Visitors come to San Francisco for all sorts of reasons. For decades, it has functioned as the counter-cultural capital of the United States, with its tradition of subversive art and literature ranging from Kenneth Rexroth through to the Beat Generation and the hippies of Haight-Ashbury. Others come to sample the unique cuisine of a place where ‘East meets West’, whilst still others use it as a base to explore the glorious Californian coastline. For many, however, it is the sheer range and variety of the musical styles which have originated in the city that serve as the main draw for a visit.
Of course, in order to full enjoy the charms of this coastal city and its surrounding settlements, it is necessary to be able to get around when and where one wishes. The public transport in the city itself is good enough for visitors to use, but outside the metropolitan area it can be found sadly wanting. This is where car hires in San Francisco style comes into play. With outlets offering every form of private transport available, there is little problem in the savvy tourist being able to get around the entire state, if they so desire.
Before doing so, however, there is plenty of musical entertainment to sample within the city itself. Every season has a multitude of festivals and outdoor events to attend, and the party starts in San Francisco on New Year’s Day itself, with the popular ‘Breakfast Of Champions’ event. Now in its 14th year, this early morning celebration provides 12 hours of DJ fuelled music, along with 5000 revellers who aren’t content to go to bed once the New Year has arrived. If that wasn’t enough, then February brings the legendary ‘Noise Pop’ festival, which features six days of rock and indie music in some of the city’s best clubs.
Once the weather has heated up a little, the San Francisco Carnaval provides two days worth of party in May, and is soon followed by the Golden Gate Festival in June. Both of these events, however, serve as warm-ups for the famous Stern Grove Festival. The Sigmund Stern Grove, a beautiful amphitheatre in the heart of Californian nature, hosts two months of eclectic musical and cultural performances, ranging from jazz to the San Francisco Symphony and Ballet. Performances occur weekly from mid June to mid August, and are always worth scheduling into any visitor’s diary.
For a rather more frenetic and less placid experience, there are few parties in the world bigger than San Francisco Pride, which takes place at the end of June. Musical performances abound across the city during this weekend, and performers have included world famous artists such as Lady Gaga. With July seeing over 90,000 visitors descend on the city for the Fillmore Jazz Festival, there is no let up in the musical schedule, and the Polk Street Blues Festival in September provides another fix for lovers of such genres. With the Mission District also putting on a massive celebration in November for the Mexican Day of the Dead, there is simply no escaping music in San Francisco, whatever the time of year.
Of course, it is not necessary to visit San Francisco during a specific musical event or festival in order to take in the some of the best sounds around. The city’s many and varied clubs host live music at all times of the night and day, ranging from blues and jazz to the latest in electronica and even world-class classical ensembles. For indie rock and the like, visitors could hardly do better than venues such as the Great American Music Hall and The Bottom Of The Hill, and lovers of music history will definitely want to take in a gig at the Fillmore, which has seen performances from everyone who is anyone in rock. Meanwhile Club Deluxe, situated in Haight Street, caters to lovers of more traditional genres such as jazz and bossa nova. Whatever musical treat you want to find, there will be a live music venue in San Francisco able to provide it.