Local singer-songwriters have a new place to perform in Berkeley.
With a maximum capacity of 100 people and a Downtown Berkeley address — 1984 Bonita Ave. — the Back Room hopes to provide an intimate performance venue for musicians of all acoustic-based genres, from bluegrass and jazz to international music.
“It’s intended to be the kind of space where quieter music may exist,” said owner Sam Rudin. “There’s always a need for the more intimate kind of musical space.”
Rudin hopes to offer a musically diverse calendar of performances in the future. He said he wants to serve communities of all ages, which means including performers who would attract a younger demographic, such as UC Berkeley students.
Singer-songwriter Laurie Lewis performed at the venue’s opening performance Saturday night, attracting a sold-out crowd. According to Rudin, he wanted a well-known performer such as Lewis to perform to ensure a full house for opening night.
“It’s so great to have a new listening venue in Berkeley,” Lewis said during her performance. “I’m really looking forward to playing here.”
The process of preparing the venue for its opening night included some difficulties for Rudin, such as extensive construction. He needed to remove a mezzanine, or raised floor, which affected the lighting and acoustics of the space, an out-of-pocket expense.
Elizabeth Woolf, a campus junior and music major who has been performing in the area for two years, said in an email that she would be interested in performing at a venue such as the Back Room.
“I feel most comfortable in intimate venues where we can all experience the music together,” Woolf said in the email. “Other venues are bigger and harder to connect to.”
Similar venues have emerged in the East Bay, according to Rudin, such as the Monkey House in Berkeley and the Sound Room in Oakland.
“I’m feeling like people in general might think of a small club … where you can get up close and personal with the music, might be a thing that is growing in popularity,” Rudin said.
To provide a performance-centric environment, the Back Room will not serve alcoholic beverages or food, besides popcorn and some packaged snacks. Audiences, however, may bring their own beverages, and the Back Room will provide glasses.
Dick Fregulia, a jazz pianist scheduled to perform at the Back Room on April 21, said he sees potential in the space. According to Fregulia, venues that welcome acoustic, piano-based groups are less common today, because there has been a shift toward electronic music.