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Best Live Music Venues in Oakland for Under $20…or FREE

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Oakland’s music scene is a dizzying offering of captivating options; Electric evolving genres, raw power, classics, historic venues, and innovation constantly on the horizon. You could unwittingly give up all your money to the music gods to try and hear it all, end up living in a box with nothing but the memories of the fantastic music you witnessed keeping you warm, and all without ever having to leave Oakland. Alas, never fear, I’m here try to and help you avoid that.

Do you agree that “Without music, life would be a mistake.”? Does looking at your monthly entertainment budget make you weep? Does the term ‘entertainment budget’ make you want to punch the economy or closest techie?

What can be done in these ever increasing times of the money suck that is the reality of life in the Bay Area?

I hear you broke masses that are too culturally attuned to be satisfied on Netflix documentaries and ‘Discover’ stations on Spotify alone!

Please enjoy my findings of cheap, interesting, just fuckin weird at times, small music venues of Oakland that offer a good time for under $20…no handies required (though always welcome).

For this round of making your money sing with joy, I scavenged venues primarily in the Downtown/Uptown areas of Oakland.

Oakland Metro

Night out total: $20 for event Hoodslam

The Oakland Metro describes itself as an alternative music concerts & rock operas in a warehouse-like performing arts venue with a full bar.

The space and location feel grungy in the best way. The bathrooms made me want to throw away my shoes after using them. All that aside, this may be one of the more bizarre and fun venues on this list. Find Tourette, Hoodslam (pictured above courtesy Mark Huggins), and various metal shows here. Not for the faint of heart, only the adventurous bad asses that aren’t afraid of a great time covered in stranger’s sweat and booze need show up here.

The New Parish

Night out total: $5 for event Wormhole Wednesday

The unassuming front of The New Parish is easy to miss. This venue opens up to one of the coolest patios around situated smack dab in the middle on a multi floor dance and observation rooms, multiple bars, and art booths peppered throughout the venue.
The New Perish describes itself as a live reggae, roots and world music venue with an outdoor patio.

Come here to find Ships in the Night, bump and grind to reggae and hip hop, come connect with sexy strangers in their sexy outdoor patio; Eye consorting and accidental presses of bodies are the regular in the small hallways and door ways around this place.

Leo’s Music Club

Night out total: $9 for event Waiting for Dark Party

(This picture was taken moments before an impromptu police raid for the all-important search of an ABC and zoning licenses, requiring 8 full police SUVs. Checked back recently and I’m happy to report the website is back up and running with upcoming shows on Calendar.)

Leo’s Music Club is a very intimate venue (lezbe-honest, small as hell). The venue takes you back to that spot that was super offbeat and cool in college, complete with red velvet hanging curtains around the bar reminiscent of a Muppets style theater balcony. The limited square footage and moody lightening does help everyone feel alright about getting friendly pretty quickly with the people here, who are all pretty entertaining. Interesting shows are usually on the schedule here and for pretty damn cheap.

Leo’s Music Club describes itself as a low-key space for alternative musicians playing funky Latin beats to progressive bluegrass sounds.

The Legionnaire Saloon

Night out total: FREE for event Beat the clock-$1 pints! (yes, $1!!)

If you have ever been to a First Friday in Oakland, you have stood by this bar wondering if this is where the music or delicious food smell or yelling is coming from.

It’s the yelling. The music is competing with the Jamaican restaurant next door.

The Legionnaire describes itself as a family-run bar with TVs, pinball machines & entertainment, including live music & comedy shows.

For such a cheap, dive bar this place may have some of the nicest bartenders ever. Drinks are good, music is good, and pinball is there. Bathrooms boast signs encouraging you as you leave to go home with that drunk guy/gal at the bar; I’d love to know what the guy’s bathroom advises as you walk out.

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Born and raised in the bay. I'm just a tumbling weed, or something along those cliched lines. Good times adventurist. Always on the hunt for the weird and unusual, while I myself AM weird and unusual. (10 points if you get that). Currently calling home Oakland. Lovin all the art, culture, drinking and the food.