Entertainment and Events
Not surprising for a happenin’ college town, there’s a reasonable selection of evening entertainment to be had. Whether you prefer a show (theatrical or musical), a dance, a drink, or all of the above, you’ll probably find it somewhere in Berkeley.
The major regional theater here is the Berkeley Repertory Theatre (2025 Addison St., 510/647-2949, www.berkeleyrep.org, shows Tues.–Sun., $27–69). Appropriate to the town it lives in, the Berkeley Rep puts up a bunch of unusual shows, from world premieres of edgy new works to totally different takes on old favorites. You might see a new adaptation of Figaro or a performance of the hit one-woman show No Child.
Some of the best entertainment in Berkeley echoes out from the live music venues. The Starry Plough (3101 Shattuck Ave., 510/841-0282, www.starryploughpub.com) is an Irish pub with a smallish stage setup. Fabulous Celtic rock groups, folk musicians, and indie bands play here almost every day of the week. Despite the lack of a formal dance floor, dedicated fans find ways to create an impromptu space to move to their favorite bands.
Each Wednesday night, instead of music you’ll find the famed Berkeley Poetry Slam—there’s nothing like it anywhere in California. Hungry music and spoken word lovers can order a full meal from the kitchen, while the thirsty can quaff a pint or two of Guinness while they sit back and watch the stage.
Do your tastes run more toward rock and roll? Are you up for hearing struggling new bands who might one day become famous? Blake’s on Telegraph (2367 Telegraph Ave., 510/848-0886, www.blakesontelegraph.com, Mon.–Fri. 11:30 a.m.–2 a.m., Sat.–Sun. noon–2 a.m.) plays home to any number of such bands. From the 1960s to the 1990s, Blake’s was a dedicated blues club, hosting the likes of John Lee Hooker and Gregg Allman. Since 1993, Blake’s has gone modern, offering up shows by top-tier bands such as Metallica and No Doubt.
It’s also given chances to bands like Train and Cake, who didn’t yet have recording contracts when they took the small stage in Berkeley. The three-floor establishment boasts a full kitchen serving classic pub food, and a bar on each floor serving beer, wine, and cocktails.
In Berkeley, the big name acts come to the Greek Theater (Gayley Rd., 510/642-9988, www.ticketmaster.com/venue/229421). This outdoor amphitheater constructed in the classic Greek style sits on the UC Berkeley campus. Expect to see top-tier performers playing the Greek; you can check out artists like Steely Dan, R.E.M., and Death Cab for Cutie here. See the Ticketmaster website for a list of shows coming to the Greek
For a slightly less formal night out, Berkeley has any number of bars and clubs that offer DJs, dancing, or just a quiet drink. The Shattuck Down Low Lounge (2284 Shattuck Ave., 510/548-1159, www.shattuckdownlow.com, Tues.–Sat. 8 p.m.–2 a.m., Sun. 9 p.m.–2 a.m.) is a big dance club that often has live musical acts playing to get the audience up and moving. The bar serves up cocktails and wine and beer, and there’s plenty of room to sit when you’re tired and have a drink or two.
The Albatross Pub (1822 San Pablo Ave., 510/843-2473, www.albatrosspub.com, Sun.–Tues. 6 p.m.–2 a.m., Wed.–Sat. 4:30 p.m.–2 a.m.) might be Berkeley’s favorite down-home drinking establishment. With six dart lanes, board games, Chicago deep-dish feta and spinach pizza for snacks, and a full bar, the Albatross has all you need for a totally laid-back night out. If you’re not a lover of Guinness, you can order a fabulous hot Irish coffee—the perfect drink for those foggy Bay Area nights. Perhaps best of all, the relaxed crowd at the Albatross makes it easy to make new friends and really get into the local scene.
© Liz Hamill Scott from Moon California, 2nd Edition