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Arts & Entertainment

  • Readers' Poll Winners

    Best Band Smash-Up Derby Best Blog SFist Best Comedian Tie: Marga Gomez, Casey Ley, Paco Romane Best Dance Company ODC Best DJ Prince Aries Best Gallery 111 Minna Best Museum SFMOMA Best Music Festival Outside Lands Best MC DaVinci Best Theater ACT Best Writer Dave Eggers… More >>
  • Best Comedy Institution

    SF Sketchfest

    Like an impossibly rich seven-layer cake, SF Sketchfest is top-to-bottom wonderful even though there's no way you'll ever taste all of it. When the schedule is released each December, we immediately start strategizing: Can we see three shows in one night? Can we skip out of work early to see John Hodgman with guest Dana Gould doing a bit as… More >>
  • Best Way to Sample S.F.'s Contemporary Dance Scene

    RAWdance's Concept Series

    Dance aficionados and newbies find plenty to like in this semi-regular series at the historic James Howell Studio, hosted and curated by choreographers Ryan T. Smith and Wendy Rein. Because the venue is awkwardly shaped, you're bound to meet new people — there's really no option to keep quiet. You pay what you can to enter. There's food. And the… More >>
  • Best Weekly Film Screening That's Actually on Film

    Oddball Film + Video

    San Franciscans love putting on their own DIY movie shows, referred to by the smart set as "microcinema." It's easily done thanks to the both the availability of digital projectors and the fact that seemingly everything ever made is available digitally. But what if you're jonesing for rare and unusual fare on actual, honest-to-goodness film, run through an actual projector,… More >>
  • Best Racial Humor You Don't Feel Guilty Laughing At

    Kaseem Bentley

    The enormity of Kaseem Bentley's self-image is personified in the meticulous three-piece suit and the gigantic, patronizing, bright white smile he wears to every show. ("I look like a black public defense lawyer who's never won a case," he declared a while back.) He explodes onto a stage without a pause for breath between his first word and his last,… More >>
  • Best SF Comedy Tumblr

    Courting Comedy

    Comedian OJ Patterson of Sylvan Productions is celebrated among local comics for his Tumblr blog Courting Comedy, which he bills "a Bay Area-based comedy blog from a Bay Area-based comedian blogger." He collects show announcements, news, quotes, and photos from comedians around the Bay Area, and writes original pieces and occasional interviews with folks in the scene. Following @OJPATTERSON or… More >>
  • Best Tranny Comedienne

    Natasha Muse

    In category after category, the lovable comedian, producer, actor, podcaster, and writer Natasha Muse brightens Bay Area comedy. Her endearingly awkward demeanor onstage is complemented by cerebral wit and whimsical wordplay, with an occasional silent pause as she waits for the audience to catch up. Her comedy, her personality, and her Twitter feed are sharpened with subtle sarcasm and a… More >>
  • Best Cheap Night of Comedy

    The Business at the Dark Room

    Produced by and featuring local comedy all-stars Sean Keane, Chris Garcia, Bucky Sinister, Alex Koll, Caitlin Gill, Chris Thayer, and guests, The Business at the Dark Room is one of the best showcases in the city. At just $5 a ticket (and two-for-one deals easily had with the print-and-cut-out "Business Dollars" on its website), it's a steal. The show packs… More >>
  • Best Experimental Theater

    Cutting Ball Theater

    Artistic people often talk about trying something new, taking chances, failing occasionally. But most don't mean it. Really, what most of us want is to do something familiar that will succeed. That's not the case at the Cutting Ball Theater, a company genuinely ready to try anything — even a musical about an escaped male slave dressed as a woman… More >>
  • Best Comedy Open Mic

    Funny Mondays with Victor Torres at Deco Lounge - CLOSED

    Anyone craving a look inside the lives of comedians need not look further than Funny Mondays at Deco Lounge. The small, dark room opposite the barroom in this Tenderloin gay bar is typically split between comics and non-comics, the former filtering in and out to hit other open mics in the city. New audience members are welcomed by the performers,… More >>
  • Best Gallery to Get Drunk In

    111 Minna

    Sometimes, the urge to enjoy an evening of culture and the need to get totally inebriated are not mutually exclusive — which is why 111 Minna is such a godsend. This place is always at the forefront of cutting-edge art, but also throws a damn good party, with highly skilled bartenders making delicious cocktails, and even a stage, should someone… More >>
  • Best Place for Solo Performances

    The Marsh

    Stephanie Weisman, the founder and artistic director of The Marsh theater, spent a few months living on a house on stilts in a marsh, watching the flora and fauna thrive in its landscape. That's why she called her theater "The Marsh." She thinks of it as a breeding ground for new performance, and a place to support writers. Since it… More >>
  • Best Stand-Up on the Way Up

    Shanti Charan

    Shanti Charan could be the rising star in Bay Area comedy right now. Though she started performing just two years ago, she has already graced the stages of the top clubs in the area, has won the 2011 Rooster T. Feather's Comedy Competition, and was a semifinalist in the 2011 San Francisco International Comedy Competition — one of the most… More >>
  • Best Street Art Site

    Gone Tomorrow SF

    Founded by Maggie Pike, Gone Tomorrow SF offers coverage of that most ephemeral of art forms — homegrown street art — which is guided through savvy tech and a forward-thinking collaboration with the site’s own audience. Visitors suggest artwork, public murals, and temporary installations to be reviewed and contextualized by professional writers and art historians. Gone Tomorrow SF also offers… More >>
  • Best Actor

    Joshua Schell

    When Joshua Schell listens to his fellow actors onstage, he truly appears to be hearing the lines for the first time — which makes the scenes he's in feel alive and fully spontaneous. That quality was on abundant display in the intimate Phoenix Theatre for Sleepwalkers' production of The Nature Line, in which Schell's character had never seen a woman… More >>
  • Best Actress

    Caitlyn Louchard

    Charisma is tricky to define in a performer. It's a forceful, captivating presence — you can't look away — and it moves you, often without the performer having to say anything. Whatever it is, Caitlyn Louchard positively exuded it in the Cutting Ball's production of Maurcie Maeterlinck's symbolist drama Pelléas and Mélisande. It's a difficult script, dominated by otherworldly dread… More >>
  • Best Big Splashy Musical

    Fela!

    It's not easy to get a bunch of S.F.'s whitest patrons of the arts out of their seats and dancing, but that's precisely what legendary choreographer Bill T. Jones accomplished with Fela!, a boundlessly funky musical bio of the Afrobeat pioneer Fela Kuti. The sax-heavy 10-piece band alone would have been worth the hefty ticket price, their groovy rhythms and… More >>
  • Best Film Programmer

    Keith Arnold of the Castro Theatre

    It might seem unwarranted, or at least premature, to toss garlands at someone who's been on the job less than a year. But Keith Arnold had a laudable record on the Bay Area art house scene, notably as co-founder and programmer of the late, lamented Fine Arts Cinema in Berkeley, before he was hired at the end of last year… More >>
  • Best Onstage Impression

    Don Reed

    Stand-up comedian and solo performer Don Reed has a kinetic energy that seems to transcend human limitations. So in his most recent solo show, The Kipling Hotel at The Marsh, it was only too fitting that some of his caricatures, of people he knew in his early 20s when he worked as a waiter in a Los Angeles retirement home,… More >>
  • Best Theater Company

    Aurora Theatre Company

    We've come to expect high-quality art from Berkeley's Aurora Theatre Company, but this award was no foregone conclusion. Over the past year, the Aurora has produced truly exceptional, moving work that's gone well beyond those expectations: experimental adaptations that pushed the boundaries of what sets can do, as with Mark Jackson's adaptation of Kafka's Metamorphosis; outstanding productions of classics, like… More >>
  • Best Naked Literary Event

    Naked Girls Reading

    In a city abundant with lit events and reading series, how do literary folks attract a new audience? By remembering that you can't spell "literature" without T and A. Naked Girls Reading series is a group of literary buffs who disrobe in public each month to honor the classics in shows arranged under such heady themes as Pride, Fairy Tails,… More >>
  • Best Place to See Ruth Asawa's Art for Free

    The de Young Museum's east entrance

    In November of 2006, not long after reopening in its newly designed building, the de Young Museum organized what it called the first complete retrospective of Ruth Asawa's career. It was a perfect match of equals — a San Francisco institution (the de Young) reborn in a world-class structure, and another San Francisco institution (Asawa) reconsidered in her 80th year.… More >>
  • Best Showstopper -- Literally

    Exit, Pursued by a Bear

    In Lauren Gunderson's play at Crowded Fire Theater, Nan (played by Erin Gilley) is just a nice, sweet lil' thang who wants to show some love to animals — and to her idol and fellow Georgian Jimmy Carter. So when she decides to hatch a revenge plot against her abusive husband Kyle (Patrick Jones), she's too nice to have an… More >>
  • Best Situation-Inspired Protest

    Demonstration outside Steve Ignorant's performance at Slim's

    Steve Ignorant stirred great controversy among the punk community last year when he announced that he would be performing the songs of his seminal English anarcho-punk band Crass, whose sound, ethics, and radical politics have long shaped punk itself. Even the band's breakup was noble: Upon forming in 1977, they vowed to disband completely in 1984, as a nod to… More >>
  • Best Accessible Classical Music

    Classical Revolution

    Audiences from the classical era didn't shell out massive quantities of cash to pack auditoriums and hold polite applause for the end. They hooted their appreciation at virtuoso playing as it was happening, and shouted suggestions for what to play next between numbers — the primordial equivalent of "play some Skynard." Classical Revolution won't play "Free Bird" for you, but… More >>
  • Best Local Albums Steeped in Local Locales

    Chuck Prophet's Temple Beautiful and Sun Kil Moon's Among the Leaves

    Mark Kozelek is a perennial contender in this category, as Bay Area references always fill his albums, whether recorded under his own name, as Sun Kil Moon, or with the Red House Painters. Among the Leaves is no exception. Martinez and the Carquinez Strait get more shout-outs here than they ever have or ever will again, and the record —… More >>
  • Best Unlikely Reggae Band

    Extra Classic

    It's not like Extra Classic is the first group of white musicians to try their hand at reggae — just look across the bay at Rancid, or across the Atlantic at Rock Hall-of-Famers like the Rolling Stones and the Clash. But listening to the local outfit's 7-inches and debut full-length, Your Light Like White Lightning, Your Light Like A Laser… More >>
  • Best Solo Performer

    Kirk Read

    Kirk Read — the accomplished writer and activist who co-produces the performance series Smack Dab and co-produced the K'vetsh reading series that ran in San Francisco for 15 years — is the only person on the planet who can tell a story about being fisted by a trucker in a big-rig parked off a North Carolina interstate and make it… More >>
  • Best '80s Flashback That's Also a Fun-Ass Indie Pop Band

    Still Flyin'

    Cue up the pastel blazers, white sunglasses, Ferrari convertibles, gated snare drums, and pervasive reverb more humid than a Miami afternoon: Indie-pop band Still Flyin' is the best '80s flashback-as-rock-band in S.F. these days, conjuring all the Reagan-era radio glory you were barely old enough to identify as music the first time around. A beloved fixture on the local scene… More >>
  • Best Band That Rocks Out in the Tour Van

    Nicki Bluhm and the Gramblers

    Nicki Bluhm isn't the first S.F. musician to record songs with her band while driving around on tour, but she is among the best. The singer has a vast library of "Van Sessions" videos on her YouTube page, all of which show Bluhm and her group, the Gramblers, covering famous songs in between tour stops. Bluhm was discovered by Mother… More >>
  • Best Surprise Jazz

    A Tunnel in Golden Gate Park

    It's Saturday afternoon and you're strolling through Golden Gate Park, near John F. Kennedy Drive and the Conservatory of Flowers, when you hear something unusual: the swooshing of jazz brushes on a snare drum. Seductive tenor sax drifts with the wind, and, wait, where the hell is that coming from? If you haven't experienced this, then you haven't spent enough… More >>
  • Best Place to Feel the Riddim

    Dub Mission at the Elbo Room

    DJ Sep Ghadishah has put on the Sunday night Dub Mission party at the Elbo Room for more than 15 years. As local club nights go, that's kind of insane; most survive for only a fraction of that time. But through consistent bookings, DJ Sep has managed not only to keep Dub Mission alive, but to keep it popular, as… More >>
  • Best Place to Imbibe Local History While Taking in a Great Show

    Great American Music Hall

    Every concert at Great American Music Hall feels like a special event. The place exudes genuine historicity: Opened in 1907, 859 O'Farrell Street was originally built to serve as a symbol of San Francisco's rebirth from the cataclysmic 1906 earthquake. The French architect who designed the place certainly fulfilled that order: Great American's marble columns, intricate rococo balconies, and ornate… More >>
  • Best New Horror Director

    HP Mendoza

    Musicals and horror movies may not go hand in hand — or sequined glove in claw — but one led to the other for Bay Area filmmaker and composer H.P. Mendoza, who went from his career debut, Colma: The Musical, to a series of experimental, experiential, and ethereal films before landing with I Am a Ghost, one of three features… More >>
  • Best Unpretentious Literary Competition

    Soul-Making Keats Literary Competition

    Passion is the essence of the soul, the saying goes, and writing is the soul speaking. To write something worth sharing, and to then talk about it in a room at the public library, is the essence of the Soul-Making Keats Literary Competition. The brainchild of Bay Area poet Eileen Malone and the National League of American Pen Women, a… More >>
  • Meklit Hadero and CopperWire\'s Earthbound

    Best Hip-Hop Space Opera

    Meklit Hadero and CopperWire's Earthbound

    By Ian S. Port Let it never be said that Meklit Hadero isn't busy. Blessed with a smoky, muscular voice, and a talent for synthesizing styles like jazz, folk, and various African influences, the Ethiopia-born singer's primary occupation is music. She records and performs solo and with other artists both local and national. She's also a senior fellow at the TED… More >>

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