Best music venues in Marin

Olivia Brekhus

While Marin has genres of music like bluegrass, jazz, and even salsa, it is better acknowledged for its long tradition of rock and roll. Marin is home to legendary musicians and bands such as Janis Joplin, Journey, Metallica, The Grateful Dead, Van Morrison, Carlos Santana, Sammy Hagar and Grace Slick. The Redwood Bark reviewed popular venues in Marin County that offer live music weekly based on music experience, cost of attendance and atmosphere.


Sweetwater Music Hall and Cafe 4/5:

The Sweetwater stage is lit with neon lights, adding to the fun atmosphere

Sweetwater Music Hall and Cafe is a cozy venue located in downtown Mill Valley. With available outdoor seating, customers can enjoy a soda and then head inside to listen to the show. Sweetwater has live music nearly everyday, including performances from Redwood students Aiden Reese, Cassidy Fragakis, Lyle Belger, Sofi Mincy, Megan Bober, Adam Zolezzi, Jacob Grujic, Ellie Abrams, Lola Torresi, Lucas Wright, Berta Bunch and Sophia Lanciault. Viewers definitely want a front-row seat for the exciting performances, but due to limited seating and popularity within the community, it is ideal to arrive on time, otherwise one will have to stand in the back. In addition to excellent music, Sweetwater offers a decent selection of food. Coffee, tea and pastries are offered daily from 9am to 11am. For lunch or dinner the fish tacos are particularly tasty, filled with black bean salad and spicy tomato salsa. In the back of the music room there is a large bar with raised stools and a moderate amount of standing and dancing room. Open Mic Night, typically held on Monday evenings, is one of the most attended events at Sweetwater. The atmosphere is always buzzing and lively due to the great turn out. With a wide variety of shows, ticket costs vary. Some nights the shows are free, while other nights one may find themselves paying $50 at the door. Tickets are discounted if purchased online in advance. Sweetwater has consistently entertaining shows and is therefore a dependable place to enjoy live music.



Terrapin Crossroads 4.5/5:

Terrapin’s outdoor and modern looking stage

Opened in 2011 and located in San Rafael off West Francisco Boulevard is Terrapin Crossroads. This beautiful venue overlooking a canal offers tasty food, such as pizza, burgers and salads with music performances such as the Rowan Brothers and the Electric Bunch. There is one separate room that is solely for bands, but there is also space in the bar for musicians to play. Charming lights are strung around the outdoor seating area and the kids playground brightens the mood. The best part of the venue however, is the outdoor stage with a waterfront and sunset overlook. The large outdoor stage is in great condition, adding to the colorful theme outside. The music was the perfect volume, still allowing listeners to converse through dinner. Well-known artists like Chris Robinson and groups such as Chum (a Phish cover band) have performed in the bar. Terrapin’s owner Phil Lesh, bassist of the Grateful Dead, and his son Graham are known for making impromptu appearances. Tickets purchased on the website typically range from $20 and $30 for music in the main hall, while the bands in the bar play for free. Overall Terrapin has the best atmosphere due to popular bands, savory food and an amazing scenic location.


Fenix 2.5/5:

The stage is directly above the seating inside the Fenix
The stage is directly above the seating inside the Fenix

Fenix opened up in 2012 on 4th street in San Rafael. Their main purpose is to be a sit-down restaurant for customers to enjoy an upscale dinner while listening to music. Owner Laura van Galen considers Fenix to be “both a live production house and a fine dining experience in one.” The other venues offer a dance scene, whereas Fenix is considered a classy establishment. The New Orleans inspired menu is limited and slightly pricey. Each entree is around $20, but the menu does offer items that appeal to children like mac and cheese and vegetables with hummus. Out of all of the venues, Fenix is definitely more modern with a sizable, lavish bar. Tickets are less expensive than others, generally around $15 according to the website. The music is mainly jazz and blues, but the bands that perform there are not as well-known as those playing at the other venues. While the atmosphere is intimate, it is not very entertaining because it is a formal restaurant and therefore there is no dancing. Fenix is not a concert scene, but a venue I would recommend to a host a private event or family dinner. Despite lacking a lively atmosphere, Fenix is a suitable venue for a special occasion or for a lover of jazz.