From soulful rhythm and blues of the 1950s to the hippie counterculture movement of the mid-60s, San Francisco has made a name for itself as a hub for new and constantly evolving music. The Golden City continues to cultivate its progressive music scene today. In every corner of the city, you’ll find a historic music venue that still houses concerts and live music from new up-and-coming artists like Tinashe and Yung Lean, to music legends like the Grateful Dead and Bob Dylan. Read on to learn more about our favorite concert venues, and discover a thing or two about the amazing artists who once performed there and the bands who will play there in the future!
This San Francisco music venue is so rich in rock history that it was known as the pinnacle of creative music in the 1960s. The Fillmore, fittingly located in the Fillmore District, is the place where icons like the Grateful Dead, Jefferson Airplane and Janis Joplin first launched their careers and got their big breaks.
The span of genres and number of shows hosted at this concert venue in the past decade has been extensive and incredible. From The Cure, to Radiohead, to Prince, The Fillmore continues to attract a variety of talent and some large crowds. For instance, experimental rock band Yeasayer and punk and indie rock band Titus Andronicus will both be performing at The Fillmore this May. The next time you see a show here, just remember that The Who and Jimi Hendrix once rocked the stage of this famous concert hall.
War Memorial Opera House
If you’re looking for a night of sophistication and culture in the city of San Francisco, the War Memorial Opera House is the place to be. Since its opening night in 1932, the music venue has been the home of the San Francisco Opera and is one of the last Beaux-Arts structures erected in the U.S. Built in the classic and Romanesque style, the opera house also functions as a memorial to those who served in World War I.
At night, lights through the music venue’s colossal arch-headed windows shine on attendees in gowns and fine suits being ushered in for a night of opera. The grand entrance hall receives guests with a high vaulted ceiling and staircase landings at each end. The theater itself has a massive glass chandelier, and gilded sculptures frame the stage. Tchaikovsky’s “The Nutcracker” is a big hit during the holiday season at the opera house, but this summer the San Francisco Opera will feature Carmen, Don Carlo and Jenufa. Located on the western side of Van Ness Avenue (across from City Hall), this opera house is a stunning venue you won’t want to miss!
The Warfield has been an established music venue in San Francisco for nearly 100 years since it’s opening on May 13, 1922. Originally built as a vaudeville theater for a variety of entertainment, The Warfield used to be a favorite institution for major performers such as Al Jolson, Louis Armstrong and Charlie Chaplin.
Music legend and cultural icon Bob Dylan has also frequented the concert venue, along with The Clash, the Grateful Dead and thrash metal band Slayer. Guns N’ Roses also performed a set of secret warm-up gigs there before their “Use Your Illusion” Tour in the early 90s. The venue is located in the Tenderloin neighborhood and continues to host great performers from heavy metal bands to rising pop artists and standup comedians alike. This summer, The Warfield will host Canadian singer and songwriter Mac DeMarco, Swedish death metal band Amon Amarth, and a conversation with “Making a Murderer’s” defense attorneys, Dean Strang and Jerry Buting.
Relatively new to the swing of things, the SFJAZZ Center opened in January 2013. Conveniently located in the Hayes Valley neighborhood of San Francisco, in the heart of the city’s artsy Fillmore district, this music venue is the first “free-standing building in America built for jazz performance and education.” The ornate music center is decorated with murals and interior art, which aptly fit its elaborate 700-seat concert hall. Bright lights and custom-designed acoustics have made this jazz venue a real treat for both musicians and audience members alike.
Since its grand opening, the concert venue has helped revive the jazz scene in San Francisco with its New Orleans-style café and cocktail lounge. To celebrate the longstanding musical history of the Fillmore District, the building also supports local musicians and jazz school groups. The SFJAZZ Center may be new to the San Francisco music scene, but its swinging genre has long-standing roots that make it look like it’s here to stay. This spring you can look forward to upcoming performances by piano virtuoso Keith Jarrett and three-time Grammy winner Dee Dee Bridewater!
Bimbo’s 365 Club
Bimbo’s 365 Club is one of San Francisco’s oldest nightclubs that specializes in live rock and jazz music shows. Named after the club’s Italian owner, Agostino “Bimbo” Giuntoli, the club originally opened as a speakeasy and after-hours gambling locale. Bimbo is the Italian word for “boy,” so the music venue’s name translates to the “Boy’s 365 Club,” and is decorated with red velvet and chandeliers.
When the club first opened in the 1930s, it was one of the most popular venues in town as well as the most illicit drinking establishment. Music artists and aspiring dancers performed here, including Rita Hayworth. Today, Giuntoli's grandsons own and operate the club, still hosting concerts and occasionally renting it out to private parties. This summer, you can catch French model and singer Lou Doillon perform one of her love ballads or American psychedelic funk duo Wild Belle rock out on stage.
Choose a Music Venue
With so many amazing music spots available in San Francisco, you might find it easiest to choose which ones you’d most like to visit based on your music genre preference. Whether it’s soulful and brassy tunes at the SFJAZZ Center, rock metal or pop at The Warfield or a classical performance at the War Memorial Opera House, you won’t soon forget any of these music venues. And if you can’t catch a concert the next time you’re in the city, do the next best thing and visit your favorite concert venues during the day, accompanied by your Sony NW-ZX2 High-Resolution Audio Walkman®, to listen to the greats that once rocked the house down in high-res quality. One thing is for sure, no matter which of these music venues you choose to visit in the city of San Francisco, you’re bound to fall in love with music all over again.