Nine Under the Radar Music Venues: Buses, Caves, Book Stores

Categories: Music
bus 2 s.jpg
John Benson
The Bus
San Francisco is bursting at the seams with live music nearly every night of the week. There are shows at slimy bars and at major music venues across town, concerts with fees through Ticketmaster and ones with wristbands presented at the door. And while that is all fine and good, the city also boasts a plethora of unique under the radar venues, places where one might never think to seek out live music. More adventurous types can catch bands in a beach cave, a bookshop, a community art gallery, or a functional bus that crisscrosses through town.

The best of these venues are fêted here, for your reading pleasure.

Of course, some music fiends worth their weight in vinyl will contest this list for being too on-the-radar. But fellow audiophiles, please keep in mind that this rundown is meant for the diverse general listening public. And in our sundry metropolis crammed with wide-eyed youth, not everyone knows what you know. Also, feel free to add any spaces we may have missed in the comments section below.

1. John Benson's Big White Bus (various locations)
Technically, the current roving party band bus is called "Larry Bus," not "The Big White Bus." But both are owned by John Benson and both are big and white.

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John Benson

In 2006, Benson purchased a former Oakland transit bus, a 1979 Canadian Flyer ("It was honestly the ugliest thing I've seen and everyone was against it," he recalls) and has proceeded to host 167 shows over the past four years. That original vehicle recently broke down outside of Detroit and is on the mend. Benson has since purchased "Larry Bus" (same make and model) and hosted 38 shows in it. While he often stops his buses by local parks so bands can play outdoors, he says his new favorite thing is grabbing a group of curious bystanders and driving them around during performances. The best way to hear about The Bus shows is through Twitter (@busshow) - though Benson claims no responsibility for the account. Next up, Shunga, Race the Devil, and Magnanimous, and possibly Sodomy Wizard will blast out beats inside the van on Jan. 28. Location is as yet unknown.

2. The LAB (16th and Mission)
The Lab is no spring chicken--it recently celebrated its 25th anniversary. But the art space has recently begun increasing its live music nights - additional cause for celebration. And the nonprofit, which can comfortably hold 200 attendees, started working with music promoters focused on setting up all-ages shows. The decision to host more bands goes back to the LAB's original mission to support artists from all disciplines. "Stepping up our efforts to reach out to the music community was a conscious decision," says executive director Eilish Cullen. In this month alone, The Lab has played host to roving noise music showcase Noise Pancakes and to a smattering of popular local acts like Boyz IV Men for the Dar Dar Dar anniversary show. Next up is Sudden Infant on Jan. 31.

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