Old time street performers, or buskers are people who earn their living by performing in public areas and have long been part of Sacramento’s street culture. While these people are not always part of the mainstream entertainment circuit, their entertainment value is still of marquee proportions. Whether you need a little entertainment while you shop or are looking to sit down and enjoy a beverage while watching someone who could be the next big thing at an open mic, here is where you will find some of the city’s best street performers and offbeat acts.
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This historic downtown plaza is the hub for all things artistic and eclectic in Sacramento, and the flavorful characters on the street are no exception. Whether you’re catching a movie at the Esquire IMAX or a show at The Crest, or just exploring the multitude of shops and restaurants, make sure to bring a couple extra single bills to support everything from balloon artists to bucket drummers, as the performances are always memorable. One of the staples of the area, although not seen as much as of late, is Downtown James Brown—a singing, dancing, comical phenom who has been keeping locals on their toes for almost a decade. A couple bucks will get you a full on impression of James Brown, a comedy skit in the vein of Richard Pryor, or just a hefty lesson in pick up lines towards the females in the group.
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Sunday– 8 a.m. to 12 p.m.
In addition to being one of the best bets for local produce, the Sunday Farmers market is also a great stop for organic entertainment. The market is often flanked with a lot of fun talent, but one of the best (pending she is in town) is Uni and Her Ukulele. Exactly what the name implies, it’s a charming act consisting of a charming gal (Uni) and her ukulele. Uni began busking in front of places such as Peets on 4th street in Sacramento and has moved on to other places, including a new album and a tour that has taken her as far as New Zealand. You can also see her at other markets, including the Oak Park Farmers Market when it begins this spring.
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Hours: Mon to Fri – 8 a.m. – 2 a.m.; Sat 6 p.m. – 2 a.m.
Open Mic every Wednesday, sign up at 8:30 p.m.
This triple threat of a bar, restaurant and nightclub has been supporting local musicians for almost a century. Family owned and operated, Old Ironsides opened up in 1934 and has since become ingrained in the Sacramento entertainment circuit. As a an indicator of how deep the local roots run, it was the first local bar to serve booze after the close of prohibition. Every Wednesday Ironsides opens up its stage to the best amateur and up and coming acts in the area, and gives an opportunity to get glimpse of Sacramento’s bets buskers. Hosted by Lare Crawley, sign-ups start at 8:30 p.m. if you’re interested in showcasing your skills. Or, if you just want to observe, the open mic starts at 9 p.m. with drink special until 11 a.m.
Just about everything in this funky café is homegrown, including the entertainment and art. Coffee and beer selections help lubricate the energy of the room, as some of the best wordsmiths and lyricists in town flock here to put their thoughts into performance. Keith Lowell Jensen puts on a comedy night every Wednesday, opening up the spotlight for any professional or aspiring jokesters who have the courage to broadcast their best punch lines. Getting a little more intellectual, Joe Montoya puts on Poetry Unplugged every Thursday evening, offering up the best spoken word and music in an open mic format. Music performances are almost always local as well, as the café is always accepting auditions for new acts.
Related: Best comedy clubs in Sacramento
Camille Wheat is a native of California. She has an AA in Liberal Arts and a BA in Art History.
She enjoys Classical music and Jazz, as well as Opera. Her work can be found at Examiner.com.