San Francisco Concerts

San Francisco Music Scene

Lauren Wells | May 21, 2014

The History

One of the first bands from San Francisco to receive national critical acclaim, the rock band Grateful Dead has cultivated a loyal following of Deadheads since its founding in 1965.  Also during the mid 60s, Carlos Santana led Santana, a Grammy Award winning Latin rock band.  Known for hits such as “Space Cowboy,” “Take the Money and Run,” and “Fly like an Eagle,” the Steve Miller Band put their heartland rock sound on the map as they emerged from San Francisco.  Rhythm and blues band The Ace of Cups, psychedelic rock band Jefferson Airplane, and funk soul group Sly and the Family Stone all emerged from San Francisco during the mid-1960s.  A spin off of Jefferson Airplane, Hot Tuna honed their blues rock sound as they produced hits such as “Somebody to Love” and “White Rabbit.”  During the 1970s, bands such as the hardcore rockers Dead Kennedys, “867-5309/Jenny” hitmakers Tommy Tutone, and Journey emerged from San Francisco. Huey Lewis and the News, a blues infused pop rock band was put on the map for their song “The Power of Love” from the film Back to the Future and has since seen much success. The 1980s in San Francisco meant the creation of alternative metal band Faith No More, “Sister Christian” hitmakers Night Ranger, “Wicked Game” singer Chris Isaak, and hip hop/funk musician Michael Franti.  During the late 1980s, punk rock band Green Day emerged from the city, alongside acts like psychedelic rock band The Brian Jonestown Massacre.  Known for their 1990s hits “Semi-Charmed Life,” “Jumper,” “Never Let You Go,” and “How’s It Going to Be,” Third Eye Blind created a radio-friendly alternative rock sound.  Grammy Award winning pop rock band Train also got their start in San Francisco before penning hits such as “Drops of Jupiter (Tell Me),” “Meet Virginia,” and “Hey Soul Sister.”  Alternative rock band Black Rebel Motorcycle Club and indie pop band The Aislers Set also got their careers going during this time.  The millenium introduced indie folk band The Dodos, blues rock band The Stone Foxes, and indie rock band Geographer onto the San Francisco music scene.

The Venues

Cobb’s Comedy Club has been going strong for over 30 years, presenting comedians such as Robin Williams, Dana Carvey, Dave Chappelle, Dave Attell, Russell Peters, Jo Koy, Anjelah Johnson, Bill Burr, and Louis CK, among others.  The 400-seat venue, located in North Beach, has a strong following in the San Francisco area.

The Warfield Theatre, a 2,300-seat live music venue, was originally built to be a vaudeville theatre in 1922.  After the decline of silent movies, artists like Bob Dylan, Grateful Dead, Guns N’ Roses, Slayer, Korn, Green Day, and The Killers took the stage, making it into a popular San Francisco live music venue.

Owned by Live Nation, The Fillmore was opened in 1912.  A 1,150-capacity music venue, the venue has hosted The Steve Miller Band, Jefferson Airplane, the Doors, Jimi Hendrix Experience, The Byrds, Santana, The Grateful Dead, Aretha Franklin, Otis Redding, Duran Duran, and Miles Davis.  The iconic venue was even referenced in Hunter S. Thompson’s book Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, as the Fillmore was (and still is) a dancing, live music oasis for young folk.

The Independent produced over 2,500 shows during its first ten years, making it a San Francisco music mainstay.  From indie rock to EDM, this venue has seen it all: Vampire Weekend, the xx, John Legend, Sonic Youth, Beck, Green Day, M.I.A., Bon Iver, Foster the People, Phil Lesh, Erasure, and Gregg Allman have all performed here over the years.  Located in the NOPA district, the Independent encourages up and coming indie artists and successful artists to roll through their venue, making this neighborhood a musical hotspot.

A 2,743-seat concert space, Davies Symphony Hall was opened in 1980 as a place to house the San Francisco Symphony.  With crisp acoustics, and an impressive concert organ, Davies Hall hosts opera and ballet performances as well as contemporary musicians throughout the year.

Located in the Financial District, the Punch Line Comedy Club opened in 1978 and has since become San Francisco’s oldest running comedy club. Opened by Bill Graham, the Punch Line has even hosted musical acts like U2, Metallica, Dire Straits, R.E.M., Elvis Costello, and AC/DC.  Comedians such as Chris Rock, Dana Carvey, Drew Carey, Rosie O’Donnell, Ellen DeGeneres, and Robin Williams have all tested their material on the stage, making it an iconic venue to catch a show of any kind.

Built in 1909 The Regency Center houses three levels of entertainment: The Regency Ballroom, The Sutter Room, and The Lodge.  The largest of the three rooms, The Regency Ballroom has a capacity of 1,400.  The Sutter Room hosts 600 people, and The Lodge hosts 300 people for concerts and events.

Slim’s hosts acts like DIIV, Mono, Grieves, Michael Nesmith, Nile, Lumerians, Loop, Black Prairie, and Richard Thompson, among others.  Opened in 1988 by Boz Scaggs, the venue is a live music nightclub that hosts every genre of music and promotes quality entertainment, food, drinks, and company.  Located in the South of Market district, Slim’s features a sprawling dance floor, chandeliers, brick walls, and a New Orleans inspired bar.

Slim’s also manages the Great American Concert Hall, one of Rolling Stone magazine’s 2013 Best Clubs in America.  The 5,000-square-foot concert space has been going strong since its opening in 1907, having hosts acts like Duke Ellington, Sarah Vaughan, Count Basie, Van Morrison, the Grateful Dead, Arcade Fire, Patti Smith, and Godspeed You! Black Emperor.

DNA Lounge, located in the SoMa district, is an all-ages nightclub owned by Jamie Zawinski.  Hosting burlesque performances, private parties, film screenings, and plenty of live music and dancing, the DNA Lounge offers seven bars, two stages, four dance floors and a 24-hour pizza cafe.  Opened in 1977, the venue has hosted acts like Prince, Metallica, Nas, Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark, GWAR, Green Day, Grandmaster Flash, Phish, Brand X, The Roots, Spin Doctors, and Deftones, among many others.

The Mondavi Center at UC Davis is a performing arts space that hosts lectures, concerts, theatrical performances, dances, and other events.  Designed by Boora Architects, the Mondavi Center has become a high class entertainment venue in the San Francisco area.

Located in the Marina District, the Palace of Fine Arts is an official San Francisco Landmark, serving as a popular tourist attraction and wedding location given its stunning beauty.  Built in 1915, the landmark overlooks a small lagoon, but allows for plenty of elegant events to take place whether they’re theatrical performances, award shows, comedy shows, graduations, or concerts.

Built in 1915, the Bill Graham Civic Auditorium is a 6,000-capacity venue operated by Another Planet Entertainment.  Featuring acts like Kid Cudi, Robyn, Royksopp, New Order, and Robin Thicke, the Bill Graham Civic Auditorium has solidified its name in San Francisco’s ever-growing music scene.

Located in Bayview Heights, Candlestick Park was once home to the NFL’s San Francisco 49ers and the MLB’s San Francisco Giants.  The 69,733-capacity venue hosted the Beatles’ final concert in 1966, and has also held countless sporting and entertainment events since its inception in 1960.

The Festivals

San Francisco’s Outside Lands Festival has featured artists such as Sir Paul McCartney, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Nine Inch Nails, Phoenix, Kaskade, Vampire Weekend, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Willie Nelson, and Young the Giant, among others.  Held every August, the festival takes place at Golden Gate Park, where festival goers enjoy great music, food, wine, beer, and art for the weekend.  The Castro Street Fair, held in October, is a one-day festival that hosts acts like Peaches, Dirty Ghosts, and Ethel Merman Experience.  At the Polk Street Blues Festival, held in September, concertgoers can enjoy food booths, community vendors, arts and crafts exhibits, family-friendly activities, and locally crafted beer and wine alongside quality blues music.  In July, the Fillmore Street Jazz Festival invites jazz lovers for two days of free entertainment (past performers have included Dr. Lonnie Smith, Denise Perrier, Lady Memphis, Kim Nalley, Pete Escovedo, Jules Broussard, Big Belly Blues Band, Paula West, and Brenda Boykin).  A performing arts and music festival, the Stern Grove Festival features acts like Delton 3030, San Francisco Symphony, Opera, and Ballet, Kronos Quartet, Shuggie Otis, and Ramsey Lewis with Dee Dee Bridgewater.  When packing your picnic, remember to pack your own alcohol, as it is not sold on the premises.  The Robert Mondavi Winery Summer Concert Series, held in Napa Valley, has hosted artists such as Tony Bennett, Chris Botti, Dave Koz, and Ella Fitzgerald.  The Rodney Strong Summer Concert Series takes place in September, and encourages concertgoers to bring a picnic to enjoy while taking in the sounds of B.B. King, Michael McDonald, Dwight Yoakam, and Dave Koz.  Hosting artists like Smash Mouth, Sugar Ray, Huey Lewis and the News, Counting Crows, The Wallflowers, Chris Botti, and Chicago, the Concerts at Wente Vineyards in Livermore has been going strong for over 25 years.  The America’s Cup Concert Series takes place in July and hosts the world’s largest sailing competition in addition to bringing you acts like Counting Crows, Wallflowers, San Francisco Symphony, Weezer, 311, Sublime, Steely Dan, and Sammy Hagar.  Every October, the Treasure Island Music Festival hosts headliners such as Beck, Animal Collective, James Blake, Sleigh Bells, Atoms for Peace, Major Lazer, Little Dragon, and Phantogram, among many others.  The Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival takes place in October and has featured performers such as MC Hammer, Bonnie Raitt, Calexico, Manchester Orchestra, Conor Oberst, The Felice Brothers, Boz Scaggs, Gogol Bordello, Chris Isaak, The String Cheese Incident, Steve Earle and the Dukes, and Loudon Wainwright III.