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Arts & Entertainment

  • Best New Club

    Boca

    There's a shortage of good techno clubs in this town. If you don't agree, then you probably don't know what good, authentic techno is: thick, gut-rumbling beats that range from icy and industrial to warm and funky. This is music distinct from the cheese-ball house and trance emanating from various bridge-and-tunnel operations, and if there's anyone here who understands that,… More >>
  • Best Art Gallery

    Galerķa de la Raza

    Nestled amid several blocks of taquerias, international phone bodegas, and hipster coffee joints, Galerķa de la Raza is perhaps the best gauge of the Mission Districts's vibrant cultural legacy. This interdisciplinary space, in which the art is more about inciting action than drawing attention to its value as cheeky commodity, features works by political and artistic lightning rods in the… More >>
  • Readers' Poll

    Best Band/Musician The Coup Best Music Trend Hyphy Best Radio Station KUSF-FM Best Movie Theater Castro Best Film Festival S.F. International Film Festival Best Magazine 7x7 Best Web Site Craigslist.org Best Museum SFMOMA Best Art Gallery Creativity Explored/111 Minna Best Label Quannum Best Jukebox 540 Club Best Club Shine Best New Club Shine Best Burlesque Little Minsky's Best TV Show No winner Best Theater ACT Best Comedy Club Cobb's Best Actor Robin Williams Best Street Fair Folsom Best Place… More >>
  • Best Indie Movie Theater

    Castro Theatre

    Once all the hysteria had died down after the Castro's firing of its longtime director of programming, Anita Monga, and replacing her with the owner's wife, Karen Nasser, we realized that the theater remains impressive. And we're grateful for that. Gone are the fears that this beautiful, historic spot would start showing Ice Age: The Meltdown five times a day.… More >>
  • Best Corporate Movie Theater

    Embarcadero Center Cinema

    It has five screens and is part of Landmark Theatres (which is owned by the Samuel Goldwyn Co.), but the Embarcadero Center Cinema is anything but a sterile multiplex. First, there's the location: the top level of an outdoor mall, an open-air skyway far removed from the downtown bustle of the street. If you go on a weekend, you'll be… More >>
  • Best Local Writer

    Michelle Tea

    People unfamiliar with her work call her prolific, the greater national literati call her transgressive, and her fellow San Franciscans call her iconic. Whatever you label her, Michelle Tea — post-Beat mystic, penning the sacred doctrine of tatted and pierced queer girls everywhere — fires out her poetry and prose with a manic energy that blurs the boundaries between fiction… More >>
  • Best Theater of the Absurd

    The Dark Room

    Nobody going to the Dark Room is going to the theatah, meaning no one is pulling out nice snacks and preordering wine for intermission (and God help you if you must use the bathroom during a show). But co-owners Jim Fourniadis and Ty Mckenzie aren't out to lure the highbrow Union Square crowd: They just want their kids. The duo… More >>
  • Best Live Venue

    12 Galaxies

    In the last couple of years this well-renovated Mission District destination has become the best spot in the city to see a band. It's certainly big enough — 6,000 square feet — to handle national touring acts, but still feels cozy enough for a sparsely attended local show. The upgrade in the sound system, the higher stage, and the expansive… More >>
  • Best Cartoonist

    Porous Walker

    Porous Walker's single-panel cartoons (or art pieces, if you like) are outrageously un-PC and gut-bustingly funny. They're simple — crude, even — with one or two blobby figures describing or reacting to a caption. Walker's humor vacillates between the juvenile ("I Can't Wait Until I Am Old Enough to Go to the Mall in Nothing But Eyeglasses, Boxing Gloves, &… More >>
  • Best New Web Site

    Yelp.com

    Hey, you know what would be great? If someone combined the dating/ogling/networking possibilities of Friendster with the venue reviews of Citysearch. Wait, somebody has: Hello, Yelp.com. Last year twentysomethings Jeremy Stoppelman and Russel Simmons took cash and connections earned working at PayPal and poured them into this new S.F. venture. Yelp.com offers reviews of bars, restaurants, doctors, dog walkers, clothing… More >>
  • Best New Bookstore

    Cody's Books

    Few people would consider renting downtown real estate for an operation as precarious as selling books, and even fewer would do it two short walking blocks (assuming a diagonal traverse through Union Square) from a towering Borders. But Cody's isn't new at this; Fred Cody opened his first shop on Berkeley's Telegraph Avenue in 1965, turning it into one of… More >>
  • Best Drag Bar

    Aunt Charlie's Lounge

    Drag shows can still feel punk as fuck in the right setting. A dive bar barely the size of a long bathroom line is an ideal space in which to crowd a bevy of bejeweled biddies as they strut the catwalk for your crumpled dollar bills. There's something wonderfully surreal about the aura at Aunt Charlie's, whether it's the eclectic… More >>
  • Best New Folkie

    The Blank Tapes

    On the cover of the Blank Tapes' latest LP, 2005's Landfair, is a drawing of a white river winding through snow-capped mountains, a benevolent sun shining down. It's a bucolic scene, one that feels appropriate for the rustic, lazy-day folk you'll find on the record within. You'd never guess that these 23 tunes were recorded in an Orange County garage,… More >>
  • Best New Talk Radio Station (AM)

    The Quake

    In the late '80s the Quake was the name of a cutting-edge FM station that broke local and national treasures in the burgeoning alternative rock scene. That station dissolved right around the time of the Loma Prieta earthquake, leaving the airwaves unrumbled for years. Now the name is back, representing our new affiliate station for Air America, the national "progressive… More >>
  • Best New Talk Radio Station (FM)

    Free FM

    One of the most frequently changed frequencies on the FM dial is now home to Free FM, a talk radio station with a rock 'n' roll heart. For those lamenting the loss of Howard Stern, who recently left FM for satellite radio, and mourning Adam Carolla's departure from the popular Lovelines show (on Live 105), Free FM has plenty of… More >>
  • Best Literary Event

    Litquake

    It all started in 2002, when a group of intrepid readers and writers decided to throw a literary version of the myriad music and arts festivals around town, offering readings and panel discussions with an eye toward mayhem. Since then Litquake has grown exponentially. Though the event spans a week, its nightly gigs feature something rare for literary happenings —… More >>
  • Best Indie Rock Label

    Absolutely Kosher

    "Independent music as a frame of mind, not as a ghetto." That's the motto of Cory Brown's Absolutely Kosher, which has been releasing records by some of the brightest local and national bands since 1998. While AK has consistently provided quality jams these last eight years, things have really been cooking lately. Top-shelf releases by Bay Area acts Jim Yoshii… More >>
  • Best Trashy Art

    S.F. Recycling and Disposal Artist-in-Residence Program

    Some artists travel to Flax to get materials; others never get farther than their neighbors' trash cans. For the latter type, the golden gig is this program. Not only does the lucky artist get carte blanche to rummage through the city dump, a monthly stipend, and a 2,000-square-foot studio to work in, he also gets a solo show with pretty… More >>
  • Best Place to Go Unplugged

    Swedish American Hall

    When Café Du Nord owner and all-around local music impresario Guy Carson started putting on shows at the street-level Swedish American Hall, certain concert-goers' first response was a firm "So what?" For starters, the place doesn't have a liquor license, plus it's seated, plus you get the feeling that it doubles as a bingo hall. But a performance in 2004… More >>
  • Best Place to Watch Stuff Burn

    The Crucible

    The "molten bronze pour" — a great phrase, huh? It carries an ancient air, evoking protective-garb-wearing strongmen sweating in a smoky, devilish atmosphere, gingerly turning hard metals into melted pools like 17th-century alchemists (or 20th-century steel workers). That guy can be you at the Crucible, where industrial arts classes have tantalizing names such as "Brown to Bronze: Direct Burn-Out Casting"… More >>
  • Best Karaoke

    Bow Bow Cocktail Lounge

    Leave the Mint to the posers, frat boys, and bridge-and-tunnel crowd and head instead to this scarlet and black retro-Chinatown cubbyhole, where owner-barkeep Candy Wong presides over a fun-loving lineup of crooners, belters, and wannabe divas. Every night around 9, a colorful cast of characters — wizened locals, adventuresome hipsters, and throwbacks drawn by the plumes of cigarette smoke and… More >>
  • Best Polaroid Artist

    Darwin Bell

    Whenever we see someone pull out a Polaroid at a party or a club and start taking pictures, our cynicism kicks in and we get annoyed. What's with the Warholian shtick? But for the past year, Polaroid artist Darwin Bell has quietly taken shots of words he's found on store and street signs as he walks around the city, then… More >>
  • Best Up-and-Coming Indie-Rock Band

    Scissors for Lefty

    Bay Area musicians have pretty much given up trying to be the local version of the Strokes, probably because now everyone wants to be the local version of Joy Division/Gang of Four (i.e., dancey, goth-y rockers). Which, it turns out, is a hell of a lot easier to pull off. Hell, even the Strokes did it for only one album.… More >>
  • Best New Reading Series

    InsideStoryTime at the Rickshaw Stop

    San Francisco has a surprising number of good reading series for those who know where to look, but there's always room for more, and local author James Warner has brought us a great new one. The monthly InsideStoryTime is housed at the Rickshaw Stop, a bar and restaurant best known as a haven for top DJs and local indie rock… More >>
  • Best Outdoor Cinema

    Dolores Park Movie Night

    As a kid growing up in the Midwest, Sean Boyle would go to summer movie screenings with his sisters, with films projected onto the outside of the local middle school wall. Last year, he and some friends decided to create their own free walk-in movie theater in Dolores Park. They learned how to set up a large movie screen by… More >>
  • Best Solo Performer

    Ron Campbell

    If the quality of a performance can be judged by the extent to which an actor transforms himself onstage, then Ron Campbell personifies greatness. Equally capable of holding down 38 different characters in one evening, single-handedly bringing to life an entire Dickens novel, or sustaining the ramblings of one of the 20th century's most visionary eccentrics over the course of… More >>
  • Best Semiprivate Club

    Otis

    Coyishly concealed on Maiden Lane with no sign, no listed phone, and no obnoxious club beats blaring from the doors, this semiprivate club initially comes off as a tad too high-end for us regular club-goers. But once you step inside this cozy but exquisitely adorned little spot, the friendliness of the wait staff wins you over, as does the tan-and-gold… More >>
  • Best Monthly Periodical

    Street Sheet

    Written mostly by people who are or were homeless, this monthly tabloid mixes news stories, personal essays, and poetry about life on the street with cutting analyses of the city's efforts to "help" the indigent. TV and daily paper reporters have torn their rotator cuffs patting Gavin Newsom on the back for his Care Not Cash program, which dramatically reduces… More >>
  • Best Art Web Site

    ArtBusiness.com

    The home page of Alan Bamberger's ArtBusiness.com, an art services site, is peppered with phrases like "dispute mediation" and "consulting on buying, selling, donating." In other words, it's boring. But turn your attention to the left column, click the undistinguished link called San Francisco Art Openings, and revel in the full glory that is Bamberger's nightlife. A couple times a… More >>
  • Best Bar for Watching Bears and Bands

    The Eagle Tavern

    Where else but at the Eagle can you catch homoerotic biker flicks with one glance and gaze upon the newest spastic punk act with the next? Since it started hosting "Thursday Nite Live" shows years back, the leather bar (and home to an occasional mud wrestling contest) continues to be one of the comfiest rock clubs in town. Standing there,… More >>
  • Best Jukebox

    Buddha Lounge

    A great jukebox is eclectic, offering enough variety to complement every conceivable mood. The Buddha's jukebox is very eclectic. One recent afternoon the ambient sound meandered from Prince's "When Doves Cry" to Patsy Cline's "Crazy" to Mary J. Blige's "One" to Dean Martin's "On an Evening in Roma," with no end in sight. With careful planning, the amateur DJ can… More >>
  • Best Art TV Show

    Spark, KQED

    Local programming is often the bane of viewer-supported television. But in this town the genre has been taken over by geniuses, namely producers Marie K. Lee and her team. The idea behind Spark is simple: Profile local artists with short interviews, studio visits, and lots of pictures. But the choice of subjects, the seamless production, and the loose (but not… More >>
  • Best Painter (Tie)

    America Meredith and Mitsy Avila Ovalles

    There's no shortage of good painters in San Francisco, but two stand out this year: America Meredith and Mitsy Avila Ovalles. Meredith's unusually upbeat take on interactions between Native Americans and those descended from Europeans combines with her interest in 1960s TV cartoon characters (especially the Pink Panther) in pieces made of egg tempera and acrylic. Her "Medicinal Formulae" series… More >>
  • Best Year-Round Mardi Gras

    Monte Carlo Club

    Mardi Gras is more than just a date on the calendar or the last blowout before 40 days of Lent; it's a state of mind, and that jazzy, rambunctious Big Easy spirit is what drives and defines the Monte Carlo, a lively nightspot in the Bayview. Beads, carnival masks, and purple, green, and gold décor are the dominant motif. The… More >>
  • Best Carioca Experience

    Samba Night at Canto do Brasil

    Rio de Janeiro is one of those great bird of paradise cities that gets into your bloodstream upon contact and, like Venice and New Orleans, won't let you go. Even honorary Cariocas (Rio natives) aren't immune to the sultry vibrations, the captivating music, the coming together of jungle, mountain, and curving white seashore. Satisfying a Rio craving 7,000 miles from… More >>
  • Best Sea Shanty Band

    Salty Walt and the Rattlin' Ratlines

    Ever since 826 Valencia Street became the place to go to buy stuffed parrots, peg-legs, and eye patches, the pirate arts have been experiencing a renaissance in the Bay Area. This barnacled purveyor of olde seafaring songs brings a shipshape dose of "yo ho ho" to shiver even the most landlubberly of audiences' timbers. Lovers of ballads about scurvy, rigging,… More >>
  • Best Producer

    Christina Augello

    There's no stopping Christina Augello. This formidable local theater impresario has been largely responsible for rescuing San Francisco theater-goers from the clutches of pointless touring Broadway shows and stolid repertory fare. As the artistic director of Exit Theatre since its inception 23 years ago, Augello (a quirky performer in her own right) has consistently thrown open her doors on the… More >>
  • Best Lesbian Dance Night

    "Beat Box"

    Back in 2000, DJs DNR and China G were bored with a lesbian club scene that seemed to play only hip hop, house, and Latin tunes. Determined to imbue the dyke-dance world with some much-needed oomph, the ladies started "Rebel Girl," a bimonthly event at which they could spin female-fronted rock, punk, '80s pop, and old-school hip hop acts. In… More >>
  • Best Listening Room

    Rite Spot Café

    As soon as you enter the Rite Spot Café, it's apparent that this quaint Mission District hang is a cut above the other small dives in the area. It's the perfect combination of neighborhood bar and charming hideaway, with friendly-but-don't-fuck-with-me bartenders, white tablecloths, and an affordable, delectable menu of mostly Italian comfort food. But even with those charms, the strong… More >>
  • Best Interpreter of Theatrical Chestnuts

    The Cutting Ball Theatre Company

    In a city whose artistic reputation is grounded more in underground experimental work than major-league revivals of well-known standards, it's refreshing to come across a theater company that can stage chestnuts like Shakespeare's As You Like It, Genet's The Maids, and Sartre's No Exit and keep you on the edge of your seat for three hours. Working under the fitting… More >>
  • Best literary drinking

    "Writers With Drinks"

    Ah, the reading series, that venerable Bay Area institution. Just stick some writers in front of a mike and watch the fireworks detonate, right? Wrong, so wrong. Many a literary event has fallen by the wayside from a lack of good TNT. But Other magazine editor Charlie Anders' "Writers With Drinks" continues on, five years strong. What's her secret? Variety!… More >>
  • Best Morning Radio Show

    Keepin' It Real With Will & Willie

    We thought Air America simply had to be joking when its San Francisco–based affiliate the Quake announced the creation of a brand-new morning radio show starring political satirist Will Durst and former S.F. Mayor Willie Brown as an intrepid team of on-air DJs. Because, really, only the most incisive local focus group could ever dream up something so magically delicious.… More >>
  • Best Rap-Rock Amalgamator

    Why?

    For close to a decade the Anticon label's coterie of artists has behaved like hyperactive 2-year-olds with boxes of Crayons, maniacally crossing the lines separating rock from hip hop. Some of the results have been fascinating, others have been confounding, but most have been distinctly experimental, pushing the boundaries of genre and sound. Last year, the Oakland foursome Why? released… More >>
  • Best Ensemble Actor

    Danny Wolohan

    With his affable moon face, sensible haircut, and honest, Midwestern-style demeanor, Danny Wolohan doesn't come across as your typical actor; he looks more like an HR executive or sports fan. Yet whether he's doing contemporary ballet in a performance art piece, singing the part of an ex-cop in a musical, or playing the ghost of a famous bank robber in… More >>
  • Best Inspiring Comeback

    Subtle

    While riding between gigs in Iowa in February 2005, the local electro-rock group Subtle hit a patch of black ice and flipped its tour van. Six of the passengers sustained only light bruises, but keyboardist Dax Pierson suffered a broken vertebra at the base of his neck and became paralyzed. After being airlifted to a Nebraska hospital, the beloved local… More >>
  • Best Rappers

    San Quinn and Messy Marv

    The Bay Area hip hop scene is on fire — and the world is tuning into our multifaceted sound in a way that it hasn't since Tupac's death. Case in point: Vallejo rapper E-40 sold more than 90,000 copies of his LP My Ghetto Report Card in its first week, debuting at No. 3 on the pop charts. Let's hope… More >>
  • Best House Music Diva

    Latrice Barnett

    Most house music vocalists don't write the songs they sing, and sometimes they're just there to provide texture at the expense of lyrics. But San Francisco's Latrice Barnett is different; not only does she write, but she's also a multi-instrumentalist known for more than her lovely pipes, which have graced local club anthems by producers like Jay-J and Kaskade. Barnett… More >>
  • Best Religious Radio Show

    Godtalk

    Now in its 21st year, Godtalk is a refreshing alternative to other religious radio programs — mainly because it's more of a political show for diverse listeners than an evangelical sermon for an already converted flock. Rather than pushing a particular religious agenda, host Bernie Ward uses the interfaith world as a springboard to discuss current events, whether the spiritual… More >>
  • Best Comic Playwright

    Sean Owens

    If you baked Noel Coward, George Bernard Shaw, and Hans Christian Andersen into a pie, you'd get a dish that tastes a bit like the way Sean Owens writes. The analogy might be weird, but it is appropriate, because synesthesia — that mix of sensations — is a calling card for San Francisco's master of the absurdly funny play. After… More >>
  • Best Girl Band

    Von Iva

    Believe the hype: Von Iva is the new purveyor of soul, and it's got the groove-drunk fans to prove it. Singer Jillian Iva, drummer Kelly Harris, keyboardist Becky Kupersmith, and bassist Elizabeth Davis-Simpson hit all the right notes with their sublime, high-energy blend of danceable bass lines and keyboard riffs. This white-hot quartet dispenses with the grating coyness of bands… More >>
  • Best Community Art Center

    CELLspace - CLOSED

    A sprawling 10,000 square feet of pristine warehouse, CELLspace is the kind of place that makes you marvel at art's democratic possibilities. The "CELL" part stands for the unduly techy-sounding Collectively Explorative Learning Labs, but the space is an arts and education mecca that reaches people through a variety of mediums: arts and crafts, drawing, painting, theater, performance, dance, and… More >>
  • Best Way to Get Some Culture

    City Arts & Lectures

    This town's surfeit of arts and culture events can be a bit dizzying. Choosing between Javanese shadow puppetry, DIY art-making conventions, and the zillions of film festivals that wend their way through the city can be a daunting prospect. After blazing a few entertainment trails, it can be refreshing to sit back and absorb some culture of the good, old-fashioned… More >>
  • Best Circus Performers

    Xeno

    Nouveau circus is full of the conventional balletic beauty we've come to expect from the art form. But mix it up with a dash of goth sexiness, surrealist debris, and an anarchic display of dance and pyrotechnics and you have Xeno, a new genre performance troupe whose over-the-top shows have cultivated a following. Naturally, the performers are some of Burning… More >>
  • Best Dance Company

    Dance Brigade

    Choreographer Krissy Keefer is a rabble-rouser, and her company, Dance Brigade, has been at the helm of issue-oriented performance for the past two decades. The group's motley assortment of multidisciplinary works includes pieces that meld art and politics into an effortless goulash of sexy movement — covering topics ranging from violence against women to the psychological implications of war. Keefer's… More >>
  • Best Mixed-Use Musician

    Glenn Donaldson

    In this digital age of hyper-specialization when most artists possess nothing more than a single trick up their sleeves, Glenn Donaldson is a true anomaly — a chameleonlike musician from the Mission District crafting folk rock, improvisational noise, punk, indie pop, and industrial, all while maintaining two small yet productive imprints, Jewelled Antler and Pink Skulls. For all you crustie-punks,… More >>
  • Best Burlesque

    Big Burlesque, the Original Fat-Bottom Revue

    The burlesque revival is huge in San Francisco, and no one epitomizes that pasty-swinging, popping-out-of-birthday-cakes exuberance more deliciously than Big Burlesque, whose ladies ensure that it ain't over till the fat lady strips. With its bevy of bosomy beauties — from whip-toting divas to tattooed mermaids to gals who shimmy around in pigtails crooning numbers like "Grandma Sold My Panties… More >>
  • Best Spoken Word Series

    Porch Light

    Some say that storytelling is a dying art. And it is true that most spoken word events are litanies of personal narratives and performative swoops ad nauseam. But the Porch Light Series brings universal truth back, proving that anyone with a good tale to tell can take the mike. Make no mistake: Organizers Beth Lisick and Arline Klatte are selective… More >>
  • Best Goth Tradition

    The Edwardian Ball

    Put on your cravats and corsets for a night out at the ball — the Edwardian Ball, that is. The folks who put this event on every year aren't goths of the Cure-listening, eyeliner-wearing ilk, however; they're literary cool cats who understand that fixing up and looking dapper are essential to setting the right mood. The Edwardian Ball was conceived… More >>
  • Best Busker

    Country Hippie, Haight Street

    One evening on Haight Street, just outside the door to Kan Zaman stood this young, rail thin, hippie-fried busker with innocent eyes and shaggy brown hair, pickin' the shit out of his acoustic guitar and belting out some jumpy, archaic country-folk chestnut from the Anthology of American Folk Music. With a thick nasal drawl and a hillbilly accent, he sounded… More >>
  • Best Unknown Metal Act

    Stone Vengeance

    True metalheads may be surprised that we're talking up Stone Vengeance instead of one of those hip new post-black metal freaks like the mysterious Leviathan. Granted, Leviathan's underground drone is cool and all, but Stone Vengeance, three maverick black dudes from Bayview-Hunters Point, have been kicking ass under the radar for 27 years. So it's about time that the trio's… More >>
  • Best Lunchtime Music Series

    St. Patrick's Catholic Church

    Few things offer such immediate relief from the daily grind as taking a long lunch to soak up some culture at St. Patrick's Catholic Church, which continues the noontime concert series of classical music originally held at Old Saint Mary's Church. The series, taking place every Wednesday, brings in some of the most exciting recital programs and chamber music in… More >>
  • Best Drunken Garage-Rock Band

    The Mothballs

    You've got to work pretty hard to win in this category, and if there's anything the Mothballs do it's work hard at getting drunk. Or should we say that three of these musicians do. That's right, this foursome scores highest on the alcoholometer with only three-quarters of its members tanking up! The funny thing is that it's impossible to tell… More >>
  • Best Live Music Nights

    "California Homegrown Music Series" at Mezzanine

    Last year was a great one for local alternative music. Bands like Scissors for Lefty, the Cuts, and the Ex-Boyfriends (to name just a few) earned national attention for their varying takes on the '80s-fueled alt-rock sound that's swept the country. Before these acts played Conan, however, they played here. Having just celebrated its first anniversary, the "California Homegrown Music… More >>
  • Best Live Music Nights

    "Jazz Mafia Tuesdays" at 12 Galaxies

    Since February, 12 Galaxies has played host to this weekly gathering of seasoned, eclectic, local jazz musicians. The group — from four to 20 members strong, depending on the night and which "Jazz Mafia" incarnation is playing — isn't interested in that Starbucks-approved brand of auditory wallpaper, working instead with a fusion of styles, including hip hop and funk. A… More >>
  • Best Live Music Nights

    "Twang Sundays" at Thee Parkside

    "If it's twang it's our thang." So goes the motto of "Twang Sundays," which pretty much sums up this Sunday afternoon series of local music. Country, western, Americana, y'all-ternative, and rockabilly, as played by bands like the Pine Box Boys, the Robber Barons, and many more, comprise the fare. And Thee Parkside's patio offers benches and Ping-Pong for those who… More >>

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