Clubs & Musical Venues — East Bay
21 Grand (416 25th St., Oakland, 510-444-7263, 21Grand.org), a gallery and performance space that is neither self-consciously hip nor beholden to any particular genre, showcases some of the best avant-garde and experimental art, film, and musicians from local and national underground scenes.
924 Gilman (924 Gilman St., Berkeley, 510-525-9926, 924Gilman.org) — Berkeley's famous all-ages punk warehouse — still caters primarily to kids with backpacks, bad attitudes, and too much eyeliner, but this volunteer-run, alcohol-and-drug-free venue is the best place in town to catch famous punk bands (both local and national) for five bucks.
Anna's Jazz Island (2120 Allston Way, Berkeley, 510-841-5299, AnnasJazzIsland.com) hosts intimate and on-the-cheap jazz shows, jam sessions, and vocalist open mikes in a city that boasts one of the most concentrated populations of jazzheads on the West Coast.
Armando's (707 Marina Vista Ave., Martinez, 925-228-6985, ArmandosMartinez.com) is the place to go for a truly authentic music experience in Martinez: the intimate club books musicians playing everything from jazz to blues, bluegrass, folk, rockabilly jazz, classical music, and almost anything else except commercial rock.
Ashkenaz (1317 San Pablo Ave., Berkeley, 510-525-5054, Ashkenaz.com) is the place to dance to everything from Algerian rai to Louisiana Zydeco to roots reggae.
The Bistro (1001 B St., Hayward, 510-886-8525, The-Bistro.com) offers live music every night — mostly local musicians, from blues to surf, acoustic, bluegrass, and eighteen-piece bands.
Blake's on Telegraph (2367 Telegraph Ave., Berkeley, 510-848-0886, BlakesonTelegraph.com) doesn't host too many blues acts anymore, but it does have regular helpings of indie rock, hip-hop, funk, ska, and DJs, that keep the Telegraph scene from completely fading away.
Caffe Trieste (2500 San Pablo Ave., Berkeley, 510-548-5198, CaffeTriesteBerkeley.com) could make anyone sentimental for the old country, even if they're native Californians — especially on Sunday afternoons, when Pappa Gianni is playing with his North Beach Band and crowds of Italian expatriates pack themselves into this inviting cafe.
Eagles Hall (2305 Alameda Ave., Alameda, 510-285-6285, SFZydeco.com) on Friday nights is the friendly, lively nexus of Zydeco-crazed Bay Area fans.
Everett & Jones Barbeque's (126 Broadway, Oakland, 510-663-2350, EandJBBQ.com) in-house music venue, Q's Lounge and Dotha's Juke Joint, showcases a variety of neo-soul, hip-hop, and blues acts, along with Monday Night Football and live KSFO broadcasts recapping Raiders home games.
Freight & Salvage (1111 Addison St., Berkeley, 510-548-1761, TheFreight.org) is a nonsmoking, alcohol-free venue where patrons can enjoy listening to world-renowned artists of folk, jazz, blues, bluegrass, and world beat.
Kimball's Carnival (522 2nd St. Oakland, 510-444-6979, KimballsCarnival.com) — the giant Jack London Square club whose Friday night karaoke event has garnered a regular following via word of mouth alone — is the closest thing you'll find to American Idol-style pageantry here in the East Bay.
La Peña Cultural Center (3105 Shattuck Ave., Berkeley, 510-849-2568, LaPena.org) hosts a variety of hip-hop, world, and jazz music; spoken word; dance classes; art exhibits; films; and lectures focusing on social justice and human rights about four nights a week.
Maxwell's Lounge (341 13th St., Oakland, 510-839-6169, MaxwellsLounge.com) is a glitzy downtown Oakland club that hosts R&B, funk, and classic soul acts and features a spacious dance floor, large stage, lounge areas with couches, and a Cajun-style soul food restaurant.
Nomad Cafe (6500 Shattuck Ave., Oakland, 510-595-5344, NomadCafe.net) tempers the typical soy-latte-and-laptop cafe experience with a soothing singer-songwriter performance.
Oakland Metro Operahouse (630 3rd St., Oakland, 510-763-1146, OaklandMetro.org) is generally used as a performance space (it's the home of the Oakland Opera Theater), but you'll also find the occasional live metal, indie rock, punk, underground hip-hop, or alt.folk show here, as well as 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.
Red House Live (1667 Botelho Dr., Walnut Creek, 925-938-6900, RedHouseLive.com) is a state-of-the-art recording studio, rehearsal space, music school, and instrument shop — as well as a mini all-ages performance hall providing young rock, indie, and metal bands the opportunity to perform on a real stage with professional lights, gear, and sound.
The Shattuck Down Low (2284 Shattuck Ave, Berkeley, 510-548-1159, ShattuckDownLow.com) was one of the first venues this side of the bay to book conscious hip-hop groups, and remains the place to go for heart-pumping beats, as well as live reggae and salsa.
The Starry Plough (3101 Shattuck Ave., Berkeley, 510-841-2082, StarryPloughPub.com) is an Irish pub (and it still features traditional Irish music some nights) but its bookings are far more eclectic than that — rockers, singer-songwriters, jam-banders, and folkies take the stage here, and audience members are likely to holler, scream, and kick up their heels.
Uptown Nightclub (1928 Telegraph Ave., Oakland, 510-451-8100, UptownNightclub.com) is one of many punk-oriented venues in the East Bay, but it stands out by striking a nice balance between out-of-towners and local mainstays and featuring acts that cover a wide spectrum from emo-prog to lesbian thrash, psychobilly to Afro-boho jazz-funk, and classic punk to indie folk.
Yoshi's (510 Embarcadero West, Oakland, 510-238-9200, Yoshis.com) jazz room is a jazz lover's — and jazz musician's — dream, specially built to enhance the listening and performing experience.
Clubs & Musical Venues — San Francisco
Amoeba Music (1855 Haight St., San Francisco, 415-831-1200, Amoeba.com) hosts live bands several times a week, usually prior to their performance at some big club in the city, which makes it a great opportunity to see your favorite band for free if you can't afford a regular ticket, and in a much more intimate environment.
Annie's Social Club (917 Folsom St., San Francisco, 415-974-1585, AnniesSocialClub.com) is cozy, conveniently located right off the freeway, and one of the few venues in the city that books underground punk, metal, and hard-rock acts.
The Boom Boom Room (1601 Fillmore St., San Francisco, 415-673-8000, BoomBoomBlues.com) 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.
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