It's one of the curiouser by-products of this post-collapse economy that plenty of what's free is actually what's best -- and this is as true for music as it is for smartphone apps. It's so easy to feel burned by a phoned-in "big show" when it sets you back $50 plus fees -- and so easy to feel elated by a great show that cost you nothing. Emboldened by the successes of 21st-Century DIY models, a lot of our best musicians are simply giving it away. Here are the eight best S.F. venues to catch them doing it.
8. Club Deluxe
In the heart of a neighborhood desperately clinging to faint strands of its past, Club Deluxe in the Haight-Ashbury is the unequivocal real deal. Besides Milk Bar (which is waaaay over by Whole Foods), this the only locale in the historic neighborhood where you can witness live music every night -- and, excepting a few weekend nights, it's nearly always free. Deluxe hosts an eclectic selection of bossa nova, bebop, and gypsy jazz throughout the week, as well as a Monday night comedy showcase, and a Thursday night burlesque revue. Its also happens to serve some of the best and freshest pizzas in the city, the spicy Sinabaldo being a popular favorite. Club Deluxe is, first and foremost, a bar, so patrons are exclusively 21-plus. But the place is an essential spot for free live entertainment in one of the city's most famous tourist neighborhoods.
7. The Saloon
A former brothel and watering hole that's more than 150 years old, the Saloon is very likely San Francisco's oldest bar. But more importantly, it is without question the best place to see live blues in the city. The shotgun-style saloon is woody, small, and funky, with cheap drinks and a small stage in back from which bands elicit lots of semidrunken dancing among the bar's mixed clientele. Always free but for a $5 cover Friday and Saturday, the Saloon is the place to go for a hearty helping of free blues-rock and a side of frontier vibes to go with it.