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Best Muni Station in Which to Hear Music San Francisco 2006 - Civic Center, Montgomery (tie)

There's the middle-aged bearded man who strums his guitar and croons country-western songs. There's the wispy Asian man who sits straight as a pillar as he plucks at his ehru, a Chinese violin. There's the elderly black man, wearing a suit and tie, whose clarinet bobs and weaves as he blows jazz riffs. Depending on the time of day — and provided you're not one of the iPod people who has tuned out the rest of the world — you've probably heard one or another of these musicians, who make traveling by Muni (almost) worth the delays. They're part of a revolving lineup of performers at the Civic Center and Montgomery stations whose music lightens the workday mood, offering welcome relief from the screech of commuter trains. If you catch an eye, you'll get a smile, and a coin or dollar bill flipped into an instrument case will bring a nod of thanks. The money is surely welcome, but it feels like these artists play for the joy of it, grateful to have an audience — even one that's ambling past.
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