With theaters, clubs, and festivals across San Francisco — and around the world — on indefinite hiatus, the outlook for live music lovers may seem bleak. But as one lanky, bespectacled chaos theorist once said, “live finds a way.”
In short order, musicians pivoted from the stage to the live stream. Now bands and solo acts regularly perform from the intimacy of their homes or rehearsal studios, beaming their tunes straight to viewers’ computer screens, and bringing new meaning to the term “house show.”
Even jazz, a genre founded upon the principle of on-stage improvisation, lives on in cyberspace. San Francisco jazz clubs are still delivering live music — and boozy treats — at a social distance. And while Mayor London Breed recently announced that it’s too early to say when live music venues may reopen, it’s still possible to enjoy hard-bopping grooves and top-shelf libations, daddio. Here’s how:
The band plays on in the Haight. This already intimate venue is making their usual roster of weekly performances that much more personal by livestreaming the jams directly to your living room (or really, whichever room you like best at this point). A number of weekly virtual jazz, swing, and blues performances start every Friday afternoon at 4 p.m. and extend through the evenings on both Facebook Live and Instagram Live. Club Deluxe’s weekend schedule is equally-jam packed, with performances slated throughout the early afternoon and evenings every Saturday and Sunday. Catch up with regulars like banjoist Mitch Polzak, who performs an amalgamation of Americana and rockabilly from the “Polzak Ponderosa” every Friday from 6-9 p.m., or fix a drink for Lavay Smith’s Swingin’ Cocktail Hour on Sundays at 6 p.m. These performances are completely free — but forward tips and money you’d normally spend on a martini to the club’s fundraiser for staff. Find the concert calendar at clubdeluxe.co/calendar
Boom Boom Room
This legendary Fillmore club hasn’t let a lack of in-person patrons stop them from hosting Return of the Cypher, their longstanding weekly hip-hop party happening every Sunday from 8 p.m. onward. In addition to a slew of regular weekly shows that have all been shifted to Facebook Live, they’re also planning to host an SF Jazz Fest special that’s now gone virtual after the weeklong festival was cancelled earlier this spring. “Boogalooin’ at Jazzfest” will stream live on June 7, and is slated to feature New Orleans-based Dragon Smoke, a funk and R&B quartet. While the event is free for viewers at home, the Boom Boom Room suggests donating the cost of a normal ticket to their GoFundMe COVID-19 fund for staff.
Mr. Tipple’s Recording Studio
This Civic Center venue isn’t actually a recording studio. Before the pandemic, the club — furnished with swanky velvet sofas and plenty of romantic mood lighting — was a place where you could order a cocktail from an elegant bar and take in all the sounds and sights around you. No velvet sofa at home? No problem. Order a carafe of cocktails and some bar snacks to go Tuesdays through Sundays between 4:30-8:30 p.m., close your eyes, and use your imagination while tuning into their weekly livestreams. Mr. Tipple regulars, like the Dexter Williams Trio, Jordan Leitner Trio, and Charles Unger Trio perform on Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays at 7 p.m. on the venue’s Facebook page. Their paired down to-go menu, available for delivery via Caviar, includes a handpicked selection of local beers and wines, bites like burgers, fries, and a “fancy chop salad,” and $20 craft cocktails for two. Choose from reinvented classics, like the herb gin and tonic or miso-maple old fashioned, or more adventurous libations, like the press box: mezcal, cappelletti, orgeat, lime, and sambal. And don’t forget to leave a tip.
Despite having to cancel both their summer lineup of concerts as well as the entirety of the San Francisco Jazz Fest in June, SFJAZZ is still going strong with virtual programs and a handful of other jazz-related reading and viewing materials to get you through the summer and beyond. “Fridays at Five” is a new, curated concert experience that connects subscribers to a series of pre-recorded SFJAZZ performances designed to take viewers “inside the music.” For $5 a month, digital subscribers can tune in every Friday at 5 p.m. for a different concert experience — from the June 5 “Blues Legacies and Black Film,” featuring the Marcus Shelby Quintet with readings from Angela Davis to the gypsy-swing, cabaret-esque Paris Combo’s performance on June 16.
Bird & Beckett
Part bookstore, part record shop, part community event space, Bird & Beckett is a small but mighty Glen Park institution with no intention to postpone any of its weekly in-store jazz performances for the foreseeable future. Music is still being performed in-house, albeit without the usual crowd, and is livestreamed through Bird & Beckett’s website (which also happens to be a treasure trove of archived jazz recordings, book talks, and children’s book readings). Check in every Friday at 7 p.m. for intimate live performances from local musicians and vocalists. The bookstore’s jazz shows are only listed a week or so in advance, but can always be accessed on demand through the archive.