The Hard Times Handbook - Page 5

Free food, music, and movies. Cheap drinks, dates, and dining. Plus much, much more in our guide to surviving these tough times in style
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Here are a few reliables — occasional BART station busks and impromptu Ocean Beach shows aside.

Some of the best deals — read: free — on world-class performers happen seasonally: in addition to freebie fests like Hardly Strictly Bluegrass every October and the street fairs that accompanying in fair weather, there's each summer's Stern Grove Festival. Beat back the Sunset fog with a picnic of bread, cheese, and cheap vino, though you gotta move fast to claim primo viewing turf to eyeball acts like Bettye Lavette, Seun Kuti and Egypt 80, and Allen Toussaint. Look for the 2009 schedule to be posted at www.sterngrove.org May 1.

Another great spot to catch particularly local luminaries is the Yerba Buena Gardens Festival, which runs from May to October. Rupa and the April Fishes, Brass Menazeri, Marcus Shelby Trio, Bayonics, and Omar Sosa's Afreecanos Quintet all took their turn in the sun during the Thursday lunchtime concerts. Find out who's slated for '09 in early spring at www.ybgf.org.

All year around, shopkeeps support sounds further off the beaten path — music fans already know about the free, albeit usually shorter, shows, DJ sets, and acoustic performances at aural emporiums like Amoeba Music (www.amoeba.com) and Aquarius Records (www.aquariusrecords.org). Many a mind has been blown by a free blast of new sonics from MIA or Boris amid the stacks at Amoeba, the big daddy in this field, while Aquarius in-stores define coziness: witness last year's intimate acoustic hootenanny by Deerhoof's Satomi and Tenniscoats' Saya as Oneone. Less regular but still an excellent time if you happen upon one: Adobe Books Backroom Gallery art openings (adobebooksbackroomgallery.blogspot.com), where you can get a nice, low-key dose of the Mission District's art and music scenes converging. Recent exhibition unveilings have been topped off by performances by the Oh Sees, Boner Ha-chachacha, and the Quails.

Still further afield, check into the free-for-all, quality curatorial efforts at the Rite Spot (www.ritespotcafe.net), where most shows at this dimly lit, atmospheric slice of old-school cabaret bohemia are as free as the breeze and as fun as the collection of napkin art in back: Axton Kincaid, Brandy Shearer, Kitten on the Keys, Toshio Hirano, and Yard Sale have popped up in the past. Also worth a looky-loo are Thee Parkside's (www.theeparkside.com) free Twang Sunday and Happy Hour Shows: a rad time to check out bands you've never heard of but nonetheless pique your curiosity: Hukaholix, hell's yeah! And don't forget: every cover effort sounds better with a pint — all the better to check into the cover bands at Johnny Foley's (www.johnnyfoleys.com), groove artists at Beckett's Irish Pub in Berkeley (www.beckettsirishpub.com), and piano man Rod Dibble and his rousing sing-alongs at the Alley in Oakland (510-444-8505). All free of charge. Charge! (Kimberly Chun}

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THE CHEAPEST WAY TO GET AROUND TOWN

Our complex world often defies simple solutions. But there is one easy way to save money, get healthy, become more self-sufficient, free up public resources, and reduce your contribution to air pollution and global warming: get around town on a bicycle.

It's no coincidence that the number of cyclists on San Francisco streets has increased dramatically over the last few years, a period of volatile gasoline prices, heightened awareness of climate change, poor Muni performance, and economic stagnation.

On Bike to Work Day last year, traffic counts during the morning commute tallied more bicycles than cars on Market Street for the first time.