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 non-profit venue hosts live music nearly every night, and shows are all-ages. Ashkenaz hosts reggae, bluegrass, Balkan, Brazillian, Cajun, and Caribbean bands, just to name a few. Come early for a dance class or on Sunday afternoon for a kid’s concert.
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 Triestes location in Berkeleys "West Bank" is the perfect spot for such social anthropological study, as its situated at the corner of busy San Pablo Avenue and Dwight Way, and has the type of baristas who wonder why you havent 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 cafes Euro vibe is accentuated with traditional Italian music rotating with Argentine tango every Monday night. If you love Italy but arent in love with Italy, Caffe Trieste also books varying live jazz acts every Tuesday, and a range of other live music on Friday nights.
Come watch top-class magicians and entertainers "wow" you over sumptuous meals and drinks. Make sure to call ahead!
The latest addition to Oakland's blossoming nightlife scene has set up shop in a turquoise-tiled Art Deco building at 14th and Webster streets. Disco Volante, set to open in late October, is a bar, music venue, and restaurant run by a trio of Oakland arts and entertainment vets, with chef Douglas Bernstein of Bacar, Eccolo, and Farallon fame serving up local and seasonal California cuisine. Musical offerings will range from bluegrass to Afrobeat, with shows at least three nights a week.
Nestled between Alamedas 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 its 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.
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. Besides the live music every Tuesday night — usually folk, jazz, country, or other suitable cafe music — 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, poetry readings, and lectures. Order a pot of black lavender tea and start knitting at one of the large wooden tables. No one will kick you out.
La Peña Cultural Center, with its trademark colorful mural out front, is a microcosm of Berkeley’s cultural, social, and political utopia. Founded in 1975 in response to the military coup that overthrew Chilean President Salvador Allende, La Peña continues to live up to its revolutionary roots, hosting a variety of hip-hop, world, and jazz music; spoken word; dance classes; art exhibits; films; and lectures, focusing on social justice and human rights about four nights a week. Its 175-capacity theater features a sizable stage, wooden dance floor, and a riser with tables and chairs, suitable for getting sweaty to some Latin American rhythms or sitting back and enjoying the show. If all that consciousness has you feeling a bit woozy, try one of the empanadas at La Peña’s Cafe Valparaiso.