (at 19th St.), 647-0558.
Tongue & Groove: So you've always wanted to hear Scandal's "80s chart-topper "I Am the Warrior" live, but you were born a decade too late? Find solace at T&G's Thursday night cover band series, where live acts pay tribute to the hits of yesteryear. Other weekend days, the club hosts an assortment of local rock flavors from funk to indie. 2513 Van Ness (at Union), 928-0404.
Tonic: You may not be able to judge a book by its cover, but judging a bar by its jukebox is a safe bet. The one in this hipster meat-market boasts U.K. alternative staples (Blur, Smiths, Pulp) by the dozen. Occasional DJs spin hip hop, lite house, and soul, but be warned -- they rarely bring much action to the dance floor. 2360 Polk (at Union), 771-5535.
The Top: Aside from a booming sound system manned every night by talented DJs (local and noteworthy out-of-town guests playing the spectrum of electronic music), this Lower Haight haunt is largely no-frills -- and that thankfully includes the drinks, which eschew dilution in favor of pure punch. 424 Haight (at Webster), 864-7386.
Top of the Mark: This famed martini bar offers high-class wallpaper music on the weekends, including lounge piano, easy listening, classical, and some jazz combos. The best stuff comes late on Friday and Saturday nights, when the drinks pour with a heavy hand and the jazz bands blow with a little more gusto. Mark Hopkins Inter-Continental Hotel, 1 Nob Hill, 999 California (at Mason), 616-6916.
Trax: The DJ fare can be anything from trip hop to rock 'n' roll headbangers. A laid-back staff and cozy lighting attract a mixed lot of tourists and barflies, who -- with the right amount of liquid courage -- populate the dance floor. Though its DJs may not be the most sophisticated crate-diggers in town, this Haight-Ashbury mainstay rarely has a dull moment. 1437 Haight (at Ashbury), 864-4213.
The Tunnel Top: Its DJs have a penchant for spinning globe-trotting hip hop that explores everything from South American grooves to Afro-Cuban anthems. The cozy upstairs balcony is where most of the dancing happens, while drinkers downstairs enjoy silent movies projected on the wall and a rough-cut Euro atmosphere. 601 Bush (at Stockton), 986-8900.
Up & Down: An innocuous club owned by supermodel Christy Turlington in the heart of SOMA, with great local DJs spinning a variety of hip hop and house -- a nice change of pace from the grittier gay bars that dominate the area. 1151 Folsom (at Seventh St.), 626-2388.
The Velvet: Thursday through Saturday, it fills up with fashionable clubbers who partake in hip hop, house, and funky favorites. The music might be predictable, but when the minions of tube-top-and-tight-pants-adorned partyers get going, anything can happen. 443 Broadway (at Montgomery), 788-0228.
Verdi Club: Lace up your wingtips: The Verdi has survived the rise and fall of the swing fad to endure as one of the city's premier venues for live big-band dancing. The club's ongoing Friday swing nights have recently reopened, and Thursday nights remain a favorite for tango aficionados. 2424 Mariposa (at Potrero), 861-9199.
Vertigo: It's tough to get a bead on Vertigo's musical selections; the DJs at the ornate but unpretentious Polk Street watering hole might spin anything from Patsy Cline to DJ Shadow. Late in the evening the beats get louder, and the mixed crowd -- tourists, locals, folks of all ages -- takes to the floor, enjoying grooving pop, R&B, and soul from the past 30 years. 1160 Polk (at Sutter), 674-1238.
Voda: This ultra-sleek downtown vodka bar starts weekend-long house and hip hop parties on Wednesday nights and keeps them going into the wee hours of Sunday morning. Uptempo, groove-heavy house music dominates the turntables, but if you pay close attention, the DJs occasionally treat the non-dancing crowd to some interesting stylistic tangents. 56 Belden (at Bush), 677-9242.
Washington Square Bar & Grill: This warm Italian nook (briefly taken over by the Cobalt Tavern) is an enduring North Beach mainstay for business professionals and tourists alike. Most regulars know it as the Washbag, and they enjoy a charming cast of bartenders, moderately priced comfort food, and nightly piano jazz. 1707 Powell (at Union), 982-8123.
Whisper: Its spaciousness and "upscale dress code" make it a tad daunting for a casual night of listening to music and/or getting wasted. Still, with its VIP seating, valet parking, rooftop terrace, and other posh facets, it comes off as a place to see and be seen -- if you've got the cash. 535 Florida (between Mariposa and 17th St.), 356-9800.
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