Music News & Reviews

The Greek offers intimate setting in Berkeley Hills

The Greek, named one of the best amphitheaters in the country by Rolling Stone, is an intimate venue tucked away in the Berkeley Hills on the University of California campus that provides concertgoers blockbuster music events year-round.

Officially named the William Randolph Hearst Greek Theatre after the newspaper mogul who financed the project at his mother’s request, according to Another Planet CEO Gregg Perloff, the theater’s half-circle design is based on amphitheaters of ancient Greece.

“It was actually going to be (not) 8,500 seats but closer to 11,000, but that was ‘engineered out’ ” due to cost overruns, Perloff said.

Opened Sept. 24, 1903, with a student performance of Aristophanes’ “The Birds,” the theater’s reputation grew in the 1960s as a major concert venue, hosting dozens of rock legends.

The Greek now hosts around 25 concerts a year between roughly April and October, featuring artists from various genres and backgrounds.

“Maybe it’s Radiohead one week, and Willie Nelson another, and Yo-Yo Ma another,” Perloff said. “Hopefully there’s something for everyone.”

Five things to know

The amphitheater is “acoustically perfect” – According to Perloff, the amphitheater is so well-designed that a person standing on the main stage could have a conversation with someone even in the nosebleeds sans amplification. Pair that with the structure’s steep stadium-seating style and attendees are guaranteed a music experience that’s always visually and auditorily close to the action.

Bring some seat cushions (and a blanket) – All seating at the Greek is on large concrete steps, so bring seat cushions for lengthier sets. And since the amphitheater is entirely exposed to the elements, Perloff recommends layers in anticipation for temperatures that can drop as much as 20 degrees on a summer night.

It sits along the Hayward Fault – The Hayward Fault runs just behind the theater under the Berkeley Hills. But fear not, attendees. The massive concrete facilities are not going anywhere in an earthquake, Perloff said, and the amphitheater’s stage house was seismically retrofitted about five years ago, making the Greek one of the safest structures on Cal’s campus.

The Greek is a major stop for performers old and new – Think of a musician, and they’ve probably played at the amphitheater. Neil Young, Radiohead, Miles Davis and Bob Dylan have played at the Greek, and between 1967 and 1989 The Grateful Dead performed 29 times on its stage. But plenty of new and up-and-coming artists, such as Alt-J, Florence+The Machine and The Weeknd, also perform at the Greek.

Parking is scarce, but food options are aplenty – Finding a parking spot in Berkeley can be especially hard during concert nights, so consider taking public transportation or getting there early. If you’re feeling peckish, the Greek has concession stands with vegan and vegetarian options, and there are several late-night food options near the UC Berkeley campus for post-concert cravings.

The Greek at a glance

THREE CAN’T-MISS EVENTS

  • The Shins, Saturday, Sept. 30, 6:30 p.m.: On tour for their fifth album, “Heartworms,” the indie rock band will perform with rock band Spoon as a guest.
  • Odesza, Thursday, Oct 26, 6 p.m., and Friday-Saturday, Oct. 27-28, 7 p.m.: The electronic music duo will perform for three nights, providing audiences with a visual spectacle as they incorporate live instrumentation into the show.
  • Father John Misty, Saturday, Oct. 7, 8 p.m.: The folk musician and lyricist will perform songs from his new album, “Pure Comedy,” and will offer an intimate musical set.
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