Best Labor-of-Love Venue: A sonically adventurous financial sacrifice
1510 8th St., Oakland
Run by local avant-garde pianist Scott Looney whose improvisations go so far off the beaten track that it's hard for others to play with him West Oakland's 1510 8th Street performance space has featured everything from Ornette Coleman tributes to bizarre, improvised quartet music. It's one of the few places to showcase left-field "noise" heads like bassist Damon Smith or the members of electronic band Vholtz, who enjoy stretching the boundaries between punk rock and free jazz. International names like German flutist Frank Gratkowski schedule dates here, even if they don't plan to gig at Yoshi's. And its bimonthly "Free Jazz Fridays" series launched by Jazz House founder Rob Woodworth features everything from the hardcore, atonal sounds of Woman's Worth to blues by Howard Wiley and D'Armous Boone. Though they come from different traditions, these performers all share a voracious curiosity about music, and generally seem more concerned with engaging the audience than showing off their musical chops. Most shows cost only $5-$10 at the door, all of which goes to the musicians. It's a shoestring operation indeed, but one that will hopefully persist for years to come.