Get SF Weekly Newsletters

Arts & Entertainment

Best Place to Imbibe Local History While Taking in a Great Show 

Great American Music Hall

Every concert at Great American Music Hall feels like a special event. The place exudes genuine historicity: Opened in 1907, 859 O'Farrell Street was originally built to serve as a symbol of San Francisco's rebirth from the cataclysmic 1906 earthquake. The French architect who designed the place certainly fulfilled that order: Great American's marble columns, intricate rococo balconies, and ornate ceiling work produce an atmosphere of indulgence and luxury even today. The building's first occupant was Blanco's, a restaurant and brothel that served up gambling and other sinful pleasures to the nightcrawlers of a then barely civilized San Francisco. Later years saw the room become a jazz hall and a French restaurant; but it wasn't until 1972 that 859 O'Farrell opened as Great American Music Hall, attaining what has to be its highest and best use: a live venue for all types of music. Today the place occupies a comfortable spot in the middle of the size range; its smallish stage and dancefloor surpass the Fillmore in intimacy, but with wraparound balconies, it offers a little more breathing room than Bottom of the Hill or the Independent. Of course, the place wouldn't be anything without good bookings, and the Great American's old-world allure works on musicians, too: Many notable artists, from Robyn Hitchcock to Animal Collective, have specifically sought out shows there. On the best nights at Great American Music Hall, whether the artist is a local upstart or a marquee name, it's easy to get lost in the loud pulse of the PA and the proto-psychedelia of the architecture. Some believe the place is haunted, but even if you don't believe in ghosts, there's a spirit lingering in this former Wild West bordello that you won't find anywhere else in San Francisco.

Location Info

(Sorry, no information is currently available for other years in this same award category.)


Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

Search Best Of Awards

Best Of Award Graphics 2012