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Best Free Acoustic Showcase 

Ace of Spades Showcase at Mama Buzz Cafe

For the first "Ace of Spades" showcase in September 2004, no one came. Event organizer Liam Carey swears the performers had a great time anyway, playing and recording their songs and occasionally running outside for cigarettes. That casual spirit still remains in the acoustic event, which takes place on the third Sunday of every month, although much larger crowds have gotten hip to Carey's curating prowess. He's a musician himself -- both solo and with his blues/folk band Mandrake -- so he has gained a reputation for getting talented hams like Bart Davenport, Rogue Wave, and Jason Wembley to play in the East Bay, for free. That's right, Carey doesn't pay his charges -- or charge his audiences -- but he does burn CDs of all the shows and give a portion of the resulting sales to the artists. Either way, it's the listener who benefits, as Carey brings together an eclectic mix of sounds, from the French folk of Helene Renaut to the aw-shitkicking country of Paul Panamarenko to the pretty pop of Greg Moore. But be warned: Carey plans to pull up his tent after 12 sessions, so check out "Ace of Spades" soon.

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