Tune in to Berkeley's Live Music Scene

The music scene in Berkeley is wonderfully vibe-rant and diverse, mirroring the city’s artistic nature.

The music scene in Berkeley vibes from intimate venues to an outdoor amphitheater seating 8,500 overlooking San Francisco Bay. With concerts happening year-round, here are a few music venues you need to know about when visiting Berkeley!

The Freight

A Berkeley institution since opening its doors in 1968, the Freight & Salvage is one of the oldest music venues on the West Coast. The Freight’s 440-seat performance space is a top choice for live music. When visiting the city, book your tickets early to hear some of the best Americana roots and folk music the city has to offer.

The Freight also serves as 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 resonate through this venue, which beautifully embraces Berkeley's cultural diversity and rich history.

A woman plays acoustic guitar while singing into a microphone. A man plays acoustic guitar in the distance
Photo: Dave Weiland

The Greek Theater at UC Berkeley

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

The Greek’s musical concerts, which range from well-known touring artists to official university events like Commencement, are an exquisite expression of the city’s offbeat college town vibe. From locally grown Green Day to Willie Nelson, Lana del Rey, and this summer, Noah Kahan for two-night stand over the Fourth of July weekend, the Greek Theater hosts some of the biggest events the year.

A large crowd watches a band perform on the Greek Theatre stage. The Berkeley skyline is visible behind the stage
Photo: Sterling Munksgard

The UC Theatre

The UC Theatre is rooted in the city of Berkeley. Established as a first run movie theater in 1917, it has seen many iterations over the years and eventually reopened in 2016 as a state-of-the-art live music venue. It presents a vibrant and diverse range of music programming including Tinariwen, Green Day, Run The Jewels, Natalia Laforcada, Social Distortion, Steel Pulse, Kehlani, Mulatu Astatke, Taj Mahal, The Story So Far, and more, as well as transformative youth education programs.

The UC Theatre's Concert Career Pathways Education Program seeks to remove the barriers of entry into the music business for underserved communities, teaching young people 17 to 25 the technical, creative, and business aspects of concert and event promotion.

People sit at tables outside of the UC Theatre at night. The theatre has a black marquee and multiple show posters
The UC Theatre

Berkeley Symphony

Recognized nationally for its spirited programming, Berkeley Symphony is renowned for presenting major new works for orchestra alongside fresh interpretations of classic repertoire. Berkeley Symphony performs at a multitude of venues including Zellerbach Hall on the UC Berkeley Campus.

The conductor and musicians of Berkeley Symphony wear tie dye shirts while performing outdoors for a crowd
Photo: Tiffany Fajardo

The Backroom

The Backroom reminds us of the music we used to play at home while growing up. It fits fewer than 100 people, its name coming from the fact that it is 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 listening to amazing sounds from some acoustically-based artists, visit The Back Room. They have events throughout the year, including jazz, blues, folk, bluegrass, Americana and more.

California Jazz Conservatory

The Berkeley music scene finds another beat at the California Jazz Conservatory has a special character of its own, operating as both a jazz school and a personal music venue for their students and other artists. With year-round jazz classes and various workshops offered, CJC attracts visitors from all across the country.

Although a relatively small city compared to some others in California, Berkeley has had a disproportionate historic and cultural influence. Each music venue mentioned above is unique in its own way, but all the venues celebrate diversity in all its forms. If you are a music aficionado, it will be well worth your time to check out the music scene in Berkeley. We guarantee that you won’t be disappointed.

About the Author

Christina Kim

UC Berkeley
Related Partners