Great American Music Hall (credit: slimspresents.com)
San Francisco has long been one of America’s best cities for emerging music talent. From the early years of the San Francisco Sound to today’s indie music scene, a long list of prominent local bands got their start here by playing in small venues. In fact one legendary venue considered one of the world’s most famous has transformed itself from an aging rock auditorium into a contemporary hotspot, hosting some of today’s leading acts and up and coming bands. Here is a look at five of the best small music venues for local bands in San Francisco.
858 O’Farrell St.
San Francisco, CA
Named one of the Best Clubs in America by Rolling Stone magazine, the Great American Music Hall is also the oldest nightclub in San Francisco. Recently selected as one of the world’s most beautiful music venues, the 600-seat venue first opened its doors in 1907 and has long been a showcase for both established and rising stars. Among the best-known performers who have appeared over the years have been Patti Smith, Doc Watson, Dizzie Gillespie and Arcade Fire along with local bands like The Grateful Dead and the Jerry Garcia Band and comedian Robin Williams. Known for its marble columns, gilded balconies, frescoed ceiling and oak floors, the Great American Music Hall more recently hosted local bands like The Dodos, The Bilinda Butchers and Front Country, with upcoming appearances from The Dark Star Orchestra and Bay Area favorite Moon Alice.
333 11th St.
San Francisco, CA
Years after Boz Scaggs released his Grammy Award-winning album ”Silk Degrees”, he opened Slim’s in the SoMa district, one of the most successful and enduring venues in San Francisco. Over the years, the Bay Area resident has hosted many top acts such as Foo Fighters, Eddie Vedder, No Doubt, Prince and Radiohead, in addition to local bands like Green Day and Huey Lewis and the News and Steve Miller, whose original San Francisco band included the Boz himself. Ever since opening in 1988, Slim’s has routinely been voted San Francisco’s Best Bar and Club and Best Music Venue from local publications. Recent shows from the local’s venue have featured rising local bands like The Sam Chase and Western Addiction, along with notable performers like Eric Johnson and Charli XCX.
1805 Geary Blvd.
San Francisco, CA 94115
During its heyday, all of the best up and coming local bands had to perform at The Fillmore. A list of music artists reads like a who’s who of rock icons that helped create San Francisco into an international music destination during the 1960s counter culture movement. The Grateful Dead, Jefferson Airplane, Steve Miller Band, Santana and Big Brother and the Holding Company were among the San Francisco-based bands first introduced to the music world at the Fillmore Auditorium. Today, the legendary music venue attracts an eclectic mixture of headliners and local up and comers who can all say “I played the Fillmore”. Recent performers includes appearances from well known music artists like Patti Smith, Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings, The Blasters and Aimee Mann, along with local bands like Poor Man’s Whiskey, The Family Crest and The She’s.
628 Divisadero St.
San Francisco, CA 94117
The Independent is arguably the best music club in San Francisco for consistently promoting local music artists. Over the years, the small venue has presented unknown solo artists and bands well before it became known as The Independent. Miles Davis, Nirvana, Jane’s Addiction, the Black Eyed Peas, Green Day and Imagine Dragons are just a few of the notable acts who were already somewhat established or were just getting their start. Local bands who recently have appeared at here include Fritz Montana, Solwave, The Tropics and Cathedrals.
982 Market St.
San Francisco, CA 94102
First opened during the 1920 vaudeville era, The Warfield is one of the most important music venues in San Francisco for local bands. More than double the capacity of The Fillmore, this historic theater might not be considered a small venue. But rising local bands who get to perform here can say they played at The Grateful Dead’s preferred concert venue. Other top acts who have appeared at The Warfield over the years include Bob Dylan, Guns and Roses, Fiona Apple and Green Day. More recently, Spandau Ballet, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Cheap Trick, Gavin DeGraw and Mary Lambert have all taken the stage at The Warfield.