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.
Oakland Metro Operahouse is generally used as a performance space (it's the home of the Oakland Opera Theater), but you'll also find the occasional live metal, indie rock, punk, underground hip-hop, or alt.folk show here, as well as the famed variety show Tourettes Without Regrets, which features slapstick comedy, meat hurling contests, formidable freestyle battles, spoken word poetry, and dirty haiku - usually to sold-out crowds.
Same as it ever was, this Berkeley Irish bar has been around since the days when Ronald Reagan was California governor, and it hasn't changed much — although you can now order a cheeseburger as well as traditional Irish fare like corned beef and cabbage. There are lots of beers on tap, but why not just have a Guinness or a Harp while you're here? It's certainly appropriate, and the regulars won't look at you like you're from Mars. Entertainment includes Irish Dance and Ceili Mondays at 9 p.m. (dance instructions start at 7 p.m.); Open-mic Tuesdays at 8 p.m.; Berzerkley Poetry Slam on Wednesdays at 8:30 p.m. with house band Three Blind Mice accompanying; live music Thursday, Friday, and Saturday. Check the web site or call for calendar info. Full bar and twenty drafts, dance floor, and stage. The kitchen serves food until 10 p.m.
This Jack London Square anchor tenant lives up to its claim of world-class jazz; everyone from McCoy Tyner to John Scofield comes by at least once a year, and you can also occasionally catch rising stars and school bands in addition to big-name national acts. The acoustics are marvelous, the sushi is fresh and good, and the grilled calamari is also recommended. Tickets range from $5 for a Sunday afternoon children's matinee (with paid adult admission) to upwards of $100 for a special event. Two shows nightly.
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.
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.
Thrashing, crashing, vocal-cord straining, pounding your ears and obliterating your will power: rock. You know you love it. And the Stork Club is where live rock makes its home. Tuesday through Sunday starting around 9:30 p.m., cover is usually just $5. Happy hour DJs spin rock and punk tunes, and special event/BBQ nights feature East Bay Rats motorcycle club, plus showcases of local egghead comedians. The honky-tonk-style bar is decked out with red and yellow tinsel, Christmas lights, rubber-seated booths, a pool table, a jukebox, an extensive Barbie collection, and a tawdry, winter-wonderland atmosphere.
Cafe du Nord is one of the more classier and sophisticated places to see live indie music in San Francisco, despite attracting the occasional young and heroin chic. Located on upper Market Street near the Castro and famous for difficult parking, this underground lounge downstairs from the Swedish American Hall features a nightly array of music from alt-country to folk, indie rock to the occasional hard rock. Its deep-red interior, Victorian-era styling, and large carved wood bar make it a perfect environment to sip cocktails and chat with your friends, much to the annoyance of whatever singer-songwriter is trying to belt it out onstage in the next room.
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.
Intimate, historical venue hosting drama, musical theater and instrumental musical performances.
Emanating from the softly upholstered furniture, the richly colored linens, the modern-exotic lighting, and the casual seating, the vibe coaxes patrons to relax, to share, to open up — even with strangers. The drinks are neither low-brow nor high-brow; they exist to lubricate social interaction, not dominate it. Regular events include DJ nights, live music nights (featuring members of Rogue Wave, Crown City Rockers, and more), and Layover Comedy Night, where comedians of various stripes test their mettle before accommodating, though nonetheless real crowds. You'd never know — or maybe you would — from the blank street sign out front, featuring only a glowing neon cocktail glass: This place is the real deal.
The performing arts facility hosts cultural dance classes, performing art workshops, plays, and more. The space features a 350-seat theater, five dance studios, meeting rooms, and rehearsal spaces, which are all available for rental.
Offers the same high caliber of talent in the genre of jazz as the Oakland original, but the state-of-the-art venue also books R&B, soul, and world-music acts.