Best Venues To Lose Your Hearing In

Sticky floors, amps less than 2-feet from your eardrums, screaming fanatics, and questionable lighting, San Francisco's venue variety is not only exceptional, it has some down-right character.

Updated: February 04, 2010

SF's Music Lovers

Cafe Du Nord

2170 Market St, San Francisco, CA 94114

Hands-down the best venue in the City. The intimate space (capacity 250) still draws big names. The result? A living room performance from your favorite music obsession. Nested in the basement of the Swedish American Hall, Du Nord boasts a small slightly elevated stage, a backstage "room" that's actually to the side of the stage and through a door, a pool table and some of the friendliest bartenders in town. You'd be hard-pressed to find a better place than this.

The Independent

628 Divisadero St, San Francisco, CA 94117

Awkward location, barely any parking, sticky floors, but make it inside and you'll be surprised by this little gem. The incredibly managed venue has one of the most state-of-the-art sound boards, perfect lighting, and that kind of small-time feel with enough room to accommodate personal space issues.

Great American Music Hall

859 O'Farrell St, San Francisco, CA 94109

An original SF staple. It's grimy, has terrible lighting, and hasn't changed in decades. On the upside, the gorgeously maintained internal architecture is breath-taking. Their entertaining staff don't even compare to the crowds that show up here. Go to see a show, and you'll spend half the time people-watching. GAMH is where bands get their start in San Francisco ever since the Fillmore was acquired by Live Nation, and that garners some heavy respect.

Rickshaw Stop

155 Fell St, San Francisco, CA 94102

2 words. Hipster central. You gotta love it. Ironic t-shirts, plaid, fixies parked outside, cigarette-smoking mustache-wearing hipsters and their obscure bands from Sweden. You can't pop in this sticky, hot sweat box without having a grandeur schnockered-up kind of a time. Best. Dance. Spot. Ever.


333 11th St, San Francisco, CA 94103

Slim's is just plain gorgeous. The cascading brick wall and beautifully orchestrated bar looks like a scene out of a picturesque wedding reception. Something quaint and quite underrated? The adorable 2-for-1 dinner option. You can purchase "dinner and a show," and garner the benefits of having a seat in the upstairs balcony (and the food's not bad!). The only downfall of this long-rectangular hall is the protruding beams and the lack of space separation. The merch table is usually crammed right next to the stage, and the bar is over-run with people vying for a seat. Insider tip: just be extra nice, no throwing 'bows, and gather around the ends of the bar to get fast, easy service.