So if you want to check out the best music in the Bay Area, be prepared to do a little driving. After all, the musicians do it. “We get great gigs with great crowds, but we often have to drive an hour and a half to Santa Cruz or San Jose to play,” says Kyle Pesonen, drummer for The Inciters, an 11-piece soul band that has played San Francisco for the past five years.

Rick Kendrick, a founding member of The Inciters, says that in the end, the consumer benefits from the downsizing. “The quality of the music here is certainly much better now, because you’ve really got to be good to get a gig in the city,” says Kendrick. “You don’t see too many bad bands playing in clubs around here anymore.”

ARTISTS TO WATCH: Check out soul-stylists Lavay Smith and Her Red Hot Skillet Lickers or The Inciters; long-running blues virtuosos the Tommy Castro Band; and rockers Creeper Lagoon or The Gun & Doll Show. Hip-hop funksters The Marginal Prophets offer a dance-worthy sound.

WHERE TO GO: Clubs featuring jazz, R&B, and soul include Butterfly (415-864-5575), the cozy basement-level Cafe Du Nord (415-861-5016), and Shanghai 1930 (415-896-5600). Hip-hop, salsa, and jazz are the ticket at the casual Elbo Room (415-552-7788). For rock, try the industrial-style Bottom of the Hill (415-621-4455), the intimate setting of Boz Scaggs’ Slim’s (415-255-0333), or the Paradise Lounge (415-861-6906), with its multiple stages pumping the best in local music.

steve jennings, a san francisco area-based photographer, has been snapping the music scene — from up-and-coming acts to bands like u2 — for 20 years.