The first restaurant I ever went to in Berkeley was a little pizza place on Shattuck Avenue called Cheese Board Pizza. There was one type of pizza every day and it was operated a few doors down in collaboration with the bakery. However, the real charm of the place was the live music.
One of the most heartbreaking victims of the pandemic has been the loss of personal concerts. Coachella has been canceled, local appearances have been postponed, and the performances that used to bustle restaurants, bars and late-night venues appeared to be disappearing overnight.
I interviewed CJ Calvert, a worker-owner with the Cheese Board Collective, which runs the pizzeria, about what the pandemic has done to their ability to take on artists.
Prior to the pandemic, the Cheese Board website promised that “live music for lunch and dinner will be part of the daily schedule”.
Calvert expressed doubts about an immediate return to the music that enlivened Cheese Board’s regular lunch and dinner atmosphere.
“I don’t know if we have any plans to reopen this June 15th if the state does. At the moment, a lot has to do with the health concerns of our employees. We lost a few employees to the pandemic one way or another, ”Calvert said. “I would be surprised if it was this summer.”
In line with restaurants, popular off-campus venues like Cornerstone Craft Beer and Live Music have also chosen to postpone live music acts to stay afloat in quarantine.
Even the live music performances that used to take place every few game days have broken up as the party moratorium continues to dampen the social mood in the Greek series.
So the question remains: what does it take for live music to return to Berkeley?
The state itself continues to work to lift restrictions, announcing that all industries will be allowed to reopen fully by June 15, provided hospital stays are low and stable and vaccines are available to all eligible individuals. The city of Berkeley is well on its way to meeting these two benchmarks: 106,000 vaccines are being given and 40% of the population over the age of 16 will be vaccinated.
As of now, Alameda County is firmly in the orange reopening. This means that live indoor events and seated performances are “allowed with capacity constraints and mitigation measures,” according to the city’s website.
Despite all odds, my hopes for an upturn in the Berkeley music scene remain high. The vaccinations are increasing steadily and the eligibility is increasing. Venues, artists, and music lovers strive to revive an integral part of Berkeley culture.
Outside Lands, one of the Bay Area’s most popular music and arts festivals, postponed the event from early August to late October this year.
“Halloween 2021 has just gotten interesting,” said the Instagram post that announced the addition of Glass Animals, Kaytranada, Flo Milli and other artists to the rescheduled ticket. This bodes well for other festivals in the area as the industry gets going again.
Of course, artists have found creative ways to perform all the way. NPR’s prestigious Tiny Desk Concerts put “Home” in the title to offer a self-directed series for quarantined artists. Bay Area band Dirty Cello was reported to be performing at both a nudist resort and a zoo in Oakland to pay last season’s bills.
ASUC Superb Productions, hosted by MadeinTYO and EarthGang at the 2019 Welcome Week concert, has continued to host virtual artists. This Cal Day, Superb will host artists Rina Sawayama and Japanese Breakfast, followed by a Q&A. While these events are better than your average Spotify playlist, the experience of seeing an artist reef in person cannot be easily repeated.
That time was hell for artists, venues and Venuegoers alike. If there’s one thing we can be sure of, it’s that the tidal wave of pent-up social energy is about to break out, bringing sweaty, stranger-filled mosh pits so much closer to reality.
Contact Luke Stiles at [email protected].