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Bottom of the Hill (1233 17th St., San Francisco, 415-621-4455, BottomoftheHill.com) is where 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.
Cafe du Nord (2170 Market St., San Francisco, 415-861-5016, CafeduNord.com), with its deep-red interior, Victorian-era styling, and large, carved wood bar, is one of the more classy and sophisticated places in San Francisco to see some of the best local and national alt-country, folk, indie rock, and singer-songwriter acts.
Club Six (60 Sixth St., San Francisco, 415-863-1221, ClubSix1.com) is a two-tiered industrial warehouse that's home to famously bombastic DJ parties such as "Enter the Dancehall," the hot dancehall and reggaetón night presented by Deecee's Soul Shakedown every third Friday of the month, and "Give Thankz," a regular Thursday-night reggae and hip-hop extravaganza.
DNA Lounge (375 11th St., San Francisco, 415-626-1409, DNALounge.com) is a two-tiered club that has a futuristic feel, a full bar, large stage and lounge areas, and often stays open after hours for DJ events — including hip-hop, house, dancehall, industrial, and breakbeats — on Fridays and Saturdays.
The Great American Music Hall (859 O'Farrell St., San Francisco, 415-885-0750, GAMH.com) is one of the best midsize venues in the City, boasting a huge oak dance floor with ample space for two hundred and drawing mostly national touring acts in genres as diverse as they come.
Hemlock Tavern (1131 Polk St., San Francisco, 415-923-0923, HemlockTavern.com) is the best place to hear the latest flying-under-the-radar indie acts.
Hotel Utah (500 4th St., San Francisco, 415-546-6300, TheHotelUtahSaloon.com) is the place to grab a bar stool, order a pint and a monster burger and fries, and hear a variety of folk and rock bands while absorbing some of San Francisco's lively history.
The Independent (628 Divisadero St., San Francisco, 415-771-1421, IndependentSF.com) stands out for its welcoming vibe and the variety of music booked — usually big-name acts in the worlds of reggae, funk, blues, DJs, hip-hop, and the indie-rock circuit.
Mezzanine (444 Jessie St., San Francisco, 415-625-8880, MezzanineSF.com) features hip-hop and DJ showcases (including local and international acts), video screenings, laser shows, and multimedia installations by artists associated with Blasthaus Gallery.
Slim's (333 11th St., San Francisco, 415-255-0333, Slims-SF.com) features rock, alternative, jazz, blues, R&B, and reggae most nights of the week, and is one of the few all-ages venues in the city.
Yoshi's San Francisco (1330 Fillmore St., San Francisco, 415-655-5600, Yoshis.com) 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.
Bars for Seeing and Being Seen
The Air Bar & Lounge (492 9th St., Oakland, 510-444-2377, AirOakland.com) is located below street level in Old Oakland, has a spacious-yet-cozy interior, and exudes an upscale, VIP vibe for the urban hip.
Aura Nightclub (4825 Hopyard Rd. # 10, Pleasanton, 925-416-0777, NightclubAura.com) is perfect for when you're in the mood for that classic dance club experience but don't want to trek to San Francisco (or share air with trustafarians and wannabe hip techies): the club offers two distinct lounges-cum-dance floors, fireplaces, lots of mod furniture à la Design Within Reach, go-go dancers, and fabulous people-watching.
Bench & Bar (2111 Franklin St., Oakland, 510-444-2266, Bench-and-Bar.com) aims to please with theme nights like "Kinky Karaoke" on Tuesdays, "Tasty" ladies night on Thursdays, and "La Bota Loca" (aka Latino Cowboys night with go-go boys galore) on Saturdays — and succeeds with flying, uh, colors.
Club Anton (428 3rd St., Oakland, 510-463-0165, ClubAnton.com) remains perhaps the only Latin jazz club in the entire world that would feature Bay Area turf rapper G-Stack and DJ True Justice on a Thursday and follow up with Tony Mayfield or Pepe y Su Orquesta on a Saturday — a lineup patrons definitely seem to dig.
Club 1220 (1220 Pine St.,Walnut Creek, 925-939-4550, Club1220.com), which hosts line-dancing for queer folk every Tuesday night, proves that country line is still alive and well, even in the Bay Area.
Club Montero's (1106 Solano Ave., Albany, 510-524-1270, ClubMonteros.com), located inside Montero's Cafe, dedicates its weekends to salsa, with intermediate lessons on Thursdays and classes for newbies on Fridays and Saturdays, followed each night by dancing till the early mañana.
Club Oasis (135 12th St., Oakland, 510-763-0404, Myspace.com/OaklandOasis) is an African restaurant by day, but at night it morphs into Oakland's hottest internationally flavored dance spot, blasting street bangers and slumper beats as well as Afropop, rumba, and calypso styles imported from Congo, Cape Verde, and the Caribbean.
Easy Lounge (3255 Lakeshore Ave., Oakland, 510-338-4911, Easy510.com) attracts an eclectic crowd — doe-eyed hipster chicks, suave urbanites, eccentric locals, and even suits fresh off of work — and the tunes are just as varied, thanks to different DJ themes each night — from rockabilly to salsa, 1980s to funk.
Karibbean City (1408 Webster St., Oakland, 510-251-0769, KaribbeanCity.com) has as a diverse entertainment lineup — which represents the panoply of Caribbean music from salsa to dancehall roots to Afropop — and proffers a savory selection of Jamaican cuisine.
Kingman's Lucky Lounge (3332 Grand Ave., Oakland, 510-465-5464, KingmansCocktails.com) caters to a dressy yet diverse crowd and features a full bar, ample mood lighting, and DJs spinning downtempo, house, funk, and drum 'n' bass.
Kitty's (6702 Hollis St., Emeryville, 510-601-9300, BarKittys.com) proves that Emeryville really does have a pulse, with its rotating lineup of DJs, a patio that's swarmed in warm weather, and a regular crowd of upscale loft-dwellers and thirsty Pixar workers who've just punched out.
Luka's Taproom & Lounge (2221 Broadway, Oakland, 510-451-4677, LukasOakland.com) boasts a long list of sexy amenities (a rotating art exhibit, a spacious dance floor, a vast selection of beer and a menu that includes killer burgers, fries, and oysters), and it's spitting distance from the 19th Street BART station, so you can get your swerve on without getting a DUI.
Ruby Room (132 14th St., Oakland, 510-444-7224, MySpace.com/OaklandRubyRoom), where the DJs spin a wall-to-wall soundtrack of punk, glam rock, and kitschy hip-hop classics, is one of the best places in Oakland to chat up sassy indie kids while drinking stiff, cheap drinks.
Thalassa (2367 Shattuck Ave., Berkeley, 510-848-1766, ThalassaBar.com) has a sea of pool tables that seems to stretch for miles, a clientele that consists mostly of Berkeley students of the fraternal or sororal persuasion, and the best jukebox in the East Bay, stocked with the Buzzcocks, the Notwist, Le Tigre, Television, Outkast, Johnny Cash, and the Pixies.
Seven Days - February 24, 5:52 PM
Culture Spy - February 23, 2:42 PM
What the Fork - February 23, 2:12 PM
Seven Days - February 21, 3:30 PM
Culture Spy - February 19, 1:45 PM