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Thalassa (2367 Shattuck Ave., Berkeley, 510-848-1766, ThalassaBar.com) has a sea of pool tables that seems to stretch for miles, a clientele that consists mostly of Berkeley students of the fraternal or sororal persuasion, and the best jukebox in the East Bay, stocked with the Buzzcocks, the Notwist, Le Tigre, Television, Outkast, Johnny Cash, and the Pixies.
White Horse Inn (6551 Telegraph Ave., Oakland, 510-652-3820, WhiteHorseBar.com), affectionately known as "the White Ho" by locals, draws a good cross-section of the local GLBT scene: sweater queens, queer students, local homies, granola dykes (yes, they still exist), gorgeously regal African-American queens, both male and female, and just about every other color and creed you can imagine.
Clubs & Musical Venues — East Bay
21 Grand (416 25th St., Oakland, 510-444-7263, 21Grand.org), a gallery and performance space that is neither self-consciously hip nor beholden to any particular genre, showcases some of the best avant-garde and experimental art, film, and musicians from local and national underground scenes.
924 Gilman (924 Gilman St., Berkeley, 510-525-9926, 924Gilman.org) — Berkeley's famous all-ages punk warehouse — still caters primarily to kids with backpacks, bad attitudes, and too much eyeliner, but this volunteer-run, alcohol-and-drug-free venue is the best place in town to catch famous punk bands (both local and national) for five bucks.
Armando's (707 Marina Vista Ave., Martinez, 925-228-6985, ArmandosMartinez.com) is the place to go for a truly authentic music experience in Martinez: The intimate club books musicians playing everything from jazz to blues, bluegrass, folk, rockabilly jazz, and almost anything else except commercial rock.
Ashkenaz (1317 San Pablo Ave., Berkeley, 510-525-5054, Ashkenaz.com) is the place to dance to everything from Algerian rai to Louisiana Zydeco to roots reggae.
The Bistro (1001 B St., Hayward, 510-886-8525, The-Bistro.com) offers live music every night — mostly local musicians, from blues to surf, acoustic, bluegrass, and eighteen-piece bands.
Blakes on Telegraph (2367 Telegraph Ave., Berkeley, 510-848-0886, BlakesonTelegraph.com) doesn't host too many blues acts anymore, but it does have regular helpings of indie rock, hip-hop, funk, ska, and DJs, that keep the Telegraph scene from completely fading away.
Caffe Trieste (2500 San Pablo Ave., Berkeley, 510-548-5198, CaffeTriesteBerkeley.com) could make anyone sentimental for the old country, even if they're native Californians — especially on Sunday afternoons, when Pappa Gianni is playing with his North Beach Band and crowds of Italian expatriates pack themselves into this inviting cafe.
Eagles Hall (2305 Alameda Ave., Alameda, 415-285-6285, SFZydeco.com) on Friday nights is the friendly, lively nexus of Zydeco-crazed Bay Area fans.
Everett & Jones Barbeque's (126 Broadway, Oakland, 510-663-2350, EandJBBQ.com) in-house music venue, Q's Lounge and Dotha's Juke Joint, showcases a variety of neo-soul, hip-hop, and blues acts, along with Monday Night Football and live KSFO broadcasts recapping Raiders home games.
Freight & Salvage (2020 Addison St., Berkeley, 510-644-2020, FreightandSalvage.org) is a nonsmoking, alcohol-free venue where patrons can enjoy listening to world-renowned artists of folk, jazz, blues, bluegrass, and world beat.
Kimball's Carnival (522 2nd St., Oakland, 510-444-6401; 215 Washington St., Oakland, 510-444-6136, KimballsCarnival.com) — the giant Jack London Square club whose Monday night karaoke event has garnered a regular following via word of mouth alone — is the closest thing you'll find to American Idol-style pageantry here in the East Bay.
La Peña Cultural Center (3105 Shattuck Ave., Berkeley, 510-849-2568, LaPena.org) hosts 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.
Lounge 3411 (3411 MacArthur Blvd., Oakland) transmits some Uptown flavor to the lower hills, with its mix of reggae DJs, comedy nights, and local bands.
Maxwell's Lounge (341 13th St., Oakland, 510-839-6169, MaxwellsLounge.com) is a glitzy downtown Oakland club that hosts R&B, funk, and classic soul acts and features a spacious dance floor, large stage, lounge areas with couches, and a Cajun-style soul food restaurant.
The New Parish (579 18th St., Oakland, 510-444-7474, TheNewParish.com) has featured such hard-to-get headliners as Dave Chappelle, Mos Def, and Melanie Fiona. Creative booking, strong industry connections, and a bangin' monthly house party have made it the new destination in downtown Oakland.
Nomad Cafe (6500 Shattuck Ave., Oakland, 510-595-5344, NomadCafe.net) tempers the typical soy-latte-and-laptop cafe experience with a soothing singer-songwriter performance.
Oakland Metro Operahouse (630 3rd St., Oakland, 510-763-1146, OaklandMetro.org) 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.
Red House Live (1667 Botelho Dr., Walnut Creek, 925-938-6900, RedHouseLive.com) is a state-of-the-art recording studio, rehearsal space, music school, and instrument shop — as well as a mini all-ages performance hall providing young rock, indie, and metal bands the opportunity to perform on a real stage with professional lights, gear, and sound.
The Shattuck Down Low (2284 Shattuck Ave, Berkeley, 510-548-1159, ShattuckDownLow.com) was one of the first venues this side of the bay to book conscious hip-hop groups, and remains the place to go for heart-pumping beats, as well as live reggae and salsa.
The Starry Plough (3101 Shattuck Ave., Berkeley, 510-841-2082, StarryPloughPub.com) is an Irish pub (and it still features traditional Irish music some nights) but its bookings are far more eclectic than that — rockers, singer-songwriters, jam-banders, and folkies take the stage here, and audience members are likely to holler, scream, and kick up their heels.
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