I missed the whole 1960s-hippies-coffeehouse-folk music thing. For me, the 1960s was learning to tie my shoes (some day I’ll tell you my penny loafer story, but let’s just say it wasn’t easy to learn shoe tying when one parent was right-handed and the other was left-handed), reading, playing with my dog and trying to “fly up” from Brownie to Girl Scout. Weird my parents might have been, but they weren’t going to let their five-year-old hang out with the hippies at the coffee house. I saw that stuff on tv and in movies.
But guess what? If, like me, you missed out on the 60s or you were there and you’re nostalgic, or you just like seeing music in small venues where you can actually hear and nobody’s blocking your view by standing on a chair, you’re in luck, if you can get to Berkeley, CA. Next time you’re in the San Francisco Bay Area, make time to go to a show at The Back Room.
It’s got that funky, comfortable feeling, brick walls, sofas (they also have some tables and chairs in the back). It’s “intimate,” both in the usual way that word is used to describe a venue (small) and in a real, accessible, welcoming way. My friend Janice and I saw James Lee Stanley there (and James Lee Stanley is a whole separate post, or will be), and it was all kinds of fun. The overall feeling is of seeing a performer at a house party. In the case of James, he chatted with the audience, asked for (and got) requests… it felt more like watching a friend perform in his living room than, say, an arena show. You feel like an insider.
This is a venue that, based on our visit, deserves to thrive. It’s fairly new, so I’m hoping people get the word and try it, so it continues. If you live in the area, you’re in luck. If not, but you want to visit San Francisco in the future, make sure you bookmark their website, which is here: backroommusic.com