Thousands of readers voted in our Best of the Bay 2023 Readers Poll, honoring dozens of wonderful local businesses and cultural forces. Now it’s our editors’ and writers’ turn to highlight specific people and places we’ve been loving about the Bay Area. Join us to celebrate Best of the Bay and more at our 10th Annual 48 Hills Gala at Bissap Baobab on 10/26, and help keep this 49-year-old tradition alive.
For the past couple of years, in Jack Kerouac Alley—the space between City Lights bookstore and Vesuvio Cafe bar, essential tourist destinations dedicated to the Beats—a showcase for some of the Bay Area’s most enterprising up-and-coming bands has sprung up, cranked amps and all. That’s right, it’s the next wave of SF odd-pop DIY jangle-gaze that we, at 48 Hills, along with sites like Brooklyn Vegan and Bandcamp Daily, have been talking up so much because it’s local and so good. (There are often some great young punk bands for good measure.)
You can experience it for free in North Beach in Kerouac Alley. There’s no cover charge, wristbands, or dark rooms. Just live music between a historic bar and bookstore that people travel from around the world to visit. Because what’s better than a live show that’s actually alive?
The Vesuvio Cafe, a North Beach legend, is housed in a building designed by architect Italo Zanolini and completed in 1916. It remains one of the city’s best spots to cop a cocktail. The bar was founded in 1948 by Henri Lenoir and was frequented by Beat Generation celebrities such as Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, and Neal Cassady. The alley shared with City Lights was originally called Adler but was renamed Jack Kerouac Alley in 1988.
On Wednesdays at 7pm, Vesuvio Cafe hosts Wacky Wednesdays, which is perfect for pre or post-meal entertainment before or after exploring Little Italy or Chinatown. If you want to discover what’s trending in our robust and definitely not-dead music scene, but don’t have the chutzpah to use that app that recently changed its name to a single letter, Wacky Wednesdays is the place for you.
“It’s such a fun event to play or attend, the perfect antidote to San Francisco doom loop scaremongering, smack dab in the middle of historic North Beach,” said Allan McNaughton, guitarist and lead vocalist of Neutrals, an Oakland-SF-by-way-of-Glasgow power trio. Neutrals is one of several bands (Seablite, Chime School, Umbrellas) that have flourished over the past couple of years. Coincidentally, Neutrals played the sacred space in August.
“Joanna at Vesuvio does such a brilliant job of curating great bills that bring disparate groups together,” McNaughton says. “Locals mix and mingle, and tourists stumble across an authentic SF experience and a story to bring home. Here’s to many more.”
Follow Vesuvio Cafe on Instagram for the lineup.