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Arts & Entertainment: Performance Venues

Shows usually cost $5 at this all-ages warehouse/gallery near the 16th St. Mission BART in SF, and the money often goes to benefit some worthy activist cause. Balazo 18 features a variety of punk, avant-garde, and underground acts, plus contemporary paintings by Dylan Anderson and Andres Cisneros. Spare, with a new floor, two couches, and a few crouching spaces to escape all the moshpit upheaval, this venue is relatively clean … except for the pervasive smell of what appears to be eau de three-day-old corpse.

The Bayfront Theatre is located at the Fort Mason Center, a popular waterfront destination in San Francisco that hosts a variety of programs, events and performances. The Bayfront Theatre is home to the popular BATS improv and sketch comedy group.

Located at the crest of North Beach, this old-timey nightclub is decked out with plush scarlet interiors, disco balls, and a curved stage. The old-school Art Deco decor recalls an era when San Francisco venues booked cabaret shows and bebop bands while the clientele dangled cigarette holders and sipped now-obsolete bourbon drinks; Bimbo's now showcases big-shot rock, pop, funk, R&B, and soul acts in a setting that feels intimate and private.

Live music every night -- any band in town or on their way through with any kind of blues leaning at all will play at this little venue, more of a bistro than a dive. All-ages. Cover from $5-$20. Kitchen serves southern/Creole cuisine and closes at 11 p.m. Open Tues-Sat.

Founded in 1997 by blues legend John Lee Hooker, the Boom Boom Room was once a sultry, steamy place for locals to get down to some of the country's best blues acts. Today, the club still hosts a range of blues, boogie, and soul bands, but it’s got a little less roots and little more funk and jam-band, which tends to attract a slightly younger, lighter crowd. But with its red walls, photos of famous musicians, candles on the tables, and checkerboard floor, the Boom Boom Room is still a groovy place for the blues.

For years, this Potrero Hill spot has reigned as the rock club in San Francisco. Though sometimes criticized by out-of-town bands for its complacent, arm-crossed audience, and by locals for favoritism, it still books some of the best shows and has a sound quality to match. Fans of noise-rock, post-rock, punk-pop, and everything in between cram the beer-sticky checkerboard floor all the way to the pool table and spill out onto the back patio for standing-room-only smoking and some serious tattoo watching. Don't expect fancy drinks or cheesy promotions here; this place is known for its anti-snob snobbery. But we're not complaining.

Folsom Street may not be the most picturesque destination in San Francisco, but that doesn’t stop musically inclined and hip thirtysomethings from hanging out at this popular cafe. Known for its unique combination as a cafe and Laundromat, Brainwash also features predominantly acoustic solo acts seven nights a week, as well as a Thursday comedy night. During the day, Brainwash attracts suit-and-tie types to informal business lunches over burgers and delicious french fries. At night, it’s a haven for young aspiring songwriters.

Bruno's offers live music Tuesday and Thursday, featuring Jazz Mafia Tuesdays, Batanga Live! Thursdays, and DJs on other nights. Full-service Italian restaurant open until 10 p.m.

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