The Bay Area’s 7 Most Iconic Music Venues

|October 20, 2017

What we’re about to say probably won’t surprise you: San Francisco and the Bay Area have been cultural centers for decades — filled to the brim with live music and performance. Our oldest music venues have been in operation since the early 1900s and, over the years, have garnered national fame and fascinating stories.

Whichever neighborhood you find yourself in, you will not struggle to find live music — whether it’s a local musician playing in a community pub or a national band rocking out from an enormous stage. We’re celebrating the region’s oldest and most iconic venues where you can still hear live music today. Get a taste for history and peruse their schedules to catch your next show in San Francisco, East Bay and North Bay!

The Bay Area’s iconic concert venues include:

The Fillmore, Great American Music Hall, The Fox Theater, The Saloon, Bimbo’s 365 Club, The Warfield and Mystic Theatre & Music Hall

1. The Fillmore | San Francisco

1805 Geary Blvd | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram

When this historic theater was originally built in 1912, it was named the Majestic Hall — a fitting title for the Italianate-style dance hall. Over the years, the venue operated as a club and dance hall, a roller rink, and hosted some of the biggest names in black music, including James Brown, Bobby ‘Blue’ Bland, and Ike & Tina Turner.

Under its current name, The Fillmore became the center of creative music making in the late 1960s, playing host to bands like the Grateful Dead, Jefferson Airplane, Santana, Jimi Hendrix and Otis Redding. Since its heyday, the concert hall has celebrated grand re-openings and anniversaries, but musicians and music-lovers all over the world have always had a soft spot for The Fillmore.

Peruse the calendar online. Packed with live music from every genre, you’re sure to find something to fit your taste!

2. Great American Music Hall | San Francisco

859 O’Farrell St | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram

This historic hall was established in 1907 during the period of rebuilding that followed the 1906 earthquake. Designed by a French architect, the venue is known for its decorative balconies, columns and frescoes, and for its history of unique entertainment. Over the years, the hall has offered burlesque dancing as well as jazz, folk music, and rock and roll concerts. In 2013, GAMH was ranked sixth on the Best Clubs in America list by Rolling Stone magazine. And today, it is San Francisco’s oldest and grandest nightclub with shows from rock and roll bands, indie musicians, comedians — you name it.

Check out the upcoming shows here and experience the hall for yourself!

3. The Fox Theater | Oakland

1807 Telegraph Ave | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram

The Fox Theater Oakland California historic live music venues

Photo courtesy of Fox Theater and Another Planet Entertainment

The Fox was built in 1928 as an architectural masterpiece and movie house in the heart of Oakland. At the time, it was one of the premier destinations to see the new-fangled “talkies” which were quickly replacing silent films. Decades later, as television replaced movie theaters and multiplexes, The Fox was forced to close its doors in 1966. But after a $75 million renovation in 2009, it reopened as a concert hall under the direction of Another Planet Entertainment. Today, the venue still features stunning original details with modern updates and a capacity of 2,800 dancing guests.

Peruse the calendar online to find out which local, national and international bands and comedians are coming to The Fox next!

4. The Saloon | San Francisco

1232 Grant Ave | Facebook  

Located in North Beach, The Saloon first opened in 1861 and has been in continuous operation ever since. Though it has had a few different names over the years, it has always had live music — and today, it is the city’s oldest saloon. The bar’s history includes miraculously surviving the 1906 earthquake and, despite its small size, playing host to world-famous blues performers. Today, you can still sip a drink and tap your foot to the soulful sounds of blues in this legendary San Francisco venue.

Check out this month’s schedule here and stop by for music every night of the week!

5. Bimbo’s 365 Club | San Francisco

1025 Columbus Ave | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram

San Francisco Music Venues

The story of Bimbo’s 365 Club begins when Agostino Giuntoli sailed from Italy to the United States in 1922. Eventually, he landed in San Francisco and was named “Bimbo” by his boss Monk Young. The two soon opened the 365 Club at 365 Market Street in 1931 to bring fun and life back to the city after the Great Depression. Inside, you could hear live music, watch dancers and drink gin out of coffee cups. In 1951 the club relocated to Columbus Avenue where it stands today offering private parties, special events and concerts in every genre.

See the lineup online and buy your tickets today!

6. The Warfield | San Francisco

982 Market St | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram

In the 1920s, The Warfield was one of the city’s most popular spots for vaudeville and live performance — including huge names like Al Jolson, Louis Armstrong and Charlie Chaplin. Operating under several different names over the years, the Warfield found new life when Bob Dylan played 14 shows at the start of his first Gospel Tour in 1979. During the next year, the Grateful Dead played 15 sold-out shows in the hall and Jerry Garcia performed a record 88 times with various side projects. With a large occupancy but an intimate atmosphere, the venue soon became especially popular amongst rock musicians and the stage has been rocking and rolling ever since.

Check out the calendar to see who’s coming next!

7. Mystic Theatre & Music Hall | Petaluma

23 Petaluma Blvd N | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram

Mystic Theater Petaluma California historic live music venues

Photo courtesy of Mystic Theatre & Music Hall 

The Mystic’s rich history and enchanting design make it one of North Bay’s best music venues. Originally opened in 1911 by the historic McNear Family, the venue hosted live Vaudeville entertainment and various local businesses until it was boarded up and renovated in 1976. The new owners opened McNear’s Saloon & Dining House and McNear’s Mystic Theatre as a testament to its history, and to provide a community meeting, eating and entertaining spot for its visitors. In 1992, the building was renovated again to accommodate live music performances for up to 550 guests. With a full bar and restaurant access, it’s a great option for a night out in Petaluma!

Check out the upcoming shows and buy tickets online.

Share your favorites

In the comments below, let us know where you go to hear live music in the Bay Area!

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