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Arts & Entertainment: Performance Venues

Despite what everyone says about the Fillmore, the Warfield is most likely the best rock concert venue in San Francisco. Chalk it up to the entertainment inside and out, where on Market Street you’ll see the sleaziness of the strip club next door and crackheads from nearby Tenderloin taking a hit. With the tour van right around the corner, your favorite band may be wandering the streets beforehand to catch a glimpse of the action, too. Inside, the tiered levels ensure every place you stand you’ll have a decent view of the stage. And thanks to aggressive ushers to keep everyone in line, even things in the pit rarely get out of hand. If you need a moment to relax, head to the seating upstairs to sit back and enjoy the show.

In addition to its frequent hip-hop and DJ showcases (including local and international acts), this SOMA club features video screenings, laser shows, and multimedia installations by artists associated with Blasthaus Gallery. Whereas many conventional club DJs swipe their sets directly from Top 40 radio playlists, Mezzanine performers get a lot more creative, challenging club-goers with new music or taking old music in new, funky directions, so it's never just about moving the crowd. Boasting two tiers and a labyrinthine dance floor, the club also includes a full bar and stage.

Offers the same high caliber of talent in the genre of jazz as the Oakland original, but the state-of-the-art venue also books R&B, soul, and world-music acts.

The Utah is the place to grab a bar stool, order a pint and a monster burger and fries, and absorb some of San Francisco's lively history. This century-old bar has seen a lot in its past, which some of its longtime regulars can tell you about. These days, it features a variety of rock and folk bands six nights a week for about $6 to $8, in addition to its popular and free open-mic night on Mondays. Although the venue is rather small, the South of Market bar makes up for it with its ornate, carved-wood interior and row of windows looking out onto Bryant Street.

Cafe du Nord is one of the more classier and sophisticated places to see live indie music in San Francisco, despite attracting the occasional young and heroin chic. Located on upper Market Street near the Castro and famous for difficult parking, this underground lounge downstairs from the Swedish American Hall features a nightly array of music from alt-country to folk, indie rock to the occasional hard rock. Its deep-red interior, Victorian-era styling, and large carved wood bar make it a perfect environment to sip cocktails and chat with your friends, much to the annoyance of whatever singer-songwriter is trying to belt it out onstage in the next room.

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.

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.

The Make-Out Room is a classic bar/venue in the heart of San Francisco's Mission District. Make-Out usually hosts Litquake reading acts along with other reading acts such as Muni Diaries. There is a full bar and nightly drink specials. The Make-Out Room's favorite burlesque show, a group of cheerleaders that call themselves the Cock T's, perform regularly.

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