Hold 'Em 

Then fold 'em. Ace of Spades' last show.

According to musician and fledgling promoter Liam Carey, the monthly Ace of Spades event at Mama Buzz Cafe (2318 Telegraph Ave., Oakland, 510-465-4073) was originally conceived as a poker game featuring live music. But as the mostly acoustic showcase evolved into one of the Oakland indie rock and folk scene's most beloved cultural institutions, the cards got lost in the shuffle. At the first event in September 2004, Carey recalls that only the musicians (and one cafe employee) showed up. But within a couple of months, as word of mouth got out and buzz spread, the audience size grew exponentially. So did the quality and caliber of the musical acts. "The bands we started inviting had their own draws," Carey says. In addition to scenesters like Bart Davenport, Sean Hayes, and Faun Fables, locals Rogue Wave, a band on Seattle's legendary Sub Pop label, showed up to play at the small yet personality-laden cafe, signifying Ace of Spades' arrival on the national hipster Rolodex.

For Ace of Spades' farewell party this Sunday, marking the end of a year -- and possibly the end of an era -- Carey pulled out all the stops. The lineup includes Carey's band Mandrake as well as Hayes, Etienne de Rocher, Brian Glaze, Audio Out Send, Greg Ashley, John Lindenbaum, and some as-yet-unannounced special guests, one of whom may or may not be Dave Gleason. A limited-pressing CD collecting highlights of past performances will be available for $10 -- Carey proudly announces all proceeds from disc sales will benefit LittleKidsRock.org, a nonprofit involved in music education programs in schools.

Ace of Spades is indeed going out with a bang. The finale starts out with an acoustic, indoor set, then moves outside for a BBQ and some electrified performances -- but why, you might ask, is it ending just as it's getting good? "I wanted to cut it off so it doesn't lose the freshness that I really enjoy," Carey explains. Besides, he is working on another project -- the Nightshade Music Festival, happening in SF this winter (venues TBA). In the meantime, eat, drink, and be merry for the low, low price of $5, beginning at 1 p.m. and going well past dusk.

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