A Decade of Live Shows in SF! The Best of the Best...

Posted by The Bay Area Crew, December 23, 2009 10:05am | Post a Comment
by Kaitlin

2010 will mark 10 years since I first moved to San Francisco. One of my favorite pastimes has been going to live shows. I’ve see big shows, small shows, quiet shows, loud shows, good, bad, memorable, forgettable and life changing shows. I’ve enjoyed rock in many forms: metal, acoustic, electric, world, performed by musicians ranging from close friends to the world famous…Here is a list of some of my favorite things about seeing shows in SF and some of my favorite shows in and around SF this decade:

great american music hall

There are so many amazing venues here to see just about any type of music you might be seeking. The Fillmore and The Warfield are classic venues that can pack in a lot of people to check out some big grindermannames, like The White Stripes, Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, Willie Nelson, Patti Smith and many, many more. Bottom of the Hill, the Independent, and Café du Nord are smaller and more intimate, and offer a wide variety of local and traveling bands the chance to be seen. 

The Great American Music Hall is my favorite venue in the city. It was designed and built after the 1906 earthquake, was called Blanco’s back then and served as a bordello up until prohibition. After that, it was a dance hall called the Music Box, and then a jazz club, until it was re-opened in 1972 as The Great American Music Hall. I’ve seen some of my favorite shows there, including Ben Kweller, The Mars Volta, Earth, Boris, Neurosis, The Dirtbombs, Grinderman, Shellac, Melvins, and High on Fire, oh, but to name a few…If you haven’t yet, I highly recommend checking out a show there!
dave grohl
But through all the venues and all the shows, here I have listed some of the most memorable ones I’ve seen during the 2000s, mostly rock and metal…I’ve tried to find a video to accompany these shows, although some videos aren’t from the show or even tour where I saw these bands. 

The first big show I saw after I moved to SF was the Bridge School Benefit of 2000, and my mind was blown by all the amazing acts I saw: Foo Fighters, Beck, CSNY and Red Hot Chili Peppers. To hear Dave Grohl say, “I’ve never played this song by myself in front of this big an audience before,” and then proceed to play “Everlong,” was more amazing than I could ever describe. 

My first trip to Slim’s was to see Sloan in 2001. A friend bought me a ticket and it was my first smaller, independent venue show. They were touring in support of Pretty Together. These guys are so much fun live, switching instruments for almost every song, being funny dorks and making the crowd laugh.   

The first time I saw The Dirtbombs in 2002 my life was changed. Ko & the Knockouts and the Detroit Cobras filled out the line up of Detroit Rock awesomeness that was my first trip to Bimbo’s 365 in North Beach. I was just getting really into the Detroit garage rock scene that bloomed around 2000, and this was such a kick ass show! All 3 bands were raw and rocking. I saw The Dirtbombs a few years later at my beloved Great American Music Hall and they pulled me and a bud up onstage to drunkenly dance and act like fools, which we did with great joy. It was great!

Along that same vein, I absolutely love the Kings of Leon and have since their very first Holy Roller Novocaine EP. They are the band I’ve seen the most live, aside from friends’ and local bands. The first time I saw them was in 2003 at Slim’s, and they were opening for some big-at-the-time British band. After they played, my friend and I went across the street to Butter for a few libations. After we were fully sauced, we decided to leave and ran into the brothers and cousin Followill eating crepes at the late night crepe wagon (like you do!). We told them how much we loved them and how much we thought the other band sucked! We thought we were hot shit until one of the brothers quietly told us that the guy standing right next to us was in the band… I don’t think we cared, and we proceeded to go about our way loudly into the night. It’s never been a dull show when I’ve seen the Kings of Leon, that’s for sure! 

Oh, The Strokes…Halloween 2002 was the first time I saw The Strokes, or rather...I was at the show and don’t remember anything other than being pulled almost to the front of the crowded Bill Graham Civic Auditorium by a mutually inhibriated friend and immediately falling down/passing out. I was carried home that night and didn’t even get to see the Strokes…Don’t drink too much and go to a show or you’ll spend the night in the medic tent!   

One of my favorite bands of all time is The White Stripes. I’ve had the joy of seeing them only once, unfortunately, but that one time was everything I wanted it to be and more. The show was at the Warfield in 2003, and it was packed… PACKED!! The entire floor was a moving, dancing entity and everyone was sweaty with a smile plastered from ear to ear. After the show, when the Warfield still used to make posters, I accidentally got 2 posters stuck together. Some luck, huh?! It gets better… after we stumbled in a blissed out haze to Market Street to make our way home, I found a t-shirt that someone had bought and dropped on the ground. I offered it up to anyone who might have lost it, but there were no takers and I still wear that t-shirt to this very day.

Seeing Grinderman in 2007 was the first time I saw Nick Cave live. You know when you see a performer live whose music you really love, and they’re even more amazing live than you’d imagined? This was exactly what seeing Grinderman was like! Mr. Cave had so much energy and Warren Ellis is so much fun to see.

The 4th of July, 2007 was when Southern Lord’s 7/7/7 Tour hit the Independent, bringing with it Weedeater, Wolves in the Throne Room, Earth and Sunn O))). This was my first Sunn O))) ritual, but even more exciting for me, it was my first time seeing Dylan Carlson and Earth. Since the first time I heard Extra-Capular Extraction I wanted to see this guy, who was once Nirvana’s roadie and happened to buy Kurt Cobain the shotgun he eventually killed himself with. He was almost lost to heroin addiction and re-emerged after an almost 10 year break with Hex; or Printing in the Infernal Method.

In line with the Southern Lord theme, Boris at the Great American Music Hall was bitchin'! They filled the place with smoke and noise. I missed when Southern Lord invaded Amoeba SF October 14th, 2007 and both Boris and OM played the same day, but the photos and video show it was an amazing day at Amoeba!

Watain. Pure Black Metal. These guys from Sweden are the real fucking deal. They don’t care about your scene and will likely make you wretch a little, like they did me in 2008 when I saw em play. Their rituals include elements of blood, fire and the smell of death built into “a temple of chaos.” There are animal heads on stakes and there’s enough blood to go around. Sworn to the Dark!

Although I never saw the Sun City Girls, I did get to see Sir Richard Bishop twice in this past year, first with his Freak of Araby Ensemble, and second solo at the Café Du Nord. There’s something wonderful about an intimate, small show. At the Café du Nord, the floor was set up with chairs which people sat in, and during the all acoustic solo set people were quiet and watched! I’m much more used to loud rock shows where someone is always talking and people are pushing… it was a moving experience to feel so close to the performer and other concert-goers.

How rad are the Melvins?! Totally rad IS the correct answer, yes! I guess we’re pretty lucky that the Melvins come to town pretty regularly, cause I’ve seen them a handful of times just in the last couple of years. But this year, The Butthole Surfers toured for the first time in a while, and SF was one of only three dates on the tour that the Melvins played with them. AND, for the Butthole Surfers’ encore, Dale Crover came out and played the second drum kit!! It was such an awesome show! Melvins AND the Buttholes!!!

...and the last show on this list, and certainly not the least by any means, is The Flaming Lips at the Treasure Island Music Festival back in September of this year. One of my good friends loves the Flaming Lips, and I’ve certainly heard them over the years, but it took finally seeing them live to really, really get it. I cried! I can’t remember the last time a silly rock and roll band make me cry, and it surely wasn’t because I was sad. Wayne Coyne is such an enthusiastic, excited person, who really loves performing and creating new and ever evolving rock. Feeling all those people together on Treasure Island with such happiness and love eminating from the stage to audience and then from the audience right back onto the stage, it was quite moving! I’m a life long fan already and was so excited to find a clip from the actual show for this final video. 

Thanks for reading my top memorable shows of the past decade. May there be many more memorable shows in the decade to come!

Relevant Tags

2000s (40), Kings Of Leon (5), Dave Grohl (7), Foo Fighters (9), Sloan (2), White Stripes (24), Dirtbombs (2), Strokes (1), Grinderman (4), Sunn O))) (5), Earth (10), Boris (12), Watain (1), Sir Richard Bishop (1), Melvins (14), Butthole Surfers (1), Flaming Lips (18)