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Fox Theatre, Oakland: Serious Contender for Best Venue in the Bay Area

by VM Brasseur on February 23rd, 2009

This past Saturday Guy, my friend Vanessa and I attended a Cake concert at the newly renovated Fox Theatre in Downtown Oakland.

Take a moment, if you will, and review the photo gallery for that venue. Don’t worry, we’ll wait.

You’re finished? Good. I’ll start by saying that the photos, however flattering, do not capture the magnitude of this project. The attention to detail is outstanding and the end product is stunning both inside and out. The Persian motif is carried through to just about every element of the building, from floor to ceiling and then some. To think that this place was, until recently, decrepit and trashed inside and out…

OK, so, it’s beautifully decorated. That’s a huge point in its favor but would not normally make it a “Serious Contender for Best Venue in the Bay Area.” No, what makes it a contender is that whoever designed this thing has obviously spent far more than his fair share of time standing in places like The Warfield and The Fillmore and has learned from the mistakes of his predecessors.

  • The fixed seats in The Fox are upstairs in the balcony/loge area. The downstairs is entirely devoid of fixed seating. This (assuming there are movable chairs/tables in theatre storage) gives them a very large amount of flexibility in audience arrangement.
  • Rather than retaining the usual gradual slope of a movie theatre (which would undoubtedly funnel a standing audience gradually toward the stage during the course of a show) the designer added terraces. Each terrace is bordered by a very lovely (and very sturdy) metal fence/barrier. Not only does this give people somewhere to lean during shows but the terracing makes it easier for more people to see the stage. Yes, The Warfield has something similar. But there aren’t nearly as many terraces at The Warfield, nor are the barriers attractive.
  • Bars. Lots of them. Vanessa counted at least seven bars on the lower level alone. No crowds. No surly patrons jockeying for position to catch the bartender’s attention. Just quick and easy service (and Lagunitas IPA on tap, which pleased me at least).
  • V-E-N-T-I-L-A-T-I-O-N. The entire floor was speckled with round air conditioning vents. Big crowd? Close quarters? Much singing and dancing? No problem. There was a constant gentle flow of fresh air coming up through these things and it made a world of difference to the comfort level in there.

In this trip I did not get the chance to visit either the balcony or the bathrooms to see whether they were as well thought-out as the rest of the venue. I expect that they are.

The Fox is a great addition to downtown Oakland. It’s in a part of town which is in the fetal stages of a renaissance. It’s near the 19th St. BART station. Street parking is plentiful. If the mayor and city council can get their crap together and support this sort of development with extra police patrols, development incentives and any other rabbits that they can pull out of their collective hat then Oakland could start to become a town which people will speak of with admiration rather than fear.

To the people who brought the Fox back to us: a thousand thanks.

To Cake: Awesome frakking show, guys. Easily in the top five shows I’ve seen in the last ten years. Come on back again soon, ya hear?

From → Main, Music

2 Comments
  1. suomynona permalink

    One negative, the acoustics were, to my ears, horribly muddy. I could barely understand the lyrics of the songs I knew. Let alone the opening band.

    Truly the acoustics were possibly some of the worst I’ve heard.

  2. I’m not entirely sure I can blame that on the venue but I’m gladly willing to go back and test the acoustics with a different band performing. 🙂

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