Where To See Live Music In San Francisco.
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The self-proclaimed "classiest night club in town," Harry Denton's Starlight Room remains a perennial San Francisco evening classic. Located on the 21st floor of the Sir Francis Drake Hotel, the lounge has upscale Rat Pack flashiness and an awesome view of the city.
The bar itself is old-timey and cocktails like Sidecars and Sloe Gin Fizzes are poured with precision. Weekly music nights are hosted by local DJs and given SF's pedigree of turning out world class electronic music artists, there's rarely a bad set.
Almost as famous as the view is the weekly Sunday Drag Brunch. Whether or not you want to cross-dress, every Sunday there are drag entertainers for the afternoon. A true champion of variety, Harry Denton's Starlight Room is the perfect place for a first date, raging party or a Champagne cocktail with your visiting aunt.
[Photo: Thomas Hawk]
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Consistently ranked as the city's top bar and club by the San Francisco Chronicle, Slim's has a lot to offer besides the "No babes in arms" policy found under the additional info section of its website.
The vaulted timber beam ceiling gives the old school-styled club an airy feel. By the huge L-shaped bar, the black and white checkered linoleum floor is perfect for unleashing your meanest dance moves. The place is dimly lit, with chandeliers and candlesticks on the wall.
The best reason to go, though, is for the wide range of live music acts in this classic SF venue. Most shows lean towards the American roots side, but you'll hear all kinds of music throughout the week.
Across from the stage at the other end of the club there's a balcony with table seating for up to 70. And if you're lucky, you'll meet that special someone there to make babies with later.
Finding an intimate place to drink a hearty selection of draft microbrews under a wash of dim red light while making out, listening to a live band of gypsy horns sound like a tall order? That's why we love Amnesia in the Mission for a neighborhood bar with a huge range of live music.
Depending on what night you go, the crowd may be a bunch of hayseed wannabes getting their banjo fix at the no-cover Monday bluegrass nights, or on a Saturday it could be packed to the gills with young people that want to hook up and dance to music from the local DJs.
There's no liquor served here, which sometimes can be a good thing. Amnesia boasts a great selection of local and international brews, particularly Belgian beers. Given the name of the bar and the mega-boozy European libations, maybe no liquor is necessary.
Double Dutch stands out in the mostly divey Mission with a stylish, polished old skool hip hop vibe. We love the rows upon stacked rows of ghetto blasters from the 80s hanging on the wall and an illuminated clear acrylic case of rare and unique sneakers.
The full bar offers everything from top shelf to bottom of the barrel which is appropriate given every Tuesday night is "Hoodies and Heels" night. That's what we call hauntingly awesome.
Nightly djs keep the intimate back room moving with a steady roll of hip hop and electronic beats. One thing that we've always appreciated about this place is the laid back atmosphere. It's hip hop without being thug in any way, more big thick glasses and brightly colored sneakers than big chains and Kevlar vests.
Hosting up and coming acts like Jaunted fave Nicole Atkins as well as better known artists like Gavin DeGraw, San Francisco's The Independent is more about providing a platform for great shows than by toeing the line between "indie" and mainstream music.
That's why the tiny bar and club can be one of the venues for San Fran's annual Noise Pop festival as well as hosting "The O.C." buzz band Matt Pond PA, legendary rapper GZA and Swedish mob-band I'm From Barcelona without contradiction. There's even a VIP section, but let's be honest: Real hipsters stay on the floor.
[Photo of Johnossi at The Independent: daryldarko]
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Built in 1907 in San Francisco's Upper Market district, Cafe Du Nord once served as a notorious Prohibition-era watering hole. Now, it looks the same inside with its decorated paneling, wainscoting and 40-foot mahogany bar, but you can swill cocktails without a reservation and catch live music seven nights a week.
The lounge attracts local and lesser-known indie bands, as well as bluegrass, jazz and singer-songwriter acts. Upstairs from Cafe Du Nord you can find Swedish American Hall, where the Cafe holds bigger concerts--this Saturday, Nada Surf will play an acoustic set.
[Photo: Thomas Hawk]
Paul Schreiber's shows sound like the fantasy of high school kids yearning for a bit of rock. He invites musicians to play in his living room, brings over some friends and lets everyone party. That's how his House Concerts work--though they're a little different than your typical 11th grade rager. First, Schreiber is well out of high school (he's a software engineer at Apple), it's legal for him to serve wine at the shows and performers are more mellow acoustic than hardcore rock.
Capacity is about 30 people, so you'll need to RSVP on his website before dropping by. All shows begin promptly at 8 pm and end around 10. From there, guests are invited to stay and hang out. Sound strange? Not so much: At least 10 other towns around San Fran host house concerts.
The city's alternative paper, SF Weekly even gave Schreiber's makeshift venue the award of "Best House Concerts" in its 2007 "Best of San Francisco" awards issue. Probably because, as Schreiber says:
It's a wonderful way to experience music. You hear an acoustic sound in an intimate setting. There's no smoke, no drunks and no obnoxious suits.
Now that rocks.
[Photo of Sam Shaber: Paul Schreiber]
San Francisco's bar and music venue Hemlock Tavern had to take a risk when it opened for business in 2004. At the time, the Tavern's location in the city's Polk Gulch neighborhood was barely on the hipsters' radars. But, after years of hosting bands five to six nights a week, the Tavern's gamble has paid off, and it's quickly become one of the city's most successful start-ups.
Though it hosts bigger acts, the Hemlock's main draw is its roster of up-and-coming local bands, and regular DJ nights hosted by locals. If live music isn't your thing, and you don't mind harassing your ear drums for a few hours, we recommend heading to Hemlock every Monday for the Punk Rock Slideshow from 10 pm-2 am.
Playing punk from the 20th and 21st centuries, the DJs on the decks won the San Francisco Bay Guardian's "Best of the Bay" award in 2004 and often host free shows that start at 9 pm.
Though entrance to the bar is free--and they serve hot peanuts on the house--there's usually a small cover to see the bands. Great news for smokers: the Hemlock has an adjacent, heated outdoor smoking lounge for its tobacco-loving clientele.
[Photo: Virgil Ward Porter]
At Mezzanine in San Francisco, hip-hop acts like Mos Def and Snoop Dogg rest comfortably beside rock bands like Whitey, whose groupies dress up in raccoon and rabbit costumes. (What will those crazy indie kids think of next?) The downtown venue brags about the diversity of its stage--with just cause.
Every month, a variety of rock, dance, hip hop, soul, jazz, salsa and world beat artists take the stage, with interspersed multimedia art events, fashion shows and video and film installations. The club says it caters to performances of all types, from hot shows with the newest buzz bands to intimate engagements with well-known artists.
Why pay $0 (or $100) for the latest Radiohead album when you can pay $15 to see Digitalism, an up-and-coming experimental Electronica duo from Germany perform live this Friday? Wait, don't answer that--just get to Mezzanine.
[Photo: I'm Combing My Hair]
If it's good enough for Al Jolson, it's good enough for the Grateful Dead: San Francisco's Warfield Theatre began as a vaudeville stage (where Jolson and his ilk performed) and, on its off nights, a silent movie palace where it was possible to gaze at gold leaf while munching on popcorn.
These days, the Warfield carries on as an all-ages concert venue hosting everyone from Fiona Apple to Coheed and Cambria. (In 2001 Slayer stormed the theater to film the concert video War at the Warfield.) Stand down in the pit or buy reserved seats in the balcony, which gives you a better view of the Victorian murals that frame the stage.
Blondie's Bar & No Grill was voted "the Best of the Bay to get your date drunk off of one drink" by the San Francisco Bay Guardian for its massive killer martinis. (When they say pint-sized, they don't mean small.) But Blondie's is even better known for its music scene, with live acts at least three nights a week.
The venue only fits 250 people, so it's usually packed with patrons there to hear the live music talent or DJs spinning. The local bands that perform fall into quite a particular genre: Regular act Blue Mire calls it "garagefolk--acoustic music too loud, too reckless, too angry, and too sexy to be considered folk rock." Specifc as it may be, the mixed crowd is anything but niche.
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The Fillmore has seen its ups and downs. The famed music venue where The Doors, Jefferson Airplane, and Janis Joplin got their start has survived earthquakes, foreclosures, name changes, and an owner who died in a helicopter crash. When The Fillmore finally reopened for good (for now) in 1994, the Smashing Pumpkins played the first show.
Well, Pumpkins Fever is back, and has spread through San Francisco like crabs in a cheap Cancun hotel. On June 15 and 16, Billy Corgan and the gang return, stopping at the theatre to play 11 shows, yes 11, from July 15 through August 1. The performances are part of a reunion tour (which, technically, only reunites two of the original members).
This relatively major detail hasn't deterred the half-Pumpkins from selling out every performance. While The Fillmore almost always charged $25 per show, tickets are now going for up to $400 through ancillary brokers (read: scalpers dressed up in a pretty Web site). Craig's List trades and sales are feverishly taking place as we write. The theatre only holds 1,250 people, and, it seems, many more Pumpkins-loving San Franciscans want to relive the 11th grade and see a bald Corgan in his trademark Zero T-shirt crooning "Tonight, Tonight."
For Eastern Coasters who can't shake their love for 90s nostalgia rock, the band is playing in Asheville, N.C. today and at Live Earth in East Rutherford, N.J. Saturday. So you can try your luck at these venues. That is, if sell your body or first born for tickets.
· Where to Stay in San Francisco [HotelChatter]
· Where to Pay an Insane Amount of Money for Tickets [ClickitTicket]