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January 25, 2019

San Francisco Music Venues Rich in Black History

San Francisco is and always has been a city of music. From the psychedelic sounds of the '60s to the boundary-breaking DJs of today, the City by the Bay has a treasured history of performances. During Black History Month, you can visit these San Francisco music venues where the superstars of tomorrow play the same stages as some of music's most legendary black artists.

The Fillmore (1805 Geary Blvd.)

Every discussion of the San Francisco music scene eventually turns to The Fillmore, which has hosted such legends as James Brown, Ike and Tina Turner, and Otis Redding. Some of the country’s biggest entertainers credit The Fillmore with launching their careers, including the Grateful Dead, Jefferson Airplane, and Santana.

Today, the music continues with a packed event calendar that combines new talent and seasoned performers. The historical building is large enough to comfortably accommodate more than 1,000 guests, but small enough to ensure an intimate experience no matter where you watch the show.

Great American Music Hall (859 O'Farrell St.)

Great American Music Hall opened in 1907 as a symbol of San Francisco’s rebirth after the devastating 1906 earthquake. It is the oldest nightclub in the neighborhood, and the décor is reminiscent of turn-of-the-century splendor. Some of the most important black artists of the 20th century have played on this stage, including jazz legends Duke Ellington and Sarah Vaughan.

Mezzanine (444 Jessie St.)

After Mezzanine arrived on the Bay Area music scene, nothing was ever the same. Visitors come night after night to enjoy the 12,000-square-foot dance floor, showing off their best moves. Erykah Badu has performed at Mezzanine, as has rapper A$AP Ferg and no less a latter-day legend than Snoop Dogg himself. See a show while you can; we're sad to report that this venue will be closing in October 2019.

The Saloon (1232 Grant Ave.)

The Saloon’s history stretches all the way back to 1861, making it the oldest bar in San Francisco. While it is still a great spot to enjoy cheap beer in a low-key setting, the Saloon is now best known as an intimate venue to enjoy some of the best jazz and blues in the city.

The Saloon has live entertainment every night, and a jukebox to keep things going when the band is on break. Whether you see an up-and-coming local group or a legend like Freddie Roulette, you are guaranteed a memorable night. Just remember to bring cash.

SFJAZZ Center (201 Franklin St.)

SFJAZZ has been at the helm of the city's jazz scene since its founding in the 1980s. Beyond preserving the history of this musical form so tied to the African-American experience, SFJAZZ now blazes a trail for the artists of the future in its permanent home on Franklin St. Few performance venues in the city have the sound quality of the SFJAZZ Center. 

Slim's (333 11th St.)

Most of the action takes place on the dance floor at Slim’s, which was originally intended to be a R&B nightclub when it opened in 1988. Since then, the venue has branched out, inviting entertainers in a variety of genres to perform. Jazz, blues, alternative rock, and hip-hop have all found a home at this venue.

Slim’s is known for bringing new artists to the stage. In many cases, these artists have gone on to perform around the world. Bobby “Blue” Bland was featured at Slim’s, as were Albert Collins, Johnnie Taylor, and Solomon Burke.

The Warfield (982 Market St.)

Among the oldest venues in San Francisco, The Warfield has hosted a number of great black artists, including Louis Armstrong and Prince. The Warfield brings in all kinds of performers and every style of music. Whether you're in a seat in the balcony or dancing on the main floor, you'll have a great concert experience.

Yoshi’s (1330 Fillmore St.)

Yoshi’s started small, taking up a single room next to a sushi restaurant. However, its noteworthy lineup of local and national entertainers led to a rapid expansion. Today, Yoshi’s operates two popular nightclubs, one in Oakland's Jack London Square, and another on San Francisco's Fillmore Street. From the talented Black Art Jazz Collective to Grammy-nominated jazz saxophonist Gerald Albright, there is a constant stream of extraordinary artists on-stage, making this a top choice for locals and visitors to the Bay Area.

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