Sonoma County is blessed with an abundance of intimate places to see solo artists and small acoustic groups.
Musicians put their hearts and souls on the line in cafes and pubs where patrons maybe come just for a pint of beer or a frothy cappuccino, adding richness and texture to a night out.
Below is an overview of some of the best acoustic music venues in North Bay.
Cafe Catz, Sebastopol: With period curtains, antique chandeliers, plush sofas and a piano, this cafe is called “the Sevastopol living room”. It is an apt description. The coffee drinks are well prepared – they’ll even make a decaffeinated chai if you like – and performers like pianist Jerry Green are heating up the space. The second Monday of each month is an open mic night, when anyone who can muster the courage can sing. 6761, avenue SÃ©bastopol, coffeecatz.net
Cafe Redwood, Cotati: This wooded place is intimate; on cool nights, the fireplaces warm everyone. Located downtown, the cafe offers a full roster of up close and personal entertainment, from Celtic music to Open Belly parties where visitors can dance and win prizes. The director of the KRSH program, Andre De Channes, reserves artists for the first and third Thursday of each month. 8240 Old Redwood Highway, redwoodcafe.com
A’Roma Roasters, Santa Rosa: Located on Railroad Square, this cafÃ© roasts its own beans and the aroma upon entering is divine. Musicians take the stage on Friday and Saturday evenings. Among the artists performing this month are the Santa Rosa All-Star Trio (May 26) and singer / songwriter Hank Levine (May 28). 95 Fifth St., aromaroasters.com
Murphy Pub, Sonoma: Entering this classic âlocalâ is like magically crossing the Atlantic and landing in an Irish village. There are quiz nights, literary events and most nights great live music. Sonoma County guitarist Marty O’Reilly, who learned to perform in front of a live audience at Murphy’s, said it “has the atmosphere a good pub is supposed to have, comfortable and welcoming.” 464 First St. East, sonomapub.com
The Big Easy, Petaluma: This underground club in Petaluma – it’s literally below street level – looks like a place you would sneak in during Prohibition. Does live music six nights a week IS a nice addition to the full dinner menu (where you can get food until 1 a.m. most nights) and a great selection of beers and wines. 139 Petaluma Boulevard North, bigeasypetaluma.com
Bergamot Alley, Healdsburg: True to its name, this bar occupies a long, narrow space, with exposed brickwork on one of the long walls. A small stage features everything from local bluegrass to ‘outrageous’ jazz and plenty of solo artists. Some say the acoustics aren’t ideal, but when you sip a good Cabernet and listen to some upbeat music, you’re fine. 328 Healdsburg Avenue, bergamotalley.com
Ray’s Delicatessen and Tavern, Petaluma: This funky truck stop, 800 meters west of the city center, is a great place to enjoy the end of a day’s work. The space is divided, with a convenience store on one side and the bar on the other. The sandwiches are extremely satisfying. Musicians who play in the delicatessen range from groups like the Dixie Giants to female singers. Wednesday is open mic night. 900 West Avenue, rayon-deli.com
Arlene Francis Center, Santa Rosa: This former one-building barn has played host to some of the county’s most inspiring music in recent years. Local musician Josh Windmiller began directing the North Bay Hootenanny here in 2010, featuring solo artists and root groups such as the Comatose Brothers now playing in larger venues. 99 Sixth St., arlenefranciscenter.org
Cloverdale Ale Company: Formerly Ruth McGowan’s Brewpub, this watering hole was sold last year to the local Cloverdale Ale Company. On Saturday evenings there is a varied beer selection and music from artists such as singer-songwriter John Roy Zat. 131 E. First St., cloverdaleale.com
Hopmoine, Sonoma: The HopMonk, with three outposts in the North Bay (Sebastopol and Novato are the others), combines outdoor gardens and live music. Still, it’s the HopMonk in Sonoma, just two blocks south of the plaza, that has the most intimate scene. The building dates from 1888; today, its Tavern Stage welcomes solo artists and acoustic ensembles. There is also music in the beer garden and open microphones on Wednesday evenings. 691 Broadway, hopmonk.com/sonoma
The blue heron, Duncans Mills: This restaurant and tavern offers live acoustic music six evenings a week and Sunday afternoons on the garden terrace. Built in the late 1800s, it offers a full menu and bar and is the perfect place to spend a sunny afternoon listening to local artists in a naturally beautiful setting. 25300, boul. Steelhead, blueheronrestaurant.com
Michael Shapiro writes about entertainment for The Press Democrat. Contact him via his website: michaelhapiro.net.