SF Playhouse has been the-little-theatre-company-that-could the past few years -- staging wonderful new plays with great casts on a shoestring budget. This year they've moved to a larger theater and will open the season with a challenging election drama, Bloody, Bloody, Andrew Jackson, about the early days of a racist, immigrant-hating president.
3. The legendary Ornette Coleman at Davies Symphony Hall Nov. 9th
Coleman just about invented free jazz with his album "The Shape of Jazz to Come." It remains a touchstone of avant-garde music that still swings.
4. Moby Dick by composer Jake Heggie and librettist Gene Scheer.
Heggie writes beautiful music that tells a story with deep feeling.
5. ( It's a tie.)
5a. Hardly Strictly Bluegrass
This will be the first festival without founder Warren Hellman
5b. David Byrne and St. Vincent at the SHN Orpheum Theatre Oct. 15
Need I elaborate?
Producer Suzie Racho's Top 5
1. Thee Oh Sees Sept. 8, Oct. 12
The latest album, Putrifiers II, from these SF garage rockers comes out September 11. You also have two opporutnities to see them live: They play September 8 at the Uptown in Oakland and again October 12 at The Great American Music Hall in a great bill with Sic Alps, Sonny Smith (of Sonny & the Sunsets) and The Mallard. Thee Oh Sees fulfill my holy trinity -- they're great live, they have a retro-ish sound and they rock.
2. The Bad Plus at Herbst Theatre Oct. 12
The avant-jazz trio returns to SF just weeks after their new album "Made Possible" is released. But they won't be performing any of the songs off of that record at this show, which is fine -- their precise and playful live shows have always been the attraction for me. This is the West Coast premiere of "On Sacred Ground," their interpretation of Stravinsky's "Rite of Spring." Drummer Dave King is a joy to watch (there's even a new doc about him called King For Two Days).
3. Morrissey at Davies Symphony Hall Nov. 16
Even though he hasn't had a new album since 2009's "Years of Refusal," Morrissey is touring the world. It might be because he said he'll retire at age 55 (he's 53 now). All I know is I spent many a high school day listening to The Smiths and this might be my last chance to catch him. If he doesn't cancel at the last minute (as he is prone to do), it should be an interesting evening.
4. Louis C.K. at Davies Symphony Hall Nov. 14-15
If you haven't seen Louis C.K.'s show "Louie," on F/X, you're missing out on one of the funniest, most surprising shows on television. As good as his show is, C.K.'s stand up work is even better. Don't miss this chance to see him on stage.
5. Chickfactor20 at The Rickshaw Stop Oct. 22
Chickfactor started in 1992 as a 'zine by Gail O' Hara and Pamela Berry. They championed indie pop at a time when grunge was everywhere. These days they exist at Chickfactor.com and host a slew of famous contributors, from Carrie Brownstein and Yo La Tengo's James McNew to Lemony Snicket himself, Daniel Handler. They are celebrating their 20th anniversary in high style hosting shows in different cities across the U.S. and U.K., including a stop in SF, which features Handler, Belle & Sebastian's Stevie Jackson, a reunion of The Softies and more. (Full disclosure: my husband is playing guitar in one of the bands at this show. I bought my tickets before he was asked to play. Really, I did.)