Earlier this week the San Francisco Chronicle ran a photographic retrospective of Tom Petty’s many Bay Area shows over the past five decades. This was just another reminder of the range of eclectic concert venues available to local fans, from casual listeners to the die-hards who have helped make the Bay Area music scene one of the country’s best. As a graduate student, my life is often confined by issues of time and money, but I can’t think of a better way to blow off steam than going out and singing along to my favorite songs. If you’re a student in San Francisco like me or a music fan on a budget, you’d be doing yourself a disservice not to explore the unique live entertainment options offered in this area. Below is a list of three of my favorite venues….
Rickshaw Stop, 155 Fell Street San Francisco, CA 94102
San Francisco might be famous for its large theaters like the San Francisco Opera and the Orpheum, which just wrapped up the first West Coast run of Hamilton, but Rickshaw Stop is a pure hole-in-the-wall club that you probably wouldn’t notice unless you were looking for it. This club hosts small shows for lesser-known artists, but that doesn’t mean it’s not worth your time. You might not know any of the upcoming acts on their calendar. Don’t let that discourage you because seeing a lesser-known artist can turn out to be one of the most memorable nights of your life.
I saw an outstanding punk rock band called PUP a couple summers ago, and my experience there couldn’t have been better. The crowd was rowdy, as you might expect, but I took advantage of the balcony so I could rock out with a little less sweat and shoving around me. Rickshaw Stop is one of those venues that makes everyone feel like family. Trust me: you’ll find a show here, no matter your musical preferences.
Later this month, they’re hosting The Upside Down: Stranger Things Party to join the hype of the highly anticipated second season of the hit Netflix series. A night with 80’s inspired music and costumes? That’s my idea of the best Halloween party around.
Cornerstone, 2367 Shattuck Ave. Berkeley, CA 94704
Cornerstone opened in downtown Berkeley this past spring, but it’s quickly becoming a local mainstay for touring artists. Unlike other venues that are either just a bar or a concert room, this place offers both in a unique way. The main entrance on Shattuck Ave. takes you directly into a modern-styled restaurant and bar with all of the best rotating local beers like Fieldwork and Faction. If you make your way to the back, you’ll find a small set of stairs that will lead you to a completely separate live music room with a beautiful wooden ceiling and brand new audio and lighting equipment.
I went to a sold out show of Four Year Strong, and the energy was wild. Rock shows sometimes fall short due to poor audio mixes and bad acoustics, but Cornerstone’s sound quality is the best I’ve ever heard in a small venue. Their primo sound mixed with a simple, modern room design made this show one of my instant favorites. Plus the room’s layout allows you to move from the stage area to the bands’ merchandise tables with ease. Nothing ruins the vibe at a show more than cramped, uncomfortable space. Cornerstone is well-suited for any type of show-goer who wants to stand in the front row or hang in the back with a craft beer.
Fox Theater, 1807 Telegraph Avenue, Oakland, CA 94612
The Fox Theater in Oakland is one of the most stunningly beautiful venues I have attended. It’s in the heart of downtown Oakland, and you should go if you want a sublime experience. The layout and intricate design surrounding the stage will make you feel like you’re attending the Academy Awards.
I saw Fall Out Boy and the stand-up comedian, David Cross, and both experiences were equally fulfilling despite the different types of entertainment. I sang along to Sugar, We’re Goin Down and laughed till I cried in the same room. If something like that doesn’t give a venue a warm place in your heart then I don’t know what will. The Fox Theater perfectly represents the vivacious spirit of the Bay Area. It offers experiences that will stand out fondly when you think back on all that’s great about living in San Francisco.
I would recommend snagging tickets to the incomparable Thom Yorke when he rolls into Oakland in December. This is the perfect show for unwinding if you’re still in the area over winter break.