Publisher, East Bay Express
This Jack London Square anchor tenant lives up to its claim of world-class jazz; everyone from McCoy Tyner to John Scofield comes by at least once a year, and you can also occasionally catch rising stars and school bands in addition to big-name national acts. The acoustics are marvelous, the sushi is fresh and good, and the grilled calamari is also recommended. Tickets range from $5 for a Sunday afternoon children's matinee (with paid adult admission) to upwards of $100 for a special event. Two shows nightly on the weekend.
Fondly known as the "White Ho," the White Horse Inn is one of the oldest gay bars in the country. Built in 1933, the white building at the corner of 66th and Telegraph with a flag of a horse draped out front and cigarette butts like confetti on the sidewalk doesn't appear to echo much of its rich past. But inside, the bar is a lively place and welcoming to all walks of life, with a big-screen TV playing continuous karaoke and a single pool table to fight over underneath. Three nights of the week, DJs spin a variety of dance, Top 40, and hip-hop; in addition, there's lively karaoke every Monday and Tuesday nights, and drag shows on Wednesdays. Cover charge for events is $5.
If you're into garage rock, metal, or country, Thee Parkside is the place to hang your hat. The bar is known for drawing a who's-who in the San Francisco independent music scene (label owners, poster makers, photographers, and the like), thanks to the owner's friendly associations, ample parking, and Cheers-like atmosphere. Regulars can be found enjoying a burger and fries at the bar, or playing ping-pong in the outdoor patio out back. The San Francisco Indie-Mart is also held once a month at Thee Parkside.
Thrashing, crashing, vocal-cord-straining, pounding-your-ears-and-obliterating-your-will-power rock. You know you love it. And the Stork Club is where rock makes its home. Tuesday through Sunday starting around 9:30 p.m., cover is usually just $5. Happy-hour DJs spin rock and punk tunes, a bluegrass jam happens on Mondays and Storking Comedy takes place on Tuesdays. The honky-tonk-style bar is decked out with red and yellow tinsel, Christmas lights, rubber-seated booths, a pool table, a jukebox, an extensive Barbie collection, and a tawdry, winter-wonderland atmosphere.
Just up the street from 24th Street BART, this dusky, candle-lit supper-club features excellent live jazz six nights a week, usually for no cover, although the drinks are a little pricey. Weeknights are usually the best times to come, as the place is sparsely attended but still provides classy uptown ambiance, with dim house lamps, carpeting, and photographs of all the great jazz standard-bearers — one wall is dedicated entirely to honoring Louis Armstrong.
Oakland Metro Operahouse is a large warehouse venue that books mostly punk, metal, and hardcore acts. It's also home to Hoodslam, the monthly wrestling event, and the famed variety show Tourettes Without Regrets, which features slapstick comedy, meat-hurling contests, formidable freestyle battles, spoken-word poetry, and dirty haiku — usually to sold-out crowds.
Touting itself as West Berkeley’s longest-running dive bar, The Missouri Lounge never disappoints. Order “The Special,” a whiskey shot and a PBR for $5, or spend the same amount on “El Special,” a tequila and a Tecate. DJs spin everything from honky-tonk to hip-hop, soul, and indie rock. Get there early on Wednesday for open mic. There’s plenty of picnic tables on the back patio, and a small selection of delicious drunk food. Never a cover charge.
Undoubtedly one of the oldest bars in downtown Oakland, this little shack is beside a line of produce warehouses right at the edge of Jack London Square. Merchant’s is a dive bar that combines punk bar decor with a nautical theme, and features an upright piano, a jukebox, and a lofted DJ booth crafted from dilapidated plywood. Play pool or Pac-Man, or use the free wi-fi. Admire the ingenuity of the antique (and no longer used) urinal that wraps all the way around the bar: Serious drinkers didn’t even get up to piss!
Enjoy tasty Mediterranean-style pizzas and a wide variety of house brews on tap in this Berkeley outpost’s beer garden, where live bands perform on a brick patio throughout the week. For no cover charge you get atmosphere -- heat lamps, foliage, lanterns, a huge brick fire pit -- and entertainment ranging from experimental laptop music to bluegrass and Americana. Inside, the restaurant is two stories, and there are tables large enough to accommodate groups.
Formerly known as the Justice League, the Independent is a venue strictly dedicated to hosting live music events. Besides the bar, there's nothing else to divert your attention from the players on the sizable elevated stage. One of the strengths of the Independent is the variety of music booked here, usually big-name acts in the worlds of reggae, funk, blues, DJs, hip-hop, and the indie-rock circuit. Accordingly, expect to see a different crowd nearly every night of the week. Ticket price ranges from $15 to $30.
This outdoor amphitheater on the UC Berkeley campus has to be the most picturesque outdoor setting for live music in the Bay Area; there's not a bad seat in the house.
After undergoing an extensive renovation, this beautiful art-deco theater has come to anchor Uptown and act as one of the East Bay's premier venues for live entertainment.
This neighborhood sports bar and restaurant dates back to the early-20th century, but has been the Connecticut Yankee since 1989. Located on the corner of Connecticut and 17th streets in Potrero Hill, it hosts live blues and funky jam bands about three or four nights a week. It has a dark, woody feel, perfect for seeking refuge on days when dreary fog blankets the city. A sports-lover's paradise, the bar has large-screen TVs, and serves brunch, lunch, and dinner.
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.