The strip of San Pablo Avenue that stretches from Dwight Way to Ashby Avenue has seen a lot of changes over the 52 years that the Missouri Lounge (2600 San Pablo Ave., Berkeley) has been there. You figure that back in the 1950s, this bar was the swankiest joint in a phalanx of saloon-style dives and whistle-stop diners, most of them demolished long ago to make room for newer, trendier businesses — namely, a sex-toy boutique and an Italian cafe where up-and-coming West Berkeleyites make important decisions over their macchiatos and tiramisu. And yet the encroaching gentrification wave seems to have left this little hole-in-the-wall pretty much unscathed. Named for an old US Navy ship, Missouri Lounge still looks as if it materialized from an Edward Hopper painting or a David Lynch film. You can imagine a fly-specked mirror in the bathroom, and an ice box that nobody has touched since 1953 … and maybe a secret cabana where unfortunate souls go to get whacked.
But you can’t judge the Missouri Lounge by its decor — besides, there’s something charmingly kitschy about the fuzzy lime-green lampshades and the bartender’s florid Hawaiian shirt. The bar fills up every Wednesday night for the weekly open mic, hosted by Paul Pot — a longtime Starry Plough gadfly and former lead guitarist of the East Bay folk outfit the Happy Clams. This is undoubtedly the most adorably tacky of Berkeley cabarets. Paul kicks the night off with a two-chord ditty about some waifish Clementine (… and to be sure before she goes out/she pops a Tic-Tac in her mouth) while a group of bemused regulars sit at the bar slugging Fat Tire, fixating on the fifty-foot plasma TV, or gazing longingly at the jukebox, which teems with burned CDs from artists such as Captain Mike and the Hot Toddies, who’ve apparently gotten their big break at the Missouri Lounge (note: this doesn’t necessarily guarantee a high sales tally at Amoeba or Rasputin). If you’re a fledgling musician looking for a friendly place to test your banjo or Casio keyboard skills, this may be the spot for you. The open mic happens every Wednesday, with signups starting at 7:30 p.m. Admission is free. — Rachel Swan
Israel-Palestine strife seems perpetual, but not so intractable that an artist cannot make a dent in it. That’s the thinking behind Justice Matters, an exhibition of artwork by fourteen American and Palestinian artists on the subjects of occupation and colonization within Palestine. Like Eric Drooker’s stark drawing of a man, a hammer, and a wall (above). Or the work of Ayed Arafa from the Dheisheh refugee camp in West Bank. The free show is now on the walls of the Berkeley Art Center, 1275 Walnut St. in Live Oak Park,. There’s a special evening with historian Hilton Obenzinger this Thursday (7 p.m.), one of several ancillary events through December 17, when the exhibition ends. A limited edition portfolio of signed prints is on sale as well. BerkeleyArtCenter.org — Kelly Vance
Who cares about the clouds when we’re together?/Just sing a song and bring the sunny weather! The iconic Roy Rogers Show theme song proves quite appropriate for Happy Trails, a benefit concert for the Halleck Creek 4H Riding Club for the Disabled happening tonight (Wednesday) at Berkeley’s Freight & Salvage, 1111 Addison St. A posse of folksy artists have been rounded up to aid the cause, including Maria Muldaur, Jody Stecher & Kate Brislin, Bluegrass Intentions, Kathy Kallick, and Sylvia Herold with Euphonia. And just to drive home the point of the whole evening, they’ll all be performing songs about horses. TheFreight.org — Eric K. Arnold
The basic concepts of war and peace have been much on the minds of Americans lately, so it’s appropriate for Berkeley’s Black Oak Books to present a panel discussion on these increasingly elusive subjects and their real-life manifestations. Monday evening (7:30) at the Berkeley Richmond Jewish Community Center (1414 Walnut St., Berkeley), three experts on the US Constitution and foreign policy — UCB political scientist Gordon Silverstein, poli-sci professor Peter Irons from UC San Diego, and UC Berkeley-Boalt Hall law prof John Yoo — discuss the rules by which this country, ideally, conducts war. Law School dean Jeffrey Brand moderates. BlackOakBooks.com — Kelly Vance