If You Build It: The brand-new Hand-Car Regatta mixes science with art in salute to transportation and tomfoolery Sept. 28 in Santa Rosa's Railroad Square.
Our highly selective guide to everything good to do this fall, Labor Day to T-Day
Compiled by Brodie Jenkins and Cassandra Landry
Sausalito Art Festival Aug. 29–Sept. 1. Sausalito has long been hailed as an artist's paradise, with its seaside breezes and laid-back environment, so hosting the No. 1 arts fest in all of America is a no-brainer. The winning combo of music and art opens with Robinson's Carusos (Aug. 30) and closes with the Cheeseballs (Sept. 1), but be sure to catch the Neville Brothers on Aug. 31 if nothing else. The artsy-ness swarms Marinship Park, on Marinship Way, and the Bay Model Visitors Center, 2100 Bridgeway, Sausalito. Aug. 29, opening gala, 6pm. Saturday, Aug. 30–31, 9am–6pm; Sept. 1, 9am–5pm. $5–$20; under six, free. 415.331.3757. www.sausalitoartfestival.org.
Napa River Festival Aug. 31. "Take Me to the River," the 16th annual River Festival, with the breathtaking Napa Valley Symphony doing what they do best, is slated just a skosh ahead, but we sneaked it in anyway: Sunday, Aug. 31. This year's bash features the brand-new Veterans Park and amphitheater. Napa Valley Expo, 575 Third St., Napa. Free. 707.254.8520. www.friendsofthenapariver.org.
Labor Day BBQ Festival Sept. 1. Featuring treats from around the world, the Oxbow Public Market ain't the average collection of farm stands—it's more like a foodie mecca. The OPM teams up with the Napa Valley Opera House for a pre–Willie Nelson (he's sold-out, sorry) barbecue, complete with live bluegrass music by Rita Hosking and Cousin Jack. Enjoy the day off, support Napa's home to the arts and pig out on some of the finest food the North Bay has to offer. Oxbow Public Market, 610 First St., Napa. 4:30–6pm. $60. 707.226.7372.
Russian River Chamber Music Series Sept. 5. This important free series devotes itself entirely to the Golden State this season, featuring quartets from California, with each program highlighting at least one composer from our slice of Left Coast. Los Angeles–based Rossetti String Quartet give it the old Cali try with a program heavy with Mozart, Piazzolla, Beethoven and California's own Bernard Hermann. Healdbsurg Community Church, 1100 University Ave., Healdsburg. 7:30pm. Preconcert talk, 7pm. Reception follows. Free. 707.431.7622.
Cajun & Zydeco Fest Sept. 6. Formerly held indoors at the Sebastopol Community Center, the local rotary chapter has moved the fest out to Ives Park for some late-summer sun. All rumps are guaranteed to be shakin' as Roddie Romero and the Hub City All-Stars, the Wild Catahoulas and many more storm the stage to take the edge off that gator sausage. Ives Park, 400 Willow St., Sebastopol. 10:30am–7pm. $20; under 12, free. 707.824.2550. www.rotarycajun.com.
Art for Life Sept. 6. Now in its 21st year, this annual auction to support Face to Face/Sonoma County AIDS Network has a new location and several new artists donating work. A terrific opportunity to buy art while supporting an important cause—and the food is always stellar. Sept. 6, 2–6pm; bidding begins at 2pm. Mary Agatha Furth Center, 8400 Old Redwoody Hwy., Windsor. $75. Preview, Sept. 5, noon–3pm. Free. www.f2f.org.
Russian River Jazz Festival Sept. 6–7. Now in it's 32nd year, the Russian River Jazz Festival is back with a vengeance. Wayman Tisdale and Bobby Caldwell take the stage (Sept. 6) along with George Duke (Sept. 7) for all North Bay music lovers. Johnson's Beach, Guerneville. $45–$170; 10 and under, free. 707.869.1595. www.russianriverfestivals.com.
Best of the SF International Comedy Competition Worldly wits square off for a shot at $30,000 and a fairly high-profile catapult toward fame. Previous contestants include Dana Carvey, Robin Williams and Carlos Alazraqui of Reno 911. Several dates throughout the North Bay. Sept. 12 and Oct. 5 at the Napa Valley Opera House, 1030 Main St., Napa. 8pm. 707.226.7372. Sept. 13 at SSU, Evert B. Person Theatre, 1801 E. Cotati Ave., Rohnert Park. 707.664.2382. Sept. 14 and 21 at the Marin Center, 10 Avenue of the Flags, San Rafael. 415.472.3500. Sept. 28 at the Wells Fargo Center, 50 Mark West Springs Road, Santa Rosa. 707.546.3600. Oct. 2 at the 142 Throckmorton, 142 Throckmorton Ave., Mill Valley. 415.383.9600. www.sanfranciscocomedycompetition.com.
Old Grove Festival Sept 12–13. The Sun Kings, a jumpin' Beatles tribute band, make the redwoods sway on Sept. 12, and the Sonoma County Repertory Theater performs The Taming of the Shrew on the Sept. 13. Bring flashlights, seat cushions and warm clothes to the Redwood Forest Theatre, Armstrong Redwoods State Preserve, 14107 Armstrong Woods Road, Guerneville. $25–$50. 707.869.9403.
Tuck & Patti Sept. 13. This jazzy, classical and charming duo opens the 2008 season for the Redwood Arts Council. Analy High School, 6950, Analy Ave., Sebastopol. 800.838.3006. www.redwoodarts.org.
Great American Blues & BBQ Fest Sept. 13. This free downtown event celebrates two uniquely American products, and you know that's blues and barbecue. The inimitable Austin de Lone brings his cheerfully named 14th Rib Review band featuring Nick Gravenites to helm the day while food and sauce and wet wipes and bibs inform the rest. Sept. 13, 11am–6pm, downtown San Rafael. Free. 415.383.3470.
The Big Read Sept. 15–Oct. 5. Books: harmless collections of pages with ink all over 'em, right? Wrong. Try captivating, incendiary and powerful. To prove it, libraries all over the country banding together as a part of the Big Read. This year's featured book is Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird. It all kicks off at the Northwest Santa Rosa Library, 150 Coddingtown Center, Santa Rosa. 10am. Free. 707.546.2265.
Lewis Black Sept. 18. More "pissed off optimist" than "mean-spirited curmudgeon," it seems Lewis Black just couldn't get enough of the Wells Fargo Center, which is more than OK with us. Black is back on Thursday, Sept. 18, with Let Them Eat Cake. Wells Fargo Center, 50 Mark West Springs Road, Santa Rosa. 8pm. $54.50–$67.50. 707.546.3600.
Taylor Eigsti & Julian Lage Duo Sept. 18. The only word that comes to mind is "prodigious." Who would've thought that little 12-year-old Julian Lage performing at the Sonoma farmers market all those years ago would make it big? Um, everyone. After opening for Diana Krall at the 2008 Sonoma Jazz Festival, the duo stole hearts—watch out ladies, they're quite the stunners—and they now return to the North Bay on Sept. 18 as part of the Napa Valley Opera House's jazz subscription series. 1030 Main St., Napa. 8pm. Call for tix, 707.226.7372. www.nvoh.org.
Grammy Winners of Hawaiian Slack Key Sept. 19. No time for a vacation on the soft beaches and palm-tree-laden shores of Hawaii? Never fear, for George Kahumoku Jr., Keoki Kahumoku and Dennis Kamakahi are here! Take in an evening of lilting guitar and hula performances as these talented musicians take on the mainland. Napa Valley Opera House, 1030 Main St., Napa. 8pm. $25–$30. 707.226.7372. Also, Sept. 21 at the Dance Palace, Fifth and B streets, Pt. Reyes Station. 7:30pm. $20. 415.663.1075.
Sebastopol Celtic Music Festival Sept. 19–21. The greatest Celtic musicians this side of the Emerald Isle do more than just fiddle around. The talent-packed lineup already includes Cara Dillon from Ireland, Genticorum from Quebec and Tannahill Weavers from Scotland. Sebastopol Community Center, 390 Morris St. $10–$500; 10 and under, free. 707.823.1511. http://cumuluspresents.com/celtic.
Petaluma Arts Center Grand Opening Sept. 20. Gallery displays, live music, free food and drink and hands-on arts projects will make the opening of Petaluma's new art center a rollicking good time for the whole family. The next day, the first annual Petaluma Poetry Walk kicks off at 10am, with the Arts Center open for visiting and exploring until 4pm. Located on the corner of Lakeville and D streets (next to the Petaluma visitor's center). 11am–4pm. Free. 707.766.5200. www.petalumaartscouncil.org.
Napa Valley Aloha Festival Sept. 20. Aside from the beautiful beaches and fruity drinks, what do we really know about Hawaii? The Manaleo Hawaiian Cultural Foundation hosts the first annual festival to celebrate and teach about Hawaiian native culture. Live music and dance, authentic foods, arts and crafts and a variety of vendors provide a bounty of delights for the senses. As this is a family event, alcoholic beverages are prohibited. Napa Valley Exposition, 575 Third St, Napa. 10am–6pm. Free. 707.966.4017.
Sonoma County Book Festival Sept. 20. The ninth annual book fest features readings and workshops by both local and national authors, a sure bet for any bookworm. Events located in downtown Santa Rosa at the Sonoma County Central Library, the Cultural Arts Council Gallery and Courthouse Square. 10am–5pm. Free. 707.527.5412. www.socobookfest.org.
Los Pinguos Sept. 20. Argentinean band draws from many Latin traditions, creating propulsive music popular enough to get the guys the No. 1 spot in The Next Big Thing. Sept. 20 at 8pm. 142 Throckmorton Theater, 142 Throckmorton Ave., Mill Valley. $25–$35. 415.383.9600.
The 52nd Annual Mill Valley Fall Arts Festival Sept. 20–21. Some 150 artists converge at this storied fair in the tall redwoods of Old Mill Park. Perched at the base of Mt. Tamalpais, there isn't a better spot in the North Bay to support the handiwork of creative minds. Throckmorton Avenue at Cascade Drive, Mill Valley. $5–$8; under 12, free. 415.381.8090. www.mvfaf.org.
Glendi International Food Fair Sept. 20–21. Basically, this is the place to find chefs wide-eyed like kids in a candy store. Accompanied by live Balkan music, the internationally influenced food rises to new heights. Ever been to Eritrea, Kenya or Romania? Be transported with just one bite at the Protection of the Holy Virgin Orthodox Church, 90 Mountain View Ave., Santa Rosa. $8; under 12, free. Those in the know plan to take food home. 707.584.9491. www.glendi.net.
The Black Crowes Sept. 21. Believe it or not, lead singer Chris Robinson did more than marry Kate Hudson. Special guests Howlin' Rain also make an appearance. Wells Fargo Center, 50 Mark West Springs Road, Santa Rosa. 8pm. $25–$55. 707.546.3600.
Jarvis Puppet Workshop & Festival Sept. 21–22. Got the world on a string? Learn the über-classified backstage secrets of puppetry, make your own Sifl or Ollie, and see the pros work their magic. Not appropriate for children under five. Jarvis Conservatory, 1711 Main St., Napa. $10–$20. 707.255.5445. www.jarvisconservatory.com.
American Ballet Theatre II Sept. 23. They're young, they're beautiful and they're amazingly talented. But we like them anyway. The apprentice company for the critically acclaimed ABT perform pieces by some of the most notable young choreographers in the world, white tights and tutus in tow. Wells Fargo Center, 50 Mark West Springs Road, Santa Rosa. 8pm. $15–$25. 707.546.3600.
Janis Ian Sept. 27. Musical icon Janis Ian has finally penned an autobiography—full of all the juicy tidbits about her controversial and long-lived career as a talented songstress—and she'll be at the Napa Valley Opera House to sign her books away. Napa Valley Opera House, 1030 Main St., Napa. 8pm. $25–$30. 707.226.7372. www.nvoh.org.
KAL Sept. 27. The music of Roma is fast, funky, furious and quintessentially hip right now. Witness Gogol Bordello frontman Eugene Hütz's recent table-walking legacy at the Roma Fest this summer in Sonoma County. This stuff is hot, and KAL promise to take it a few degrees higher. Sept. 27 at 8pm. Spreckels Performing Arts Center, 5409 Snyder Lane, Rohnert Park. $22–$25. 707.588.3400.
Taste of Petaluma Sept. 27. Wine and food enthusiasts unite for a day of upscale culinary trick-or-treating at the third annual Taste of Petaluma event. Over 70 of Petaluma's finest restaurants, wineries, breweries and food purveyors gather to tempt guests with their talents. All profits go to benefit the Cinnabar Theater. Begin treating the taste buds at any of these three Petaluma locations: Putnam Plaza on Petaluma Blvd.; Gallery One, 209 Western Ave.; Haus Fortuna, 111 Second St. in the theater district. 10:30am. $40. 707.763.8920.
Hand-Car Regatta Sept. 28. Builders, tinkerers and artists converge on Santa Rosa's Railroad Square for this celebration of kinetic ingenuity and flat-out hipster fun. 11am–6pm; handcar races, 1pm. Free. Railroad Square, Santa Rosa. 707.526.5315.
The 11th Annual Petaluma Progressive Festival Sept. 28. Petaluma's lovable rabble-rousers are known for many things—public protests, vigils, working with campaigns and helping out in local schools—but best of all, they throw a damn good festival. Soak up the good vibrations on Sept. 28, at Walnut Park, Sixth Street and Petaluma Boulevard South, Petaluma. Free. 707.763.8134. www.progressivefestival.org.
The 21st Annual Napa Valley Open Studios Sept. 20–21 and 27–28. Sponsored by the Napa Valley Arts Council, the tours allow art lovers to peruse among various locations in and around gorgeous Napa Valley. The opening reception is slated for Sept. 5 at Mumm Napa, 8445 Silverado Trail, Rutherford. 6:30–8:30pm. 707.257.2117. www.artscouncilnapavalley.org.
Fourth Annual Far West Fest Sept. 20. Question: Where in all of mighty Marin County is there a fabulous, sustainable, inclusive and all-around warm and fuzzy festival for the family to drop in on for the day? Pt. Reyes' Far West Fest, no contest. Community radio extraordinaire KWMR hosts this year's festival out on Love Field, 11191 Sir Francis Drake Blvd., Point Reyes Station. Gates open at 11am; music runs from 11:30am–7pm. $20 advance. www.kwmr.org.
Kingston Trio & Brothers Four Sept. 23. Originators of the folk music movement reprise hits from 40 years ago, still fresh in sentiment today. Lincoln Theater, 100 California Drive, Yountville. $45. 7pm. 707.944.1300.
Iris Dement Oct. 2. With her uniquely angelic voice, Iris Dement comes back to the North Bay to share her soulful introspective songs. Napa Valley Opera House, 1030 Main St., Napa. 8pm. $30–$35. 707.226.7372.
Slammin' All-Body Band Oct. 2. Watch this sextet from Oakland perform an awe-inspiring blend of a cappella singing, beatboxing and body music. Wells Fargo Center, 50 Mark West Springs Road, Santa Rosa. 8pm; preshow discussion at 7pm. $15. 707.546.3600.
Annual Mill Valley Film Festival Oct. 2–12. Now in its 31st year, this prestigious festival showcases over 150 independent films and bigger features destined for the multiplex. Settle in for popcorn and fun at various venues in Marin. 415.383.5256. www.mvff.com.
Bonnie Raitt Bonnie may live nearby, but she rarely plays close to home, this year making a rare (and nicely priced) appearance with special guest Jude Johnstone. Wells Fargo Center, 50 Mark West Springs Road, Santa Rosa. 8pm. $19.50–$85.50. 707.546.3600.
Sonoma County Harvest Fair Oct. 3–5. Hit up the World Championship Grape Stomp competition, slurp some wine, hitch a hay ride or just get down to some swingin' jazz music. Sonoma County Fairgrounds, 1375 Bennett Valley Road, Santa Rosa. $7. 707.545.4203. www.harvestfair.org.
The 22nd Annual B.R. Cohn Charity Events Fall Music Festival Oct. 4–6. Vintner Bruce Cohn not only gives us the Doobie Brothers, Kris Kristofferson and the Turtles. Todd Rundgren and Michael Finney will be there too! Over the years, Cohn and crew have raised over $5 million for various charities. Feel good while bobbing in time to the tunes and putting a perfect triple-eagle at the B.R. Cohn Winery Amphitheater, 15000 Sonoma Hwy., Glen Ellen. Charity auction dinner on Friday, Oct. 3, 6pm; Saturday, Oct. 4, shows at noon; tee-off for the golf classic on Monday, Oct. 6, 11am. $95–$325. 707.938.4064, ext. 127. www.brcohn.com.
Calabash! Oct. 5. A celebration of gourds, art and the garden, Calabash takes place at Food for Thought in Forestville. A silent auction, exhibitions and demonstrations go on from 1pm to 5pm. Enjoy music played on handmade gourd instruments while supporting a great cause. 6550 Railroad Ave., Forestville. $35–$40. 707.887.1647.
David Byrne Oct. 8. The big-suited man does a night devoted to his collaborations with Brian Eno as well as Talking Heads. Wells Fargo Center, 50 Mark West Springs Road, Santa Rosa. 8pm. $15–$65. 707.546.3600.
Soweto Gospel Choir Oct. 11. The 26-strong choir, formed to celebrate the unique beauty and power of gospel music, draws on the best talent from the many churches in and around Soweto. Enjoy the cultural richness and vibrancy at the Marin Center's Veterans Memorial Auditorium, 10 Avenue of the Flags, San Rafael. 8pm. $20–$50. www.marincenter.org.
Three of a Kind Comedy Oct. 11. Chris Voth, Dave Burleigh and Andrew Norelli swing their laff-circuit through town offering a joyful skewer of it all. Oct. 11 at 8pm. Spreckels Performing Arts Center, 5409 Snyder Lane, Rohnert Park. $22–$26. 707.584.3400.
ARTrails Oct. 11–12 and 18–19. The Arts Council presents a self-guided opportunity to buy directly from artists and peek into their workspaces. Two weekends throughout Sonoma County. 10am–5pm. Free. 707.579.2787. www.artrails.org.
El Día de los Muertos Oct. 14–Nov. 3. Day of the Dead celebration in the North Bay kicks off in Petaluma with fine and folk art, altars and performances throughout the town. Sonoma Valley Museum of Art hosts its annual exhibit, Oct. 31–Nov. 4. Santa Rosa celebrates with community altars at the Sonoma County Museum and downtown events, Nov. 1–2. 707.778.9922. www.petalumaartscouncil.org.
Bioneers Conference Oct. 17–19. Hear about groundbreaking ideas and discuss building a blueprint for sustainable systems at the 18th annual Bioneers Conference, a meeting of environmentally focused minds. Featured speakers include Sandra Steingraber, Lucas Benitez and a myriad of others. Marin Center, 10 Avenue of the Flags, San Rafael. $140–$410. 877.246.6337. www.bioneers.org.
Dengue Fever Oct. 18. Groove to this new indie band's totally original, jazzy blend of psychedelic Cambodian and American oldie pop sounds. Napa Valley Opera House, 1030 Main St., Napa. 8pm. $25–$30. 707.226.7372.
Pinot on the River Oct. 23–26. Fully immerse yourself in a weekend of Pinot Noir, including in-depth tastings and seminars, vineyard tours and sumptuous food. Various venues in the Russian River Valley. Sunday boasts a grand artisanal tasting. $69; all-access ticket, $750. 707.922.1096.
Sue Monk Kidd Oct. 24. Listen to the author of bestseller The Secret Life of Bees discuss her journey as a writer and spiritual seeker, followed by a Q&A. Marin Center's Veterans Memorial Auditorium, 10 Avenue of the Flags, San Rafael. 8pm. $20–$40. 415.499.6800. www.marincenter.org.
Mystery Ball Oct. 25. Headlands Center for the Arts throws a killer Halloween party complete with three floors of food, music and dancing. Entertainment includes the French group Les Croque Notes, rock band Kugelplex and DJ Nightbeat. The hippest way to ring in the Wiccan New Year. 944 Fort Barry, Sausalito. 6pm. $90–$100. www.headlands.org.
Savage Jazz Dance Company Oct. 25–26. During its two-day stand, Savage will debut a new suite of works by emerging choreographer Mala Siani, a veteran of this important modern dance troupe. Oct. 25–26; Saturday at 8pm, Sunday at 2:30pm. Spreckels Performing Arts Center, 5409 Snyder Lane, Rohnert Park. $18–$24. 707.584.3400.
Champions of the Dance Oct. 26. Stars from the Dancing with the Stars program join International Ballroom and Latin Dance champions in a program of grace, beauty and women going backward in high heels. Oct. 26 at 5pm. Lincoln Theater, 100 California Drive, Yountville. $49–$59. 707.944.1300.
Vince Gill Oct. 29. The silky-voiced country singer is back in town with his soulful tunes and masterful guitar picking. Wells Fargo Center, 50 Mark West Springs Road, Santa Rosa. 8pm. $15–$85. 707.546.3600.
Bill Maher Nov. 1. Just three days before the election that will decide just how much the rest of the world can continue to hate us, Maher brings his refreshing focus to clear the air. Wells Fargo Center, 50 Mark West Springs Road, Santa Rosa. 8pm. $19.50–$65.50. 707.546.3600.
Festival of Harps Nov. 8. Now in its 19th year, the festival this time features multicultural lineup from China to Ireland to Paraguay. Sorry indie hipsters, Joanna Newsom is nowhere in sight. Spreckels Performing Arts Center, 5409 Snyder Lane, Rohnert Park. $22–$26. 707.588.3400.
Bill CosbyNov. 8. America's favorite dad—at least, our favorite TV dad—does his sly funny-guy stuff. Nov. 8 at 3pm. Lincoln Theater, 100 California Drive, Yountville. $69–$89. 707.944.1300.
Santa Rosa Symphony Set Two Nov. 8–10. Playing a delicious variety of music, from Jalbert's Fire and Ice to Bernstein's On the Waterfront, the Santa Rosa Symphony is sure to blow you away. Featuring young violin virtuoso Corey Cerovsek. Wells Fargo Center, 50 Mark West Springs Road, Santa Rosa. $19–$149. 707.546.3600.
Direct from Vegas—The Rat Pack Nov. 14. Carrying on the smooth-talking, tuxedo-clad, razzle-dazzle near-sobriety of Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin and Sammy Davis Jr., Gary Corsello, Steve Apple and Nicholas Brooks belt out classic tunes and snap their fingers so suavely that audience members will think they've been transported to a 1960s Vegas nightclub. Wells Fargo Center, 50 Mark West Springs Road, Santa Rosa. 8pm. $25–$45. 707.546.3600.
Joan Baez Nov. 15. Touring in support of her 24th studio album, Day After Tomorrow, folk icon Baez promises a night of clarity. Wells Fargo Center, 50 Mark West Springs Road, Santa Rosa. 8pm. $15.50–$45.50. 707.546.3600.
Djoliba Ensemble of Mali Nov. 15. Sway to traditional African folk music and dance that takes from a variety of different styles. Marin Center, 10 Avenue of the Flags, San Rafael. 8pm. $18–$40. 415.499.6800. www.marincenter.org.
The Country Rat Pack Nov. 17. Male vocalists Tracy Byrd, Tracy Lawrence and Tracy, er, Richie McDonald share stories and unplug the hype in this nonetheless rampantly popular show. Nov. 17 at 8pm. Lincoln Theater, 100 California Drive, Yountville. $49–$69. 707.944.1300.
Lisa Lampanelli Nov. 21. Attendees should prepare to have their politically correct buttons pushed, punched and twisted so hard they can't stand up. What's more, they'll love it. Don't bring the kids, as this is some seriously "mature" content. Wells Fargo Center, 50 Mark West Springs Road, Santa Rosa. 8pm. $39.50. 707.546.3600.
East Village Opera Company Nov. 22. Blending opera and some serious rock, this group—composed of a five-piece band, a string quartet and two fabulous vocalists—recreates popular scores from Carmen, Turandot, Rigoletto and more in a striking, sizzling blend of the old and the new. Napa Valley Opera House, 1030 Main St., Napa. $45. 707.226.7372. [ http://www.nvoh.org ]www.nvoh.org.
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