Summer Music Scene in Berkeley

The summer music scene in Berkeley is filled with diversity and wonders, mirroring the city’s artistically rich personality.

Music provides us with our identity, and the music scene here is representative of Berkeley’s long history and appreciation of culture. From cozy music venues to an amphitheater seating 8,500 people, here are some of the best music venues you must swing by when visiting Berkeley!

Freight & Salvage Coffeehouse

A Berkeley institution since opening its doors in 1968, Freight & Salvage Coffeehouse is one of the oldest music venues in the west coast. Now in 2019, it has grown to a nonprofit community arts organization, promoting traditional music (music that expresses the different regional, ethnic and social cultures around the world) across the entire Bay Area. The founding ideologies of freedom, justice, acceptance, collaboration and innovation are still deeply rooted at this venue, and it beautifully embraces the existing cultural diversity and rich history in the city.

The Freight’s 440-seat performance space is one of the best to appreciate live music. Book your tickets and visit this venue for some of the best folk music in the area. They also hold free open-mic nights biweekly, so attend and/or participate with your friends for a fun and exciting, cheap night out!

Hearst Greek Theater

On the high side of the UC Berkeley campus, the “Greek” is an exquisite outdoor amphitheater and go-to stop for many touring artists. Berkeley is home to one of the best universities in the world: UC Berkeley. The city’s culture and history are intricately intertwined with that of UC Berkeley, and this 8,500-seat amphitheater can attest to that.

The Greek’s blend of musical concerts from touring artists to university events is an exact portrayal of the city’s uniqueness and beauty. From Joey Bada$$, a popular American rapper, to Ringo Starr, the drummer for the iconic band The Beatles, the Greek Theater hosts extremely popular events throughout the year. Book your tickets as soon as you can because they will sell out quickly!

California Jazz Conservatory

The summer music scene doesn’t have to only consist of grand and epic venues. California Jazz Conservatory also has a special character of its own, operating both as a jazz school and a personal music venue for their students and other artists. With the year-round jazz classes and various workshops offered, CJC continuously attracts visitors across the country.

If you want to rent studios to jam out in without having to worry about noise complaints, CJC is your go-to. If you want to find fellow musicians to jam with, make sure to visit CJC; these instruments are not going to play themselves!

The UC Theatre

The UC Theatre literally grew and matured with the city of Berkeley. Originally founded in 1917 as the first run movie theater, it underwent many evolutions throughout the years to eventually reopen in 2016 as a state-of-the-art live music venue. However, it still retains many features from its earlier days, and many segments of Berkeley’s own history are embedded in the walls of this music venue.

This theater is a direct representation of Berkeley’s history. Watch some of UC Theater’s amazing performances and really absorb the magnificence of Berkeley’s existence!

The Back Room

The Back Room reminds us of the music we used to play and listen to at our own homes growing up. With a room that can fit fewer than 100 people, its name comes from the venue actually being the back room of a larger building. It provides an intimate place for music, a place where the audience and performers can develop a genuine connection during the shows.

If you want to feel nostalgic with the amazing sounds from some acoustically-based artists, visit The Back Room. They have events throughout the year, featuring jazz, blues, folk, bluegrass, Americana and more. They offer music lessons as well!

UC Berkeley Sproul Plaza

For a sense of the authentic music scene, step onto Sproul Plaza at UC Berkeley. Not only will you see a couple of street musicians playing tunes to the business of students’ days, but you will also see a beautifully painted piano in front of the MLK Student Union. This piano represents our community; it was placed there by UC Berkeley students who wanted to bring joy to the passing people. When it was stolen, the community raised money to bring back the instrument. When it was vandalized, the community again raised funds to replace the piano.

As you walk through Sproul Plaza, you will always see a student or resident of Berkeley sitting on the piano chair and playing amazing tunes. The awing beauty in the piano and the music showcases the beauty of the city of Berkeley.

Although a relatively small city compared to some others in California, Berkeley is outsized in its historic and cultural influence. Each music venue mentioned above is so unique in its own way, but they all celebrate diversity and appreciation. If you are a music aficionado, the summer music scene in Berkeley is definitely worth your time to check out. You won’t be disappointed.

About the Author

Christina Kim

UC Berkeley
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