Most Improved Festival
Left Coast Live
For two years, Left Coast Live couldn’t find its groove, the bills made little conceptual sense, and some of the people who went looking for the shows spread out over dozens of city blocks still haven’t returned. But in 2011, LCL relocated to the alleys behind First Street, set everything up on a few stages and managed to capture exactly the kind of open-air, eclectic vibe organizers had been looking for all along. Having Campbell’s own success story the Limousines as headliners added to the feeling that it was grounded in the South Bay, and Good Karma’s showcase for underground bands killed.
Best Open-Mic Night
Rooster T. Feathers New Talent Showcase, Wednesdays
157 W. El Camino Real, Sunnyvale. Starting out in comedy is no easy feat. It can mean five, six nights a week of performing at whatever comedian cattle call will have you. That’s why Wednesday night at Rooster T. Feathers has been a dream come true for new comics. It’s really the only place in the area where newbs can stand on a real stage in a real comedy club and give it a shot. Yes, there are some painful flameouts, but there are some real discoveries, too, and a lot of laughs. Smartly, they tend to get some funny local comedy vets to headline.
JJ’s Blues, Pro Jam, Mondays and Tuesdays 3439 Stevens Creek Blvd., San Jose
Johnny V’s, Cypher, Wednesdays 31 E. Santa Clara St., San Jose
Best Concert Venue
14831 Pierce Road, Saratoga. When Paul Masson built the Mountain Winery in 1901, he famously quipped, “I have only one request: ‘Freebird.’ ‘Freeebird!'” Back then, no one knew what he was talking about, but his wish has come true time and time again as the party chateau he built in the Saratoga hills has drawn rock stars every summer for decades. Has there ever been one who didn’t comment on how gorgeous it is?
Shoreline Amphitheatre 1 Amphitheatre Pkwy., Mountain View
HP Pavilion 525 W. Santa Clara St., San Jose