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  • Readers' Poll Winners

    Best Blog SFist Best Comedian Joe Klocek Best Writer Dave Eggers Best Local Rock Band Thee Oh Sees Best Local Rapper/MC Richie Cunning Best Music Festival Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Best Live Music Venue The Fillmore Best Museum SF MOMA Best Film Festival San Francisco International Film Festival Best Theater The Castro Theatre Best Theater Company American Conservatory Theater Best Stage Actor Ann Randolph Best Artist Jeremy Fish Best Art Gallery 111 Minna … More >>
  • Shotgun Players

    Best Theater Company

    Shotgun Players

    You almost start to wonder whether the people at Shotgun haven't sold their souls to the devil. Otherwise it's difficult to explain how the company manages to achieve its elusive combination of artistic daring, cultural relevance, and showstopping kickassery — and just keeps doing it, show after show. Shotgun opened its 2011 season with Beardo, a new musical about Rasputin,… More >>
  • Best Stage Actor

    Geoff Hoyle

    Just when you thought you were terrified of clowns, Geoff Hoyle comes along to show you just how amazing a clown can be. This Broadway veteran — he originated the role of Zazu in The Lion King — has practiced his craft for decades, including stints in the Pickle Family Circus and Cirque du Soleil. In 2011, he introduced Bay… More >>
  • René Augesen

    Best Stage Actress

    René Augesen

    As the curtain rises on Harold Pinter's 1964 play The Homecoming, we find ourselves in a North London house full of men brimming with unexamined rage. Enter Ruth, returning to England after a few years' absence in America. She places the men under her spell even as she surrenders to their need for sexual conquest — and by play's end,… More >>
  • Language of the Birds

    Best Literary-Prowess Public Art

    Language of the Birds

    Few examples of San Francisco public art reflect their setting as successfully as this site-specific installation at North Beach's cultural nexus. Brian Goggins and Dorka Keehn's Language of the Birds catches 23 open books in midflight over Columbus and Broadway, spilling random phrases onto the asphalt below. The suspended books are crafted from translucent white polycarbonate embedded with LED lights… More >>
  • Needles & Pens

    Best Punk Rock Art Shows

    Needles & Pens

    You might think of Needles and Pens as the best place to get a plethora of zines, handmade clothes, quirky jewelry, and weird knickknacks, but the far left corner of the store consistently plays host to the kinds of exhibits other cities' punks and underground collectives only dream about. Standout shows have included the "Maximum Rocknroll Photo Show" — where… More >>
  • Best DIY Letterpress

    Oh Happy Day

    Oh Happy Day's one-day beginner art classes are offered in bookbinding, screenprinting, and calligraphy, but it's the beginners' letterpress class at $135 that gets our vote. Jordan Ferney, who runs the class at the aptly named Ferney Art Studio, teaches students how to work with photopolymer plates and proof presses to imprint designs they've created or chosen onto white cotton… More >>
  • Best Experimental Music Gathering

    On Land Festival

    The multiday, multimedia On Land festival is a serious contender for Experimental Music Event of the Whole Left Coast. Put together by local label Root Strata, venerable purveyors of drone and ambient and improv releases, the 2-year-old fest has already hosted acclaimed national acts like Grouper and Oneohtrix Point Never, locals Tarentel and Barn Owl, and the mini-reunion of Houston's… More >>
  • Best Webzine

    The Bold Italic

    If print is endangered, the people who created the Bold Italic a year and a half ago were thoughtful enough to name their webzine in tribute to it. That's far from their only thoughtfulness, of course: The whole spirit of the enterprise is bite-sized immersion journalism by people committed to indulging their longstanding fascinations — rescue dogs and running clubs,… More >>
  • Bimbo\'s 365 Club

    Best Rock 'n' Roll Bathroom

    Bimbo's 365 Club

    It's rare to look forward to going to the bathroom at a rock show, but Bimbo's is definitely the place to be when guitars and nature call at the same time. An Art Deco marvel in North Beach since 1931, Bimbo's doesn't leave its class at the bar with the sharply dressed staff. There are also sharply dressed attendants in… More >>
  • Best Cover Songs Using No Hands

    The Smiths Project

    Following the deaths of two close friends in 2009, Janice Whaley decided to spend 2010 doing something life-affirming: recording every song in the Smiths' catalog using only her voice. But it wasn't until she upgraded from single-vocal versions to employing up to 50 layered tracks that the Smiths Project graduated from ambitious to remarkable. Recorded in her bedroom closet in… More >>
  • Best Way to Simultaneously See Local Bands and Hear Classic Songs

    Undercover Presents

    Sometimes you want to check out one of the myriad local bands that your friends are always going on about, but usually you just want to hear songs you know and love. UnderCover Presents scratches both itches, putting on shows — events, really — dedicated to an entire classic album, performed by area musicians who put their own spin on… More >>
  • Best Suburban Funk Band

    Pocket Full of Rye

    Since its 2009 debut, Pocket Full of Rye has become a staple at underground charity fundraisers and hip literary readings. The band's suave style — just a guitar, a cello, and the voice you want singing you to sleep at night — fits any performance space and goes down like smooth whiskey. At live shows they perform original songs, Misfits… More >>
  • Best Backing Band Most Likely to Score a Gig on a Late-Night Talk Show

    The Park

    Derek Taylor based his senior thesis on analyzing Ahmir "?uestlove" Thompson's drumming on "Concerto of the Desperado." It was a prescient piece of musical minutiae, as drummer Taylor's own band, the Park, is fast following the career steps of ?uestlove's Roots crew by having not just secured a spot as S.F.'s most in-demand backing unit — Wallpaper, Dorando, and Alice… More >>
  • Best Sneaker-Obsessed Female Rapper Who Can Hang with the Boys

    Josie Stingray

    Nicki Minaj may have risen to pop prominence with her self-styled living Barbie doll chic, but with an infatuation for sneaker culture, Josie Stingray has positioned herself as the ultimate modern hip-hop chick. Savvy enough to throw a reference to Tinker Hatfield, the designer of the original Nike Air Jordans, into her rhymes, Stingray holds her own among producer Trackademicks'… More >>
  • Best Hip-Hop Musicians Who Put Their Money Where Their Mouths Are

    Zion I & the Grouch

    Reports of rappers engaging in charitable endeavors usually revolve around tales of Jay-Z and Nas giving out a few free Thanksgiving turkeys to residents of their former housing projects. But the Bay Area's Zion I and the Grouch are taking an authentic grassroots approach to the idea of effecting social change through music by donating a percentage of profits from… More >>
  • Best Chance to Get Drunk at the Library — for a Good Cause

    Friends of the San Francisco Public Library's IMBIBE

    Yes, Virginia, there are drunks at the library. Those men you see spinning in the Main Branch's atrium as if channeling Julie Andrews in The Sound of Music are not, in fact, channeling Julie Andrews in The Sound of Music. But is it possible to get hammered at the library, legally — and for a good cause? You bet your… More >>
  • Seisiúns at Plough and Stars

    Best Irish/Celtic Folk Jam

    Seisiúns at Plough and Stars

    To call a seisiún a jam is akin to calling a Guinness a beer and leaving it at that. There's just so much more to it. Twice a week, the mandolins, fiddles, dulcimers, tin whistles, singers, and even the set of pipes come out to play for a packed house of punters (that'd be you and me, the listening and… More >>
  • Best Excuse to Break Out the Plaid Slacks

    American Idle's Punk Rock Karaoke

    We will never be Henry Rollins — we've got about 20 tats, 20 tours of the country by van, and 20 years in the gym ahead of us before we can get close to Hank — but we can sound like him (kinda) when we belt out the Black Flag tunes that made our upbringings so much less comfortable at… More >>
  • Best Freestyle Throwdown on the Lowdown

    Last Monday of the Month at Showdown

    For a gathering of the mics long on true lyrical rhyme-setters and short on wannabe MCs, it helps to have a pair of wax-wise crate-diggers dispensing live kicks, drums, and snares from the DJ booth. Then again, seasoned backpackers with records older than the up-and-coming hyphy head next on the mic can get down with the $5 pints of gin-and-juice… More >>
  • Caffe BaoNecci\'s Giovedi Film

    Best One-Stop Dinner and a Movie

    Caffe BaoNecci's Giovedi Film

    Every second Thursday of the month, this tiny, homey cafe in North Beach run by the Gambaccini family from Lucca, Italy, turns into a movie house. Misanthropes seeking the anonymity of a dark theater need not apply: At BaoNecci, you take your seat at rows of tables where you rub elbows with other film aficionados, and it's just plain awkward… More >>
  • Best Place to Join a Klezmer Band

    Zambaleta World Music and Dance School

    A year and a half ago, ethnomusicologist Mina Girgis opened a space in the Mission to incorporate the spirit of a zambaleta, the Arabic word for a spontaneous street party in his native Cairo. Girgis seeks to tear down what he says is a false distinction between those who are "musical" and not, offering the chance to play in an… More >>
  • Musée Mécanique

    Best Old-School Arcade

    Musée Mécanique

    Locals who write off Fisherman's Wharf as a tourist trap full of snow globes and "I Heart San Francisco" T-shirts are only 95 percent right. They would be amiss to not venture into the Musée Mécanique, a shrine to arcade games circa, say, the year the Titanic went under. There's the mysterious Zorba the Wizard. There's Laffing Sal, a creepy, corpulent… More >>
  • Best Radio Station

    KUSF in Exile

    To West Coast cognoscenti, Rice-A-Roni is no San Francisco treat; they would sooner survive on a diet of Folk Law, Ragtime Machine, and In the Soul Kitchen with DJ Harry D. Those are the names of shows once heard on radio station KUSF, 90.3 FM. But those shows seemed to have been lost when the station's owner, the University of… More >>
  • Best Filmmaker Without a Pixar Contract (Yet)

    Kerry Laitala

    The brilliant experimental filmmaker Kerry Laitala is a conjurer, summoning vestigial image-remnants from ancient films and, applying her singular skills in divine manipulation, evoking the fantastical world of jagged dreams, faded realities, and shadowy fairy tales. Working with the endangered material of celluloid, she constructs handcrafted gems that explode with fantastical associations. The great contradiction embodied in her oeuvre is… More >>
  • Best New Insta-Mag

    Longshot Magazine

    Some people say that print is on its deathbed. Maybe they weren't aware that in San Francisco last May, hundreds of young magazine enthusiasts and professionals collaborated to put out a general-interest glossy magazine in just two days, complete with narrative journalism, interviews, fiction, cartoons, obscure histories, photo-essays, and more. The writing, design, editing, photography, printing, and shipping of Longshot… More >>
  • Best Former Addict Who Can Make You Laugh About Addiction

    Bucky Sinister

    We've said before that Bucky Sinister holds a room by the balls. And he does. To see him read is to feel his hope in leaving a small town and arriving in San Francisco. To revel in his intense friendships and heady adventures. To endure the addictions, the sickness, the despair, the deaths. And then, with him, you survive and… More >>
  • Best Hyperliterate Busking Outfit

    Mad Noise

    These buskers have brains. Lots and lots of brains. Guitarist and singer Khalil Sullivan is a graduate student in English at UC Berkeley, and he's using his experience with the motley crew of musicians he has assembled in Mad Noise — which include an upright bass player, a harmonica whiz, and a dude who will turn anything into a drum… More >>
  • Best Place to See Your (Talented and Attractive) Neighbors Naked

    Good Vibrations Indie Erotic Film Festival

    Good Vibrations has been a San Francisco favorite since 1977 for good reason: It's always helped us learn about sex and sexuality outside of that yucky shameful place so many people put it, and it keeps us from taking it all too seriously. A great example is the annual Indie Erotic Film Festival, where the Good Vibes staff screens films… More >>
  • Best Reading Series in a Gay Sex Club


    When many people think of reading series, they see images of tweed, of nervous academics struggling to find their place on paperclipped pages, of sleepy and distracted audience members, of starstruck wannabes who can't escape the gravitational pull of emulation to reach originality. We'll give you originality: a man who calls himself "Multi-Tasking Michael." He recites a passage from Shakespeare's… More >>
  • Best Politically Active Hip-Hop Performance Artist

    Paul Flores

    Paul Flores spends a lot of time and energy fighting stereotypes and assumptions. One of these stereotypes is attached to hip-hop. Despite some stars in the genre having done all they can to make people believe the music is all about violence, drugs, and demeaning women, Flores knows it holds great power for good. It's too often forgotten that the… More >>
  • SF Playhouse

    Best Experimental Theater Company

    SF Playhouse

    You'll hear how contemporary playwrights have an increasingly difficult time getting their work produced in local theater circles because so many companies choose established (some would say "safe") productions because they believe more people will attend. SF Playhouse is not one of those companies. In March and April, it staged Wirehead, a play about a society in which people can… More >>
  • Best New Animator/Musician

    Jeremy Rourke

    Jeremy Rourke is the kind of artist we love. He follows what inspires him, which in this case is stop-motion animation and music, teaching himself what he needs to get there and along the way producing great work that inspires others. One of his movies, Out to See, places cutouts of assorted figures (a man in an overcoat, a ship,… More >>
  • Best New Art Gallery

    941Geary - CLOSED

    It's not easy to keep even one art gallery running, but with the addition of 941Geary, Justin Giarla now has three, including White Walls and the Shooting Gallery. It was an ambitious undertaking, for sure, but one with a vision. The space formerly housed an auto mechanic and smog-check station, so it's spacious with very high ceilings. Before he found… More >>
  • Best New Storytelling Series

    Previously Secret Information

    Stand-up comedians Joe Klocek and Bruce Pachtman have created a series that's not quite stand-up comedy, not quite straight-up storytelling, yet some of each. Put another way: These are true stories that make you laugh but also can carry a serious undertone. Each lineup is a pro-am mix of people who inhabit the stage for a living alongside those who… More >>
  • Best Creator of Fake Bands, Their Songs, and Their Artwork

    Sonny Smith

    Everyone has fantasized about creating a fake band at some point, right? Well, local songwriter and artist Sonny Smith did us one — or rather 100 — better: He went and invented 100 bands, complete with names, artwork, record labels, and even songs. Best known for his "real" outfit Sonny and the Sunsets, Smith began his 100 Records project as… More >>
  • Best One-Man Goth-Country Band

    The Slow Poisoner

    As Andrew Goldfarb describes it, "slow-poisoning" was an 18th-century phenomenon in which French wives would insert small quantities of arsenic into their husbands' meals, eventually killing them. It's the closest thing these women could get to a divorce. What exactly that has to do with Goldfarb's work as the Slow Poisoner — a delightfully dark and literate San Francisco one-man… More >>
  • Best Place to Find Free Live Jazz Every Sunday Afternoon

    Cafe International

    It's 4 p.m. on a Sunday, and the cottonball waves of fog are just starting to creep over Twin Peaks, challenging the afternoon sun. What are you doing? If you're lucky, you're relaxing on the back patio at Cafe International in the Lower Haight, taking in a set of fine local jazz while relishing the final prefog rays. But even… More >>
  • Hotel Utah

    Best Place to Debut Your Masterpiece of Songcraft

    Hotel Utah

    When you're ready to impress someone other than just your beloved with your songwriting genius, it's time to pick a Monday night and head to the Hotel Utah. This creaky old saloon has long been recognized as hosting San Francisco's best open mic night, and it's not hard to see why. First off, the smallish stage and two-story performance area… More >>
  • Best Art from Trash

    Recology Artist-in-Residence Program

    Unlimited access to a junkyard — and all society's detritus. It's any artist's dream. Recology helps a handful of artists realize it by letting them inhabit a studio at the company's refuse transfer station for several months at a time, and earn a stipend for doing so. They find new purposes for existing things by sawing, painting, refinishing, sanding, and… More >>
  • Rooky Ricardo\'s Records

    Best Place to Discover New Old Music

    Rooky Ricardo's Records

    It began as a temporary spot where owner and founder Dick Vivian could unload 35,000 obscure vintage soul and R&B singles he'd purchased from a defunct distributor. Some 20 years later, Rooky Ricardo's Records' Lower Haight storefront has become an internationally celebrated archive of rare and under-appreciated soul, jazz, funk, pop, and R&B records from eras long gone. Famous customers… More >>
  • Bottom of the Hill

    Best Rock Club

    Bottom of the Hill

    Ask upstart bands from around the world what venue they're most excited to play — in any city — and chances are you'll hear a lot about Bottom of the Hill. It may seem like just a 246-capacity room on the ground floor of a Victorian building far away in an oft-neglected corner of Potrero Hill, but for live music… More >>
  • Best Music Festival

    Treasure Island

    San Francisco has enough music festivals that arguing about the best one is kind of like arguing over sexual positions: You're entitled to your preference, but it's hard to go really wrong with any of them. Sure, Outside Lands is bigger, and Hardly Strictly Bluegrass is more, uh, free. But the annual Treasure Island Music Festival is uniquely, romantically San… More >>
  • Best New Venue

    Public Works

    Half a year after Public Works opened, it feels strange that S.F. didn't always have this place. The combination of a nonprofit-friendly community space and art studio and gallery would be worthy enough, but Public Works boasts a Funktion One soundsystem and a two-story main room that make it among the city's top venues for live music of the electronic… More >>
  • Molotov\'s

    Best Punk Rock Jukebox


    Let's just lay it out, shall we? Gang of Four, the Specials, the Dead Boys, Fugazi, Motorhead, the GZA, Joy Division, Howlin' Wolf, the Pogues, Hank Williams Sr., the Stooges, Stiff Little Fingers, the Descendents, Grimple, and way, way more? With its low-key vibe, cheap booze, and dingy interior, Molotov's in the Lower Haight is already the city's go-to punk… More >>
  • Yours Truly

    Best Music Video Website

    Yours Truly

    By Ian S. Port In its first two years, San Francisco-based music video website Yours Truly has left an indelible impression on the online music world. Its signature clips combine footage of artists performing in locales around San Francisco — recording studios, beaches, parks, and even bedrooms — with thoughtful interviews, giving viewers both the music as well as a sense… More >>
  • Mission Gráfica

    Best DIY Print Studio

    Mission Gráfica

    By Mollie McWilliams There's nothing more DIY than creating your own art. For those interested in the medium of screenprinting, it used to be nearly impossible to find a studio to work in. Since its inception in 1977, Mission Gráfica has provided space to make prints and posters in its studio on the fourth floor of the ever-vibrant and creatively charged… More >>
  • Best Non-Couch Therapy

    Clown Class with Christina Lewis

    By Ashley Harrell From time to time, Christina Lewis dons her black-and-white-striped pants and goes for a stroll through Bernal Heights. The way she walks — at a carefree pace, with her shoulders relaxed — is something that didn't always come naturally. To achieve this nonchalant stride, Lewis spent three decades in self-directed clown therapy. Show up to her Monday night clown… More >>
  • Beat Feet Orchestra

    Best One-Woman Band

    Beat Feet Orchestra

    By Lauren Smiley Have you seen the Beat Feet Orchestra? Actually, the "orchestra" is just one musician: pint-sized Mahsa Matin. She has given the concept of the one-man-band a very San Francisco gender twist, tromping around the city with a bass drum, snare, and high hat that — strapped to her back — she plays by stomping her wire-rigged clown shoes. And… More >>
  • PianoFight Productions

    Best Up-and-Coming Theater Company

    PianoFight Productions

    By Keith Bowers PianoFight Productions is a theater company about 5 years old, made up of mostly young people, and it's recently homeless. For any other troupe, that could be a sign of significant trouble. But PianoFight has a plan. The company left its former home, Off-Market Theater, several months ago on good terms after months of planning. It's negotiating a lease… More >>
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