It’s a bit daunting to stand inside a massive, richly detailed theater when it’s empty. The spiraled balconies appear larger than ever, the busts lining the walls seem to stare, and the room’s grandeur feels entirely overwhelming. To experience the venue during a live show is almost a sensory overload. Therein lies the magic of San Francisco's historic Warfield.
Commissioned just three months after the Stock Market crash of 1929, the Paramount Theatre was designed by San Francisco’s Timothy L. Pflueger, who also designed the Castro Theatre, Top of the Mark, Bimbo’s, and most of the important architectural landmarks of the Bay Area. The theater's history is just as storied as those intricately designed walls might suggest.
As the legend goes, guests visiting Bimbo’s 365 were subjected to a scandalous visage. They called her Dolfina, the woman in the fishbowl, and her appearance was part optical illusion made possible by strategically placed mirrors, and part burlesque dancer, in place to entice patrons towards the bar. She appeared as a mermaid relaxing underwater, and many of the frequent visitors and workers claimed to have dated her, “the fishbowl woman,” but like Dolfina’s illusion, who really knows the truth behind the fantasy?
The first person to shatter the window behind the stage at Bottom of the Hill was Green Day’s drummer in 1998 during the filming of MTV’s The Ten Spot. Rather than replacing the window with a standard double pane glass, the staff agreed to let a regular patron, dubbed “Paul the Glassblower,” create a custom-made, prismatic stained glass proxy. It has again been broken since, unfortunately (by the singer of the Dillinger Escape Plan), but that idiosyncratic work in situ symbolizes the Potrero Hill staple: colorful, quirky, and vehemently DIY.
In 1967, Herman Warren sat with 49er Kermit Alexander in a bar called Emanon at 628 Divisadero Street. Warren owned Sugar Hill, a blues venue on Broadway, but joked with Alexander about opening up a low-key hangout spot. At first it was only a joke — until he threw down an impromptu offer to claim the space.
The space at 859 O’Farrell Street has a past ripened by prostitution, crooked politicians, jazz musicians, and a rather enterprising burlesque dancer—not that anyone would be surprised to hear that.
San Francisco's music scene is constantly evolving. Luckily, Pro Fans' Gregory Hill and Father/Daughter Records co-founder Jessi Frick are keeping San Francisco in-the-know. This Saturday, they'll be throwing the First Annual Bay Area Record Fair (affectionately nicknamed B.A.R.F.) at Thee Parkside featuring 21 labels, four bands performing live, and more records than you've probably ever seen in your life.
Aaron Axelsen has a knack for knowing what’s next. The trend-savvy DJ is the brain trust behind Popscene, a production and booking company that brings hundreds of world-class acts that are about to hit it big to intimate San Francisco venues on a weekly basis. In the last couple months alone Axelsen booked Geographer, Banks, and the Fratellis (among even more acts), and way back in 2012, he took a chance on an Irish teen named Ella Yelich-O’Connor, although these days you might know her by a different name—Lorde.
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