As we wrote in our 2022-23 EMV Guide last month, the Sweetwater Music Hall, one of the most vital live music venues in Bay Area history, has been serving up sonic brilliance that can go toe-to-toe with big name cities like San Francisco and Oakland for nearly five decades.
The arrival of that actual fifth decade is almost upon us.
Bob Weir, the legendary Grateful Dead rhythm guitarist/singer, Wolf Bros. frontman, solo artist, Sweetwater co-owner and a musical icon most likely to pop on stage at any moment, made news this week by announcing that he’ll once again take the Sweetwater stage as part of the venue’s 50th anniversary gala on Thursday, November 17, all part of a multi-night benefit for the venue’s recently created nonprofit Sweetwater Music Hall Arts Fund.
“Sweetwater has been a little playpen for San Francisco and Marin musicians for 50 years now,” Weir told Billboard. The venue will be honoring its 50th anniversary throughout the month of November with performances from the likes of Garage A Trois (November 18–20), Big Brother & the Holding Company (November 4), Ramblin’ Jack Elliott (November 30) and Jason Crosby & Friends (November 26) among others.
The venue is operated as a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization that is “fully devoted to advancing education, understanding and appreciation of music, culture and arts through the presentation of a vibrant and diverse range of live performances.” Donations to the Sweetwater Music Hall Arts Fund increase “access to music and builds equity in the arts for youth and adults across the Bay Area through expanded cultural programming.”
In 1972, the space at 153 Throckmorton Ave. became the Sweetwater, drawing music lovers to see a who’s who of stars like John Lee Hooker, Jerry Garcia, Bob Weir, Bonnie Raitt, Sammy Hagar and Carlos Santana, among others. Fred Martin headed the Sweetwater’s first ownership group, later passing the baton to Jeannie Patterson, who transformed the venue into one of the country’s most respected showcases for American roots music.
She turned it over to Becky and Tom Steere in 1999. They closed it in 2007. A group of investors revived it in 2012, converting part of the Masonic Lodge near City Hall into one of the Bay Area’s best live venues.
“The whole point of this place…is to let the music happen,” Weir says. “The building wanted us here, and it revealed itself to us.” In the years since, the board navigated the turbulence of Covid, renovated the space, added a nonprofit component and leveraged a gorgeous new patio to open the Rock & Rye restaurant. The Library’s Lucretia Little History Room has a treasure trove of Sweetwater multimedia artifacts on hand!
Both Premium Level and General Admission tickets for the Inaugural Benefit Gala Celebrating the 50th Anniversary of Sweetwater Music Hall featuring Bobby Weir & Friends are on sale now. Buy tickets for Bob Weir at Sweetwater Music Hall via eTix.com. The group embarks on a fall tour between September 30 and Nov. 5.