California has arguably born and bred more legendary musicians -- and been the subject of more recognizable tunes -- than just about anywhere in the world. From monumental festivals featuring golden-voiced idols, to suburban garages housing the next rock virtuosos, the west is bursting with musical prowess. Thankfully, California has no shortage of stunning venues to showcase them, including outdoor amphitheaters, former speakeasies, grandiose theaters and brilliantly designed halls. Here are ten gorgeous California music venues that are a treat for both the ears and the eyes.
The Great American Music Hall opened its doors in 1907 at a time of recovery and renewal for the city of San Francisco. This spectacular hall of marble columns, rich aged wood, embellished frescoes and grand balconies now houses professional-grade sound equipment and a contemporary kitchen, making it an ideal venue for a variety of performances and private events.
With an extravagant ceiling resembling an illuminated Faberge egg, The Belasco Theater blends turn-of-the-century elegance with stunning lighting technology, ornate architecture and modern dining. Luxurious furniture, charming decor and top-shelf entertainment are quintessential of this gorgeous L.A. venue.
Although intimate and considered a "neighborhood nightclub" by local patrons, the Sweetwater Music Hall is a world-class entertainment venue with the talent and design typical of its more opulent brethren. The renovated retro-chic bar and French-inspired interior, state-of-the-art recording equipment and down-home ambiance give The Sweetwater a unique aesthetic of warmth and welcome.
This stunning outdoor music venue features ascending rows of Greek theater-style seating opposite the large stage, which is nestled next to the gorgeous Grand Hall. Draped with vines, the stone structure showcases a rustic, old-world wooden interior and matching decor beneath the vaulted ceiling. Charming and classy, the Mountain Winery is neo-antiquity at its finest.
The Cafe du Nord rests beneath the streets of San Francisco’s infamous Castro district, and is the epitome of underground glamour. Though the former Prohibition-era speakeasy is petite, the deep red and black, boudoir-style interior and glossy mahogany bar are nothing shy of lush. Enjoy a signature cocktail at one of the intricate bistro tables, sink into a dark, plush corner booth, or get close to the diminutive stage on the standing room only, checkered dance floor.
The interior of the grandiose Walt Disney Concert Hall is an acoustic masterpiece, utilizing three different types of wood in a carefully crafted design that multiplies sound without amplification. But it’s the exterior architecture -- an archetype of deconstructivism -- that steals the show. Architect Frank Gehry used stainless steel to craft the breathtaking external curves of this celebrated L.A. venue that now serves as the home of the Los Angeles Philharmonic.
Nearly fifty years ago, the original Fox Theater sadly closed its doors to the public, only to be completely renovated, remastered, and reopened in 2009. With seemingly miles of striking gold paneling offset by stained-glass light fixtures and opulent cabaret-style seating, the Fox brings more than just a touch of class to Oakland’s Uptown District. And, it’s not merely another dazzling venue -- the surrounding building is home to the tuition-free Oakland School for the Arts.
A tribute to sensational acoustics, the Green Music Center boasts the nearly all-wood Joan and Sanford I. Weill Hall, a simple, open and elegant venue perfect for art, dance and music. Multi-paneled flooring, understated balconies and slat-back chairs face an austere, ash-colored stage. The Green Music Center is a vision of high-caliber culture and panache.
San Francisco’s newest music venue, The Chapel, is a small but immaculately designed gem settled in the crux of the Mission. Built out from the exoskeleton of an early 1900s mortuary, this increasingly popular hot-spot was revamped by venerated restaurateur Jack Knowles, and features beautiful vaulted ceilings and a mezzanine with three bars, with the remainder of the building to soon welcome a casual grill with an outdoor patio.
An absolute architectural testimonial to the cabaret, The Crest is primarily an old-world “picture palace,” but often showcases live theater, comedy shows, and live music. The exterior walls originally housed the vaudevillian Empress, which later became the Hippodrome. With fanciful light fixtures and multi-draped, ruched velvet Austrian curtains custom-designed by S&K Theatrical Draperies, The Crest is a fabulously whimsical, modernized Moulin Rouge.