San Francisco’s music scene is as diverse as, well, everything else about the world-class city. From the contemporary hipster scene to revered 90s alternative to pop and EDM, San Francisco is the go-to for music and arts on the West Coast. San Francisco’s broad range of music artistry is a cultural staple. San Francisco concerts are as much a part of its landscape as its sweeping bay views and famous Golden Gate Bridge. They also attract just as many tourists. The catch-22? The SF music scene can be hard to navigate if you don’t have some reliable go-tos for concert and venue info. We’re here to provide you with some information and inspiration when it comes to San Francisco concerts. If you’re as enamored with SF’s live music scene as we are, get into the loop and stay in it. As your source for all the hottest San Francisco events, we solemnly pledge to keep you current (even if you still love 90s dance and alternative as much as we do). We’ll also be sharing concerts in the greater Bay Area within short driving or even walking distance to San Francisco.
Star-Studded March Madness on the San Francisco Music Scene
It may not work this way in the industry, but for the intents and purposes of this article, we’re going to start at the big time. On May 2nd, Ariana Grande is bringing her world-famous sultry vocals and trademark cat ears to the SAP Center in San Jose. (Okay, we’re not sure about the cat ears part, but humor our wishful thinking). She’ll be performing the hottest new singles from Sweetener, an album that has skyrocketed to the top of the charts as expected. To be there when SAP Center welcomes the queen of pop to the stage, visit the SAP Center online.
SAP Center is one of the most popular Bay Area venues for live performances. In 2006, it sold the more tickets to non-sporting events than any other venue in the Western United States. It’s right up there with Madison Square Garden in New York and Scotiabank Arena in Toronto, so if you’re looking for the full mega-concert experience, it’s routinely served up Hollywood-style at star-studded SAP Center.
In celebration of her birthday, Jennifer Lopez is having her party at SAP Center this year. No, really, her It’s My Party Tour kicks off on the 7th and stops at SAP Center on June 13th for a night with JLo you won’t soon forget! The concert will feature a jam-packed party mix of classic JLo anthems, explosive new hits, and the dazzling dance-factor that won her a global fan base. Tickets are on sale now, but they won’t be available for long. So if JLo is a must-see for you (as she is for many), it’s probably a good idea to get your tickets yesterday. No, but seriously, go to SAP Center’s website or Ticket Master for the best deals now. San Francisco concerts don’t get better than this (okay, it’s San Jose, but SAP Center is a longstanding San Franciscan favorite).
Some other San Francisco concerts giving us life this spring? Look out for Imagine Dragons playing at Napa Valley Expo in May. Weezer is making a long-awaited (well, it always feels long-awaited, anyway) appearance at Oracle Arena in Oakland in April. Also, keep an eye out for The Pixies and Basement in the upcoming months.
Fun fact for trivia lovers about Oracle Arena: The Grateful Dead played more concerts at this venue than any other (66!) Their December 16th, 1992 concert at the arena was later released as Dick’s Picks Volume 27 and included bonus tracks from their December 17th, 1992 concert at Oracle Arena. (Okay, non-trivia lovers, stay with us. We’re moving along now).
World Fame Showcases Local Indie Talent
One of our favorite things about Bay Area and San Francisco concerts is that they fluidly merge world-class artists with local talent. SAP Center is hosting a dynamic three-day music festival to celebrate 25 years of SAP Center musical memories. The SAP Center 25 Festival Weekend will be on fire with days’ worth of live music featuring local artists on an outdoor stage. Hot on the heels of the local talent, headline concerts will take place afterward inside the SAP Center. Each day is focused on a specific musical genre, so there will be something for most music lovers at the festival. On Friday it’ll rock and roll, and on Saturday it will hip and hop. Sunday will be reserved for Latin lovers- of pop music, that is.
The festival runs from September 13th to September 15th, but it’s a good idea to get your tickets now because this is a star-studded event (and, more by design than happenstance, an excellent opportunity for local talent to be showcased at a top-ranked arena in the Bay Area). What’s really cool about this event (besides basically everything) is that the outdoor portion of it is free to all attendees. The outdoor festival will be fun-filled with sponsor and craft booths by local artisans, exciting games and rides, and a bevy of foods and beverages available for purchase.
Two of the three headline acts have been announced, and they’re taking the Bay Area back to the old school. Kings of the West, brought to you by “Uncle Snoop’s Army”, includes none other than Snoop Dogg himself (naturally). He’ll be accompanied by Ice Cube, The Game, Nipsey Hussle, and The Psycho Realm on Saturday, and by Columbian reggaeton sensation Maluma on Sunday. The third headline act has yet to be revealed, so don’t miss a beat and keep looking out for it. Tickets to Maluma’s performance went on sale today (March 22nd) at 10 a.m. The on-sale date for the mysterious third headliner will be announced ASAP. All tickets will be available at SAP Center’s TheatMetrix Ticket Office. We suggest the easier route- go to Ticket Master and you’ll be a few clicks away from an event many millennials won’t want to miss.
In the months to come, you can also purchase tickets to see the spectacular Pink, the timeless Paul McCartney, and yes- the Backstreet Boys on their nostalgic DNA tour. Spring is in bloom, and so is the Bay Area live music scene!
Billie Eilish Brings Subtlety to Superstardom- and San Francisco
Speaking of San Francisco concerts, Billie Eilish will be bringing her willowy vocals and lovely, unique sound to Bill Graham Civic Auditorium on May 29th. In an age of technotronics and synthesized sound waves, we love a singer who can weave a web of lyrics that catches fans in the heart of them. Billie Eilish is just such an artist. Her EP has held its seat in the Billboard Top 200 for more than 18 months now, and has more than 5 billion daily streams. Eilish’s tours have sold out all over the world, and the crowds keep coming in droves.
Bill Graham Civic Auditorium has been a cultural center in San Francisco for over a decade. Named for the rock n’ roll pioneer who essentially began the movement in the 1960s, the venue has hosted legends like The Grateful Dead, Elton John, Bob Dylan, and Bette Midler. More recently, it has been home to off-the-charts performances by legends in the making like Lady Gaga, Sam Smith, Bruno Mars, and so many more.
“Out with the Old, In With the New” Doesn’t Apply to Legendary Musical Genius
For an even more majestic combination of the contemporary and the classical, head over to San Francisco Theater to see Metallica perform with the San Francisco Symphony. The one-night only event will celebrate 20 years since this unlikely partnership first collaborated on the 1999 live album S & M, giving birth to a new sound that would haunt generations to come (in all the good ways). Consider this one last standing ovation, 20 years later. As if the nostalgia factor could possibly be upped, Metallica are San Francisco natives. It’s only fitting that this is a San Francisco concert, giving contemporary San Franciscans a chance to carry on the legend of Metallica and the San Francisco Symphony. Nine-time Grammy winners, they’re permanently ingrained in popular culture, and will be joyously celebrated at this larger-than-life San Francisco concert. Metallica has remained a worldwide heavy metal icon throughout the changing generations, so this event is tailored to fans of any age.
The San Francisco Symphony enjoys its own classical fame, and has become one of the most recognized orchestras in the world. The Symphony’s rare mix of innovation and time-honored talent was first formed in 1911 and its signature groundbreaking style devotes itself to music in all its glory, forms, and genres.
P.S. The Rolling Stones will be live at Levi’s Stadium on Saturday, May 18th! We couldn’t really make a must-see list of San Francisco concerts without the Rolling Stones, could we? That was a rhetorical question. Obviously.
The EDM Train Always Stops in San Francisco
The March madness is amplified for die-hard dance and electronic fans. This weekend, Wayward at Wish 2019 lines up three of the hottest DJs in San Francisco: Gay, West lee, and Wayward. On March 28th, DJ Jim Coles a.k.a. Om Unit will be transporting EDM lovers to another realm on their Cosmic Bridge Tour. The tour’s San Francisco stop will be at Great Northern, one of the city’s most popular venues for DJ events. As a pioneering DJ and producer, Coles has traversed sonic tropes and collaborated with some of the most innovative minds in electronica. Om Unit’s contagious, cutting edge sounds can be found in various dance music hits over the last several years. If you’re interested in the event but unsure of his sound, find Om Unit on SoundCloud. His addictive combos of tech beats and melodious intrigue might just get you, well addicted.
Cosmic Bridge Tour at Great Northern features DJ Madd, and Moresounds. For more info, get on the EDM train (literally). You’ll find more jam-packed EDM events in one month than you knew existed in the world! If you’re not a San Francisco native, the cool site lists nearby hotels and Airbnbs for your traveling convenience.
Keep your eye out for dubstep sensation Excision, who will be coming to the San Francisco Theater soon. Abel of Excision’s trademark dark sound is heavy on bass and mood even when it picks up the tempo and explodes into pulsing life. Abel’s music has accomplished a rare, innovative feat in the industry: He has merged the intensity and aggression of heavy metal and a laconic hip-hop vibe with drum and bass. Heading off his biggest tour yet, Excision will be gracing the San Francisco Theater with his beat-breaking presence in the spring of 2019.
Indie Lovers Rejoice with Mt. Joy
Indie sensation Mt. Joy is on tour, and making a stop at the San Francisco Theater on March 30th to present their debut self-titled album. We have a canny eye for amazing obscure talent, but rarely have we seen a band rise from obscurity to largely self-made fame in only a year! Over the course of 2018 and 2019, Mt. Joy experienced a true metamorphosis. They transformed from a relatively unknown alt-rock group to a moody late-night TV staple with millions of Spotify plays. Their newly released single, “Astrovan”, rocketed them onto the festival circuit in 2018. If you’ve been seeking San Francisco concerts with a little something different that sets them apart from the masses, you’ve found your match with Mt. Joy at the San Francisco Theater. Don’t wait- this concert isn’t yet sold out, but it goes down at the end of the month. Since time is of the essence, here’s a quick link for tickets.
More San Francisco Concerts You Won’t Want To Miss
Remember Matt Nathanson? His folk-pop hit “Come on Get Higher” made his introduction to stardom, and his track “All We Were” appeared on ESPN. He also recently made an appearance on The Bachelor! Unfortunately for many women across the nation, he was not a contestant, but he did serenade the winners.
The folksy rock artist will also be making an appearance at the San Francisco Theater to promote his latest ablum titled Sings His Sad Heart. The lead singles “Mine” and “Used to Be” will be featured on this heavily acoustic tour across North America.
We strongly recommend you let a flight of fancy carry you to see Dream Theater, who is currently taking North America by storm. They’ve kicked off their Distance Over Time tour, and will be playing soon at the San Francisco Theater. The tour is in support of their 14th record, also whimsically named Distance Over Time.
Why do we love Dream Theater so much? Well, their live music does not merely put on a show. They brilliantly fuse together the magic of lighting, stage, and design to create an ephemeral experience. It feels, well, like a dream. This tour will feature well-loved old favorites alongside new hits in the making, and includes a special celebration of the 20th anniversary of Scenes From a Memory. Country-wide reviews from previous shows on the Distance Over Time tour are positively glowing. Fans have expressed awe at Dream Theater’s instrumental mastery and signature harmony. The band allegedly sounds as good as they did 25 years ago- a hefty compliment, but we believe it!
Big Perks of Small Venues in SF
Looking for small venues that play big live events (and small ones featuring indie talent, too?) The Fillmore has earned its place in San Francisco’s heart as one of the best small venues for San Francisco concerts. An ambient setting with an intimate feel, the Fillmore seats only 999 and will host spring performances by the aforementioned wonderful Mt. Joy, Cass McCombs and Sam Evian, The Budos Band with Tommy Guerrero, JAIN with Rex Life Raj, and many more. The Fillmore’s homey atmosphere is fairly easy to navigate, too. There’s a long bar at the end of the stage, and several large ice water dispensers make it easy to hydrate without buying expensive water bottles.
The Independent is another extremely popular small venue for San Francisco concerts. It is a general admission, standing room only venue with only a few first-come, first-serve seats. From what we’ve heard, snagging one is not Mission Impossible if you arrive when the doors open. However, if you have a disability or cannot stand for long periods of time, you can absolutely reserve a seat ahead of time. Bonus points: It’s a good rule of thumb to call a week in advance to reserve seats, but you usually only have to do it a day or two ahead of time. Just remember to call during day time hours (11 a.m. to 6 p.m. from Monday through Friday). The club is wheelchair accessible.
When it comes to cameras, concert attendees are generally allowed to bring one small camera per person. (Rarely, a band will request no cameras at their show, but this doesn’t happen often). However, if you want to bring a professional-grade SLR camera to shoot for your blog, magazine, or social media, the answer is a firm no- unless you’ve got permission from the bands management and agents, that is. To request this kind of permission, you can contact email@example.com at least one week in advance. Lucky for the avid bloggers and social media wizards among us, many times it can be arranged.
If you’re a musician who wants the chance to be heard at The Independent, you are one fish in a sea of many, but it’s worth a shot! What we like about The Independent’s booking procedure is that it’s a no-frills process that doesn’t require artists to send demos or promo packages. Instead, musicians are invited to simply send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Include a Myspace and website link where The Independent can check you out. From what we gather, they receive countless submissions per day and couldn’t possibly respond to everyone with a denial. But the good news is that if you send do hear back, you’ve just booked a San Francisco concert most artists only dream about, and are well on your way to being recognized in a teaming city of performers seeking a spotlight.
In April, Amy Miller will host The Bay Area Clusterfest Showcase at The Independent. It’s a night of local mayhem you won’t want to miss if you’re a fan of San Francisco-based indie talent. The showcase features local artists Kaseem Bentley, Karinda Dobbins, Dom Gelin, Ryan Goodcase, Phil Griffiths, Natasha Muse, Dauood Namiyar, Geneva Rust-Orta, Nich Sahovah, Chris Storin, Torio Van Grol, and Marcus Williams. Now, if you’re not a San Francisco native or at least from the Bay Area, these names may or may not ring a bell. But they are on the rise, so don’t lose sight of them!
Ryan Bingham, Durand Jones and the Indications, Bombino, and rising star Donna Missal are also performing at The Independent this spring. Ticket prices don’t generally exceed $20, even at the door. As San Francisco concerts go, many locals say you can’t beat these prices or performances.
There are more San Francisco concerts happening on any given day than even most locals would guess! Our main mission is not only to keep you aware of upcoming events in your area, but to connect you with others who share your interests. Stay tuned for our upcoming app that was designed to do just that. It’s aptly named Plans, and we’ll continue to keep you updated on its debut in the months to come. In a world where almost everything happens online, we want to remind you that there’s a whole world of live fun and entertainment in your city. What’s more, we want to give you a way to make authentic connections with others to take it all in with. With Plans, events will populate your news feed depending on the friends you add and connections you make. It’ll open up a world of possibilities and live events so you can enjoy your beautiful city to the fullest.