10 Aug 2012

Biscuits and Blues in San Francisco

No, this will not be an article moaning about bad food in San Francisco! Most of what I tried there was decent to good, even if I will probably be complaining in the near future about the price of wines here in California.  Biscuits and Blues happens to be the (unusual and interesting) name of a blues club that I strongly recommend in SF. Went there recently to hear a couple of sets by the very experienced and good guitarist/singer who goes by the name of Guitar Shorty, and of whom I had never heard the day before. I just happened to go past this club conveniently sited right by where I was staying, very close, on the western side, to Union Square. Now San Francisco is a city whose decors and neigbourhoods can change within the space of just one block, and maybe less. For instance Chinatown and the mainly Italian influenced North Beach border on one another and intermingle along that quite flexible border. And nowhere does this shifting of the economic and social sands show more than along that hard-to-define but instantly tangible frontier between the very chic (I call it the Vuitton ghetto zone) part just around and to the east and south of Union Square, and the rapidly crumbly and dodgy bit that runs up to it from the west, and from the somewhat ill-famed area known as Tenderloin.

Guitar Shorty played two quite varied and suitably loud sets of heavily electrified blues and blues/funk. Sitting in the front, the sound was more than audible. He was not entirely helped by a lot of unwanted feedback from the very poor audio system of the place, but, in a way, his gritty and occasionally Hendrix-like style was able to take that kind of thing in its stride, given the amount of feedback and wawa peddle he was using a lot of the time. His style is powerful and firm, with variable speed and plenty of earthy intensity and long solos. Classic 1970's in a way, which I suppose recalls something of Haight Ashbury, a little further west in the city, and about 40 funky years back in time.

Biscuits and Blues, which has the apparently racially mixed management that goes so well with San Francisco and its chequered history and cultural balance, has programmes that seem to change every night. A lot of very good players have been there, like the excellent Eric Bibb whom I had  heard the week before in Marciac. The food is ok and will feed you, the beer is fine, the wines are drinkable and the service is good. And the atmosphere, on a good night, is what it should be. Oh yes, and the sound lady is a stickler for keeping the musicians to their set tlmes, imposing extra half-hours all the time! Definitely recommended.