Music & Nightlife

Discover San Francisco’s best dance clubs and hottest music venues

Nightlife

San Francisco Halloween party guide

Unleash your wild side at a Halloween party packed with international DJs, cover bands or costumed karaoke fiends

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Where to see live music and concerts

The Warfield

Opened in 1922 as a vaudeville theater, the Warfield has operated in its current incarnation since the 1980s. The ornate room, which has a 1,800-seat balcony and an overall capacity for 2,300, retains its original splendor, though the venue now showcases a variety of musical genres. From titans of rock revisiting classic releases to the new wave of rap artists touching the stage for the first time, bookings are diverse but tend to stick to popular movements. Even the back balcony seats have good views of the stage in the well-designed space. Those lucky enough to get backstage may also get a glimpse of a portion of the underground speakeasy once operated by Al Capone, who had an office in the building.

Time Out says
  • 5 out of 5 stars
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War Memorial Opera House

The SF Opera, inaugurated in 1923, is based in the War Memorial Opera House, a grand Beaux Arts building designed by City Hall architect Arthur Brown Jr. and built in 1932 as a memorial to the soldiers who fought in World War I. The 3,176-seat auditorium and cultural landmark is modeled on European opera houses, with a vaulted ceiling, a huge art deco metal chandelier and a marble foyer. An $84-million revamp in 1997 not only restored the elegant building (workers found clouds painted on the ceiling when they scraped away the grime), but installed up-to-date electronics and stage gear. The fall season runs early September to December; the summer season from May to July. In addition to opera, the venue provides a stage for the San Francisco Ballet, various concerts, lectures and special presentations.

Time Out says
  • 5 out of 5 stars
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The Independent

There are no frills at this venerable black box apart from a stellar sound and light system—it's all about the music here. The Independent has always showcased a wide variety of sounds from self-made artists; the calendar is filled with a mix of touring rock, pop, metal, rap, jazz, Americana, jam and otherwise undefinable acts such as Madlib, Sunn 0))), the Boredoms, Fiery Furnaces, High on Fire and Lyrics Born. The lineups and genres are unpredictable and change from night to night, but you'll always have a prime view of the stage at this intimate 500-person venue.

Time Out says
  • 3 out of 5 stars
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SFJAZZ Center

San Francisco finally got the jazz hub it deserves with the 2013 opening of this $64 million center, the first standalone venue in America built with the musical genre in mind. The SFJAZZ Center comes complete with state-of-the-art sound designed by Meyer Sound Laboratories and a rustic Mexican restaurant from acclaimed chef/restaurateur Charles Phan. Now SFJAZZ has an appropriately majestic headquarters for the annual music festival it has produced since 1983 as well as a home for world-class performances not only in the jazz realm, but also for global music in its many forms.

Time Out says
  • 5 out of 5 stars
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More places to see live music and concerts

The best gay bars in San Francisco

Get the lowdown on the city’s legendary LGBT nightlife with our roundup of the best gay bars in the Castro and beyond

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The best nightclubs in San Francisco

Where’s the party? Chances are at one of these reliably rocking nightclubs where top Bay Area and international DJs provide the beat.

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Outdoor and rooftop bars

El Techo de Lolinda

Stunning views of San Francisco that sweep from Mission Street all the way to the Bay, complex tequila cocktails and well-seasoned plates of Latin American food make El Techo de Lolinda—a spacious rooftop bar above Lolinda steakhouse—the perfect stop for a lively meal or drinks. Bartenders serve bright, refreshing drinks with roots in South America—caipirinhas, pińa coladas and margaritas using fresh coconut and carefully selected cachaca, and other rum-, tequila-, and pisco-inspired originals. One of the best kitchens in the city turns out upscale food inspired by street-cart fare—small plates of fresh guacamole, corn on the cob, ceviche, skewers and chicharrones de carne (roasted and fried chunks of pork shoulder served with house-made tortillas, lime, salsa and fish). Equipped with heat lamps and umbrellas, El Techo is a great late-night destination since the kitchen stays open until 1am on weekends. Though long lines can form outside the elevator to gain entry, it's worth the wait.

Time Out says
  • 4 out of 5 stars
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Trou Normand

Located in SoMa's majestic Pacific Bell building, Trou Normand brings a certain je ne se quoi to the after-work happy-hour scene. With tall windows, an elegant, curved marble bar and handsome leather booths, the place is as beautiful as it is unassuming. A courtyard in back whisks you away from the urban surroundings to a tree-lined patio outfitted with long tables, heat lamps and a glass canopy, so that you can sit outside rain or shine. Modeled on a contemporary French café, the bar and restaurant is known for its cocktails, house-made cordials and bitters. Many of the drinks incorporate cognacs and armagnacs the bar team has selected by the barrel from France. Enjoy these drinks with a simple but thoughtful daily menu comprised of a wide selection of house-cured meats, simply prepared seasonal vegetables and other dishes. Open from 8am to midnight during the week, Trou Normand aspires to be an all-day pit stop for breakfast, lunch, dinner, coffee, drinks, and snacks in between.

Time Out says
  • 5 out of 5 stars
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Bars

Zeitgeist

San Francisco is a chill city, and it doesn't get chiller than this outdoor spot. Sipping a beer at one of Zeitgeist's sunny picnic tables with very relaxed smokers is a definitive SF experience. The beer garden stretches across a wide, open area defined by wooden fences, but large trees provide shady spots for those who prefer to stay out of direct sun. Inside, the bar taps dispense more than 40 beers—many of them from microbreweries—available by the pint or the pitcher, and a full kitchen serves excellent renditions of simple favorites like hamburgers, bratwurst and grilled cheese.

Time Out says
  • 4 out of 5 stars
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See more of the best bars in San Francisco