San Francisco Music Venue Profile: Bimbo’s 365

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San Francisco isn’t lacking in great venues, and the great history of the city is very well-represented, with some truly breathtaking architecture on display at The Great American Music Hall in Tenderloin, and the great dual space of the Swedish American Hall and Café du Nord in Upper Market; but there’s a difference between décor and vibe; and for a true taste of the city’s vibrant 1930’s art deco period, Bimbo’s 365 on Columbus Ave can’t be beaten.

Bimbo’s 365 quite literally lives up to the label. There’s not a dull day here, in a world that’s straight out of the 1930’s (as starbursted through the Great Gatsby vibrancy of Baz Luhrmann). Back then, it was known as the 365 Club, and it stood on Market Street. Bimbo’s kept a party spirit and cheer alive through the whole of the Great Depression, and Celebrities and stars from across America dropped in to watch the show, as lines of chorus girls swayed to the music while jugglers, stand-up comedians, and dance troops kept the magic of another world alive.

Still sporting its original art-deco style from its foundation in the 1930s, the club’s strong and vibrant colors, the precise geometric lines, and the strategically-placed lights that cast all the right shadows make Bimbo’s 365 the perfect place to leave the world behind and lose yourself in some soulful – or groundbreaking, or surprising, or old-school favorite – music.

With interiors like this, it’s no wonder that space is a favorite. Bimbo’s 365 has seen an impressive roster of performances from artists including Macy Gray, Chris Isaak, and Jewel, and British stars Robbie Williams and Roni Size too; a stopping-point on a US tour for artists who want to pull the vibrant bits of history right into the present; to remember that there have been decades of groundbreaking art in San Francisco, and then step up to write the next chapter.

The history is on display, but the venue is perfect for modern music fans: the space is equipped with impressive terraced platforms, and its main room has tiered seats that give everyone a great view of what’s happening on each of the club’s two stages: a 29-foot stage for big acts that want to fill a space, and a smaller 8-foot stage for smaller, more intimate shows. The sound and lighting in-house are top-level, allowing avant-garde spectacles and more straightforward, grab-you-by-the shoulders shows.

Through history, the name and the address may have changed, but what the club stands for hasn’t. Bimbo’s 365 is still a great place for San Francisco to kick back and enjoy the best of the present in the middle of the best of the past, and there’s a great lineup coming in the next few months, with shows from artists as diverse as Rebirth Brass Band, Bajofondo, Okkervil River, and indie heroes The Brian Jonestown Massacre. The venue has roots, just like the city – but just like the city, the future for Bimbo’s 365 is even better than the past.

Photo by Jason Lloren CC/Flickr

An avid drummer whose discography includes albums on Digital Nations (a Steve Vai imprint), music critic Louis Raphael has always kept a pulse on the San Francisco music scene. After many years as the San Francisco Music Examiner for Examiner.com and AXS.com, he decided to start Music in SF® as a way to showcase what the San Francisco music scene really has to offer.

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