San Francisco Concerts That Will Be Remembered Forever

San Francisco
San Francisco | © Simone Anne / Culture Trip
Joey Reams

Being one of the most popular cities in America and having an abundance of venues, San Francisco was always destined to have some of the most memorable concerts in history. From the first time local artist Jefferson Airplane took the stage to the last time music mega stars The Beatles would ever play, check out some of the concerts that will forever be remembered.
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Jefferson Airplane at the Matrix August 13, 1965

Marty Balin was a hopeful musician trying to start his own band in the 1960s. He bought an old pizza parlor in the city and opened up a club known as The Matrix. Balin quickly started to assemble a house band of multiple local artists including Paul Kantner, Jorma Kaukonen and Signe Toly Anderson. The group agreed to call themselves Jefferson Airplane. The club opened on August 13, 1965 and subsequently had its first performance by the band. Jefferson Airplane would eventually carry onto global success and establish San Francisco’s music scene.

The Rolling Stones at Civic Auditorium May 14 1965

On May 14, 1965 local radio station KYA hosted a concert known as Boss of the Bay. The line-up consisted the Vejtables, Paul Revere and the Raiders, Beau Brummels, the Byrds and The Rolling Stones. This concert is notable for being the first time The Rolling Stones played in San Francisco. The Byrds and The Rolling Stones eventually went on the be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

S.N.A.C.K. Benefit Concert March 23, 1975

In early 1975, San Francisco public schools announced fiscal cutbacks that would get rid of after school clubs and sports. Bill Graham collected as many artists as he could and set up a benefit concert within a month. This event would be known as S.N.A.C.K. (students need activities, culture and kicks) and was held at Kezar Stadium on March 23, 1975. Tickets were sold for only $5 but the event managed to raise $200,00, enough to keep after school programs alive for another year. The star-studded line up included a one-time-only collaboration of Bob Dylan, The Band and Neil Young as well as Santana, The Doobie Brothers, Grateful Dead, and Jefferson Airplane.

Bill Graham: Love, Laughter and Music November 3, 1991

Bill Graham was one of the greatest concert promoters in the country who helped establish the way concerts were run in the Bay Area. When he died in 1991 after a plane crash, the world was stunned. His company, Bill Graham Presents, held a free concert at Golden Gate Park on November 3, 1991 in his memory. The line up was one for the ages including Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, Grateful Dead, John Fogerty, Journey, Living Colour, Robin Williams and Santana. 300,000 people crowded together in Polo Fields to remember an incredible man and a San Francisco legend.

The Who at Cow Palace November 20, 1973

The Who played at Cow Palace on November 20, 1973. The concert was going as planned until The Who’s drummer, Keith Moon, unexpectedly passed out due to excessive drugs and alcohol. With the band wanting to the continue the show, they asked if someone in the audience could fill in for Moon. 19-year-old Scot Halpin quickly jumped to the opportunity and played the entire show without missing a beat. Halpin would later be awarded ‘Pickup Player Of The Year’ by Rolling Stone Magazine.

Sex Pistols at Winterland January 14, 1978

When The Sex Pistols played their first concert at Winterland Ballroom, no one knew it was going to be the last time they would see Sid Vicious. In fact, this concert is the last time The Sex Pistols would ever play in America with Sid Vicious. A year after the San Francisco concert Vicious would die of a heroin overdose. In other words, this was the only time San Francisco ever got to see Sid Vicious perform. The Sex Pistols would reunite in 1996 with the surviving members. A decade later they would be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, but would not attend, calling it a ‘piss stain.’ The concert would later be released in 2001 as a live concert album.

Dead & Company December 27 and 28, 2015

This concert hasn’t actually happened yet, but is guaranteed to be a once in a lifetime concert. On December 27 and 28, the remaining members of Grateful Dead (without Phil Lesh) will be joined John Mayer, Oteil Burbridge and Jeff Chimenti as Dead & Company. The group was formed after Grateful Dead’s Farewell concerts. The group has toured throughout the country and will end in Los Angeles on New Year’s Eve. Many speculate that this will be the last time any members of Grateful Dead will play together.

Tibetan Freedom Concert June 15, 1996

The Tibetan Freedom Concerts were a series of North American concerts that raised money to support Tibetan independence. The concerts, organized by The Beastie Boys, launched on June 15, 1996 and raised $800,000. The line-up included The Smashing Pumpkins, Beastie Boys, A Tribe Called Quest, Biz Markie, Richie Havens, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Rage Against the Machine, Sonic Youth, Beck, Foo Fighters, Björk, De La Soul, Fugees, Yoko Ono/Ima and No Doubt.

The Beatles at Candlestick Park August 29, 1966

Any time The Beatles played in the United States is considered legendary. On August 29, 1966 The Beatles played at Candlestick Park for 25,000 lucky people. What many people didn’t know was this was the last time The Beatles would ever play in the United States. In fact, this would become the last commercial tour of The Beatles. After a series of break-ups, solo careers and retirements, lead singer John Lennon was assassinated on December 8, 1980.

The Last Waltz November 25, 1976

The Last Waltz was a farewell concert for Canadian-American rock band The Band at The Winterland Ballroom on Thanksgiving 1976. Initially it was supposed to be The Band playing their last ever concert, but ended up being something much more than that. Surprise artists joined The Band on stage, including Bob Dylan, Paul Butterfield, Neil Young, Emmylou Harris, Ringo Starr, Ronnie Hawkins, Dr. John, Joni Mitchell, Van Morrison, Muddy Waters, Ronnie Wood, Neil Diamond, Bobby Charles, The Staple Singers, and Eric Clapton. The concert was recorded and directed by Martin Scorsese and became one of the greatest concert films.

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