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Spoken-Word Salon Brainwash Café

Just as within the slam circles, when you make the rounds at open mics, poets show up who have been seen reading at other venues. They've caught the craving and won't be satiated with just one podium-fix a week. The Spoken-Word Salon at Brainwash is one of the stops everyone's heard about, where they know good reception and constructive feedback avails itself.

Of course, the moderator, Diamond Dave Whitaker, has a lot to do with it. The old beat poet has been around for a while now, acquainting himself with the best of them. He invites out-of-town poets as well as San Francisco regulars on air for his KPOO radio show, naturally followed by an appearance at Brainwash. Features are usually 20 minutes, followed by open mic, during which quite a few acoustic guitars prevail, with or without Dylanesque tones.

As our host speaks to the audience by following the ins and outs of laid-back rhyming, one could almost imagine everyone in the room snapping their fingers along with the syncopation. Close your eyes to transport yourself into a grainy movie about the 50s; Jack Nicholson with a beret comes on stage, his drawl replaced by Diamond D's voice.

But open your eyes once more and the café's surroundings immediately bring you back to the present. The spare industrial design with urban SOMA backdrop feels as "today" as it can get, not to mention people doing laundry in the other room. Three tall, glass-pane walls rise up around the café area so you can see what's going on outside.

Readers stand superimposed on an alleyway, making perfect sense with their subject matter. This encompasses social commentary, love-stung broken hearts, cross-country travels, non-conformist art criticism, rants about our leaders, an ode to a first car and so on.

Goths and indie rockers stand around on the sidewalk complaining of how the coffee is always lukewarm. I didn't find the tea lukewarm, though, and thought the beer-drinkers amusing, plus it was comforting that the kitchen was open late.

Spoken-Word Salon
Brainwash Café
1122 Folsom St. @ 7th, San Francisco, 415.346.6771
Every Wednesday, 8 pm - 10:30 pm
Free, all ages