Cheap Musical Thrills

Give your ears — and your wallet— a summer treat.

The art of noise

Cafes and art galleries are great places to see outstanding live music on a limited budget. Dolores Park Cafe (501 Dolores at 18th St., has free music on Fridays; it tends toward the folkier female singer-songwriter side, but bizarre experimental noise acts show up once a month. Revolution Cafe (3248 22nd St. at Bartlett, has live music almost every day, including the trad/mod chamber group Classical Revolution every Sunday from 8 to 11 p.m. and the ever-popular Marcus Shelby Trio on Wednesdays from 9 p.m. to midnight.

The downtown/Hayes Valley location of Caffe Trieste (1667 Market at Gough, has free jazz many nights — check its Web site. Trombonist and legendary comedian Mal Sharpe's Dixieland jazz band plays 3 to 6 p.m. every Saturday at Savoy Tivoli in North Beach (1434 Grant at Union, no Web site).

On a grungy stretch of Market Street, Luggage Store Gallery brings decidedly more experimental sounds weekly to Creative Music Thursdays, with a $6 to $10 sliding scale, no one turned away for lack of funds (1007 Market at Sixth St., Meridian Gallery (535 Powell at Bush, offers concerts on the second Wednesday of the month featuring new, traditional, and world music, with a Midsummer Music concert scheduled for July 11.

Finally, there's the mother of all free S.F. music venues, Stern Grove (19th Ave. and Sloat,, with Sunday concerts through August 23. There's nothing like taking in top-notch sounds in this most bucolic of settings, but you have to get there early for a good seat. Highlights this season include Joan Baez on July 12, the Lyrics Born Revue on July 26, and Bollywood Sufi superstar Kailash Kher on August 2. Just don't forget to bring chill-deflecting layers and a picnic lunch.

Read more articles from Summer Guide:

Fun Times from Uncle Sugar: Fifteen fabulous ways to stimulate the local economy.

Reading Highway 1: A literary road trip up the Mendonoma coast.

Hotels, events and books for your trip north on the Highway 1/Shoreline Highway

A Pint-sized Pub Crawl: Tour the city's breweries and brewpubs this summer.

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