Get SF Weekly Newsletters

Arts & Entertainment

  • Best New Music Fest

    Outside Lands

    Last summer, those who attended the first annual Outside Lands music festival in Golden Gate Park were treated to many "only in San Francisco" moments. There was the night Radiohead performed dreamy postrock symphonies, shrouded in fog. Or the time indie songwriter Bon Iver got the entire crowd to sing along under a canopy of trees. Or the afternoon when every hour produced not only a different artist lineup (Tom Petty, Lupe Fiasco, Devendra Banhart), but also a completely different... More >>

  • Best New Psych Band

    Sleepy Sun

    The ghosts of Haight Street's acid freaks continue to spike the drinking water of our hometown music community. You can't peruse KUSF's local top 10 list without hitting at least one band that caters to a psychedelic mentality. Most of these groups trip on high volume, heavy drone, and brute force, so when Sleepy Sun came around with a dynamic aesthetic that included some mellower, pop-focused rides, folks took notice. The young band, which moved to San Francisco from Santa... More >>

  • Best New Synth-Rockers

    Maus Haus

    Formed in February 2008 by members of such local bands as Social Studies, Battlehooch, and Pope of Yes, Maus Haus steals synth-rock away from the '80s-minded indie-rockers and makes it weird all over again. Think of '60s freaks like the Silver Apples and the United States of America, groups that made buzzing, fuzzing music that approximated otherworldly space travel awash with meteor showers. Maus Haus' debut disc, Lark Marvels, buzzes and howls under the influence of Krautrock acts like Can... More >>

  • Best Chance at Being the Next Vampire Weekend

    The Morning Benders

    New York City band Vampire Weekend seemed an unlikely buzz band, considering how its members play nice, innocuous pop tunes while sporting sweaters and preppy haircuts. And yet it quickly became huge, selling out large venues like Mezzanine and playing prime slots at festivals. The Morning Benders seem like the best local bet to follow in its footsteps. The quartet has the sweet-singing vocalist, the catchy Kinksian melodies, and the good marketing sense (such giving away an endearingly lo-fi disc... More >>

  • Best Beach Boys Worshippers

    AB & the Sea

    Back in the early '60s, everyone wanted to be a Beach Boy — driving a woody, riding the waves, playing that twangy, fuzzed-out surf-rock. Well, that dream still lives on, although the whole "sand in the shorts" thing has gone out of fashion. Nowadays, bands like Grizzly Bear, the Botticellis, and the Papercuts stick to aping the multipart harmonies, minor-chord melancholy, and tremolo riffing of the Wilson fellas. Fresh from the wild waters of the Midwest comes AB & the... More >>

  • Best Indie Music Genius

    John Dwyer of Thee Oh Sees

    In every city, there's usually one musician defining the epicenter of a scene. In San Francisco, that person is John Dwyer, who can be counted on to stir a wild, art-damaged ruckus no matter the band. He has held the title of S.F.'s sultan of spazz for nearly a decade, starting with his stint in a flesh-hued body suit as the guitar-wielding half of noise punks Pink & Brown. From there he has morphed into a faux German technocrat in... More >>

  • Best Punk Rock Conductor

    John Gluck

    As conductor of S.F.'s Punk Rock Orchestra, John Gluck eschews Bach, Beethoven, Rachmaninoff, Haydn, and Mozart to guide as many as 50 players through what they consider the real classics: irrepressible punk jams from bands like Suicidal Tendencies, the Clash, Dead Kennedys, Joy Division, and the Sex Pistols. The charismatic Gluck smashes the time-honored stereotype of the stoic conductor with his wild facial expressions and bold strokes, which he uses to direct the most vibrantly and defiantly dressed flutists, cellists,... More >>

  • Best Free Classical Concerts

    San Francisco Chamber Orchestra

    San Francisco Chamber Orchestra concerts induce uneasiness in the hearts of the jaded and the cynical. After all, they feature world-class players, renowned guest musicians, and top venues, at no cost whatsoever. There's gotta be a catch, right? Will we be pitched for a timeshare? Are we being abducted by Moonies? Will we be pressed into selling magazine subscriptions? Actually, there is no catch — and even the obligatory invitation to become a member and help fund these free concerts... More >>

  • Best New Online Animated Variety Show

    Forest City Rockers

    Artist Jay Howell is mostly known for his boners. Not the tents he pops in his own pants, but rather those he procures in his wildly silly (and popular) watercolor paintings of men gone wild. For his latest venture, animated variety show Forest City Rockers, Howell keeps their lower halves clothed but lays that same juvenile humor naked. The Web-only program features cartoons about a motorcycle gang with only one bike — "Everybody else runs." These comedic dudes pool their... More >>

  • Best Comedian

    Ali Wong

    Comedians are often ambitious egotists with poor boundaries who aren't hiding how intelligent they are. Ali Wong is all of that, plus she has the things that really matter: wit, timing, experience, and a unique hairdo. We're so proud of her! She delighted and embarrassed fellow comedian Bobby Lee when she interviewed him for Hyphen magazine a while back, saying she forgave her sister's dog for sniffing her crotch while she had her period: "I know he means well. He... More >>

  • Best Drummer

    Warren Huegel

    Internationally known and locally respected, Warren Huegel is in demand for his anchoring beat. As a member of S.F.–based band Tussle, which he left earlier this year, he effortlessly rode the line between introspective psychedelic rock and extroverted electronic dance music. He currently adds soulful stirrings to local outfits Citay and 3 Leafs; once a year, he joins psychedelic rockers University of Errors (led by Soft Machine and Gong co-founder Daevid Allen) on international tours. Huegel has also participated in... More >>

  • Liveliest Reading Series

    Elbo Room

    San Francisco is a city of readers, and therefore of reading serieses. With so many events to choose from, each happening needs to set itself apart. Porchlight offers real-life storytelling, Writers with Drinks skews toward the naughty and offbeat, Lit & Lunch presents translated classics alongside French pastries. For its part, Literary Death Match succeeds as being the goofiest, free-wheelingest, most competitive event. Each month, four talented authors read stories (or poems) that are judged (often humorously) for literary merit,... More >>

  • Best Video Magazine


    When Wholphin, a creation of the McSweeney's folks, celebrated its most recent quarterly DVD compilation at Artists' Television Access earlier this year, the audience was happily wedged into the theater. The selections were all standard Wholphin fare: witty, connected to someone interesting and famous, or merely compelling in their narrative or visual style. "Ponderable," as author and McSweeney's founder Dave Eggers calls them. This time, the screening included an extreme close-up of a praying mantis eating a fly — especially... More >>

  • Best Place to Meet a Future Oscar Nominee

    The Lab

    The Convention and Visitors Bureau (or maybe it was professional salesman Willie Brown) dubbed our burg Hollywood North, but the moniker didn't stick. See, S.F.'s claim to film fame isn't big-budget, star-powered movies (Vertigo and The Conversation notwithstanding) but a steady torrent of high-quality, high-profile documentaries. Among recent success stories, Arne Johnson and Shane Black broke onto the scene in 2008 with Girls Rock! while veterans Dawn Logsdon (Faubourg Tremé) and Johnny Symons (Ask Not) scored national PBS broadcasts this... More >>

  • Best Cheap Date

    Dolores Park

    Volunteer-run, donation-funded, and totally free, Dolores Park Movie Night, while fully permitted, has the raucous feel of a guerrilla screening. The series runs April through October on the second Thursday of the month. Organizers show an awesome array of shlock and high-brow, from Jaws 3D to Delicatessen. If your date isn't the kind of person who's enchanted by a Wayne's World sing-along, well, you probably shouldn't be dating him or her anyway. Settle the object of your affection on a... More >>

  • Best New Silent Filmmaker

    Nara Denning

    We're still excited about Nara Denning, even though it's been months since we first saw her dense and glossy films. A finalist in SF Weekly's Masterminds contest earlier this year, she reminds us of Canadian filmmaker Guy Maddin (best known for The Saddest Music in the World) for her use of the silent-film aesthetic, but Denning has her own intense, lovely vision, often mapped onto the Mission District. Black-and-white film, high-tilted angles, soft focus, and a genius ear for music... More >>

  • Best Local Documentary Filmmaker

    Sam Green

    The defining characteristic of the successful narrative filmmaker is ego; for a documentary maker, it's soul. Sam Green evinced a deep well of the stuff with his 1997 debut, The Rainbow Man/John 3:16, an unexpectedly compassionate portrait of wacked-out born-again television personality "Rock 'n' Rollen" Stewart. Green's next major work, Academy Award–nominated The Weather Underground (2004), examined a particular strand of '60s political idealism, youthful commitment, and adult regret with extraordinary sensitivity and poignancy. His new project, The Universal Language,... More >>

  • Best Dyke Porn Studio

    Pink and White

    Tucked among the quiet streets of Bernal Heights, nothing gives away the house that's home to Pink and White Productions, the indie porn studio that has put out multiple critically acclaimed, award-winning, girl-on-girl features like The Crash Pad and Superfreak. Specifically, it's home to director Shine Louise Houston, the creative force behind the proudly queer studio. Before becoming a porn mastermind, Houston worked at Good Vibrations. Every day she spent in retail she lamented the lack of decent female-made, female-oriented... More >>

  • Sexiest Street Fair

    Dore Alley

    The Folsom Street Fair will always be the nipple-clamped granddaddy of fetish festivals. But for every bona fide leather aficionado who struts over to Folsom each September, you get at least five East Bay gawkers who have no real desire to participate in, say, a friendly game of Jockstrap Twister. That's why locals created Up Your Alley (more popularly known as the Dore Alley Fair), a smaller, more San Francentric celebration of kink. Held on the last Sunday of July,... More >>

  • Best Queer Bingo Night

    War Memorial and Performing Arts Center

    Think bingo is just a social outlet for dauber-wielding geriatrics? Honey, please. On the third Wednesday of each month from 7 to 10 p.m., San Francisco's favorite queer nuns, the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, host a bingo night that requires a keen appreciation of the eccentric. With themes like "Leathers & Feathers Bingo," players compete for prizes for the best costumes as well as bingo to benefit local nonprofits. You win "free shit" in raffles, and are serenaded by the... More >>

  • Best Reason to Try to Look Like Burt Reynolds

    Mustaches for Kids

    Growing a mustache because it looks cool makes you a chump. Cultivating a nostril mat for the benefit of children makes you a champ. San Francisco has a long list of bleeding-heart causes, but none is as much fun as Mustaches for Kids. The nationwide fundraiser encourages an influx of third brows every fall, when the San Francisco branch hosts its local championships. The idea is simple. "Growers" wipe their five-o'clock shadows clean at a predetermined bar, attend requisite mustache... More >>

  • Best Flash Mob Event

    Justin Herman Plaza

    The year 2009 will live in infamy as the time when city officials at last began pushing back against one of S.F.'s most beloved genres of civic pastime — the flash mob event. These offbeat get-togethers, organized with the help of local bloggers and Web sites, include no-pants subway rides and gamboling crowds dressed in bridal attire. But the one that really gets the city's goat is the Valentine's Day Pillow Fight on Justin Herman Plaza. In fairness, you can't... More >>

  • Best New Art Gallery

    Baer Ridgway Exhibitions

    When Kent Baer and Eli Ridgway went looking for a spot for their art gallery, the economy was winding down. By last August, when they'd negotiated a lease on a former restaurant storage space in the alley next to SFMOMA, their opening was timed just about right to coincide with the bust. Despite the odds, however, Baer and Ridgway have proceeded to put up great shows from some fantastic artists, including Mads Lynnerup, Wolfgang Ganter, and Tyler Cufley. Their unorthodox... More >>

  • Best Unique Art Gallery

    Creativity Explored

    Art, schmart! Creativity Explored demolishes gallery boilerplates by virtue of making art a tactile language accessible to everyone. The nonprofit features professional artists with developmental disabilities, ranging in age from 20 to 80, who create more than your typical morbid abstractions but plenty of splashy, colorful pieces replicating random acts of happiness. The public can attend regular gallery openings, which extend from the exhibition space into a warehouse jam-packed with art, including ceramic masks and T-shirts with cheeky designs like... More >>

  • Best Artmaking Event

    Monster Drawing Rally

    The Monster Drawing Rally is an annual benefit for Southern Exposure, a nonprofit art gallery, and it consists of audiences watching artists make art, live. Four hour-long sessions find four groups of artists seated at tables arranged in a ring. You walk around them, voyeuristically witnessing a line turn into a tree turn into an underwater forest. When the hour is up, the results go on the wall, and you can attempt to buy them; everything starts at $60, but... More >>

  • Best Spook Exhibitor

    Trevor Paglen

    Many of the darkest secrets about the U.S. military's post-9/11 covert operations remain hidden from view. But photographer Trevor Paglen aims to unearth them, one art exhibition at a time. Two years ago at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, he produced passport images of CIA agents who shuttled suspected terrorists to detention facilities that, officially, didn't exist. He followed up with a book about patches worn on the uniforms of secret military personnel, I Could Tell You But... More >>

  • Best Local TV Station


    Bone-crunching roller derby matches. Mork & Mindy reruns. Eccentric house ads starring a rotating cast of dogs. If this sampling of programming seems too much to ask of television in the age of MSNBC and the Oxygen channel, think again. Last October, KOFY reclaimed the mantle of the Bay Area's hometown TV station after a decade spent as a WB affiliate, and we couldn't be happier with the results. Along with a smattering of guilty cable favorites, such as Cheaters... More >>

  • Best Broadcast Alternative to Cocaine

    Energy 92.7 (Pure Dance)

    It's about time we came out to the world about our hidden passion for perhaps the gayest thing in San Francisco — its gay dance radio station, 92.7. Basically, we listen to Energy 92.7 in our cars and our apartments and at the office and in the shower. We listen while eating edamame, throwing a Frisbee, flossing, running in place, and pretty much any other time you can think of. Although we like all the radio personalities on Energy 92.7... More >>

  • Best Rogue Radio Station

    Pirate Cat Cafe and Studio

    Pirate Cat Radio is an unlicensed low-wattage radio station that has managed to continue broadcasting for more than 10 years despite persistent threats by the Federal Communications Commission to pull the plug. According to a 2007 story in the San Jose Mercury News, Pirate Cat founder Daniel Roberts (aka Monkey) contends that FCC rules allow radio stations to operate without a license in times of national emergency or war. We're not lawyers, so we can't vouch for his argument, but... More >>

  • Best Radio DJ

    Stereo Steve, KUSF (90.3 FM)

    Fridays were made for loosening up the brain stem from its gnarled roots in the work week. Every Friday from noon until 3 p.m. (at which time he co-hosts the guest DJ hour), Stereo Steve takes over the independent airwaves and pilots a sonic vacation far away from formulaic rock song structures. The KUSF vet plays free jazz, garage-rock nuggets, and the stonier side of punk and metal. He time-travels through multiple eras, mixing '60s bands with their progeny in... More >>

  • Best Theater Company

    Sleepwalkers Theatre

    Some people like their theater as polished as possible. Others like it scrappy. Sleepwalkers is definitely for the latter crowd: The company specializes in no-frills productions of rough-and-tumble new plays. In its adopted space at the Phoenix Theatre, Sleepwalkers cultivates a slacker vibe — in some cases, the programs are handwritten — but don't let that distract you from the fact that these people know how to pick a script. They know how to act, too; one of the company's... More >>

  • Best Stage Director

    Amy Glazer

    Directing new or little-known plays can be an awfully thankless task. Even in San Francisco, a lot of season subscribers are perfectly content with yet another production of The Importance of Being Earnest. Amy Glazer makes a point of delivering thoughtful productions of well-written, little-known works by major contemporary playwrights. Last fall she brought Conor McPherson's devastating ghost story Shining City to SF Playhouse, and followed it this spring with Donald Margulies' nightmarish The Model Apartment at Traveling Jewish Theatre... More >>

  • Best Theatrical Act of Political Defiance

    Theatre Rhinoceros

    The debacle surrounding Proposition 8 — the state's Constitutional ban on same-sex marriage — particularly outraged the local performing arts community, many of whose members are gay. After the election, Theatre Rhino, America's longest-running queer theater company, declared itself "an extraterritorial state that recognizes, encourages, and condones same-sex marriage." According to the company's artistic director, John Fisher, Theatre Rhino decided to symbolically secede from the Golden State "to create a safe/legal space for Married Same-Sex couples in the State of... More >>

  • Best Onstage Male Nudity

    The Thick House

    From veteran performance artist Karen Finley writhing around naked in chocolate sauce in her iconoclastic solo shows to Nicole Kidman's brief nude scene in David Hare's 1998 drama The Blue Room, the "serious" theater has long been a repository for onstage female nudity. Despite the popularity of such organ-waggling comedies as Puppetry of the Penis, theaters (other than those that cater to gay audiences) seem less interested in producing plays featuring undressed men. Ask a woman to take off her... More >>

  • Best One-Man-Band Theater

    The Marsh's Mock Cafe

    Since the 1980s, San Francisco has been a hive for solo performance. Thanks to the ruggedly individualistic local landscape and opportunities provided by the likes of the Climate Theater, the Exit Theatre, and the sadly defunct Solo Mio Festival, the Bay Area has played an instrumental role in forging the careers of such renowned theatrical loners as Josh Kornbluth, Marga Gomez, and Eric Bogosian. At the center of these go-it-alone theater activities towers the Marsh. Since it was founded by... More >>

  • Best Dance Company

    Presidio Dance Theatre

    Dance habitués who like their movement with an international flavor needn't rely on the annual Ethnic Dance Festival alone to feed their fancy. Presidio Dance Theatre has effortlessly employed a global aesthetic for the more than 100 productions in its repertory. That means moves specific to a certain culture are never marginalized and separated from the rest of the show. Artistic director and principal choreographer Sherene Melania has whipped up a tantalizingly diverse ensemble of principal dancers trained in modern... More >>

  • Best Burlesque Revue

    DNA Lounge

    Pasties, booze, and pretty girls (and bois) thumbing their noses at propriety? Sounds like a party to us. For more than three years, the Hubba Hubba Revue has been upstaging more coquettish burlesque acts with a tasty goulash of live bands, classic striptease, vaudeville high-jinks, and Weimar era–esque cabaret acts in its ongoing monthly shows at the DNA Lounge. The founders, Creepshow Peepshow entertainer Kingfish and neo-burlesque headliner Eddie Dane, ply their audiences with a healthy dose of vulgar humor... More >>

  • Best Free Flamenco Show

    Thirsty Bear Brewing Company

    Dilemma: The weekend is coming to its inevitable close, you'd like to fit in one last bit of revelry before Monday, but your wallet is feeling the damage from the past two days. Solution: Pop a squat at the ThirstyBear for the flamenco shows each Sunday at 7:15 and 8:30 p.m. Dancer Kerensa DeMars and a constantly changing lineup of local dancers, guitarists, and vocalists from the Bay Area's flamenco community perform a traditional cuadro-style show of the intense and... More >>

  • Best Late-Night Movie Series

    Castro Theatre

    "Even the past isn't worth living in," snarled Graham Parker on his blistering 1980 record The Up Escalator. He was right, of course, which makes us respect the remarkable sacrifice of Jesse Hawthorne Ficks that much more. The genial but obsessive movie hound behind the regular Midnites for Maniacs triple bills at the Castro devotes himself to mining the culture-challenged decade Parker jump-started so furiously. Diligently unearthing forgotten chunks of celluloid detritus — campy comedies and cult faves, flicks both... More >>

  • Best Food-Friendly Theater

    Exit Theatre

    In a country where most performing arts venues won't sell you an alcoholic beverage, let alone let you bring it into the auditorium, the Exit Theatre's cafe space is a modest yet wonderful bastion of hospitality. Located in the heart of the Tenderloin in the same building as two of the Exit's main performance spaces, the cozy and cheerfully managed cafe serves theatergoers such unpretentious yet appetizing treats such as bountiful fruit and cheese plates as well as copious slices... More >>

  • Best S.F. Science Fiction Movies

    Invasion of the Body Snatchers|It Came from Beneath the Sea|Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home|THX 1138

    San Francisco has been a peerlessly photogenic setting for thrillers, Westerns, disaster flicks, romantic comedies, war movies, and even musicals, but our cinematic self has also played host to intergalactic aliens, atomic mutants, visitors from the future, and other FX-enabled fantasy figures. Some of the screen classics that have put the S.F. in sci-fi: Invasion of the Body Snatchers Phil Kaufman's endlessly inventive 1978 frightfest isn't just a terrific reinterpretation of a classic sci-fi movie; it's one of the few... More >>

  • Readers' Poll Winners

    Best Comedian/ Comedy Troupe Killing My Lobster Best Writer Dave Eggers Best Local Rock Band Flexx Bronco Best Rapper E-40 Best Radio Station KFOG Best Radio Morning Crew Fernando and Greg, 92.7 FM Best Music Festival Outside Lands Best Place to See Live Music The Fillmore Best Drag Show ‘Charlie Horse’ at the Cinch Best Film Festival S.F. International Film Festival Best Theater Company PianoFight Best Stage Actor Rita Moreno Best Artist Joey DeRuy Best Art Gallery Creativity Explored... More >>

Search Best Of Awards

Best Of Award Graphics 2009