The Best Bay Area Venues To See Live Music As A Short Person

By Kimra McPherson

I’m a short lady — 5’1”, to be exact. I’m also a fan of live music. Unfortunately, these things are not always compatible. All too frequently, I’ve headed to a show only to stare at the backs of 7 foot giants (there are always 7 foot giants) with only the vague sense that somewhere up there, there might be a stage and a guitarist and maybe a drum kit or something.

So what’s a shorter-statured music fan to do, besides sit at home downloading shows off archive.org? Well, there are the classic tips: get there early; wear bigger shoes; worm your way to the front; maybe stick to venues with assigned seating. But over the past decade of going to shows in the Bay Area, I’ve figured out some ways to show up at certain venues when normal people do and still, y’know, see the band. And — potentially at my own peril — I’m sharing them. You’re welcome.

(Note: if you really love the experience of being in the crowd at a show, these tips may not be for you. These are more for the mildly claustrophobic music-lover with nightmares of getting elbowed in the eye.)

The Fillmore

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Best Bet: Stand at the back of the main floor — yes, all the way back. It seems counterintuitive, but the crowd tends to mill around more loosely back there, so there’s less of a chance of getting smushed against some dude’s shoulder. Plus, the sound is pretty decent. You can show up whenever and get out quickly, and you’re closer to the bar.

Not Bad: Aim for one of the sides. The crowd usually is tallest in the middle and shortest on the sides, and from the back, you’ll be able to see the slant pretty clearly. Pick the shorter side and wedge your way in.

Slim’s

Best Bet: Go up the stairs and make a hard right — practically a U-turn. Look for the railing that encloses the accessibility elevator. You’ll see two little coves. Stand in one of them, and nobody can step in front of you.

Not Bad: Lean against one of the poles. They break up the space enough that people tend to disperse around them. The ones with the tables have the bonus benefit of keeping your drink away from wayward dancers.

The Greek Theater

Greek Theater

Best Bet: The Greek seems simple because of its terraced layout, but it can be surprisingly tricky. You can nab a great spot while everyone’s sitting, but, the second the crowd stands for the main set, you discover you’re directly behind — you guessed it — 7 foot giants. For me, the best offense at the Greek is a good defense, and that defense is the seats with their backs to the wall at the bottom of the main seating area.  Nobody’s going to get in front of you and, while I’m not advocating climbing up on the stone bench for a better view … well, if you’re my height, you’re shorter than the wall, so nobody will notice anyway.

Not Bad: Pretty much anywhere but directly in the pit will do.

The Chapel

Best Bet: It’s all about the balcony here. If you can snag a spot at the front railing, that’s the perfect view, but the stairs to that balcony create a sort of tiered riser situation upstairs, so there are multiple opportunities for the short to see.

Not Bad: The back of the main floor or the tables along the sides are good options depending on how thick the crowd is.

The Warfield

Best Bet: Show up moderately early and angle for a spot right against the wall/divider halfway back. Not only will you feel oddly superior raised up above the riffraff on the main floor, but you’ll also score a fantastic view of the venue’s elevated stage.

Not Bad: Honestly, the Warfield is pretty easy; thanks in part to the high stage, it gets my personal Best Venue for Short People award. But here’s one secret spot that’s pretty great on a super-packed night: Go to the bar on the right-hand side of the venue (if you’re facing the stage). There are taped lines to keep an aisle clear for servers. If you hop right behind one of those lines, it means there’s a sight line clear for you, too.

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Now, go forth, my short friends, and get the full live music experience you deserve!

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