Seven nights in Fun-ameda

Seven nights in Fun-ameda

Patti Cary

Gone are the days when our sleepy Island rolled up the sidewalks at sundown and the only action to be found on Park Street was the jukebox at the Buckhorn. Nights in Alameda are now alive and buzzing with unique events and creative gatherings all over town, just waiting for folks to venture out and join in on some good ol’ fashioned fun.

The following seven weekly happenings – one for each night of the week – are examples of just a few of the wonderful, homegrown activities taking place in an Alameda neighborhood near you.

Have your B-9 with a twist of lime. If you prefer your bingo game on the rocks, check out DrinkO, played every Monday night at Swell Bar, a cozy neighborhood watering hole with a lot of salty history. You can hang out with the regulars, enjoy a refreshing beverage and win cool prizes including free shots and funky bar swag. The game is free to play and you get four bingo cards per round – rounds with great names like big square robot boob.

Bingo traditionalists take note, though: “This is not your grandfather’s bingo,” warns DrinkO ball caller, local DJ, promoter and all around bon vivant, Hawk Valentine. “It can get raunchy. We’ve been doing DrinkO here for almost three years and it really is the most fun you can have on the Island on a Monday.”

Also on Mondays, all rum drinks are half off, a bonus for all you bingo-loving pirates. Have fun but please remember to DrinkO responsibly.

DrinkO, 9 p.m. Monday to 2 a.m. Tuesday, Swell Bar, 1539 Lincoln Avenue. No cover; 21 and over.

Be a team player. Gather your most clever pals together or come make some new friends and test your wealth of knowledge at Tuesday Night Trivia at the charming Fireside Lounge on Webster Street. Teams of up to six people can sign up at the bar to compete for prizes and smarty-pants bragging rights by answering a series of trivia questions on topics ranging from the Sex Pistols to string theory.

Made popular in Great Britain in the ‘70s, trivia nights have swept this side of the pond over the last 10 years, and the Fireside offers just the right pub atmosphere.

The Fireside Lounge has been around since the heyday of the Alameda Naval Air Station, but these days the drink selection at this well-appointed mainstay is definitely for modern “craft beverage enthusiasts” with cocktails featuring fresh local ingredients like The Garden, a mix of Blade Gin with fennel. Yum!

Tuesday Night Trivia, 7:30 p.m. Tuesdays, Fireside Lounge, 1453 Webster Street. No cover; 21 and over.

Come over to the art side. The convivial crew at Rhythmix Cultural Works invites artists, craftspeople and general makers-of-stuff to join them Wednesday nights in their K Gallery, a well lit space to create and debate, for Art Jam! This weekly meeting is a supportive, friendly gathering with a very fun vibe. Pop in for great conversation, art inspiration and even some tasty libations.

Rhythmix is always evolving and has been providing Alameda with great performing arts classes and entertainment since 2007, and Art Jam! is yet another fabulous, generous contribution to supporting and encouraging arts on the Island. There’s no cost to attend (although a snack, something to drink, music or art supplies to share is always appreciated) and no pressure – just folks hanging out, left to their own arty devices like Ed Holmes working on his Sketchbook Project and Aannah Kay making her gorgeous Password bracelets. Bring your project supplies and let your imagination run wild.

Art Jam!, 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. Wednesdays, Rhythmix Cultural Works, 2513 Blanding Avenue. All ages; no cover.

Show your support. Every Thursday night is Charity Night at the High Street Station Café, where you can enjoy a reasonably priced dinner with a glass of fine wine and support local organizations, all at the same time. Proceeds from Charity Night go to worthy causes such as the Midway Shelter of Alameda and the Alameda Food Bank.

Charity Night is a labor of love, and High Street Station Café owners Susan Timney (an Alameda native) and Lynda Kretlow are working hard to provide family-friendly dining in a comfortable setting at this landmark East End eatery and music venue, which is named for the railroad station that stood at its Encinal and High Street location back in the 1800s. The café was voted “Best Place to Hear Music in the East Bay” by the Bay Area News Group in 2014, and for good reason: With its old-timey saloon feel and historic surroundings, this airy corner spot is ideal for kicking back and enjoying a leisurely, weekend meal while being entertained by top-notch local talent.

High Street Station also hosts open mic on Thursday nights starting at around 7 p.m., so if you stick around after dinner you can sit back and enjoy the show.

Charity Night, 5:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. Thursdays, High Street Station Café, 1303 High Street. $14 fixed price menu; all ages.

Laissez les bons temps rouler. The hottest ticket for Friday nights on the Island is zydeco at the Eagles Hall, which brings the energy and excitement of this Creole tradition right to our downtown doorstep. This weekly dance featuring excellent live bands is a celebration of all things “plezi,” and is an Alameda institution that has been spicin’ up the Island for 20 years.

Don’t be intimidated by the excellent two-steppin’ regulars who rock the dance floor – everyone is encouraged to get up and shake their tail feathers. Just ask Marcia Gill and Ron Thompson, who met zydeco dancing six years ago and have been partners on and off the dance floor ever since.

“I stepped on so many toes when I first started, but people were in goods spirits and so forgiving and kept asking me to dance,” Gill said. “The people are nice and friendly and there’s always lots of laughter. You don’t even need a partner and if you don’t get it the first time, keep coming back!”

Zydeco, with its Louisiana roots and signature sound, is known for its fast tempo and washboard flair.

“I tell people it’s somewhere between salsa and East Coast swing. It’s a very easy basic step to learn,” added Thompson, a native of New Orleans. “Zydeco Flames (who perform at Eagles Hall often) are the ones who make me homesick ‘cause they do zydeco with a bit of a New Orleans bluesy side.”

Even if you have two left feet, you can still enjoy exciting music by talented musicians, sure to bring a smile to your face and start your weekend off with a dash of Tabasco. Get there early and join in the pre-band dance lesson with host Dana DeSimone.

Zydeco, 8:30 p.m. to midnight Fridays, Eagles Hall, 2305 Alameda Avenue. $15-$25; all ages.

Rock this town. If it is Saturday at Speisekammer, you know the joint is jumpin’! You can come for the bratwürstchen, but stay for the bands, some of the best in the Bay Area. You’ll hear all kinds of great music from acts that include Lavay Smith (the queen of classic jazz and blues) with Jules Broussard, local rock singer Paul Manousos, or maybe The Saddle Cats, a western swing pocket orchestra.

Speisekammer has been serving up delicious German fare and pouring some of the best brews in town since 2002. The authentic Bavarian décor, biergarten and friendly staff create an inviting, old-world experience unlike any other on the Island. The music starts around 8:30 and, amazingly, considering this is top-shelf talent, there is no cover. You’ll be raising your stein and singing along in no time. Genießen!

Live music, 8:30 p.m. Saturdays, Speisekammer, 2424 Lincoln Avenue. All ages; no cover.

Take a walk down memory lane. Top off your weekend by taking an evening stroll over to the Pacific Pinball Museum on Webster Street, where you can magna save your add-a-ball up until 9 p.m. every Sunday. Pacific Pinball is a nonprofit organization “dedicated to the promotion and preservation of one of America's great pastimes” – and how lucky we are to have such a treasure trove right here in Alameda.

You can battle Gogar or match wits with the Joker or Iron Man. Try your luck on the King of Diamonds or rock out with AC/DC, surrounded by one of the country’s most extensive and gorgeous collections of pinball machines, some dating as far back as the 1930s.

Oh, the sweet simplicity of the flippers flying on a vintage Bally. Be careful though: You may find yourself shouting things like, “Oh, boy!” and “Hot dawg!” so be prepared to get a little wild. It is super fun for the whole family, and truly one of the most unique and wonderful places on the Island.

All day play, Tuesday through Sunday. Pacific Pinball Museum, 1510 Webster Street. Adults, $15; under 16, $7.50.