The Bam Team’s 5 Favorite Shows, Albums & Songs of 2014

St. Vincent at Fox Theatre Oakland // Showbams' Photo of the Year, by Pedro


St. Vincent at Fox Theater Oakland // Showbams’ Photo of the Year, by Pedro Paredes

Ah, year-end lists — they’re an exercise in subjectivity and personal experience if there has ever been one. But what better way is there to learn from each other and discover some great new music while capping off the year and beginning anew?

So, without further ado, Showbams presents The Bam Team’s five favorite shows, albums and songs from 2014.

The 25 Best Live Music Acts of 2014
Showbams’ Top 50 Albums of 2014

Listen to The Bam Team’s favorite songs of 2014:


Darkside at The Fillmore

Darkside at The Fillmore // Photo by James Nagel

Mike Frash // San Francisco

Top 5 Shows of 2014
1. Darkside at The Fillmore – San Francisco, CA – January 24th
Looking at my top five shows list for 2014, it appears I favor the weird, ya know, the good weird. This Darkside performance, the only SF show ever (for now) since Nicolas Jaar and Dave Harrington have put the project on indefinite hold, had patrons at The Fillmore in SF breathing and moving in unison. There was a magical feeling in the air as the hybrid of electronic and organic played out wonderfully with the duo tipping their hat to the past and setting a new standard for the brave new future of live music.

2. Panda Bear at The Fillmore – San Francisco, CA – May 22nd
3. tUnE-yArDs at The Fillmore – San Francisco, CA – June 6th
4. Phish at MGM Grand – Las Vegas, NV – October 31st
5. Volcano Choir at The Fillmore – San Francisco, CA – January 21st

Top 5 Albums of 2014
1. Run the JewelsRun the Jewels 2
Ever since Jamie and Mikey blew my mind performing Run the Jewels almost in its entirety at The Independent in August of 2013, I’ve been a loyal RTJ soldier. And without taking a break, El Producto and Killer Mike stepped it up to an even higher plateau with their production precision, an uncanny balance of fun and intense, while lyrically honing more on the important issues of our time. Sensing the unstoppable momentum, Run the Jewels are already heading back into the studio for Run the Jewels 3. When Mike was recently asked if they’d continue to name their albums numerically, he said “Why not?!? Zeppelin did it!” Exactly. Say it with me now: Festival headliners circa 2016?

2. The War on DrugsLost in the Dream
3. D’Angelo – Black Messiah
4. Aphex TwinSyro
5. The Antlers – Familiars

Top 5 Songs of 2014
1. Sturgill Simpson – “Turtles All the Way Down”
This is country music turned on its head, while staying mostly true to the hallmarks of the genre. Lyrically subversive while instrumentally emotive to the core, this song kept me coming back throughout 2014. It’s positive message of love winning over all else is certainly timeless, but when was the last time you heard a country tune tell a story of mind over matter transcendence? “There’s a gateway in our minds that leads somewhere out there, far beyond this place / Where reptile aliens made of light, cut you up and pull out all your pain.” Stirgill Simpson is as progressive as you can get within the realm of Americana, urging the listener to both think and feel.

2. St. Vincent – “Digital Witness”
3. Future Islands – “Seasons (Waiting on You)”
4. FKA twigs – “Two Weeks”
5. Flying Lotus – “Never Catch Me” feat. Kendrick Lamar


Nine Inch Nails

Nine Inch Nails // Photo by Rob Sheridan for NIN.com

Josh Herwitt // Los Angeles

Top 5 Shows of 2014
1. Nine Inch Nails & Soundgarden at Red Rocks Amphitheatre – Morrison, CO – July 21st
What a dream come true. Having the opportunity to see two of my favorite childhood bands at one of the best venues in the country would be hard to beat any year, let alone in 2014. Sharing the bill with Soundgarden on this tour, Trent Reznor made the most of a minimalist stage setup and trimmed-down lineup of sidekicks. Of the four shows (Red Rocks, Chula Vista, Irvine and Hollywood) I saw on this tour, this one felt particularly special. If this was one of the last times I ever got to see Nine Inch Nails perform live, it was a night I will never forget.

2. Jack White at The Fonda Theatre – Los Angeles, CA – June 10th
3. Cinquanta featuring Puscifer, A Perfect Circle and Failure at The Greek Theatre – Los Angeles, CA – May 10th
4. Queens of the Stone Age at The Forum – Los Angeles, CA – October 31st
5. Tool at Valley View Casino Center – San Diego, CA – March 16th

Top 5 Albums of 2014
1. The Black KeysTurn Blue
Akron’s favorite rockers answered the call this year, following up their Grammy-winning album El Camino with arguably their most ambitious effort to date — especially when you consider the turmoil that surrounded Dan Auerbach’s life at the time of its recording. Over the last five years, the Keys have become one of rock’s biggest bands, but they haven’t stopped taking risks as a result. Turn Blue dabbles in a myriad of styles, from the psychedelic sound of Pink Floyd on its opening track “Weight of Love” to the hip-hop groove on “10 Lovers.” For as many critics as they have, Auerbach and Patrick Carney have come a long way since their early years as strictly a blues duo.

2. The War on DrugsLost in the Dream
3. Jack WhiteLazaretto
4. Aphex TwinSyro
5. Death from Above 1979The Physical World

Top 5 Songs of 2014
1. Jack White – “High Ball Stepper”
Jack White seems to be on another level these days. The former White Stripe has grown into one of rock ‘n’ roll’s most exciting talents, and this blues-heavy, instrumental track showcases that better than any other offering on Lazaretto. White’s ferocious guitar riffs dominate the tune, taking listeners on an emotional roller coaster from start to finish. And when he plays “High Ball Stepper” live, the song takes on a new whole life of its own.

2. Foo Fighters – “Something for Nothing”
3. Interpol – “All the Rage Back Home”
4. TV on the Radio – “Happy Idiot”
5. Tycho – “Awake”


Jack White at BGCA // Photo by

Jack White at Bill Graham Civic // Photo by David James Swanson

Steven Wandrey // San Francisco

Top 5 Shows of 2014
1. Jack White at Bill Graham Civic Auditorium – San Francisco, CA – August 22nd
From the dramatic curtain drop that slammed into high-octane rock, this show never let off the gas. Even with a bum ankle, Jack White stalked the stage and held power over the crowd. When the slowest moments of a show are White Stripes ballads that you’re giddy to hear and the other half of the show is headbanging, guitar-slinging rock, it’s easy to see how this show cemented itself as the best of 2014.

2. Atomic Bomb! The Music of William Onyeabor at The Warfield – San Francisco, CA – May 6th
3. The War on Drugs at The Independent – San Francisco, CA – April 1st
4. Run the Jewels at Mezzanine – San Francisco, CA – November 14th
5. Duck Sauce at Outside Lands Music Festival – August 9th

Top 5 Albums of 2014
1. Flying LotusYou’re Dead!
This album makes me feel like I’m actually traveling through the underworld to the land of the dead. From front to back, the first thing that caught me about this album was its consistent message. Steven Ellison has an inviting sense of storytelling that’s infused with hip-hop but touches on an array of different music styles, involving a star-studded cast of guests, including Kendrick Lamar, Thundercat and Snoop Dog. I have a feeling Flying Lotus is on the forefront of creative hip-hop and that this album will prove to be influential down the line. More importantly, I just love listening to it. Taking wild turns from frenetic to serene, listening to this album from start to finish is a journey.

2. Aphex TwinSyro
3. Run the JewelsRun the Jewels 2
4. Future IslandsSingles
5. Tweedy – Sukierae

Top 5 Songs of 2014
1. Run the Jewels – “Oh My Darling Don’t Cry”
The minimalist production and deep, rumbling bass frequencies have helped this track become my No. 1 listened to on the album and also No. 1 for the year. The complimentary flow that El-P and Killer Mike have together is on display in this track. This cut has infected my brain like a virus (the good kind?), and I just can’t get enough.

2. Future Islands – “Seasons (Waiting on You)”
3. Sam Smith – “I’m Not the Only One”
4. Flying Lotus – “Never Catch Me” (feat. Kendrick Lamar)
5. Perfume Genius – “Queen”


Future Islands at The Chapel // Photo by

Future Islands at The Chapel // Photo by Pedro Paredes

Kevin Quandt // San Francisco

Top 5 Shows of 2014
1. Future Islands at Coachella Music and Arts Festival, Weekend 1 – Indio, CA – April 12th
It’s been a banner year for the Baltimore darlings we have grown to love as Future Islands. Breaking through the underground touring circuit to being a highly sought-after festival act was quick and clean as the passionate stage performance of Samuel Harrington could not be ignored by growing audiences. A packed Gobi Tent was eating from the frontman’s palm as Herrington poured himself out on stage, belting out a set heavy on new tracks and old favorites. It was a pivotal point where both the band and audience knew that Future Islands had arrived at the next stage of their career.

2. The Cure at BottleRock Napa Valley – Napa, CA – May 30th
3. Phish at MGM Grand Arena – Las Vegas, NV – October 31st
4. Connan Mockasin at The Independent – San Francisco, CA – May 15th
5. Deerhoof at Great American Music Hall – San Francisco, CA – November 18th 

Top 5 Albums of 2014
1. The War on DrugsLost in the Dream 
Adam Granduciel had one helluva 2014 to brag about. His third studio album Lost in the Dream was an overwhelming success, and all for good reason as the lush waves of rock swell over the listener like a warm Christmas sweater, just less ugly than the one you wore to that one party. “Under the Pressure” opens this release in epic fashion and does not let up from there. Guitar rock is not dead!

2. Todd Terje – It’s Album Time
3. Run the JewelsRun the Jewels 2
4. D’Angelo – Black Messiah 
5. White Fence – For the Recently Found Innocent  

Top 5 Songs of 2014
1. Flying Lotus – “Never Catch Me” (feat. Kendrick Lamar)
Steven Ellison’s left-field meditation on death, as demonstrated on 2014’s release You’re Dead!, is not for everyone and is more about the full album than the sum of its parts (tracks). However, there is one shining beacon of a collaboration that could not be cast aside in the form of “Never Catch Me”. The partnership of one of the hottest MCs with one of the most sought-after producers was meant to be a brutally infectious slice of off-kilter street music. 

2. Caribou – “Can’t Do Without You”
3. Future Islands – “Seasons (Waiting on You)”
4. Beck – “Blue Moon”
5. Ariel Pink – “Put Your Number in My Phone”


Ryan Adams at Hardly Strictly Bluegrass 2014

Ryan Adams at Hardly Strictly Bluegrass 2014 // Photo by Pedro Paredes

Pete Mauch // Los Angeles

Top 5 Shows of 2014
1. Phish at MGM Grand – Las Vegas, NV – October 31st
Phish has made the tradition of covering other artists albums on Halloween, and this year they completely outdid themselves by covering essentially an album of only narrative and spooky sounds. The Disney-produced album The Thrilling and Chilling Sounds of the Taunted House was turned into a rock opera of sorts as Trey and company worked through completely new songs based off just minimal sounds, but the night didn’t just end there. The band played this rock opera sandwiched between two very strong sets of original Phish songs that could have held its own alone.

2. Lettuce’s Late Night in Red Barn at Summer Camp Music Festival – Chillicothe, IL – May 22nd
3. Future Islands at Coachella Music and Arts Festival, Weekend 1 – Indio, CA – April 12th
4. Ryan Adams at The Fox Theater Pomona – Pomona, CA – October 11th
5. Todd Terje at FYF Fest – Los Angeles – August 24th

Top 5 Albums of 2014
1. Ryan Adams – Ryan Adams
When someone as prolific as Ryan Adams puts out a new record, you buy that record and you listen intently. The songs in his first self-titled album may seem simple at first listen, but they stay with you in the back of your mind until you just can’t take it and you re-listen again and again. This is exactly how what I’ve been doing the past few months since the release. Songs like “Gimme Something Good” and “Am I Safe” prove once again that Adams is still on top of his game.

2. The War on DrugsLost in the Dream
3. moe. – No Guts, No Glory
4. Todd Terje – It’s Album Time
5. Greensky Bluegrass – If Sorrows Swim

Top 5 Songs of 2014
1. Future Islands – “Seasons (Waiting on You)”
“People change / You know but some people never do / You know when people change, they gain a piece but they lose one too.” These lyrics are so uplifting and real, and the music to accompany these amazing lyrics ties the emotion perfectly together.

2. The War on Drugs – “Under the Pressure”
3. The Barr Brothers – “Come in the Water”
4. Temples – “Shelter Song”
5. Caribou – “Can’t Do Without You”


Old Crow Medicine Show at The Regency // Photo by Pedro Paredes

Old Crow Medicine Show at The Regency // Photo by Pedro Paredes

Pedro Paredes // San Francisco

Top 5 Shows of 2014
1. Darkside at The Fillmore – San Francisco, CA – January 24th
The album Nicolas Jaar and Dave Harrington put together in 2013 was a delight for the ears, but with the show they played at The Fillmore, they were going after every sense in your body. Jaar once said that Darkside’s music was more experiential rather than musical, and they surely succeeded in delivering one of the best musical experiences to all the lucky attendants on that cold January night.

2. Future Islands at The Chapel – San Francisco, CA – April 10th
3. St. Vincent at The Fox Theater Oakland – Oakland, CA – March 22nd
4. James Blake at The Chapel – San Francisco, CA – December 7th
5. Old Crow Medicine Show at The Masonic – San Francisco, CA – September 20th

Top 5 Albums of 2014
1. BeckMorning Phase
Beck’s Morning Phase follows the same breezy style as Sea Change, but the latter’s serenity seems to come from darker places. Morning Phase is, as the title suggests, a bit brighter and sets the tone for all the good things yet to come.

2. Run the JewelsRun the Jewels 2
3. Real EstateAtlas
4. The War on DrugsLost in the Dream
5. Perfume Genius – Too Bright

Top 5 Songs of 2014
1. alt-J – “Nara”
It is hard to isolate “Nara” as the best song of Alt-J’s latest album This is All Yours since the story told in it is not exclusive to that song and it comes back in different sections of the album (as well as in some of the musical arrangements). But “Nara”, a song about love, deserves to be listened again and again. The 2:58 mark is bliss to my ears.

2. tUnE-yArDs – “Water Fountain”
3. Run the Jewels – “Love Again”
4. Perfume Genius – “Fool”
5. Angel Olsen – “Hi-Five”


St. Vincent at Fox Theater Oakland // Photo by

St. Vincent at Fox Theater Oakland // Photo by Pedro Paredes

Andrew Pohl // San Francisco

Top 5 Shows of 2014
1. Nine Inch Nails & Soundgarden at Shoreline Amphitheatre – Mountain View, CA – August 24th
I had never seen either band live before and based on my experience, it was like they had never broken up or aged since the ’90s. Amazing stage/light shows to go along with what was hands down my most eagerly anticipated show of the year.

2. Cibo Matto at Slim’s – San Francisco, CA – February 26th
3. American Football at The Fillmore – San Francisco, CA – December 12th
4. Failure at Great American Music Hall – San Francisco, CA – May 14th
5. Crosses at The Independent – San Francisco, CA – March 30th

Top 5 Albums of 2014
1. St. VincentSt. Vincent
This album comes off like a chameleon, with many shifts but always staying very characteristically St. Vincent. I feel that she is one of the more important artists to come around over the last few years, and I am excited to see what she does next.

2. Nothing – Guilty of Everything
3. BeckMorning Phase
4. Fugazi – First Demo
5. The War on DrugsLost in the Dream

Top 5 Songs of 2014
1. Spoon – “Do You”
Spoon have a knack for throwing a good toe tapper in their albums. This song is short and sweet, and you cannot help but get caught up in its infectiousness.  

2. Ryan Adams – “Give Me Something Good”
3. St. Vincent – “Prince Johnny”
4. TV on the Radio – “Could You”
5. Nothing – “Bent Nail”


Arcade Fire at Shoreline Amphitheater // Photo by Justin Yee

Arcade Fire at Shoreline Amphitheater // Photo by Justin Yee

Justin Yee // San Francisco

Top 5 Shows of 2014
1) Future Islands at South by Southwest (Cheer Up Charlie’s) – Austin, TX – March 13th
2) Arcade Fire at Shoreline Amphitheatre – Mountain View, CA – July 30th
3) Chromeo at The Independent – San Francisco, CA – April 12th
4) James Blake at The Chapel – San Francisco, CA – December 7th
5) Outkast at Treasure Island Music Festival – San Francisco, CA – October 18th

Top 5 Albums of 2014
1) Future IslandsSingles
2) The War on DrugsLost in the Dream
3) ODESZA – In Return
4) Flying LotusYou’re Dead!
5) CaribouOur Love

Top 5 Songs of 2014
1) Future Islands – “Seasons (Waiting on You)”
2) Chromeo – “Come Alive” feat. Toro y Moi
3) Flying Lotus – “Never Catch Me” feat. Kendrick Lamar
4) Chet Faker – “1998”
5) Mac Demarco – “Let Her Go”


James Blake at The Chapel //

James Blake at The Chapel // Photo by Pedro Paredes

Eric Shaden // San Francisco

Top 5 Shows of 2014
1. James Blake at The Chapel – San Francisco, CA – December 7th
I feel bad telling friends about how great this show was since so few people were able to get tickets. An intimate venue hosting such a phenomenal artist was a no-brainer for my top pick. James covered hits from his albums as well as debuted new tracks and an incredible interlude of house jams. I just wish more friends could have seen this!

2. Chromeo at The Independent – San Francisco, CA – April 12th
3. Todd Terje at FYF Fest – Los Angeles, CA – August 24th
4. tUnE-yArDs at The Fillmore – San Francisco, CA – June 6th
5. Holy Ghost! at San Francisco Museum of Modern Art – San Francisco, CA – April 30th

Top 5 Albums of 2014
1. Run the JewelsRun the Jewels 2
What else can be said about this album that hasn’t been covered already? An outstanding sequel to Run the Jewels that expands on the original with top-notch production and punishing delivery from El-P and Killer Mike. Without a doubt my top choice of the year.

2. Syd Arthur – A Monstrous Psychedelic Bubble
3. D’Angelo – Black Messiah 
4. Sinkane – Mean Love
5. Todd Terje – It’s Album Time

Top 5 Songs of 2014
1. D’Angelo – “Sugah Daddy”
I imagine D’Angelo coming back with his long-awaited album in December showed which writers/blogs/etc. wrote their “Best of the Year” lists early. His style of soulful R&B is sorely needed, and “Sugah Daddy” is my favorite from the album. Looking forward to his tour in 2015!

2. Caribou – “Our Love”
3. Aphex Twin – “minipops 67 [120.2]”
4. Jungle – “Time”
5. Jamie xx – “Sleep Sound”


High Sierra Music Festival // Photo by Benjamin Wallen

High Sierra Music Festival // Photo by Benjamin Wallen

Benjamin Wallen // San Francisco

Top 5 Shows of 2014
1. High Sierra Music Festival – Quincy, CA – July 2nd-5th
2. Paul McCartney at Candlestick Farewell – Candlestick Park – San Francisco, CA – August 14th
3. Jamestown Revival at Great American Music Hall – San Francisco, CA – November 28th
4. The String Cheese Incident at Fox Theater Oakland – Oakland, CA – April 24th
5. Greensky Bluegrass at The Fillmore – San Francisco, CA – November 14th


Cali-Roots_fix

Scott Martin // San Jose

Top 5 Shows of 2014
1. California Roots Music Festival at Monterey Fairgrounds – Monterey, CA – May 23rd-25th
2. Rival Sons, Soft White Sixties & Sir Madam at The Fillmore – San Francisco, CA – September 25th
3. The Pimps of Joytime at The Independent – San Francisco, CA – February 15th
4. Caravan Palace & Rosin Coven at The Regency Ballroom – San Francisco, CA – April 16th
5. Jackie Greene at The Catalyst Club – Santa Cruz, CA – March 26th

Top 5 Albums of 2014
1. Bears Den – Islands
2. Milky Chance – Sadnecessary
3. Lana Del Rey – Ultraviolence
4. Mighty Oaks – Howl
5. Solstafir – Otta

Top 5 Songs of 2014
1. Bears Den – “Agape”
2. Bears Den – “Isaac”
3. Milky Chance – “Down by the River”
4. Mighty Oaks – “The Great Northwest”
5. Crosses – “Bitches Brew”


MIA at BFD // Photo by Marc Fong

MIA at BFD // Photo by Marc Fong

Nikki DeMartini // San Francisco

Top 5 Shows of 2014
1. MIA at Shoreline Amphitheatre for BFD 2014 – Mountain View, CA – June 1st
It had been four years since I saw MIA live and even though I’d prefer to see her play her own show rather than a set at a music festival, I was super excited to see her at BFD last summer. It was the first time in nearly 10 years that my cousin and I went to LIFE105’s annual summer show together. We lucked out and upgraded our tickets just in time to see MIA’s performance. Both of us were out of our seats, singing and dancing along to every song as soon as her set started. I was beside myself as MIA herself made her way off the stage, up into the seats of the venue and stopped near our row to spit lyrics as fans gathered and danced around her, myself included. I still can’t believe I danced with MIA!

2. OK Go at The Independent – San Francisco, CA – July 16th
3. Die Antwoord at The Fillmore – San Francisco, CA – May 22nd
4. Sylvan Esso at The Fillmore – San Francisco, CA – June 6th
5. MS MR at The Fillmore – San Francisco, CA – April 15th

Top 5 Albums of 2014
1. Sylvan Esso – Sylvan Esso
When I covered Sylvan Esso at The Fillmore earlier this year (when they opened for tUnE-yArDs), I had no idea who they were but ended up leaving the show a fan. Their self-titled debut album is an uplifting mix of danceable electropop tracks and indie rock that’s easy to lose yourself in. Their sparkly, layered and melodic sounds translate well whether you’re listening to the album or seeing them live. Sylvan Esso is one of three albums I bought in 2014, and it’s been on repeat ever since I picked it up.

2. Glass Animals – Zaba
3. Die Antwoord – Donker Mag
4. Iggy Azalea – The New Classic
5. First Aid Kit – Stay Gold

Top 5 Songs of 2014
1. Tove Lo – “Habits (Stay High)”
I really enjoy the simple percussion-driven melody and voluptuous vocals of Tove Lo’s hit single “Habits (Stay High)”. The subtle, yet engaging buildup to her belting, emotionally-charged lyrics has me singing along and turning it up every time I hear it on the radio. While it is very catchy, it’s not a super dancey song. However, it is a great go-to for karaoke. 

2. Die Antwoord – “Rat Trap 666”
3. Sylvan Esso – “Hey Mami”
4. First Aid Kit – “My Silver Lining”
5. The Dead Weather – “Buzzkill(er)”

Showbams_Sticker_Rectangle2

Best live music venues in San Francisco // Bay Area

Photos by Sam Heller, Marc Fong, Maggie Corwin, James Nagel & Mike Frash

Photos by Sam Heller, Marc Fong, Maggie Corwin, James Nagel & Mike Frash

San Francisco is one of the best live music cities in the world — if an act is touring the western United States, they will most likely swing through SF. Packed into 7×7 square miles, the City by the Bay offers some kind of concert nightly. The East Bay, Oakland and Berkeley, respectively, is home to a growing number of live music options as more and more folks flee the City for better living costs.

Here are the best places to catch a show in or near San Francisco.

The-Independent

The Independent

628 Divisadero St. San Francisco, CA 94117
View Current Show Listings

What To Expect: The Independent boasts the best sound, artist curation and lighting in the Bay Area for any room close to it’s 500-person max capacity — and you can count on 3-5 shows per week. It’s a great venue to catch artists on the rise from virtually every music genre, and already-established groups such as Phoenix, Green Day, TV on the Radio and Band of Horses have performed at this intimate musical oasis.

Best Features: The general admission venue is a conveniently-shaped square; no matter where you watch the show, the sound is stellar and you can see what’s happening on the lifted stage. The staff is professional, friendly and drinks are easy to procure. The Independent is simple and perfect, an ideal platform to witness bands and DJs live before they get bigger.

Drawbacks: Bring earplugs and sunglasses if sensitive to sound and light. Arrive early to secure a parking spot if driving — if possible, take public transportation and grab a drink nearby before the show. Get there when doors open if you need a seat.

The-Fox

Fox Theater – Oakland

1807 Telegraph Ave. Oakland, CA 94612
View Current Show Listings

What To Expect: Fox Theater Oakland is a premium, large theater-style venue with a general admission floor and sizable, assigned-seated balcony overhead. The renovation of this historic site was masterfully achieved in 2009, conserving the stellar artwork and design features.

Best Features: No expense was spared in this renovation. Cool air rises from hundreds of vents in the floor, keeping attendees comfortable. The multitude of bars are fully staffed and efficient.

Drawbacks: In order to accommodate BART travelers, the venue has a pretty strict curfew, with shows ending well before midnight.

The-Fillmore

The Fillmore

1805 Geary Blvd. San Francisco, CA 94115
View Current Show Listings

What To Expect: The Fillmore is nondescript from the outside, but a classic gem once you enter and climb the stairs. Expect a warm welcome, a selection of free fresh apples in the tradition of Fillmore founder Bill Graham and a free poster of the evening’s show (if the event sold out three weeks in advance usually).

Best Features: A large general admission floor area (1,200 capacity), surrounded by adult-beverage facilitators, is overshadowed by the venue’s iconic chandeliers that add a touch of sophistication to any affair. There is an additional saloon upstairs with ample seating away from the stage, and live acts will perform here on occasion before and during the opening act. Also, be sure to head upstairs to view previous show posters.

Drawbacks: If having a seat is on the agenda, arrive early and head for the poster room. Snag a seat and cozy up to the balcony rail for the best view in the house, but the best sound can be found on the floor.

*Bonus Venue: The BooM BooM RooM across Geary Blvd. is an excellent place for a pre-show martini and to keep the party going once The Fillmore has wrapped for the evening. This room focuses on jamming into the late night, often until 4 a.m.

Great-American-Music-Hall

Great American Music Hall

859 O’Farrell St. San Francisco, CA 94109
View Current Show Listings

What To Expect: This historic space has been a beloved jewel for live music for well over 100 years, able to house some 600 attendees on any given night. As SF’s oldest nightclub, the Great American Music Hall can transport music fans to a more elegant era with its ornate balconies, soaring marble columns and elaborate ceiling frescoes.

Best Features: The Great American features a great variety of acts over the year and offers something for everybody. The space, sound and staff are top-notch. Opt for dinner and a show (quick tip: the food is great) to secure a seat on the balcony rail upstairs.

Drawbacks: The location is rather central to many areas of the city, though it’s not the safest in the the City. The venue’s lights are rather basic, but they aren’t needed in a room with such grand decor.

The-Greek

The Greek Theatre – UC Berkeley

2001 Gayley Rd. Berkeley, CA 94720
View Current Show Listings

What To Expect: A seasonal venue from the Spring to the Fall at the top of the UC Berkeley campus, The Greek Theatre can pack 8,500 folks into their popular, yet infrequent concerts. Constructed after the ancient Greek theater of Epidaurus in 1903 and listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1982, this space often inspires magical performances.

Best Features: The sound from within the bowl provides incredible acoustics, but get there early for a spot in the seated steps or within the pit. If all seats are taken, get closer and stand in the general admission area as close as possible for a memorable live music experience.

Drawbacks: Don’t retreat to the grass — the magic is lost outside of the main bowl area. Getting to the venue (and back) requires walking up the campus, or driving to the top. Parking near the theater also means it will take forever to leave, and it will cost you $20 or more. Give yourself plenty of time and plan on walking. Shows won’t go past 11 p.m. due to the campus’ curfew, and be sure to head to the top of the grass for the quickest bathroom lines.

The-Warfield

The Warfield

982 Market St. San Francisco, CA 94102
View Current Show Listings

What To Expect: A 2,300-capacity theater located on Market Street, The Warfield beckons a near century-long history as a premier downtown music venue. Ornate gilding and details are found throughout this lovely space, and a recent renovation upgraded many areas in need of a little help.

Best Features: The tiered floor has become a staple for California mid-size venues like The Fox in Oakland and The Wiltern in Los Angeles, allowing an array of sight-lines for attendees. It’s in an easily accessible location with decent bars and restaurants within proximity.

Drawbacks: Mid-Market is trying to revive itself from a once-peppered history. Similar to many other “overhang” theater venues, the sound can leave a bit to be desired if in the middle or back of the general admission floor.

Bimbos 365 Club

Bimbo’s 365 Club

1025 Columbus Ave. San Francisco, CA 94133
View Current Show Listings

What To Expect: Bimbo’s 365 Club, located on the fringes of North Beach, offers one of the most unique live concert settings in SF. Red velour curtains and exquisite details lend to an entirely classy experience in this 685-capacity, theater-like live performance space.

Best Features: It’s not like any other venue in the City in regards to location and style — side rooms and bars create an ideal pre-show place to socialize and imbibe. The low stage creates an intimate atmosphere with the limited acts that grace the stage over the year.

Drawbacks: The North Beach location is not the easiest venue to reach in comparison to others, and the booking leaves much to be desired as folks love this space.

Rickshaw-Stop

Rickshaw Stop

155 Fell St. San Francisco, CA 94102
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What To Expect: This recent hot-spot hosts many up-and-coming indie acts bursting onto the scene before they graduate to larger rooms. Expect a hip crowd sipping on strong drinks in a no-frills room, enjoying heat-seeking artists from across the globe. Shows start late, even on weekdays.

Best Features: Rickshaw Stop has very dynamic booking, bringing in all sorts of parties to utilize this Civic Center area venue. The bar is efficient for a small-ish room that can fill up nicely, but not overly.

Drawbacks: It’s basically a long narrow room with a small “balcony”, therefore sight-lines can be rough for those who are vertically challenged on the main floor.

Mezzanine

Mezzanine

444 Jessie St. San Francisco, CA 94103
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What To Expect: Mezzanine specializes in up-and-coming club scene shows, hosting DJs from all over the world and bands that incorporate electronic elements into their music. Expect young people ready to party in a rectangular room that can hold up to 1,000 people.

Best Features: DJs will perform on the ‘side stage’, cultivating a dance-centric environment before and after live acts. A great choice for birthdays, bachelor parties and other special occasions, secure a table and bottle service on the floor or in a private area upstairs.

Drawbacks: Ins and outs are not permitted, and it can get a bit crunchy near the front and in the smoking area. Getting drinks can be a challenge during peak times.

Brick and Mortar

Brick and Mortar Music Hall

1710 Mission St. San Francisco, CA 94103
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What To Expect: An intimate, square space for live music, Brick and Mortar Music Hall in the Mission hosts concerts almost nightly, and they are always affordable. Rock, bluegrass, funk, soul and many more types of shows go down here.

Best Features: Brick and Mortar has that “neighborhood rock/club” feel — if you are in the ‘front row’, then you are basically on the stage — and it just became the new home of outcast swine-house Bacon Bacon during lunchtime.

Drawbacks: Cash only at the box office. It can get a little tight during capacity shows unless you squiggle to your left against the wall.

The-Chapel

The Chapel

777 Valencia St. San Francisco, CA 94110
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What To Expect: The newest venue in the heart of San Francisco’s Mission District, The Chapel opened in 2012 and includes an attached restaurant and bar. The building was originally built as a mortuary, so the funeral home’s Chapel was converted to the music room upon renovation. There is a mezzanine above the floor level of the Chapel for bird’s-eye view observing.

Best Features: The restaurant and bar is brand-new and swanky, and the high ceilings and beams in the formerly sacred space give it a unique, striking feel for live music. More acts are booked with each passing month, and bigger names becoming more frequent too. Artists usually have a rootsy and indie sound aesthetic, but The Chapel recently had their first DJ night.

Drawbacks: It’s a great location for nightlife, but not for parking. The stage is small, and it can be tough to secure a drink at peak moments.

The-New-Parish-why

The New Parish

579 18th St. Oakland, CA 94612
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What To Expect: This unique venue has recently sprouted up in the East Bay, and many are taking notice of their recent success. With a courtyard and large, wrap-around balcony, The New Parish offers many options for patrons to get down, watch the act or be social with friends.

Best Features: A plethora of national touring acts are opting to stay east of the bay and hold court in this ever-rising space. Securing a view of the stage isn’t terribly tough with a less traditional venue setup. Proximity to the Fox Theater makes it a popular place to keep the night going.

Drawbacks: The design of the space is unlike any other, and this has a few negatives regarding access to the bar or sound being optimal. It’s in Oakland and goes late, so not great for SF-bound BART riders.

Civic-Center

Bill Graham Civic Auditorium

99 Grove St. San Francisco, CA 94102
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What To Expect: As big an open, indoor floor space that exists in the Bay Area (not including arenas), the Bill Graham Civic Auditorium can fit 7,000 people into its vast confines.

Best Features: There’s plenty of floor space — and plenty of seats upstairs if you arrive early enough. The location adjacent to City Hall makes it easy to get to via public transportation. When the Civic Auditorium is packed and full of energy, it comes alive.

Drawbacks:
When the venue isn’t sold out, there’s an empty, hollow feel to live music here. The sound can seriously lack at times, especially from the sides. The best bet is to get in front of the large speaker banks (duh). Some acts, like Phish, bring additional sound equipment to fill out the copious space in the building.

Bottom-of-the-Hill

Bottom of the Hill

1233 17th St. San Francisco, CA 94107
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What To Expect: This legendary little rock club at the foot of Potrero Hill has room for 350 partygoers of varying ages. It’s a well-oiled and well-regarded space that breeds lively shows by bands of all sizes and eras.

Best Features: Not exclusively a 21-and-over club, Bottom of the Hill allows patrons of all ages the chance to enjoy a high-energy show in this wacky space. Ample parking, a large smoking section and reasonably priced drinks as well as tickets make it an ideal spot to rock out.

Drawbacks: The booking doesn’t veer terribly far off the path of rock ‘n’ roll. The lights are simple, as one might expect from a venue like this.

Cafe-Du-Nord

Cafe Du Nord

2170 Market St. San Francisco, CA 94114
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What To Expect: Walking down the stairs into the main room lends the vibe of a classic speakeasy with red velour and classical seating in the back. It’s yet another historic space to enjoy some fresh artists of the 21st century in an intimate setting.

Best Features: Located rather conveniently on Market Street makes Cafe Du Nord both accessible and flush with pre-show drink options. Cafe du Nord is amazing for the fan hoping to engage with his or her favorite artists.

Drawbacks: The room has an odd shape with a bar, seating and even a pool table in the back, while the front is slightly sectioned off for live music.

Slim's

Slim’s

333 11th St. San Francisco, CA 94103
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What To Expect: Slim’s is located in a lively section of SOMA, and the venue hosts a vast array of lively acts for an all-ages crowd with a maximum capacity of 400. A high-ceiling room with few frills makes it a good option for dedicated fans.

Best Features: A large bar makes grabbing a beer or cocktail a snap, and they offer dinner with premium, upstairs seating if that’s your thing. The sound is just fine to accommodate either hardcore punk-rock or some of the Bay’s finest hip-hop.

Drawbacks: Oddly-placed pillars can obstruct attendees’ views and make a sold-out room that much more less appealing.

Public-Works

Public Works

161 Erie St. San Francisco, CA 94103
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What To Expect:
Expect two venues in one. Public Works offers a live music space and a separate room dedicated to dance music curated by some of the best DJs around. A separate ticket is needed for each option.

Best Features: The location is pretty central to most of the City. The live venue offers a balcony overhang — get there early for the best spot in the house. The staff is friendly.

Drawbacks: There are a few columns that make the live space a bit cumbersome at times, and the mobility at sold-out shows can be tough.

The-Recency

The Regency Ballroom

1290 Sutter St. San Francisco, CA 94109
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What To Expect: The large, well-worn ballroom with a horseshoe-shaped, wrap-around balcony and teardrop chandeliers can hold plenty of people at The Regency Ballroom. Most shows are general admission.

Best Features: There are plenty of seats to grab upstairs if sitting is a must.

Drawbacks: Shows here are infrequent, and the sound can get drowned out at times by the massive space of the ballroom, especially from the seats. Drinks are priced astronomically.

PHOTOS: The xx at the Greek 6/1

The-xxBy Marc Fong & Maggie Corwin //

The xx //
Greek Theatre – U.C. Berkeley
June 1st, 2013 //

The xx performed to a packed house on a warm night at the Greek Theatre in Berkeley this past Saturday, putting on another breathtaking show following their Thursday performance at The Fox Theater in Oakland. As minimalist as their music can be at times, they project such a captivating, big sound when they perform live.

Jamie xx’s influence on the group’s performance has made them a better live act; he utilizes his addictive micro house beats to essentially remix their own songs, providing a new beat for Romy Madley Croft and Oliver Sim’s sultry vocals. Songs also segue seamlessly often, feigning a DJ set.

The group mentioned that they have wanted to play the Greek Theatre for a long time, and they even said this was the biggest show they have played, which seems far-fetched with all the massive festivals they have played. Hyperbole aside, this trio is only getting stronger with each performance. Both Marc Fong and Maggie Corwin were on the scene to capture these moments from the show.

Mumford & Sons control crowd immaculately at the Greek

Mumford and Sons

Mumford & Sons, the folk-rock force that has influenced contemporary pop music more than any other group in a decade, made an interesting choice by performing at The Greek Theatre in Berkeley May 29-31. Tickets sold out instantly for all three dates when they went on sale, proving the group could have filled Oracle Arena twice over most likely (the band hooked up fans by offering pre-sale ticketing that you could purchase at your own pace by signing up at their website). As always, the outdoor theatre on the UC Berkeley campus proved to be a beautiful setting, a much more intimate and sonically special space for live music than a vast arena. Heart-on-sleeve leader Marcus Mumford even thanked the faithful for snapping up tickets so quickly Friday night, and he did seem humble – something he has down to a veritable science.

With their second tour and massive mainstream success, the foursome now tours with an extensive group of support – at times there were 11 performers on stage, almost exclusively string-based. The other obvious change in Mumford & Sons’ live performance is the gaudy amount of stage aesthetics they are now surrounded by – massive LED panels, epic spotlights, never-ending fog machines – something that could contradict their throwback sound. What a challenge it is for a folk/americana/country group to integrate contemporary visual effects into a live show, and it was successful overall because they didn’t overdo it. They took a minimalist approach to a setup that would have worked for a Bassnectar show. During “Lover of the Light”, at the peak point when Marcus screams the name of the song, it seemed logical for a blinding white light to overtake the audience, but that must have been too didactic since they kept the visuals mellow at that moment. Those present were slightly subdued at times for a Friday night crowd, but that’s because they were at the whim the headliners, following the musical cues with trained obedience.

Mumford and Sons

The Mumford & Sons crowd are the type of folks that don’t go to very many shows, something that became clear as a chatty buzz overtook Michael Kiwanuka’s opening performance. A couple inebriated strangers gave me a beer to apologize for taking the space directly in front of me. I appreciated it since the beer lines were epic, but was it their first concert? While collective disrespect was handed out to Kiwanuka, which included a bare spattering of claps after his final song, Mumford fans were immersed in the main act. The quiet pauses in the songs brought solumn respect from the crowd, yet the age-diverse but very white crowd erupted in celebration during radio anthems like “Little Lion Man”, and the expected sing-alongs brought a surprisingly blended audience harmony.

The hits were spread out, but the show didn’t really take off until the last third of the evening. The four song run of “Holland Road”, “Awake My Soul”, “I Will Wait”, and “Dust Bowl Dance” to end the set was the first time I joined the rest of the Greek theater entranced by the emotional up-and-downs that is the center point of the Mumford ethos. The most memorable part of the evening came at the encore, when Marcus told the audience that the next song will only work if everyone is absolutely silent. Of course, someone within the bowl of the theatre screamed as loud as possible. Marcus said, “now don’t do that. That’s our friend Tom. We put him there to show you what not to do.” Then they jumped into a stripped down version of Bruce Springsteen’s “I’m on Fire” gathered around one antiquated microphone for an acoustic take on the classic, and a deafening silence that lasted the entire song elevated it, creating a memorable moment. After the song, Marcus said, “that’s the quietest it’s ever been for that song…so we’re gonna do another one.” That was perfect timing for the obligatory yelling of “Freebird!”, which actually happened. Regardless of the noob-tastic Cliché spouted, the band played “Not With Haste” unplugged as well, and at the song’s conclusion Marcus smacked the microphone with triumphant gusto. He then said, “We play lots of shows, and we’ll never ever forget that.”