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Cheap Date: Sarah Bethe Nelson, an 'Unsilent Night,' and More

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Sarah Bethe Nelson plays the Hemlock this Friday, Dec. 18.

Feel that in the air? The brisk chill of possibility? The promise of getting cozy by a warm fire, an endless supply of spiked eggnog and sparkling sugar cookies, and — perhaps best of all — the one week a year when seemingly half of San Francisco splits town for the holidays?

We’re heading into a few of my favorite weeks of the year, and no, it’s not because of my love for the holiday spirit (shocker!). It’s because the city starts to feel like a playground this time of year, as the parking becomes abundant and the brunch lines disappear. It’s a sweet, cinnamon-spiced taste of what it must feel like to live in place that isn’t perpetually cramped to the point of people spending $1,500 a month to live in a closet. It’s awesome.

That said, it can also feel a little light — and repetitive — on the arts and culture calendar. There are only so many Nutcracker Suites a person can truly enjoy in a lifetime. With this in mind, I did some digging for you, and I’m happy to report that there are still in fact plenty of interesting, quirky events around the Bay this week — many of them for $20 and under. Here’s this week’s Cheap Date. 


Friday, Dec. 18: Sarah Bethe Nelson at the Hemlock Tavern, SF. This songwriter’s debut album, Fast Moving Clouds, landed on just about every local blogger’s year-end best-of list (and some national ones), for good reason: Nelson has that special something, a spark of spite at the center of her otherwise dreamy pop-crooning. There’s a naked authenticity that comes with the spirit of scuzzy garage-rock that replaces anything saccharine (Kelley Stoltz on production certainly helps). Local indie-pop gems Yea-Ming and the Rumours open. $8; details here.


Friday, Dec. 18: T Sisters w/ John Elliott at the Chapel, SF. This trio of sisters from Oakland brings a rotating cast of guests to round out their homespun blend of bluegrass, folk, gospel, and country, with the kind of effortless vocal harmonies that scream “yeah, we come from the same gene pool.” Opener John Elliott is a sometimes-gutwrenching, usually-hilarious songwriter’s songwriter, so be sure to show up early. $28 – $20; details here.

Saturday, Dec. 19: ‘Unsilent Night’ Holiday Walk, downtown SF. At this family-friendly, public event, participants will walk through the streets of the city playing one of four tracks of music, all of which together will make up “Unsilent Night,” an original composition by Phil Kline — one that was specifically written to be heard outdoors in the month of December. I’m not sure exactly what a “unique mobile sound sculpture” sounds like, but this sure won’t be boring. Free; details here. 

Saturday, Dec. 19: Nostalgia Fest at the Phoenix Theater, Petaluma. The North Bay’s homegrown punk scene has never quite gotten the props it deserves. Nostalgia Fest, an annual celebration of that tight-knit music community, might not change that, but it’s your one chance to see long-broken-up bands or those that rarely play out anymore. This year’s lineup includes sets from the Heat Creeps, Tower of Swine, Sons of Atom, Ralph Spight (The Freak Accident, Victims Family), and more. Best of all, it’s a benefit for the theater and its former booker Miriam Wilding Hodgman’s cancer fund. $10 and up; details here. 

The Telgraph Ave. Holiday Street Fair in all its tie-dye glory.
The Telegraph Ave. Holiday Street Fair in all its tie-dye glory.

Saturday, Dec. 19 – Monday, Dec. 21: Telegraph Street Fair, Berkeley. If you’re among those who leave their holiday shopping until the absolute last possible minute (show of hands, no judgment), the old standby Telegraph Street Fair has you covered. Bowls made of old LPs? Check. Handcrafted soaps, candles, jewelry and other accessories? You bet. This fair may or may not have saved my butt on more than one occasion. Free, as always; details here. 

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