San Francisco has been home to one of the most eclectic and well-regarded music scenes in the US for decades. There’s a refined mixture in the Bay Area: smaller clubs loaded with character and personality, larger venues with fascinating histories, and a diverse roster of performances and music festivals. Recent years have yielded an influx of new live performance sites that tend to cater to contemporary independent music, yet there are many older jazz clubs that keep their feet firmly planted in genre, time, and place. What follows is a brief list of venues that reflect the vibrant diversity of San Fran’s music scene:
Rickshaw Stop | 155 Fell Street
Rickshaw Stop is decidedly no-frills. This Hayes Valley bar is the place you go to catch that new band you’ve discovered while they’re doing a small club tour—or to unearth a new sound or artist previously unknown to you. It’s mostly a rock venue, so if it wasn’t at least a little dingy, it wouldn’t provide the proper ambience. Though on the small side, Rickshaw Stop is still sizable enough to nab many well-known bands and performers. The experience is all about the music itself—a spot on the floor puts you right in the action, mere feet away from the band.
Underground SF | 424 Haight Street
This mostly electronica venue is a colorful, enchanting space that seems to draw an energetic crowd every night of the week. An epicenter for drum and bass enthusiasts for years now, Underground SF (also located in Hayes Valley) attracts premier DJs and electronic artists from around the globe. It’s not a large venue, but – much like Rickshaw Stop – it has character and grit to spare.
The Chapel | 777 Valencia Street
The Chapel is a new venue that feels like an old venue—and that is meant as an unmitigated compliment. Built in a massive mortuary originally constructed in 1914, the space is absolutely stunning and the acoustics are great. The Chapel books an array of impressive indie rock bands, and there isn’t a bad seat in the house. Come for the aesthetics, stay for the music.
The Fillmore | 1805 Geary Boulevard
Undoubtedly the most legendary venue in San Francisco, The Fillmore is as historic as they come, but its programming is as fresh as ever. Jimi Hendrix, the Grateful Dead, The Doors, The Who, Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, The Velvet Underground, and scores of other rock gods have graced the Fillmore’s stage. It’s a special place, and you get that feeling immediately upon entering—almost as if all the different sounds that have reverberated off the walls there for the past five decades continue to hang in the air. New acts, both familiar and emerging, grace the Fillmore’s stage today, where an intriguing mix of musical genres is on display from week to week.