Best outdoor music venue

Who doesn’t love listening to live music under the stars in a unique setting?

The William Randolph Hearst Greek Theatre on the University of California, Berkeley campus provides a one-of-a-kind way to experience a good concert outdoors.

To get to the Greek on the UCB Campus from downtown San Francisco, all you have to do is take a 25-minute BART ride and walk two miles.

It’s well worth the trip.

The Greek Theatre seats 8,500 people in a completely outdoor, concrete amphitheater setting, which has Greek-style columns and classic adornments throughout. Most concerts are general admission only, so it’s first-come, first-served for seats.

Dave and I visited the Greek Theatre on Saturday to see two New England bands, Guster and Dispatch.

We got to the theatre about 20 minutes before the doors opened and found ourselves in a very short line. The process of entering the theatre and finding seats was not stressful or rushed at all, which is surprising for a general admission show. In fact, we ended up with the perfect seats on the first row of concrete steps and had just enough of a distance from the stage to see the performers.

The concert began during the daylight, and once the sun went down it got a little chilly. Luckily we were armed with jackets. We knew what to expect, because the Greek Theatre sent out a friendly email before the concert reminding patrons to bring an extra layer. How thoughtful.

We also brought blankets to cushion the concrete seating and had backpacks of snacks and drinks. (No alcohol can be brought into the show, however, the bag checking was less than thorough.)

Beer and wine was $7, and the lines were short and quick. I saw people eating sliders, nachos and a hummus plate (clearly this theatre is in Berkeley), but we didn’t try any of the food.

We heard from our neighbor that there is a cornhole set-up (also known as bean bag toss, or “baggo” for those from New England) for anyone to use in the grassy area above the concrete seating. We couldn’t pull ourselves away from our great seats to make it up there for that, though.

Guster is an American alternative band from Boston, and is one of Dave’s favorites, which we we saw once before at House of Blues in Orlando. As the opening act, Guster didn’t stay on stage as long as we would have hoped, but they were enjoyable for the duration of their set.

Fans were still filling in during Guster’s performance, and by the time Dispatch took the stage, the venue was packed.

Dispatch bills itself as a reggae and rock band and also hails from New England. Truth be told, I didn’t know much about Dispatch but found I was very familiar with their songs. It was fun music, and the band members were chatty all the way through. All of the guys were dressed so casually, they looked like college kids, only older.

Even though 8,500 seats is far from intimate, the chill vibe of the Greek Theatre made it seem like more of an up-close-and-personal show. There was plenty of room to walk around between seats and rows, as well as to the concession areas, so you never felt overwhelmed. Dave and I loved every second of our time there, and it didn’t hurt that our fellow concert-goers were all very friendly as well.

One of the highlights was when halfway through Dispatch’s set, Guster joined them onstage for a duet, which they rightly called “Guspatch.”

Both bands said that the Greek Theatre was their favorite outdoor venue in America to play. Were they just saying that? Maybe. But, I certainly believed them.

We’ve been to several outdoor concerts in Florida, which were nothing like this at all. Most outdoor places there have a big tailgate scene beforehand, and then you typically enter the concert sticky from the humidity and heat. However, the Bay Area offers a much friendlier climate for an outdoor show, minus the tailgating.

Sometimes concerts can be crowded, sweaty, too loud and a little tough to handle. If you want to sit under the night sky and enjoy some tunes, the Greek in Berkeley is the place to do it.

Greek Theatre
The crowd filling in just after doors opened.
Greek Theatre
Here are two music lovers, ready for a good show.
Greek Theatre
When the sun goes down, the lights go up on Dispatch.


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