Gotta love these venues
By Jim Harrington - Staff Writer InsideBayArea.com
With the possible exception of New York City, there might well be more great music venues in the greater Bay Area than in any other spot on the globe. But even NYC can't claim the sheer variety of different kinds of venues, ranging from intimate jazz clubs to mammoth outdoor amphitheaters, that locals get to enjoy on a regular basis.
Thankfully, some of the very best venues are located right here in San Mateo County. Here's a look at the top spots to see live music in the area:
Douglas Beach House
But the Douglas Beach House is an absolute hidden gem, a place that, once you find it, you'll never forget. Located on Miramar Beach in Half Moon Bay, the small, intimate venue delivers the best of jazz and classical music in a very warm and inviting environment. The experience is much like watching a private concert performed in an old friend's beachside home - which is basically what you're doing.
The concerts are presented by the Bach Dancing and Dynamite Society, a non-profit organization for the musical arts that was incorporated in 1964. The main man in charge is Pete Douglas - hence the venue's name - and he really knows his jazz. In recent years, he's hosted such jazz greats as Brad Mehldau, Hiromi, the Esbjorn Svensson Trio, Poncho Sanchez and Russell Malone.
So pack a picnic, head for the sea and get ready for a truly memorable musical experience at the Douglas Beach House
- The Douglas Beach House. 311 Mirada Road, Miramar Beach, Half Moon Bay. Call (650) 726-4143 or visit http://www.bachddsoc.org.
The Fox Theatre
That all changed a few years back when the lady got a major makeover. Now - to borrow from Jimi Hendrix - she's a ``Foxy Lady.''
Since reopening in June 2002, the refurbished theater has hosted the likes of Neil Young, Tom Jones, Tony Bennett, Lyle Lovett, Shawn Colvin, Robert Cray, the String Cheese Incident, Mary Black and B.B. King. The theater, with its grand and distinctive architecture, is a great place to watch a show. Many of the gigs are booked by Montalvo Arts Center, the fine Saratoga-based presenter that always seems to snag superb talent.
- The Fox Theatre. 2215 Broadway, Redwood City. Call (650) FOX-4119 or visit http://www.foxdream.com.
The Little Fox
The venue, which is booked by the great Tom Miller, offers a plethora of different styles. On any given month, music lovers can pick from such styles as roots-rock, country, swing, authentic blues, local jazz, folk and jam-band rock. The venue also offers a plethora of cover bands - which prefer the term ``tribute bands.''
Some of the acts that have performed at the Little Fox include Elana James, James Cotton, Mimi Fox and Chris Cain. This is the place to go to hear both local talent and national touring acts.
The best part about the Little Fox is its intimacy. The two-level venue only holds 240 people so fans can get really close to the action. Plus, it's got a great sound system and superb acoustics.
- The Little Fox. 2209 Broadway, Redwood City. Call (650) FOX-4119 or visit http://www.foxdream.com.
San Mateo County Fairgrounds
That'll be your chance to get one last dose of summer as the San Mateo County Fair returns to the county fairgrounds. We all know the rap on fair acts. They are all a bunch of mediocre live acts, consisting of has-been rockers and never-will-be pop-hopefuls. Right? Wrong.
The San Mateo County Fair usually hosts a comparatively hip collection of talent. In recent years, music lovers have had the chance to enjoy the likes of modern-rockers Smash Mouth, Sugar Ray and the Donnas, the all-girl rock band that hails from nearby Palo Alto.
- The fairgrounds. 2495 S. Delaware St., San Mateo. Call (650) 574-324 or visit http://www.sanmateocountyfair.com.
The Pollstar Concert Industry Awards once named the Peninsula venue ``the Best Large Outdoor Amphitheatre in the United States.'' The Wall Street Journal called it ``the Cadillac of Amphitheatres.'' This critic refers to it as the official home of the summer music season.
Opened in 1986, basically as a way for Bill Graham to host as many Grateful Dead concerts as possible, the dual tent-shaped venue (which some have likened to Madonna's rocket-shaped brassiere) has been a major hit right from the very start. It's drawn capacity crowds for such legendary performers as Phish, R.E.M., the Dave Matthews Band, Radiohead, Jimmy Buffett and Tim McGraw. And that's just scratching the surface. Just about everybody of note has played the Shoreline over the last 20 years.
- Shoreline. One Amphitheatre Parkway. Call (650) 967-3000 or visit http://www.bgp.com.
Montalvo Arts Center
The Mountain Winery
Situated on a mountaintop, with grand views of Santa Clara Valley, the Winery offers a decidedly mainstream schedule. Think Hootie and the Blowfish, Chicago, Huey Lewis and the News and Boz Scaggs. One can't help but feel a sense of history while at the winery, which was originally purchased by legendary winemaker Paul Masson back in 1901.
The Mountain Winery. 14831 Pierce Road, Saratoga. Call (408) 741-2822 or visit http://www.mountainwinery.com. Listen up ! There's music in them thar hills
Yoshi's at Jack London Square
``It's the best club that I've played,'' the jazz man has said. ``They run a club the way a jazz club should be run. They have a respect for the artists that you don't always find in many of the other jazz clubs. They try to present the artists in the best possible light - and I have to respect that.''
Not even such famed NYC hotspots as the Village Vanguard and the Blue Note can claim better schedules than the one Yoshi's Artistic Director Peter Williams regularly assembles for local jazz fans. We're talking about the very finest jazz musicians in the business, including Brad Mehldau, McCoy Tyner, Pharoah Sanders and, of course, Oscar Peterson.
Plus, Yoshi's doubles as a sushi restaurant and drinking establishment, serving some truly kicking spicy tuna rolls and fine apple martinis. The Big Apple should be so lucky.
Yoshi's at Jack London Square. 510 Embarcadero West, Oakland. Call (510) 238-9200 or visit http://www.yoshis.com.
The tickets can be pricey, especially for the dinner-and-show packages, but it's money well-spent. It's hard to imagine a better way to enjoy live music than under the stars, near the vines and nestled up against a loved one in Wente's picturesque courtyard.
The musical offerings are solid and have previously included such talents as Clint Black, Boz Scaggs and Shawn Colvin. And, of course, the Wente wines are sensational, and the cuisine is outstanding.
Film buffs can still enjoy a nostalgic trip back to the Golden Age of Hollywood with a visit to the Paramount. The likes of Jimmy Stewart and Clark Gable still rule the screen during the venue's regular movie nights.
But this is a story about music, right? And the Paramount has plenty to offer in that regard. The building hosts numerous acts that are too big to play the Fillmore in San Francisco and can't quite fill the cavernous Shoreline Amphitheatre in Mountain View. Some of better acts that have performed there include Harry Connick Jr., Sigur Ros and Bryan Ferry.
The Paramount. 2025 Broadway, Oakland. Call (510) 465-6400 or visit http://www.paramounttheatre.com.
Alameda County Fairgrounds
That's your chance to kick start your summer as the Alameda County Fair returns to the county fairgrounds. We all know the rap on fair acts. They are all a bunch of mediocre live acts, consisting of has-been rockers and never-will-be pop-hopefuls. Right? Wrong.
The Alameda County Fair usually hosts a solid array of talent. In recent years, music lovers have had the chance to enjoy the likes of War, Charlie Musselwhite and the Ohio Players, whose song ``Love Rollercoaster'' remains one of the catchiest tunes ever written.
So get your ears set for some live music, and your taste buds ready for a corndog, and make plans to experience the Alameda County Fair.
The Freight and Salvage Coffeehouse
If you're hankering for bluegrass, folk, country (not of the Kenny Chesney variety) or any number of different shades of world music, the Freight and Salvage Coffeehouse should be the first place you check. This venue hosts stellar touring musicians and talented locals almost nightly. Past headliners have included Ralph Stanley, the Hot Club of Cowtown and Mary Gauthier.
The Freight. 1111 Addison St., Berkeley. Call (510) 548-1761 or visit http://www.freightandsalvage.org.
Still, the place is gorgeous (at least as far as arenas go) and is further evidence that the city is serious about entertainment. It will be interesting to see how well the venue's bookings stack up against more established spots like Oakland Arena and Arco Arena. So far, so good - Stockton Arena has already hosted Neil Diamond and Bob Dylan. The Stockton Arena. 248 W. Fremont St. Call (209) 373-1400 or visit http://www.stocktonarena.com.