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Arts & Entertainment: Performance Venues

Both a record label and a brick-and-mortar record store, 1-2-3-4 Go! carries everything from punk and hardcore to country and soul stuff, hosts shows regularly, and has what's probably the only publicly operating vintage photo booth in the East Bay.

Live jazz music from some of the Bay Area's best artists flows from this North Oakland gallery on the regular. The space hosts rotating artist exhibitions and an ever-growing private collection of jazz- and blues-inspired paintings.

After all these years, Berkeley's famous all-ages punk warehouse still draws crowds of kids to its weekly shows, featuring punk bands (both local and national). But the best thing about this volunteer-run, alcohol- and drug-free venue is its sense of history: The yellowing, graffiti-stained walls have been ragged and tagged by members of now-legendary bands like Screw 32, Green Day, and A.F.I.

At Actual Cafe, it's all about sitting down and enjoying the coffeehouse experience. Get a cup of joe (or tea) served in a real china cup, plop down, and just hang for a while. Actual Cafe boasts comfy furniture and communal seating to encourage actual interaction with actual human life-forms. It's "not just another wi-fi shack." Indoor bike parking and a full menu are also available. Weekends are laptop-free.

This club, modeled after an Eastern European wooden synagogue, is a Berkeley institution dedicated to dance and music. The nonprofit venue hosts live music nearly every night, and shows are all-ages. Ashkenaz hosts reggae, bluegrass, Balkan, Brazilian, Cajun, and Caribbean bands, just to name a few. Come early for a dance class or on Sunday afternoon for a kids' concert.

The Baltic

You can dance, drink, and most definitely eat at this German-American restaurant and tavern, where the Wiener Schnitzel comes veggie-optional and live music fills the room every weekend. If the weather's nice, sit out on the cedar patio and sip on Belgium ale and other tasty beer offerings in bottle or on tap.

Despite their sheer numbers, cafes are never unpopular for Berkeleyites wanting to chat with friends over soy cappuccinos or pretending to write a research paper while engaging in some serious people-watching. Apparently, Caffe Trieste’s location in Berkeley’s "West Bank" is the perfect spot for such social anthropological study, as it’s situated at the corner of busy San Pablo Avenue and Dwight Way, and has the type of baristas who wonder why you haven’t shown up in the last few weeks. With tiny white lights strung from the ceiling and bottles of Pinot Grigio and Chianti on the counter, this cafe’s Euro vibe is accentuated with traditional Italian music rotating with Argentine tango every Monday night. If you love Italy but aren’t in love with Italy, Caffe Trieste also books varying live jazz acts every Tuesday, and a range of other live music on Friday nights.

Features performances by magicians and entertainers while you eat and drink.

Nestled between Alameda’s bustling Park Street and Alameda High School, this 92-year-old hall draws about 250 people on Friday nights for dancing to live zydeco, and occasional Saturdays for swing. These weekly gigs are not too unlike a church function -- except for the full bar hidden in the back corner — with punch bowls filled with Oreos, pretzels, and chocolate chip cookies, and regulars who affectionately call each other by name. Tables line the wooden dance floor in this four-hundred-capacity hall, and it’s easy to see why people of all ages and walks of life – from rockabillies to pimply-faced teens in Nirvana T-shirts to your aunt who frequents Ashkenaz – come for the guaranteed crowd and, oh yeah, the handy dance lesson beforehand.

After undergoing an extensive renovation, this beautiful art-deco theater has come to anchor Uptown and act as one of the East Bay's premier venues for live entertainment.

Founded in 1968, the Freight & Salvage may be one of the most reliable venues for music in the East Bay. The venue is all ages, nonprofit, non-smoking, and alcohol-free. Here’s what you can count on from this Berkeley institution: a variety of traditional acoustic music played by accomplished musicians, an excellent sound system, and a crowd that deeply appreciates the music. Somewhere between a glorified barn and a church, the Freight’s atmosphere ensures that the attention is focused on the stage, where a range of folk, bluegrass, swing, country, Cajun, and world music can be heard. While shows here aren’t cheap, this venue is also a nonprofit, so you can feel better about where your money is going.

The Jazzschool offers lessons for would-be-musicians and music affcionados of all ages and skill level. Options include privet lessons, group performance workshops, and lectures on the history and theory of jazz. There are also live shows.

It's impossible to be all things to all people, but this cafe at the end of Park Street in Alameda almost succeeds. This space is a hodgepodge of creativity: A variety of hippie arts and crafts for sale, such as rain sticks and beaded baskets, fill up the space, plus there are regular crafts nights, and poetry readings. Order a pot of black lavender tea and start knitting at one of the large wooden tables. No one will kick you out.

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