Nob Hill’s The Masonic is a venue as old as San Francisco itself. Well, not quite, but with all the history in and around the venue, it certainly feels that way. The building was opened in 1958 as a Freemason lodge, and now operates as a concert venue, a museum of Freemasonry, and the Grand Lodge of California (one of only two Freemason lodges in the state).
The Masonic’s music repertoire includes everyone from Florence Against the Machine to Sleater-Kinney and Beck to Morrissey, and the venue isn’t planning on downgrading names anytime soon. In fact, just a couple of years ago, The Masonic unveiled the results of a huge remodeling project, which upped the building’s capacity to over 3,000 people thanks to a new, tiered floor plan for both general admission and seated shows. Now the venue is bigger and better than ever, and if you haven’t been before, it’s time to plan to go.
This fall The Masonic concert calendar includes emotionally driven alternative rock group The Fray (10/18), ambient and progressive rock artist Steven Wilson (11/4), former Yes-band members Anderson, Rabin, Wakeman (11/25), and pop-rock icons Switchfoot and Relient K (11/26). Before the show, take in a slice of life in one of the city’s most quintessentially “San Francisco” neighborhoods.
Things to Do in Nob Hill Near The Masonic
Be warned: Nob Hill bears its name for a reason. This is a very steep region of the city, and comfortable walking shoes are a must. Not to worry about dress code, though: San Francisco keeps a strict (almost) anything goes policy in its clubs and music venues.
Start your day in Union Square, perhaps one of San Francisco’s most well known spots. The square is bustling with people and, come November 2nd, an ice-skating rink. Surrounding it are stores from Neiman Marcus to Nike and more, plus a seemingly impossible number of delicious restaurants. For a light lunch in the square, you can’t go wrong with Bancarella. The Italian menu offers small bites from savory to sweet, as well as authentic Italian hot chocolate, coffee, and a wide selection of wine.
Later, step back in time local favorite Bourbon & Branch, a modern speakeasy built inside an actual speakeasy from the Prohibition days. Located on Jones Street off of Geary, the entrance to this bar is nondescript, but it’s one of the coolest places in town. There are only eight rules at B&B—Number two: Don’t take out your phone—and being able to say you’ve been inside will give you San Francisco clout for life. (To make sure you can get a table, RSVP ahead on their website.)
After your blast from the past, have more pre-dinner drinks—plus, unreal pre-dinner snacks like Okonomiyaki waffles or a grilled cheese made with honey butter—at one of the city’s best-kept secrets: Louie’s Gen-Gen Room. Located in the ultra-fancy (and ultra-tasty) Liholiho Yacht Club, Louie’s is another reservations-only spot you’ll want to book in advance—though getting into the bar is worlds easier than aiming for a table at the Liholiho restaurant. To get there from Bourbon & Branch, head up Jones Street to Sutter Street, and then hang a left.
Once your stomach starts grumbling for a full-sized dinner meal, take a ten-minute walk to the Big 4 (follow Sutter to Taylor Street and turn left), where American fare is served on white linen tablecloths. The atmosphere is slightly clubby in an old school way, which will keep you pumped up for your night at the throwback venue that is the Masonic.
If this is your first time on this side of the city, you should carve out some time to check out a few other awesome sites, too: Grace Cathedral, The View (the bar on the 39th floor of the Marriott Marquis), the cable cars at Powell Street and Market Street, and nearby Chinatown are all can’t-miss San Francisco bucket list items.
It’s time to head to your final destination: The Masonic. From the Big 4, turn left off of Taylor onto California Street, and you’re one minute away from the venue. It should be quick work to get inside and find your seat or your dance floor real estate—then, leave it all up to the musicians and the atmosphere and have a supercharged rock n’ roll time.