After a year of pandemic-related deprivation, live music venues in San Francisco are reopening to the public. With the mask mandate stripped away throughout the United States, bars, restaurants and now music venues have tentatively scheduled events for the upcoming year.
The San Franciscan music scene is one of the liveliest and most famous in the country. Diverse music, from genres like punk, rock and jazz to musical talent like Journey, the Grateful Dead, Janis Joplin and Etta James, have emanated from San Francisco. The Haight-Ashbury district acted as the focal point for evolution and radical acceptance, so it’s no surprise that music flourishes in the neighborhood. After all, it was the site of the Summer of Love.
The city’s extensive and influential musical history makes live music even more integral to the community. So who’s still standing after COVID-19 shut so many doors, including those of beloved local institutions? Mark these live music venues in San Francisco down on your live music checklist for 2021 and 2022.
Make Out Room
If you miss the thrill of a dimly lit room with a disco ball and a stranger’s mouth on yours, then hit the Make Out Room, which reopened mid-June. The calendar looks promising, filled with DJs dropping a collage of reggaeton, pop, funk, indie and more. They host DJs with vinyl record pop-ups, international discothèque and sweet 60s soul. Dancing is inevitable with the music they play. It’s a strictly 21 and up venue. Open 6 p.m.-2 a.m. every day of the week.
Public Works hosted outdoor events during the pandemic and slapped the name PW Parks on their events. They also opened to the public in mid-June. Though they aren’t as packed with scheduled events as Make Out Room, they promise to pick up in late August. True to their name, Public Works caters to the people. Its creation relied on community suggestions and crowdsourcing. Check out their website or Facebook page for upcoming events and get out your dancing shoes.
The Valencia Room
Takeover Thursdays will be back at The Valencia Room, a two-tiered building on Sycamore made for the acoustics of hip-hop and billboard music. Its exterior design embodies the oxymoron, “classy neon,” with its elegant script and sleek black walls lit by blinking neon blue. A giant white painting of a martini glass tilts on the face of this 30-year-old iconic dive bar in the Mission District.
Be forewarned, they do have a dress code for all events. They encourage fashionable attire. In other words, no sports attire, loose fitting or ripped clothing, sandals, work boots or sneakers. If management doesn’t like your fit, they reserve the right to refuse you entry.
Eclectic music is the name of the game at Rickshaw Stop, a 4000 square-foot venue that used to be a TV studio. The huge red curtains will fulfill your need for dramatic decoration, and the bar equipped with food service will fulfill your thirst and hunger. And don’t forget to check out the balcony. Shows tend to book more than a month in advance, so plan accordingly.
Inspired by Victorian steampunk, Monarch bursts with a thriving cultural scene. This multifunctional venue with an upstairs craft cocktail lounge and a basement dance floor for a night of movement, drinking and sonic debauchery. Though they technically don’t have a dress code, Monarch spurns your flip-flops and emotional support water bottles – so don’t even think about it, you Californian beach bums.
Mr. Tipple’s Recording Studio
Step into the roaring 20s at Mr. Tipple’s Recording Studio, a jazz club with craft cocktails and food from The Fat Cat, offering an array of dumplings and Dim Sum. You might feel like you’ve stumbled into a black-and-white film or a speak-easy once you’re immersed in this intimate venue. Founded by Jay Bordeau in 2015, Mr. Tipple’s Recording Studio is the perfect post-SF Jazz Center concert hangout.
When it comes to music venues in San Francisco, you can’t miss this one. A plethora of the world’s most revered musicians, including the Grateful Dead, Jimi Hendrix, The Who and Arcade Fire, have graced the stage at The Fillmore. One of San Francisco’s most historic venues, The Fillmore has spent time as a dance hall, a private club, a theater and a concert venue. Catch indie pop star Lucy Dacus and her warm alto voice in September, and rapper Watsky in November. If the exposed brick doesn’t draw you in, then the musical lineup will.
The Chapel is the kind of venue that would host the Portland, OR version of Phoebe Bridgers and an indie folk duo in suits at the same time. And they are! You can catch live music from The Milk Carton Kids and Haley Heynderickx in September. They’re currently open for outdoor concerts, and they plan on opening up full-blown indoor performances by the end of August. This renovated chapel sits in the Mission District, and they have a close relationship with Curio and their mouthwatering menu. Tickets sell out fast.
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