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Readers' Choice: Where is the Best Place for Live Entertainment?

So many choices is what makes this county great. You want to hear cover bands, top talents, jazz, rock, hip-hop, blues, folk? We have it all. Which is your favorite place and why?

Some friends are coming from out of town and you want to take them to a great show in Santa Cruz County.

Where is your first choice and why?

We have so many choices in this county, an almost obscene amount. Why obscene? Because many times shows aren't sold out because we are so rich in choices. Cities in the rest of the country would be jealous if they knew how good we have it.

Hell, we have more to do in our county of fewer than 300,000 people than does San Jose with nearly a million. No wonder so many of them come here.

has some great history. Neil Young used to play here regularly and a lot of big bands have followed in his footsteps. Pearl Jam rehearsed for their shows opening for the Rolling Stones here and put on intimate shows. Emmylou Harris played some great shows here. Willie Nelson is a regular. When you think of the great rock clubs, this 1,000 seater has to be one of them. And now it's opened its front room to new and rare bands.

used to be a blues club but has branched off to reggae and world beat music. It still does blues. During the Memorial Day Weekend Santa Cruz Blues Festival this is the place to be to catch headliners getting loose and jamming. On Sundays in the summer the club offers afternoon barbecue concerts with the likes of Curtis Salgado and Jimmy Thackery. Big names for a small price in a casual atmosphere of about 200 people.

brings in FREE concerts all summer long, every Friday night. That's right, FREE. They are usually performers whose best days are better seen in the rear-view mirror, but not always. Sometimes there are some surprisingly brilliant choices, like Eric Burdon. The shows are meant for a broad demographic, including kids, so, having hits is usually required, particularly hits in the parents' generations.

If were anywhere else, it would be legendary. But tucked away in Felton, it's like a hidden treasure. It has a great stage, good Mexican food and spaces where you can listen loudly, or hang back and eat and drink.

Who would expect a cafe attached to a church to be a spot to break great live acts? s a wonderful surprise, bringing in up-and-coming troubadors with no affiliation with the attached religious association. You can wander in there any night music is playing, which is usually weekends, and be guaranteed to see great talent.

has been bringing in some really big names including Grateful Dead drummer Mickey Hart, Zakir Hussain, They Might Be Giants, Ani DiFranco, Joe Bonamassa, to name a few. It holds 680 people, an intimate setting for names that play bigger places elsewhere.

What makes a music scene really great? A club devoted to jazz and roots music. That's where you can be assured of hearing something cutting edge and intelligent. We've got it with , which holds about 200 people and has perfect acoustics.

It used to be the best late-night place for food, but has added an avant garde list of music all week long. The bookers here are getting the same names as San Francisco clubs, which is surprising, given its small stage and capacity. This is a place to see cutting edge national folk, folk/punk, rock and local bands.

also features cutting edge punk, Goth, DJ, House, EMD and comedy in an eclectic, you never know what you'll get, but odds are it will be good, atmosphere.

The Ugly Mug in Soquel has some local and folk acts in a very intimate coffee shop atmosphere.

Cover bands, dance bands and comedy are the focus at the , which also offers great food and views. There's something a bit fern barrish about the place, but like those haunts of the '80s, it's a good place to buy someone a drink and have a long conversation or get up and dance. On Thursdays in the summer, this is the place to go for an outdoor dance party.

The Seacliff Inn in Aptos has been known to book some great blues, boogie, jazz and dance bands on weekends and gets little publicity. It doesn't need it. It's always full with people drinking and dancing in a comfortably big space.

The is big, imposing, has pretty bad acoustics, but brings in some big names, including the symphony.

The Mello Center in Watsonville is more intimate and has better sound.

The in Capitola is the place professional musicians go from all over the Bay Area to kick back and jam on a Sunday night. Other nights, the club brings in some great Bay Area rock and blues bands, including Lara Price, AC Myles, Vinnie Johnson, Dennis Dove.

Vote in our Poll and the winner gets recognition from Patch, a certificate and love from Patch readers.

Tell us why you like your favorite place in the comments section, and of course, if we have forgotten one, let us know.

Here are the t.

Debbie Hale May 21, 2012 at 02:00 PM
My favorite venue is the Capitola Beach concerts! They are free at Esplanade Park, every Wednesday night from late June through August. They incude swing, rock, country and world music, and you can listen while enjoying a picnic dinner on the beach. It's the best!
Richard Wankoff May 21, 2012 at 03:48 PM
In addition to the above mentioned spots, I like Michael's On Main in Soquel. Good bands, nice decor, good parking, no cover and voted best Bartender!
Jon Fiorovich May 21, 2012 at 04:09 PM
Bocce Cellar
Paul Kaneko May 21, 2012 at 05:40 PM
I like Pono Hawaiian Grille on Union St. in Santa Cruz. They have the best grinds too.
Lisa May 21, 2012 at 09:53 PM
Kuumbwa rules! Small, intimate venue. No such thing as a bad place to sit. Great food, drink available. Small parking lot, but free parking only a few blocks away (Center Street). Having said that - I haven't been there yet but will be this coming Thursday to see Ariel Thiermann - you didn't mention The Backstage Lounge: http://backstageloungerio.com/
Just One Vote May 22, 2012 at 03:46 AM
Have dinner in the Village, stroll down the Esplanade and hear the best music this side of San Fran rocking the FOG BANK. The Vinny Johnson Band, Rev. Love Jones, John Michael Band etc.will grab your ears and make you dance. Once again Capitola proves it can deliver big city sounds in a little village by the sea. Rock on......
Judi Grunstra May 23, 2012 at 10:26 PM
Moe's would be even better if the layout was better (location of stage area in relation to rest of club) and maybe if there were a few more seats and a better sound system. Still, I've seen a lot of great music there.

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