From Dusk Till Dawn ... 

The bars, bands, and clubs to keep you happy.

Clubs & Musical Venues

The Bay Area has one of the richest, most diverse music scenes in the country. No matter what your inclinations are — noise rock, free jazz, bluegrass, freak-folk, backpacker hip-hop — you're likely to find a venue to call home. La Peña Cultural Center (3105 Shattuck Ave., Berkeley, 510-849-2568,, with its trademark colorful mural out front, is a microcosm of Berkeley's cultural, social, and political utopia. Founded in 1975, La Peña 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. ... It's no secret that Ashkenaz (1317 San Pablo Ave., Berkeley, 510-525-5054, is the place to check out everything from Algerian rai to Louisiana Zydeco to roots reggae. Other places may occasionally feature world artists, but only Ashkenaz does it regularly. It's also a place where people actually dance, not just stand at the bar and make eye contact. ... At Freight & Salvage (1111 Addison St., Berkeley, 510-548-1761,, a nonsmoking, alcohol-free venue, patrons can enjoy desserts and snacks in their seats while listening to world-renowned artists of folk, jazz, blues, bluegrass, and worldbeat. Located on San Pablo Avenue since 1968, the traditional music venue plans to move downtown in 2009. ... For up-tempo music lovers with a passion for partner dancing on a smooth-as-corn-silk hardwood floor, no-frills Eagles Hall (2305 Alameda Ave., Alameda, 415-285-6285, on Friday nights is the nexus of Zydeco-crazed Bay Area fans. It's friendly, lively, and like no other East Bay music hall, because this major mob scene also attracts a base of folks as diverse as the ingredients in gumbo. ... The Starry Plough (3101 Shattuck Ave., Berkeley, 510-841-2082) is an Irish pub — and it still features traditional Irish music some nights — but its bookings are far more eclectic. Rockers, singer-songwriters, jam-banders, and folkies take the stage here, where audience members are likely to holler, scream, and kick up their heels. ... This Berkeley institution has seen it all. You won't find too much blues at Blake's on Telegraph (2367 Telegraph Ave., Berkeley, 510-848-0886, anymore, but it does have regular helpings of indie rock, hip-hop, funk, ska, and DJs, which keep the Telegraph scene from completely fading away. ... Berkeley's famous all-ages punk warehouse 924 Gilman (924 Gilman St., Berkeley, 510-525-9926, still caters primarily to kids with backpacks, bad attitudes, and too much eyeliner, but it's the best place in town to catch famous punk bands (both local and national) for five bucks. But the best thing about this volunteer-run, alcohol- and drug-free venue is its sense of history: The graffiti-stained walls have been tagged by members of now-legendary bands like Screw 32, Green Day, and A.F.I. ... The East Bay has plenty of punk-oriented venues, but the Uptown Nightclub (1928 Telegraph Ave., Oakland, 510-451-8100, strikes a nice balance between out-of-towners and local mainstays. While maintaining an overall indie rock-oriented identity, featured acts cover a wide spectrum from emo-prog to lesbian thrash, psychobilly to Afro-boho jazz-funk, and classic punk to indie folk. ... 21 Grand (416 25th St., Oakland, 510-444-7263,, a gallery and performance space, showcases some of the best avant-garde and experimental art, film, and musicians from local and national underground scenes. Neither self-consciously hip nor beholden to any particular genre, 21 Grand takes risks on new projects and artists who fall outside the bounds of convention. ... Anna's Jazz Island (2120 Allston Way, Berkeley, 510-841-5299, hosts on-the-cheap jazz shows, jam sessions, and vocalist open mics in a city that boasts one of the most concentrated populations of jazzheads on the West Coast. The tropical-themed venue doesn't afford enough space for exhibitionist dance moves, but it's small enough for audience members to chitchat with the musicians between sets. And that's the point. ... Hip-hop shows on this side of the bay were few and far in-between until the Shattuck Down Low (2284 Shattuck Ave, Berkeley, 510-548-1159, came along. The venue has never catered to the hyphy crowd, but instead makes a point of booking conscious hip-hop groups with more peaceful followings. It's not strictly a hip-hop spot; the club also regularly features live reggae and salsa. ... Yoshi's (510 Embarcadero West, Oakland, 510-238-9200) is not only the best place to hear live jazz in the Bay Area, but, in the considered opinion of vocal vet Nancy Wilson, is "the nicest club in the country." The Japanese restaurant's jazz room is a jazz lover's — and jazz musician's — dream, specially built to enhance the listening and performing experience. ... Home of Q's Lounge and Dotha's Juke Joint, Everett & Jones Barbeque (126 Broadway, Oakland, 510-663-2350, showcases a variety of neo-soul, hip-hop, and blues acts, along with Monday Night Football, live KSFO broadcasts recapping Raiders home games, barbecue, beer, and dinner buffets on the cheap. For a lively evening, check out Birdlegg and the Tight Fit Blues Band every Saturday night. ... If karaoke is your thing, Kimball's Carnival (522 2nd St. Oakland, 510-444-6979, — 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. Performances are sometimes gleefully and frighteningly over the top. ... R&B, funk, and classic soul acts perform regularly at Maxwell's Lounge (341 13th St., Oakland, 510-839-6169,, a glitzy downtown Oakland club that features a spacious dance floor, large stage, lounge areas with couches, and a Cajun-style soul food restaurant. ... Although generally used as a performance space (it's the home of the Oakland Opera Theater), you'll also find the occasional live metal, indie rock, punk, underground hip-hop, or alt.folk show at Oakland Metro Operahouse (630 3rd St., Oakland, 510-763-1146, It's also home to the famed variety show Tourettes Without Regrets, featuring slapstick comedy, meat-hurling contests, formidable freestyle battles, spoken-word poetry, and dirty haiku — usually to sold-out crowds. ... A visit to Caffe Trieste (2500 San Pablo Ave., Berkeley, 510-548-5198) on a Sunday afternoon when Pappa Gianni is playing with his North Beach Band is enough to make anyone sentimental for the Old Country, even if they're native Californians. Crowds of Italian expatriates pack themselves into this inviting cafe, which also hosts Argentine tango, jazz, and other acoustically oriented music. ... If you want your soy-latte-and-laptop cafe experience tempered with a soothing singer-songwriter performance, head over to Nomad Cafe (6500 Shattuck Ave., Oakland, 510-595-5344,, which regularly schedules acoustic performances on Friday and Saturday evenings, and Sundays for brunch. If that's not reason enough, their free high-speed Internet access should be. ... For something a little more homey, The Bistro (1001 B St., Hayward, 510-886-8525, offers live music every night — mostly local musicians, from blues to surf, acoustic, bluegrass, and eighteen-piece bands. And if you're feeling inspired, the Bistro hosts open-mic nights every Monday. ... On the other side of the hills, the LA-channeling Betty's Rock Bar (1251 Arroyo Way, Walnut Creek, 925-858-6650, will indulge the rocker in you: crimson-red walls; art-rock posters; pool tables; a well-stocked bar; and live, loud music. This newish club regularly books tribute bands and the occasional celebrity guest DJ, like Joel Madden from Good Charlotte. ... Red House Live (1667 Botelho Dr., Walnut Creek, 925-938-6900, is a state-of-the-art recording studio, rehearsal space, music school, and instrument shop. It's also 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. ... In a city whose roots reach back to Italian immigrants who fished the Carquinez Strait and canned tomatoes in waterfront factories, Armando's (707 Marina Vista Ave., Martinez, 925-228-6985, is the place to go for an authentic music experience. The intimate club books musicians playing everything from jazz to blues, bluegrass, folk, rockabilly jazz, classical music, and almost anything else except commercial rock. ... In addition to stocking one of the most impressive record selections in the world, Amoeba Music (1855 Haight St., San Francisco, 415-831-1200) also hosts live bands several times a week, usually prior to their performance at some big club in the City. It's 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. ... For years, Bottom of the Hill (1233 17th St., San Francisco, 415-621-4455, has reigned as the rock club in San Francisco. 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. ... One of the strengths of the Independent (628 Divisadero St., San Francisco, 415-771-1421, 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. No matter what your inclination, this midsize venue — ranked among the best in the nation — will make you feel at home. ... Cafe du Nord (2170 Market St., San Francisco, 415-861-5016, is one of the more classy and sophisticated places to see live indie music in San Francisco. Its deep-red interior, Victorian-era styling, and large, carved wood bar make it a perfect environment to sip cocktails while listening to the best local and national alt-country, folk, indie rock, and singer-songwriter acts. ... Gothic architecture meets old-timey, honky-tonk decor at this historic concert hall with brass, gilded mirrors, candelabra chandeliers, frescoes, a huge oak dance floor with ample space for two hundred, two full bars, and a cocktail lounge upstairs. The Great American Music Hall (859 O'Farrell St., San Francisco, 415-885-0750, is one of the best midsize venues in the city, drawing mostly national touring acts in genres as diverse as they come. ... Opened by Boz Scaggs in 1988, Slim's (333 11th St., San Francisco, 415-522-0333) features rock, alternative, jazz, blues, R&B, and reggae most nights of the week. The oblong-shaped venue can get rather full; the claustrophobic or vertically challenged may want to buy dinner tickets and get a seat on the balcony. ... Wanna rock? One of the only venues in the city that books underground punk, metal, and hard-rock acts is Annie's Social Club (917 Folsom St., San Francisco, 415-974-1585, There's also a karaoke night for all you wannabes. Considerably classier than its predecessor (the Covered Wagon) after a renovation, this cozy rock club is conveniently located right off the freeway with ample street parking. Just be sure to bring a designated driver. ... Want to hear the latest flying-under-the-radar indie acts? Head to the Hemlock Tavern (1131 Polk St., San Francisco, 415-923-0923,, a dark, cavernous bar whose full live music calendar is guaranteed to keep things lively and loud. ... The Hotel Utah (500 4th St., San Francisco, 415-546-6300, 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 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. ... The best place to hear live jazz in the Bay Area opened a sister location in the Fillmore district late last year. Expect to hear the same high caliber of talent at Yoshi's San Francisco (1330 Fillmore St., San Francisco, 415-655-5600, in the genre of jazz, but also R&B, soul, and world music). The state-of-the-art venue holds a max capacity of 320. ... Founded in 1997 by blues legend John Lee Hooker, the Boom Boom Room (1601 Fillmore St., San Francisco, 415-673-8000, 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. ... 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, Club Six (60 Sixth St., San Francisco, 415-863-1221, is a two-tiered industrial warehouse located between Market and Mission streets in the heart of San Francisco's SOMA district. ... Industrial catwalks and cyberspace terminals add to the Tim Burton-esque feel of the DNA Lounge (375 11th St., San Francisco, 415-626-1409, This two-tiered club includes 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. ... In addition to its frequent hip-hop and DJ showcases (including local and international acts), Mezzanine (444 Jessie St., San Francisco, 415-625-8880, 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, the performers at this SF SOMA club get a lot more creative, challenging club-goers with new music or taking old music in new, funky directions,

Blues, Folk, & Country Bands


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