Venue Profile – The Chapel

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With interiors that seamlessly merge the old and the new elements of architecture, the Chapel is one of the most visually stunning spaces in the golden city. California Home and Design Magazine named it as one of the ten most beautiful music venues in the state, and it’s a slice of classic post-1909 architecture, straight from the era when the city was gathering itself after the catastrophic earthquakes and fire of a century ago, and preparing itself for all the next hundred years would hold. It’s a piece of SF that’s lasted through era after era of the city.

Inside, there are event spaces that can cater to a variety of audiences, right from small intimate shows to private events with up to 750 guests – the main event area, the Chapel’s mezzanine, a music room, an outdoor patio, a restaurant, and the main bar.

The Chapel was originally constructed in 1914 as a mortuary, and it remained so until Jack Knowles, a veteran restauranteur in the Bay Area, decided to turn the Chapel on its heels and renovate it into the space we know and love today. Under his patronage, the grand old building, with its 40-foot high ceiling, was transformed into a venue with state-of-the-art sound, projection and lighting systems.

But rather than being amazed that somehow a former mortuary wasn’t just repainted and launched as some low-end theme restaurant, it’s worth looking at what the Chapel is now, because it’s special. Its interiors are breathtaking, with wood, stained glass, chandeliers, and metal work blending seamlessly to create a visually stunning setup that adapts to the mood of whatever event is being held.

There’s enough seating to hold a small crowd, and the mezzanine makes it possible to accommodate more. The balcony has the best seats in the place, and you can enjoy an unhindered view of the main stage from your seats up there. The fact that it’s located in the Mission District places it at the heart of some of the most interesting stuff that’s happening in SF music right now, and the lineup of artists has drawn in music enthusiasts from across the city and the state.

Among the most recent music acts that graced the Chapel’s stage are proto-punk legends Gang of Four, jazz metal New Yorkers Massacre, and Santa Barbara’s Gardens & Villa. Upcoming events include New York-based guitarist and songwriter Steve Gunn, a coming together of indie darlings Sextile, darkwave/synthpop genre-screwing from Cold Cave, and a live show by Daniel Romano. Afrobeat heroes Antibalas are also set to perform at the Chapel as part of their 20 year anniversary celebration, while Cuban singer La Dame Blanche and rock band Dead Meadow are also going to be performing soon. It’s a broad church.

The restaurant serves custom-created menus, specializing in New American cuisine (think fusion cuisine as in nuclear fusion, the sort of blend of flavors and influences that have made California the most vibrant state in the union, from East Asian to French and everything in between), using (of course) seasonal, sustainable locally-sourced ingredients.

That’s quite an impressive lineup, and together it adds up to an interesting place. Take look at their upcoming shows and take the opportunity to see how good it is.

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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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