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Top East Bay Date Ideas for Live Music Nerds

Updated: May 10, 2023 12:50
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Bar Shiru – photo from their IG account

Guest Writer: Nicole Ski

Every weekend and even weeknights there have been more and more concerts to go to. People are back out and celebrating or dancing their troubles away. I’m in a crew of misfit single girls who like to find the best spot for live music. It’s so busy that my friends and I have coined this month “Rocktober”.

I mean, “cuffing season” is approaching, People. The cold winter months when folks wanna start coupling up again. With that in mind, I would love to share some places to go on a date with that person you may have met at a concert and want to get to know more.

Here are my Top Ten Date Ideas for music lovers in the East Bay

Friday Nights at Off The Grid:

Off the Grid is at the Oakland Museum of California on Friday nights. Walk past the food trucks and find the amphitheater where they have live music.  This is open from 5-9 pm.  This is kid friendly if your date has a little one. You can view the amazing art exhibits, enjoy food and activities, and dance to live music in the amphitheater.  Don’t forget to bring a blanket.

OMCA Off The Grid

Ashkenaz Music for dance classes or music nights out

Since 1973 on San Pablo Avenue, Ashkenaz Music and Dance Community has been “Berkeley’s home for International Music and Dance.”  For a daytime rendezvous, Ashkenaz offers classes such as Ballet, Drum Circles, Bachata, Capoeira Angola, Latin Swing as well as pilates.” At night you can find different types of live music on stage such with Reggae, Country, Grateful Dead Nights or on their Sunday Soul Sanctuary, “founded in 2003, is a weekly welcoming and inclusive all-ages community freestyle/ecstatic/shoes optional dance that supports free expression, community, physical and emotional health, and a spirit of generosity. We dance to an irresistible eclectic blend of music.”

Hang at The East Bay’s favorite musical Pub

Another place that opened in 1973 in Berkeley, is The Starry Plough “a full service restaurant, pub and nightclub with deep roots as an Irish Revolutionary watering hole, the history of protest runs as deep today as it did when we opened four decades ago.” Maybe you want to show your partner your musical skills and take them to an open mic or their poetry slam.  Not one for the stage, they also have traditional Irish Dance classes you can take together.

Events at The Starry Plough are perfect for a music lover’s date night – photo from their website

Have an adventure at Sofar Sounds

For the musically adventurous type, I suggest checking out Sofar Sounds, which started in London, offers various secret locations around the East Bay, and three performers of different genres and styles take the stage. You will not know where the show is going to be until the day of and who is going to perform until they take the stage.  I saw a show at Buck Wild Brewery but there have been shows in local homes as well as museums and outdoor venues.  Their website states, “Our community creates an inclusive space where music matters so that you can get lost in the performance”. They do not allow cellphone use or talking while the performer is on the stage, and it creates a raw experience forcing the audience to be fully present with the performer. (Remember how concerts were before smartphones?)

Sofar Sounds

Sip cocktails while vinyl spins

Are things progressing in your relationship or maybe you’ve been together for a long time and need to spice it up and connect; I recommend a cocktail (or Mocktial) at Bar Shiru.  Bar Shiru is Oakland’s first hi-fi vinyl listening bar.  There’s a special vibe here where the lighting gives off a feeling of romantic star light sky even though you are indoors, with specialty cocktails that are as beautiful to look at as they are to sip while soul, jazz and international groove records play in the background. 

Date night at a garbage bar

What better way to fight a “case of the Mondays’ ‘ with live blues music at Eli’s Mile High Club on MLK in Oakland.  This venue which opened in 1950 that describes on yelp as a  “garbage bar for losers, babies, twisted jokers, punk foo’s, bad boys, bad girls, bad theys, bad thems.” They also have DJ’s and all types of music including but not limited to, punk, polka, reggae, “boomer rap” and Drag Shows!  A full bar with a food menu.  Definitely recommend sharing the Totchos with your date.

Eli’s Mile High Club even has drawing nights for a different type of date idea – photo from KQED

Breakfast Dates are the best 😉

If you work non-traditional hours and are free Tuesdays thru Saturdays from 9-2 get some breakfast to Rooz Cafe.  Have an americano or mimosa or kombucha from the tap and order one of the yummy sandwich options or bagel with lox.  There is local art on the walls as well as many band posters.  There is some outdoor seating, but I prefer to eat in the cafe and listen to the eclectic music the owner plays from his own collection. 

Live music while you play arcade games

I started going to the Rockridge Improvement Club thru a Skeeball league called Brewskee Ball™️ but found myself going other nights for their quiz nights, shows and the best drag show Dolled Up. There’s no shortage of fun at this bar with all it has to offer, game room, juke box, Skeeball lanes and frequent live entertainment including live band karaoke. A hilarious bonus, there’s even a corner of the bar marked for making out.

A date for your dogs, too.

If you are Covid cautious like myself- and with the weather getting colder and looming of another surge; take your kids and dogs to the Golden Gate Bistro for brunch in Richmond. The Golden Gate Bistro, which is on Harbor Way and Wright avenue, en route to the Richmond Ferry, states they have a fully vaccinated staff.  Their extensive menu offers delicious breakfast and lunch options as well as desert.  Their large patio area even has enough space for a little dancing while your dog watches you boogie down.  

Sing your hearts out together at The Alley

The Alley opened in 1933 and has survived decades of change within Oakland but remains a constant spot of fun for anyone who enjoys music.  When you enter you will walk into a dark room with a wood paneling wall decorated with business cards from all over  and a bar to the side and then you’ll find a piano with 12 seats around it.  They serve American food from 6-9:30 and have quiz nights, as well as open mic nights with piano or guitar to support you and your date sing a duet.

The Alley for a fun karaoke date idea – photo from The Chronicle

Regardless of where you go, the point is we are so lucky to live in an area with so much to offer and we should support local businesses, support the arts and build community.  If you are single or not the dating type, all of the above-mentioned places are great to take yourself out and treat yourself to some joy and relief, we all deserve a good time and happiness.  

Where can you find these “Roctober” Date Ideas online?

Off The Grid:
Sofar Sounds:


The Starry Plough:

Bar Shiru: @barshiruoakland

Eli’s Mile High Club:

Rooz Cafe: Instagram/roozcafe

The Rockridge Improvement Club:  @the_ricbar

Golden Gate Bistro:

The Alley: @the_alley_of_oakland

About guest writer, Nicole Ski

Nicole is from New Jersey. She’s lived in the East Bay for 10 years and cherishes all that it has to offer as well as what it’s taught her. She loves to travel, learn new trails in the redwoods, and is a live music aPHISHianato.

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Nicole Ski

Nicole Ski

Nicole is from New Jersey. She's lived in the East Bay for 10 years and cherishes all it has to offer as well as what it's taught her. She loves to travel, learn new trails in the redwoods, and is a live music aPHISHianato.