By Laurie Jo Miller Farr
Live music rocks. San Francisco is filled with venues for local talent, emerging artists and new musical discoveries in the world of indie rock. In addition to the five listed below which represent a wide range of vibes, other diverse spots for such a list include Swedish American Hall, Mezzanine, Rickshaw Stop, Brick & Mortar Music Hall, Hemlock Tavern, El Rio and even The Chapel, a former mortuary.
Great American Music Hall
895 O’Farrell St.
San Francisco, CA 94109
In an elegant venue, marble columns, balconies and a frescoed ceiling recall the historical pedigree of this 1907 showplace. The 5,000-square-foot concert hall is upgraded with a modern sound system and two bars. Most of the GAMH is for standing, but there are some seats upstairs. Arrive early to secure a good view; there’s no reserved seating, but there is food and drink served before the show. In fact, dinner and a show ticket makes a great date night combo, courtesy of acclaimed in-house Chef Mike Werden. In SoMa, the sister venue with admission for all ages (6+) is Slim’s.
628 Divisadero St.
San Francisco, CA 94117
Anyone remember this place as The Justice League or the Kennel Club? The original home of the annual Noise Pop Festival back in 1993, you can catch plenty of indie rock here all year round. Medium-sized, it’s a 21-plus general admission venue, with standing room only plus a few coveted bench seats for those who grab them first or reserve ahead for special needs. Fans of The Independent give it top marks for acoustics in the city. A full bar serves a selection of brews, including the house brand and credit cards are accepted.
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Bottom of the Hill
1233 17th St.
San Francisco, CA 94107
In Potrero Hill, this intimate venue offers a vibe that most everyone really appreciates and an opportunity for up close and personal with the bands. Shows are held almost every night, making it a well-known place for emerging bands newly venturing into the city. A light menu offers food such as quesadillas, tacos, sausages plus drinks (cash only) served before the show and there’s a back room with tables and chairs for chilling out as well as an outdoor patio. Most shows finish around 1 a.m.
Bimbo’s 365 Club
1025 Columbus Ave.
San Francisco, CA 94133
First opened (in a different location) in 1931, Bimbo’s 365 Club is a slice of San Francisco, a quirky, classy, old school landmark in the nightclub vein, right down to the red velvet walled lounge theater. Located between North Beach and Fisherman’s Wharf, it has attracted cash carrying (no credit cards accepted) residents and tourists for decades. A short, wide stage surrounded by tables gives audiences a feeling of being right up close to performers. Be prepared for a two drink minimum when visiting this venue that’s a blast from the past.
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1805 Geary Blvd.
San Francisco, CA 94115
Grab a free apple and stay for a show. Everybody should go at least once to experience the legendary Fillmore with its chandeliers and famous poster collection highlighting the world famous performers who have rocked this house in its heyday. Opened in 1912, it’s been through many incarnations — none more famous than the rock Renaissance period from 1968 to 1971, beginning just after the Summer of Love. Drinks are on the pricey side, but they do accept credit cards. Mostly a standing venue, but early arrivals might snag an upstairs table by the railing for the best view in the house.