The Black Hawk at Hyde and Turk, January 27, 1961. Photo: San Francisco History Center, SF Public Library
Venues home to the crustiest of punks, the smoothest cats of jazz, and band-aids of the highest order are a cultural staple in San Francisco. As the city quickly changes, however, it becomes more and more imperative to remember the music establishments no longer with us. Lest we incur McSweeney’s wrath, below are ten venues which left us too soon, from oldest to most recent order of closure.
The Black Hawk — Closed, 1963
The interior of the The Black Hawk, January 1961. Photo: San Francisco History Center, SF Public Library
Active from 1949 to 1963 in the Tenderloin, The Black Hawk featured live jazz antics from some of the greats. Those who recorded albums at the club includes Miles Davis, Thelonious Monk and Cal Tjader with appearances by John Coltrane, Chet Baker, Vince Guaraldi, Billie Holiday, and Lester Young. In order to keep the shows all ages, the owners would have minors sit behind a wall of chicken wire in the back.
Miles Davis Quintet — “So What” at The Black Hawk in 1961:
The Matrix — Closed, 1972
A handbill from The Matrix. Photo: Steven Arnold Archives
Originally a pizza shop, The Matrix was a community hot spot for local musicians during the emergence of rock music in San Francisco. It was opened by Marty Balin in 1965 with Jefferson Airplane, the club’s “house band,” playing the very first night. Acts to follow would include The Doors, The Grateful Dead, Santana, and many, many more. After it’s closure in 1972, the building reopened under different owners as MatrixFillmore in 2001 as a plush nightclub. A televised interview at The Matrix has resurfaced at the San Francisco Bay Area Television Archive.
Winterland Ballroom — Closed, 1979
The Winterland Ballroom in 1940. Photo: San Francisco History Center, SF Public Library
Winterland was originally built as a million-dollar ice rink in 1928 before it was officially converted into a 5,400 capacity music venue in 1971 by legendary San Francisco promoter Bill Graham. It was the venue Graham turned to when the Fillmore wasn’t quite large enough. Rock and roll classics to have performed there include The Rolling Stones, Queen, Kiss, Led Zeppelin, The Who… the list goes on and on.
Sex Pistols at Winterland Ballroom in 1978:
The Deaf Club — Closed, 1980
The Deaf Club logo. Photo: Found SF
Punk exploded in San Francisco in the late 1970s, and traditional venues were not fast enough to realize the onslaught was there to stay. Enter The Deaf Club, a house venue on 16th and Valencia in the Mission opened by Robert Hanrahan, manager of The Offs. Opened only for 18 months due to neighborhood noise complaints, over 100 bands played such as seminal acts Germs and X. John Waters would also hang around.
Hüsker Dü — “Private Hell” at The Deaf Club in 1981:
Mabuhay Gardens — Closed, 1986
Jello Biafra of the Dead Kennedys at Mabuhay Gardens in 1982. Photo: San Francisco History Center, SF Public Library
Mabuhay Gardens, aka The Fab Mab, was originally a Filipino restaurant and club on the North Beach Broadway strip before turning into a 7 nights a week venue for punks. Local acts that regularly played included Dead Kennedys, Ramones, and Avengers. The “pope of punk” Dirk Dirksen would emcee and booked Patti Smith, Nico, Devo, The Police, Motorhead with comedy appearances by Whoopi Goldberg and Robin Williams.
Dead Kennedys at Mabuhay Gardens in 1980:
The Sound of Music — Closed, 1987
Storefront of The Sound of Music. Photo: Jeanne M. Hansen/Lise Stampfli
The Sound of Music was a punk club designated for bands who were the underground of the underground in the Tenderloin. While it was opened too late to usher in bands that would later become classic punk stalwart like at Mabuhay Gardens, a few notable bands such as Flipper, Faith No More and Frightwig regularly played.
Yoshi’s — Closed 2014
Opened on November 28, 2007, the Yoshi’s in San Francisco was a preeminent jazz club in the Fillmore District. After the success of the Yoshi’s in Oakland, the owners decided to expand and place a second venue into the “Fillmore Jazz Preservation District.” Yoshi’s would serve sushi alongside some of the most prolific jazz artists to roll through town. Unfortunately, the San Francisco Yoshi’s closed in 2014, but the Oakland venue plays on.