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Bars & Clubs

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Live Rock & Pop

Almaden Feed and Fuel
18950 Almaden Road, San Jose (408/268-8950)
Unlike North Santa Cruz Avenue in Los Gatos, the south-bound lanes of Almaden Expressway are not associated with "a night out." But when the road splits, bear right, then make a quick left into the Feed and Fuel parking lot. The "feed" is the grilled fare (steaks and chicken) and the "fuel," presumably, is provided by the microbrews, small-batch bourbons and single-malt scotches. An Almaden Valley voice of rebellion lives on Fridays and Saturdays with live blues, country and rock & roll bands plugging in from 9:30pm to 1:30am. A blues jam happens on Sundays around 5:30pm.

The B-Hive Kafe
372 S. First St., San Jose (408/298-2529)
After being taken over by the Agenda's Jacek Rosicki and Ann Chin, the Club Formerly Known As Ajax Lounge experienced growing pains that resulted in a major format switch to cover bands. The formula has worked, with plenty of college kids downing beers and chomping on happy-hour pizza. Structurally, the B-Hive has been beautifully restored with fresh paint, improved lighting and sound, and plenty of ventilation. Stompbox, a Sunday original-rock night, offers new promise for music fans, as does a reggae night that debuts June 17 with Dub Nation.

Boswell's
1875 S. Bascom Ave., Campbell (408/371-4404)
In the enveloping darkness at Boswell's, tipplers can scope out ESPN during the day or get loud and loose in the evenings with cover bands every night, even Sundays. The bar boasts a dedicated crowd --people who know all the words and shtick to Goofy Foot and Frank Joseph. Open daily, noon­2am.

Cactus Club
417 S. First St., San Jose (408/491-9300)
For many local bands, the first stop out of the garage is this dank and unpretentious den of noise. The Cactus books national and local groups of every conceivable genre except C&W and hosts themed dance nights. Big-name acts--Breeders, Hobo Junction and 7 Year Bitch--have all performed recently. The Cactus also promotes true alternative music: rock en español, metal and underground hip-hop. Bring ear plugs and leave the precious silks at home. The bar pours the standard fare with a wide selection of beers. Cover varies.

The Catalyst
1011 Pacific Ave., Santa Cruz (408/423-1336)
The oldest and mightiest of Santa Cruz venues, the "Cat"--as it is affectionately nicknamed by locals--boasts an 800-plus stage area. Born in the '60s as a coffeehouse, it quickly became home to a plethora of musical acts. Not only bringing in area artists, the Catalyst can pat itself on the back for attracting some of the biggest names in the biz. It serves food daily, has two full bars, multiple pool tables and a tropical, vine-ensconced atrium where smaller acts sometimes play. Mostly 21 and over, though there are some 16-and-over shows. Cover and showtimes vary.

Club Kaos
39148 State St., Fremont (510/792-6500)
The self-proclaimed "only nightclub in the East Bay that doesn't suck" has sifted through enough formats--from pool tournaments to ladies nights--to know what works. Kaos is adventurous on the booking end: Everything from Celtic rock to Black Sabbath cover bands to rock en español (every Thursday) get a trial spin. Club Kaos has recently landed some middle acts like Marky Ramone and Dave Wakeling's BANG! It's a spot to keep an eye out for. Open 8pm­2am except Tuesdays. Live music weekends and some weekdays.

The Edge
260 California Ave., Palo Alto (415/324-EDGE)
If it weren't for the Edge, many touring national bands would probably skip the South Bay completely (or overwhelm San Jose clubs, we're not sure). The Edge fills up regularly for dance nights (18 and up) and live shows (all ages). The Edge lends an especially sympathetic ear to heavy-metal retreads (Loudness, Dio, Thin Lizzy). The notoriously loud mix and flashing lights set this club firmly in an '80s context, even though futuristic acts like Nine Inch Nails have played here. Cover and showtimes vary.

Friends
15043 Los Gatos Blvd., Los Gatos (408/358-7852)
If there is a no-nonsense '60s musical meeting place in Los Gatos, Friends is it. No college kids, no phonies, no umbrella drinks. Live bands play blues, rock and country Thursdays through Saturdays (no cover). The place draws everybody from leathered longhairs to sheared yuppies getting back to their musical roots. On Wednesdays, drinks are $1 for women. In the meantime, try the pool table, darts and video games. Microbrews, single-malt scotch and small-batch bourbons are available. Open 10am­2am, Monday­Thursday; 8am­2am, Friday­Saturday.

Gaslighter Music Hall
7430 Monterey Road, Gilroy (408/848-3488)
Operated by the venerable Gaslighter in Campbell (see below), this multi-purpose South County venue books a variety of events inside its Old West­style premises. Some nights feature children's theater (a run of The Little Princess just ended); others have line dancing (on Fridays, starting June 20) or live music. Beer and soft drinks available; no smoking inside the air-conditioned rooms. Schedule varies; call 408/866-1408 (the Campbell theater) for details.

McNeil's
800 N. Kiely Blvd., Santa Clara (408/244-4038)
Unable to choose between the pennant and the stage, this sports-bar-cum-live-music-venue divides its busy week among karaoke, dart and pool leagues and rock & roll cover bands. "Unpretentious" is a fine description for the decor: black vinyl stools (no booths), turquoise walls and a petite but gaudy stage. More hangout destination than meat market, this neighborhood bar draws folks ages 21 to 60-plus. Bud and Miller rule the roost, kamikazes flow from a full bar, and food exists. No cover.

Mountain Charley's
15 N. Santa Cruz Ave., Los Gatos (408/395-8880)
Tuesdays through Saturdays, rowdy and unpretentious cover bands Milk, Funibone and Goofy Foot motivate the Los Gatos 'tweeners (too young for Carry Nation's and too old for the Los Gatos Teen Center). Laid out in classic '60s saloon style, Mountain Charley's shares steps with the Los Gatos Bar & Grill, although the two bars might as well be worlds apart in philosophy. At Mountain Charley's, the motto is like that Men Without Hats song: If your friends don't dance, then they're no friends of mine.

Palookaville
1133 Pacific Ave., Santa Cruz (408/454-0600)
An intimate, very modern venue--though it can pack in as many as 600 clubgoers--Palookaville plays host to live music most nights of the week. Sporting an excellent sound system and a formidable lineup of musicians--Maceo Parker, De La Soul, Ani DiFranco--this downtown venue allows showgoers to cut a rug on its expansive dance floor. For those not inclined to boogie, there's an upstairs balcony and plenty of tables arranged for the best views from a seated position. Easily munchable food is served--pizza, sandwiches, desserts--as well as beer and wine. No smoking; cover and showtimes vary.

Roadhouse Blues and Rock Cafe
1102 W. Evelyn Ave., Sunnyvale (408/739-7939)
Like many neighborhood bars, the Roadhouse Blues and Rock cafe exists in something of a time warp. Its basic look and feel haven't changed since it opened--and probably never will. Neon beer signs, airbrushed poster girls, faded pool tables and a battered wooden stage are all essential to the ambiance. Although the full range of beverages is available for blending, mixing and shaking, this is a Bud and JD kind of place. Live music is featured three nights a week: Thursdays are jam nights, Fridays are reserved for the blues and Saturdays are all right for rock & roll. And yes, they do have a print of Dogs Playing Pool hanging in the back room. No cover; cash only. Open 11am­2am.

Toon's
52 E. Santa Clara St., San Jose (408/292-7464)
The area's most prolific cover bands attract a steady stream of guys in Quiksilver shirts and baggy shorts and women in copycat Express dresses and Nine West flats. The Gents, Floyd's Ordeal, Uncle Melvin, the Joint Chiefs and In D'Nile perform weekly. It's been tough to park in that area, but a new lot just opened next door. Bands begin playing promptly at 9pm; come earlier and save the $4 cover charge. Dollar drafts and well drinks until 10pm.

The Usual
400 S. First St., San Jose (408/535-0330)
The former site of F/X has been embellished with tall wood pillars, mirror enhancements, a level dance floor and an improved sound and light system. The cavernous home of the valley's most popular Wednesday dance party, the Groove, the venue has been somewhat staid in the booking department lately but has still managed a few stunners: Dick Dale, Spearhead, Luscious Jackson. The rest of the week is dedicated to swing, house, modern rock and hip-hop. The front bar is the closest thing to day care for punk rockers. Where is that flaky drummer who blew off practice? Check here. Cover varies.

Waves Saloon
65 Post St., San Jose (408/885-9283)
Waves' rebirth in downtown San Jose has quickly racked up many plusses. Finally resurrected after toiling in obscurity in Los Gatos, the reggae club has added sumptuous barbecue to the positive vibrations. The food here is delicious, and three daily sauces linger on the tongue for hours after. Waves has ditched the "surfer dude" embellishments and outfitted itself in California cowboy­style decor. A rooftop patio is open for star watchers and cigar smokers, and the bar area houses a tiny stage where reggae bands play Thursdays through Saturdays. Doors open at 11am.

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From the June 12-18, 1997 issue of Metro.

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