Wondering where to go for some quality entertainment this weekend? Look no further than Sophia’s Thai Kitchen at 129 E St. — one of the region’s hotspots for live indie and folk music. The popular Thai restaurant is quickly becoming better known for its cutting-edge music than its cuisine among Davis’ drinking-aged music listeners.
Sophia’s bar features an intimate outdoor patio where up-and-coming bands perform at least two nights every weekend, often for an admission price of less than $10.
Already, Sophia’s has acquired some relatively well-known bands from the indie scene — the Dodos, Fruit Bats, the Morning Benders, Dawes and Blind Pilot, to name a few. They have been joined by rising favorites from the Davis folk music scene.
If you’re unfamiliar with a band that’s playing at Sophia’s on any given weekend, just check out one of their sample songs via Sophia’s website to help you decide if they’re worth seeing. The web page can be found at http://sophiasthaikitchen.com/live_events.cfm.
Co-owner Kevin Wan said he starting booking live entertainment at Sophia’s bar on a whim, “because that’s just what I thought bars did. … So I booked a local jazz band to play on our deck every Friday night. It gradually expanded to Sacramento bands, then Bay Area bands.
“Over the years, we caught the attention of touring bands and national booking agents, and what began on a whim six years ago morphed into something bigger and better than I ever could’ve imagined.”
The music has attracted customers to Sophia’s from all over Northern California, Wan said. And the national reputation the bar is getting is cool, too.
“Even though we’re a small venue, a lot of bigger-name bands will play here because they’ve heard it’s a cool place to play and we really take care of our musicians,” he said. “It’s a great feeling to book a band here and see them on Letterman two months later. Which happened just last week — twice.”
This weekend, Sophia’s features three nights of entertainment. Tickets are available on Sophia’s website only for Thursday night’s show, which boasts the San Francisco indie-folk group Vetiver. Tickets are $8.
Sacramento’s folk beauties, Sea of Bees, will open Thursday night’s show at 8:30 with a tranquil half-hour-long performance.
The young group already has received critical acclaim from many respectable sources, including NPR, thanks to the fascinating voice of its leader singer, Julie Baenziger. Check out Sea of Bees’ new single, “Wizbot,” to hear an emotionally charged ballad.
Former Port O’Brien frontman Van Pierszalowski will start playing at 9 p.m. with his new indie-rock band, Waters.
A year and a half ago, Pierszalowski left San Francisco for Oslo, Norway, and formed Waters after parting ways with Port O’Brien. Waters’ sound is rough, rowdy and raw. Hear a sample on Sophia’s website.
Vetiver will headline the show and start playing at 10 p.m. On Saturday, the group will return to San Francisco to perform at the renowned three-day alternative music festival, Outside Lands.
Vetiver’s rich discography and constant touring have earned the band a following that is expected to arrive en masse on Thursday night.
Fans of M. Ward will enjoy frontman Andy Cabic’s raspy croon backed by gentle acoustic guitar strumming and keyboards on Vetiver’s new single, “Can’t You Tell Me.”
More entertainment will follow over the weekend at Sophia’s. Friday night’s show will host two folk bands for a meager price of $5. The West Nile Ramblers, a Davis folk band, will open the show at 10 p.m.
The West Nile Ramblers are carried by two band members who once comprised a Davis bluegrass group, the Mad Cow String Band. Fuzzy electric guitars, swinging country beats, rootsy fiddle and warbly vocals describe these local folk veterans.
Whether a vintage cover or a fresh original, the Ramblers’ songs are inherently catchy. Their foot-tapping, sing-along choruses are sure to please any audience with an open ear. Check out “Double Wide” on Sophia’s website.
Los Angeles’ gypsy-jazz aficionados, Dustbowl Revival, will headline Friday night’s show. Starting at 11 p.m., sounds of the Roaring ’20s — on cornet, guitar, fiddle, accordion, washboard and other antique folk instruments — will fill the patio.
“Lonesome Hobo” paints the bleak portrait of a nomadic homeless person, pitifully crying, “My mama, she’s a lover / She likes to keep me undercover / My mama, she’s the only one I got.” Listen to it on Sophia’s website.
Saturday night’s entertainment also costs a mere $5. At 9:30 p.m., Merced folk songwriter RC Essig will provide the muscle behind the night’s opening act, Awahnichi.
Check out his musical Native American fables like “The Bear and the Season Witch” at myspace.com/awahnichi.
A Los Angeles electronic-folk hybrid, yOya, will follow at 10 p.m. Saturday, performing their college radio-ready repertoire.
The emotional ballad “Fireworks” will tear the heartstrings of any hopeless romantic. Check it out on Sophia’s website.
Finally, Minnesota singer-songwriter David Dondero will close the weekend’s entertainment with a soulful folk set.
With a gravelly voice like Dave Matthews and a sharp wit like Conor Oberst, Dondero will begin to unveil his innermost musings at 11 p.m. Saturday.
In addition to revisiting folk classics, Dondero will bellow lamenting choruses like “Got lost on the road / No records got sold / Numbered zero with a bullet.” Check out “Zero with a Bullet” on Sophia’s website.
“I’m proud of the fact that we can contribute to the Davis nightlife in a positive way,” Wan said. “I like that we can do something cool and that people appreciate it.”