Friday, January 19, 2007

Sleepless in San Francisco

Last Saturday, Pearl and I attended another excellent benefit concert, the "7th Annual Sleepless Nights Gram Parsons Tribute Concert" at the Great American Music Hall.

As we entered, our hands were stamped as proof of payment and I was more than a little joyed to find that the stamp they used was Elvis' TCB logo. The concert was more than 30 minutes away and I was already smiling.

The (modestly named) Great American Music Hall
looks like an ornate Bowery Ballroom - a flowery Bowery, if you will - and claims the title of San Francisco's oldest standing nightclub. Since its construction in the days following the earthquake of 1906, the GAMH has spent time as a bordello, a WWII-era dancehall, a jazz club, a Moose Lodge, a condemned building, a French restaurant and its current life as a music venue.

This year's concert benefited the Pat Spurgeon Kidney Foundation, named for Pat Spurgeon, drummer of the San Francisco band Rogue
Wave who is on dialysis and awaiting a kidney transplant donor. The band's webpage ( opens with the following note: "In a logical world, medical insurance would cover his donor's and his expenses after the procedure, but it does not; so he and his family must carry the financial burden. The expenses can be huge. We are trying to raise money for costs like: donor's travel, care, bills, lost work wages, etc., as well as Pat's expenses, care, bills, etc. while he is in recovery."

As he took the stage, the host and concert founder, Eric Shea, opened by announcing that earlier in the week a donor had been found and Pat would soon receive his transplant. It made me think that maybe 2007 is curing the ills of 2006. Let's hope.

Shea originally sought to have his former band, Mover, included on the bill of Gram Fest, the Parsons tribute concert located in Joshua Tree, CA (near the site where Gram died in 1973 at age 26). In true San Francisco DIY ethic, when Shea couldn't get anyone at Gram Fest to return his phone calls, he decided "let's put the show on right here" and Sleepless Nights was born. The fist concert was held at Slim's in 1999. It soon moved to the GAMH, but continues to benefit those in need in the San Francisco community.

Shea opened his set with Hickory Wind and then moved into a audience-aided sing-a-long rendition of You Ain't Going Nowhere. The sets were short and the turnovers were quick so the evening flew by. Highlights included Miranda Lee Richards' cover of She (Pearl's favorite), The Real Sippin' Whiskeys cover of The Return of the Grievous Angel and Sweetbriar's rock out version of Jesus is Just Alright. Also performing were Dave Gleason’s Wasted Days, Red Meat, Paula Frazer and Patrick Main, Elisa Randazzo and Ben Ashley and a reunited-for-the-night Mover.

As with the acts, the audience reflected Gram's wide influence on the music of the last four decades. From folkies to country music lovers to indie rockers; from the kids raised on covers by Beck and Ryan Adams, to those who were introduced to his music by Elvis Costello, to those who were old enough to have seen him on stage with Emmylou Harris and who can remember when the Byrds, the Stones and the 70s "went country," the concert provided something to entertain every fan.

For information about the venue and for the GAMH events calendar:

For additional information about Gram, check out the following links:

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Chris & Pearl’s Second Half of 2006 Best of San Francisco

January 1st not only marked the beginning of the new year, it also marked our 6 monthiversary. To celebrate the occasion, we’ve decided to create our very own “Chris & Pearl’s Second Half of 2006 Best of San Francisco” list to recap our favorite places (so far) in San Francisco. Here goes:

Best Indoor Festival: Green Festival – We’ve noticed that since the festival, we’ve been wearing a lot more green. Coincidence? Probably. See blog dated November 17, 2006.

Best Outdoor Festival: Power to the Peaceful – See blog dated September 10, 2006.

Best Concert: Bridge School Benefit Concert – The highlight of the year. See blog dated October 29, 2006.

Best Chinese Restaurant: House of Nanking – Cheap, fast and delicious. What more could you ask for?

Best Japanese Restaurant: Any of the ones in Kinetsu Mall, Japantown.

Best Sushi Restaurant: Hama-ko – Fresh fish daily with great recommendations from the owner/chef.

Best Middle Eastern Restaurant: Fattoush – Their phyllo dishes are the best.

Best Dim Sum: Yank Sing ­– Best Dim Sum in the Western Hemisphere.

Best Fish-n-Chips: The Chelsea Kitchen at The Edinburgh Castle. They’ll fry anything.

Best Brunch: Town’s End – It’s on Townsend Street. Get it?

Best Tapas Restaurant: Cha Cha Cha – If only for their strong sangrias.

Best Vegetarian Restaurant: Golden Era – Sister restaurant to Golden Lotus in Oakland.

Best New California Restaurant: Coco500 – Best fancy French fries ever.

Best Sandwiches: Crepes on Cole – An avocado in every sandwich.

Best Tea: Ten Ren Tea Shop – We’re hooked on their $60/pound Jasmine tea.

Best Bar: Thirsty Bear – Don’t miss their home-brewed vanilla beer. Yum.

Best Dive Bar: Zeitgeist – The Best place to get home-made tamales from the tamale lady, play a few holes on the Golden Tee arcade, and hang out with bikers…by the way a “biker bar” in San Francisco refers to bicyclists. Honorable mention goes to Edinburgh Castle where you have to pay extra for a clean glass.

Best Drag Show: AsiaSF – We went for the singing. Honest. See blog dated October 15, 2006.

Best Grocery: Safeway – We added this only as an excuse to mention that our Safeway is 100% powered by wind energy!

Best Farmer’s Market: Ferry Building – Our favorite Saturday morning destination. See blog dated September 2, 2006.

Best Bookstore: Citylights Bookstore – Old. Dirty. Disorganized. Perfect.

Best Magazine: Common Ground – Free, green, conscious.

Best Record Store: Amoeba Records – Everybody’s favorite record store.

Best Lecture: Naumann night: A Lecture on Bruce Naumann – Winner by default as this was the only lecture we attended.

Best Reading: David Sedaris – His stories about San Francisco and Japan cracked us up. He’s exactly the same in person as he is on the radio…same size, too.

Best Rendition of “Whole Lotta Shaking Going On”: 3 earthquakes in 4 days in mid-December – quite a titillating experience, Pearl was giddy with delight for days. Don’t worry folks, they were little.

We haven’t been to a taqueria in the Mission yet (I know, what is wrong with us?) but it’s on our list for 2007. For those of you who have visited or lived in the city, let us know what we should include on that 2007 list. Cheers!