Maybe you're restless and don't like to stay home. Maybe you spend your nights purging yourself of job-induced stress. Maybe you're a glutton for fun. Whatever propels you out into the city, don't stop just because the economy's in the tank. San Francisco is too glamorous and beautiful and decadent for that. Shake off the financial hangover of 2008 by joining the party people who take cheap fun quite seriously.
Boom King, the booker for Thee Parkside, is one of them. He says that it's important to keep music affordable and simple and local. "At a time when things are getting cut, I do it to keep music alive and art alive," the punk-rocker-turned-country-lover says.
Fun all week
Whether you are into punk rock, news trivia, or both, the point is to invest in local nights at small bars and clubs. Thee Parkside (1600 17th St., www.theeparkside.com) hosts one of the many cheap theme nights in the city, Free Twang Sunday, from 5 to 8 p.m. The outdoor patio comes alive with local and traveling country acts, and a plate of barbecue, slaw, and fries is only $5 — with equally sweet deals on vegetarian food. Even if you claim you like all kinds of music except country, its traditional sound can be balm to the city's harshness. It's certainly cheaper than seeing the Black Crowes or My Morning Jacket at the Fillmore, and probably more appropriate to the culture's laid-back style.
On Mondays, sing or scream punk-rock karaoke at Annie's Social Club (917 Folsom, www.anniessocialclub.com). Implement and kill brain cells simultaneously at the Edinburgh Castle's (950 Geary, www.castlenews.com) Tuesday trivia quiz night, or play bingo for free at The Knockout (3223 Mission, www.theknockoutsf.com) on Thursdays.
Wednesday is a good night for jazz at Amnesia (853 Valencia, www.amnesiathebar.com), when the Mission nightclub presents Gypsy jazz group Gaucho, followed by an open jazz jam led by Mitch Marcus. Legends such as Roy Hargrove and Wynton Marsalis have been known to sit in here after a pricey set at Yoshi's.
The Hemlock Tavern (1131 Polk, www.hemlocktavern.com) has consistently solid shows for music heads most nights of the week. Coming soon: psychedelic spacemen 3 Leafs, garage rockers the Pets, and indie rockers Rademacher and Mi Ami.
The same, only cheaper
Of all the nightclubs in the city, perhaps the best for breaking bands at low prices is Bottom of the Hill (1233 17th St., www.bottomofthehill.com). The dreampop group Beach House plays with the Papercuts in March for $10, which sounds more exciting — and way cheaper — than anything happening at the megavenues that month. Later this spring, you can see the likes of Maus Haus, Scissors for Lefty, Chad VanGaalen, and Trans Am for $10-$15. It's like going to a really affordable concert hall, only with a smaller capacity, a more personal vibe, and a patio for smoking.
If you like to dance, skip the overpriced bigger clubs. Instead, go to the Friday night "Blow Up" parties at Rickshaw Stop (155 Fell, www.rickshawstop.com). You can gorge on the brightest, trashiest fashion in this town while getting sweaty as hell to the beats of DJ Jefrodisiac and Richie Panic, who know better than to play too much MGMT.
Get your jam and funk fixes at The Boom Boom Room (1601 Fillmore, www.boomboomblues.com), across from the Fillmore. This place lacks the bureaucracy of some concert venues, where ushers come around with flashlights to demand that you get out of the aisles. And, maybe more to the point, you pay much less to get in. Find out about these types of shows with Pamela Gerstein's BISS (Because I Said So) List (livebisslist.blogspot.com), which also has ticket giveaways to places like the Boom Boom Room and The Independent (628 Divisadero, www.theindependentsf.com). Updates happen when she Feels Like It.
Another source for idiosyncratic happenings is FunCheapSF (sf.funcheap.com), John Hayes' weekly list that over five years has built a subscribership of 8,000. "If you just scratch the surface, there's a whole vibrant world that comes out," he says. This list specializes in the eclectic, such as Poetry & Pizza night at the downtown location of Escape from New York Pizza (poetryandpizza.homestead.com) — on the first Friday of every month, enjoy all-you-can-eat pizza, salad, soda, and poetry readings for $5. Search FunCheap by event type ("Comedy," "Lectures and Workshops") or category and tag ("Pay What You Can," "Interests"). The homepage lists an arsenal of other blogs, like Ted Leibowitz' BAGeL Radio, which spotlights local bands with impeccable discrimination; and the crass, infamous Web site of Broke-Ass Stuart.
Perhaps the most passionate money-savers to know are the city's activists, so consider getting involved as an alternative to getting wasted. San Francisco Bicycle Coalition events, Prop. 8 protests, community gardening at Alemany Farm, DIY craft workshops, and anything that involves putting stickers on strangers are all available if you can overcome the inertia of laziness. Leah Troeh's blog, The Week Intro (theweekintro.blogspot.com), is a good list for these types of events, as are the online calendar listings of this newspaper.
Did you know that San Francisco is considered one of the most literate cities in America, based on the number of bookstores per capita? Novelist and editor Kemble Scott consolidates the week's literary events through his San Francisco Bay Area Literary Arts Newsletter (www.kemblescott.com). He includes such gems as the Make-Out Room's Writers with Drinks series (3225 22nd St., www.writerswithdrinks.com) that offers sliding-scale admission of $3-$5, advance notice on hot-ticket events, and, of course, whatever author events are happening at The Booksmith (1644 Haight, www.booksmith.com) and other local bookstores.
There are lots of people fighting to keep us in full ownership of this city's nightlife without taking out another subprime mortgage. Ultimately, though, some of the work is yours. You'll have to discover the secrets of the city yourself — and that might be the cheapest fun of all.