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Top 6 Live Music Venues for a Big Night Out in San Francisco

Top 6 Live Music Venues for a Big Night Out in San Francisco
From the live performances of Jefferson Airplane and The Grateful Dead in the 1960s and 1970s, to today’s current electronic era epitomised by Bassnectar and The M Machine, San Francisco has been a prime destination for live music for decades. While various venues have come and gone due to the shifting of the times, the city still has plenty of great spots in which to check out a live show. Here are six of the best venues in the city.

Located in the Divisadero Street microhood between Grove and Hayes, The Independent caters to a surprisingly well-balanced variety of musicians, artists, and events, which is why this venue is one of the most popular in the city. Shows by St. Lucia, The Wailers, and Lycics Born have all graced the stage in the past and the calendar extends out more than 4 months. The interior space feels intimate and provides unobstructed views from any standing position. As a result, tickets can sell out quickly, especially for the more popular acts. Coat check is available with a fee.

Public Works is located at the end of a small alleyway of Mission Street under the freeway. The venue entrance is well-lit and always filled with attendees. In fact, its unique location gives the venue the ability to play music an additional 2 hours after the alcohol stops flowing. Theme parties are frequent events at Public Works and dressing up is encouraged. This is especially true for the participants of the annual Burning Man event as the venue often hosts fund-raisers and parties that play music to 3 or 4 in the morning. However, the venue is also host to public speaking events and art shows. The space includes 2 stages that are often used in tandem for larger events, each with their own bars.

Also located in an alleyway in SOMA, San Francisco’s ever-popular warehouse district, Mezzanine is a large, open venue with the eponymous mezzanine level catering to VIP’s and bottle service. Mezzanine primarily plays more well known electronic and hip-hop artists so if that’s your jam, buy tickets to a show. Artists include Bonobo, E-40, Kiezsa, and The Art Department. Public transportation to the venue is very accessible, both BART and Muni get you within 1-2 blocks, and taxis frequently drive by after the show.

Mezzanine © Patton Christofdes

Located in the hip Mission District on Valencia Street is Amnesia . Previously, this bar was an underground rock-haven and part of that persona seems to have carried on. Now, the venue is host to myriad genres from Bluegrass and Country to Rock and Electro-Pop. The interior is very tiny and intimate but that’s exactly what makes the experience so special. Amnesia also hosts two very popular recurring music events: Bluegrass night every Monday and Jazz Night every Wednesday. A stroll down Valencia Street is worth it for any visit to San Francisco but make sure you stop in for a drink at Amnesia while you’re there.

Just down the street is another established Mission watering hole – Revolution Cafe. The venue, like Amnesia, is host to relatively unknown artists playing folk, Latin rock and Latin jazz, reggae, and acoustic – you won’t find any electronic music here. Both venues are small, so consider arriving on the early side if you expect to sit and stay a while. In addition, Revolution Café has a nice outdoor area for those sunny San Francisco winters.

Revolution Café © Juan Romero Corral

Great American Music Hall

The Great American Music Hall (GAMH), located in the heart of the Tenderloin on O’Farrell Street, has stood the test of time. Since its opening in 1907 during the the infamous Barbary Coast period of San Francisco, the building has been a popular destination for live music and entertainment. It wasn’t until 1972 that the current GAMH was established. Since then, the venue has hosted acts such as Van Morrison, the Grateful Dead, and Arcade Fire. Its attraction is in part due to the preserved interior decor that has been protected and saved from demolition throughout its history. Expect primarily rock, big band, and funk music, although the venue caters to many genres.

GAMH, Photo by Jumi Song on Flickr

By Patton Christofides with photography by Juan Romero Corral

Patton is an avid home brewer and enjoys drinking a cold beer with friends on a warm San Francisco day.

Juan can be seen all over the city with a camera in his hands. You can check out his work on his website by clicking here.

These recommendations were updated on May 9, 2016 to keep your travel plans fresh.