Band promoter/manager Angie Vela moved to San Francisco four years ago with stars in her eyes. S.F. was the Paris of America, she says, the place where music was happening and crowds were ready to listen. But what did the seasoned behind-the-scenes pro find when she hit our foggy shores? Bands that were expected to shell out to promote their own shows and venues that held musicians to strict "pay for play" deals, forcing them to buy and resell a certain number of tickets for each and every gig."
It's a drag," admits Vela, who moved here from Nashville, a relative hotbed of interband and -venue cooperation compared to San Francisco. "There you had venues actually paying bands to play, and well-known artists putting little independent artists on their bills, just to help out. Here it's every band for themselves." With hopes of changing the equation a bit, Vela has launched a musician's nonprofit, AMP3, which provides a forum for local music professionals to get together, schmooze, and exchange ideas and resources. She's also the woman behind Cowapunka, the psychobilly festival series first held here in August, with a second go-round planned for next February (and every four to six months afterward).
In the meantime, Vela has another trick up her sleeve with "Punkarama," an evening of raucous, rowdy punk from three home-grown outfits. Hello Donkey plays songs about ice skating, Double Wyde hovers in the cowpunk arena with sweetly aggro countrified bluegrass tunes tinged with metal, and the Crosstops meld a hard-drinking trucker aesthetic with a mean punked-out twang. The show starts at 9 p.m. at Broadway Studios, 435 Broadway (at Columbus), S.F. Admission is $6; call 291-0333 or visit www.broadwaystudios.com.
-- Joyce Slaton
Women and Sax
Things are not always what they seem to be; ditto people. A good example is Billy Tipton, a young woman who left home in the 1930s to play saxophone in a jazz band and live out the rest of her life as a sharp-dressed man. She fooled everyone, legend has it -- even some of her wives. In her honor, noted alto and tenor sax player Jessica Lurie leads the women of the Tiptons through eclectic funk, hip hop, klezmer, and punk-infused jazz. Featuring all sax all the time (plus drums), the band has gotten a lot of ink in its hometown of Seattle for its high-energy stage show. Experience the joy of sax at 9:30 p.m. at the Boom Boom Room, 1601 Fillmore (at Geary), S.F. Admission is $7; call 673-8000 or go to www.boomboomblues.com.
-- Hiya Swanhuyser
Fred Anderson's act would have been a wow on the vaudeville circuit. But these days, the hysterically funny prop comic has trouble fitting in at clubs more likely to feature sardonic verbal riffs than a performer whose routine consists mostly of juggling, magic, escape arts, and card tricks. Happily, the broad-minded Comedy on the Square variety showcase has given Anderson's Celebration of Silliness a local home, and audiences have been laughing ever since. Catch the 60-minute family-friendly show starting at 3 p.m. (and again at 7; also playing Sundays throughout November) at the Shelton Theater, 533 Sutter (at Powell), S.F. Admission is $15; call 522-8900 or visit www.comedyonthesquare.com.
-- Joyce Slaton
Once upon a time, a shy young lady was commanded to fill in for a chorus girl at Havana's Tropicana cabaret. So lovely was the girl's voice that she soon transformed into a popular singer. But turbulent times came to the land, and things weren't always easy. Then one day, a wizard from a far-off realm arrived and made her extremely famous. The wizard was Ry Cooder, making the Buena Vista Social Club recordings, on which Omara Portuondo is the only woman. She's performing happily ever after (as part of the S.F. Jazz Festival) at 8 p.m. at the Masonic Auditorium, 1111 California (at Taylor), S.F. Admission is $25-57; call 788-7353 or visit www.sfjazz.org.
-- Hiya Swanhuyser