San Francisco is home to some stellar live music destinations, but many of the Bay Area's top venues are beyond the city's limits. From intimate jazz clubs to massive amphitheatres, here are some of the best spots to catch a show around the bay.
The landmark Sweetwater Music Hall in Mill Valley first opened in 1972 and became famous for its intimate, sometimes surprise concerts by countless big names like Van Morrison, the Grateful Dead and Carlos Santana. The 90-seat tavern wasn’t just a venue, but a musician’s hangout, and in 2012, a group of longtime regulars—including Bob Weir of the Grateful Dead—helped bring back the nightclub just a few blocks from its original location.
Farther north in downtown Napa, the historic Uptown Theatre opened in 1937 as a movie theater before it was transformed to a live music venue in 2000. The beautiful Art Deco theater hosts a steady lineup of national music and comedy acts. Also in wine country is Green Music Center, a $140 million concert hall on the edge of the Sonoma State University campus. Its 1,400-seat Weill Hall is known for arguably the best acoustics in the Bay Area. Giant sliding backdoors connect the stage with a massive lawn that can seat 3,000 for summertime shows.
When Oakland’s Fox Theater opened in 1928, it stood out even in an era of elaborate movie palaces. Terra cotta tiles, detailed paintings, golden deities and its famous domed ceiling reflect the Indian and Middle Eastern influence of the architecture. The building is on the national register of historic places. Yoshi’s Oakland is the East Bay’s top destination for jazz, world music and blues and serves modern Japanese cuisine. The Greek Theatre in Berkeley is the Bay Area's best outdoor venue. It was modeled after the ancient Greek theater of Epidaurus and has fantastic views of the Bay Bridge and San Francisco skyline.
The Shoreline Amphitheatre in Mountain View is one of the Bay Area’s largest venues. With 22,000 seats plus a giant lawn, the Shoreline features many of the hottest pop music acts, symphonies and orchestras and a variety of festivals like Lollapalooza and Ozzfest. In Saratoga, Montalvo Arts Center brings world-class performers in a wide range of genres to its two venues: the beautiful outdoor Lilian Fontaine Garden and the intimate, 300-seat Carriage House Theatre.
Bay Area wineries are another top destination for live music. Here are some spots that pair great music and wine in beautiful outdoor settings: