Best Of San Francisco 2010: Arts, Entertainment and Nightlife


Achtung! Wagner-loving operaphiles, electronica junkies, garage-band groupies, fans of burlesque, modern dance maniacs and sunset skippers. If it’s past 6 p.m., we’ve got plans for you.


Best Music Festival

Hardly Strictly Bluegrass is free for all and Noise Pop is its elder innovator, but Outside Lands Music & Arts Festival is the one that brings a memorably rangy, music-loving sensibility out to the leafy, fog-swathed expanse of Golden Gate Park, where the buffalo, gopher and fedora-brimmed hipster roam. The three-night late summer cavalcade first got its rocks off in 2008 with Radiohead, Tom Petty and Wilco and sidestepped a last-minute Beastie Boy cancellation last year with Pearl Jam, Dave Matthews Band and Tenacious D. The addition of Yard Dogs Road Show and Vau de Vire Society has injected a steampunky-circus feel to this carnival for adults. Stay tuned for August 2010 dates.

Best Screening Room

Where else can you catch acclaimed art movies hampered by a lack of theatrical distribution, tough-to-find Danish sex and exploitation films, and docs on everything from Tropicalia to typography? Thanks to curator Joel Shepard and partners like the SF Cinematheque, Yerba Buena Center for the Arts has acquired a well-deserved rep for its consistently excellent, quirky, must-see films. All we need now is popcorn, but in the meantime we’ll settle for Trash Humpers (June 3–6), Harmony Korine’s new look at peeping toms, and Bluebeard (June 17–20), Catherine Breillat’s feminist spin on the grim tale. 701 Mission St., 415-978-2787,

Best Velvet Rope

Harlot is one picky lady: Outside, a mob
of dudes queues up for this SoMa club-lounge. Inside the ’20s-era brick warehouse space, beneath ebony antler chandeliers and images of scantily clad ladies inspired by the Gold Rush prostitutes (who, as legend has it, gave their names to the alleys of the neighborhood), you’ll be gratified to find strong drinks and plenty of leather banquettes from which to view the dancers undulating under the massive painting by Tiffany Bozic. Or rise above and hang with the club kids in the ivory-hued VIP lounge upstairs. 46 Minna St., 415-777-1077,

Best Underground Theater

“Sissies, stay home!” trumpets the Thrillpeddlers’ Web site, and certainly sensitive flowers should stay away from the ornate hot seats in the back of the Hypnodrome if they don’t want to risk a jolt. Still, no one is truly immune from the thrills and spills when the SF theater troupe trots out its fake-blood-doused Grand Guignol horror shows. Now garnering rave reviews: a wonderfully over-the-top re-creation of Pearls Over Shanghai, the 1970 musical by “psychedelic drag-queen ensemble” the Cockettes, starring Rumi Missabu and featuring musical direction by Richard “Scrumbly” Koldewyn, original members of the influential troupe. Lucky for us, it’s been held over through Aug. 1. Hypnodrome, 575 10th St., 415-377-4202,

Best Burlesque

Go-go dancing cuties like the Devil-Ettes—check. Homages to striptease artists of yore—check. Sarah Palin- look-alike Lady Satan stripping down to eagle-shaped pasties—check. Nothing is sacred, yet everything is very sexy and intentionally hilarious when it comes to the Bay Area’s reverently irreverent burlesque show, Hubba Hubba Revue. Count on producers-emcees Eric Christensen and Jim Sweeney to elicit yuks and good-natured groans from the crowd of blackened goths and rockers. Third Friday of the month at DNA Lounge, 375 11th St., 415-626-1409, Mondays at Uptown Night Club, 1928 Telegraph Ave., Oakland, 510-451-8100,

Best Pop Ironic

Not content to blend in among the other beat jocks, Wallpaper really pops. Armed with outstanding hooks and cheeky verbiage, the duo—consisting of frontman Eric Frederic and drummer Arjun Singh—has rocked both Noise Pop and South by Southwest so far this year, all in the name of its debut, Doodoo Face (Sidecho). Yet how many indie-ists can claim to be tweeted by Twitter HQ itself, which praised Wallpaper as primo workplace soundtrack material? The tweeting sequel to “Txt Me Yr Love” could be next—now that Frederic is actively putting his UC Berkeley degree in composition to good use.

Best Party Clubhouse

Who knew the Knockout SF’s shoebox-sized space would find new life once former owner and mayoral candidate Chicken John was done with it? Variety is the spice of life at the club, famed among Mission denizens for its pint-sized margaritas and “hot apple pie” shots. Keep an eye peeled for last-minute shows by garage-rock bands (Apache), dark-wave outfits (Cold Cave), crazed retro DJ dance parties (Debaser), proudly dorky Bingo nights each Thursday, and live indie rock (Eagle Winged Palace and Paula Frazer on June 28). 3223 Mission St., 415-550-6994,

Most Enduring Form of Humiliation

Featured on This American Life and living on in clubs throughout the nation, the Mission’s edition of Mortified is one of the most long-lasting testaments to the hilarity of teenage sentimentalism in the city. Here, performers read their own journal entries, love letters, bad poetry, lousy lyrics and sensual propositions regarding Bon Jovi. One book and thousands of grassroots performances later, adolescent angst continues to pack the place and touch an exquisitely specific, cringe-triggering nerve—and funny bone—each month. June 18–19, Make-Out Room, 3225 22nd St., 415-647-2888,

Best New Dance

It isn’t often that you can witness a local dance company at birth, but you’ll get your chance next month when Post:Ballet presents its first-ever performance at Cowell Theater, appropriately titled “Concert One.” Started last year by dancer/choreographer Robert Dekkers (formerly of ODC), the company is composed of eight dancers from troupes around the country who gather here to break from routine and experiment with other genres. Concert One features Dekkers’ choreography to music by Steve Reich, Grizzly Bear and Daniel Berkman, along with the world premiere of a collaboration between Dekkers and SF composer and progressive guitarist Jacob Wolkenhauer. July 16–17, Cowell Theater, Fort Mason, 415-345-7500,

Best Comedian

We need W. Kamau Bell to urge people to do educational, evolutionary things like “Make a Black Friend” and to call out the follies and frenzies of so-called post-racial America. The bravest and smartest SF comic and solo performer to tackle race, as well as a stealth educator and director, Bell will go down in history as the first comedian to tell an Obama joke (on the Comedy Channel, circa 2005), toasted by everyone from Time Out New York to Boots Riley of the Coup to Margaret Cho (who describes him as “the most important guy doing comedy right now. ... Think Bill Hicks but slightly taller”). June 13, Punch Line Comedy Club, 444 Battery St., 415-397-7573,,

Best High-Culture Bet

Ring nuts and even casual opera lovers, get ready to wing off the rainbow bridge and into the impassioned equivalent of
a Wagnerian greatest-hits performance with the arrival of San Francisco Opera’s Die Walküre (The Valkyrie), the second of four operas in Der Ring des Nibelungen and a robust appetite-whetter anticipating the entire Ring cycle, coming in summer 2011. If you glimpsed the first in the series, SF Opera’s muscular Das Rheingold, back in 2008, you’ll want to savor this sequel: an ode to the demoted warrior goddess Brünnhilde (Nina Stemme), brought low by her love for Siegfried. June 10, 13, 19, 22, 25 and 30. War Memorial Opera House, 301 Van Ness Ave., 415-864-3330,

Best Read

Where have all the good readings gone—the same, sad way as the independent bookstore? Fortunately, up on the historied half of Haight, on a stretch of turf where Janis and Jerry once traipsed, the Booksmith offers safe yet brain-teasing harbor for literati. Hunter S. Thompson, Allen Ginsberg and many other literary provocateurs, have all passed through its doors. The Grateful Dead may no longer bunk in the hood, but chances are good you’ll catch Phil Lesh or a local rock luminary like Neil Young reading or signing a new tome at this pop-smart bookshop. 1644 Haight St., 415-863-8688,


Best Garage Rockers

A chip off the ole girl-rock block, the Splinters perfectly embody the beauty of garage rock in 2010: They’re smart (the foursome met as freshmen at UC Berkeley) and hard-working (South by Southwest was part of the plan with barely a CD-R on hand), and they’re developing into a group fully up to comparisons to post-punk icons the Raincoats and girl-group legends the Shangri-Las. Guitarists Ashley Thomas and Caroline Partamian, tambourine banger Lauren Stern and drummer Courtney Gray’s debut full-length, Kick (Double Negative), should kick them into the league of rockin’ ladies like the Vivian Girls.

Best Gallery Reno

Adobe Books Backroom Gallery was once the most miniscule DIY art space in SF, though capable of launching such local luminaries as Alicia McCarthy, Shaun O’Dell and Andrew Schoultz (accompanied by hipster-jammed openings with free live music by performers such as Joanna Newsom and the Quails). Last year brought a much-needed expansion, into a room that had housed the otherwise-homeless and allegedly hosted such roommates as rats, cats and birds. Now the gallery, once a seeming afterthought, is an upstanding white box worthy of its featured makers’ most explosive thoughts. 3166 16th St., 415-864-3936,

Best Dancehall Night

Wave your hands in the air and bounce that booty like Spongebob: Reggae Gold SF provides the soundtrack at the most popular dancehall night in the Bay. Look to playas like Daddy Rolo, Common Sensi and Deejay D to pull out the most recently crafted riddims and generate the oh-so-danceable soca and hip-hop mash-ups, keeping that irie vibration going deep into the night. Fourth Saturdays at Club Six, 60 Sixth St., 415-863-1221, Second Saturdays at the Endup, 401 Sixth St., 415-646-0999,

Best Midweek Outing

Let the wind whisk away the hump-day doldrums and hang out with boat-loving like-mindeds at OCSC Sailing’s two-hour Wednesday Night Sail. You can take a chartered vessel or climb aboard a boat alongside an instructor, just in time to watch the fiery sun slide behind the Golden Gate Bridge. Afterward, the crew bids you to shed your Windbreaker and partake in chowder or chili at an après-sail mixer in the clubroom. Every Wednesday through September, OCSC Sailing, 1 Spinnaker Way, Berkeley, 800-223-2984,

Best Happy Hours

The prerequisite to a great weeknight has been perfected on tiny Yerba Buena Lane, which boasts two of the best happy-hour deals in the city. At Tropisueño, which also serves killer Mexican lunches and dinners, the bar teems with downtowners loading up on $5 margaritas (the well-balanced, mixological kind), $2 Tecates and fresh Mexican tapas for as little as $2. Up the lane at laidback, loungey Amber India, the house wines and ladylike cocktails—check out their stellar concoction of Pimm’s, lemonade, ginger beer and tonic—are just $6 alongside under-$10 nouveau-Indian snacks. Tropisueno, 4–6 p.m., 75 Yerba Buena Lane, 415-243-0255,; Amber India, 4–7 p.m., 25 Yerba Buena Lane, 415-777-0500,


Check out our other 2010 Best of the City Picks >


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