Introducing The Back Room 

The BackroomAt a time when we, rightly, acknowledge the multi-decade anniversaries of venues, such as Nashville’s Station Inn, The Ark (Ann Arbor), the Ash Grove (Los Angeles), and The Birchmere (Alexandria), around the States, it is important to note new music venues that welcome bluegrass music.

One such new listening room is the intimate downtown-Berkeley, California, new acoustic venue, The Back Room, just opened by acclaimed jazz pianist Sam (Hurricane Sam) Rudin, whose vision is to recreate the cozy ambience of the original Freight & Salvage *

The Back Room opened on Saturday, April 16, 2016, with Laurie Lewis and Friends offering a wide-ranging selection of music to celebrate the event.

She speaks well of the experience …..

Laurie Lewis“It was really enjoyable to play this new smallish venue. It holds about 75 people, and last night was really packed. The owner and mastermind, Sam Rudin, is open to having all sorts of music (as long as it is GOOD!). I think it would be a good space for a bluegrass band. We didn’t play any bluegrass last night. The audience was really attentive. There are some drawbacks: it’s hard to walk around in there when it’s so full. There was a bottleneck for the toilets during the intermission. There was no room to set up a CD table, even, so no CD sales. I think it’s a really nice place. Sam is a great piano player, and likes to sit in with the bands. Last night, he had his people out for the opening, and he was a big hit (I don’t know if his participation is a pre-requisite for groups playing there, but he certainly would add to most shows by joining in on a song or two).

The seating is mostly big couches, which take up a lot of space and make it more difficult to maneuver in there. He may end up switching at least some of them out to have more floor room, but for now he is very attached to them. I think it would be a good idea to jettison some of them.”

With the multi-talented Ms Lewis were Simon Chrisman (string bass and hammered dulcimer), Emily Mann (fiddle and banjo), Tristan Clarridge (cello and fiddle), Kathy Kallick (guitar), John Schott (guitar), Luke Forrest (guitar) and Grace Forrest (fiddle).

She stresses that they weren’t all on stage at the same time, while providing re-assurance that there is plenty of room on stage for a bluegrass band.

Ms Lewis was pleased with the on-stage equipment ….

“We used one large-diaphragm condenser with a couple of satellite mics and the sound was excellent. Very natural.”

The Back Room in Berkeley, CARudin describes his new venture “as a small space (100 people max), with great acoustics and comfortable seating, that will showcase the musicians with respect and appreciation”.

That respect means that The Back Room is not be a place for food and drink, beyond popcorn and a few packaged snacks, and water, punch and soft drinks, although adults will be welcome to bring their own adult beverages.

The Back Room is located at 1984 Bonita Avenue, Berkeley, California 94704, between University Avenue and Berkeley Way, downtown Berkeley. Contact phone number (510) 381-1997, E-mail sam@backroommusic.com .

Forthcoming attractions in The Back Room include The Nell Robinson & Jim Nunally Band; Eric & Suzy Thompson: Thompsonia; the Kathy Kallick Band; High Country; and the Cape Breton Trio with Andrea Beaton, Dick Hensold & Dean Magraw.

* The Freight & Salvage started out as a tiny 87-seat room, furnished with thrift-store couches, presenting great acoustic music.

Please tell us about any new music venue, receptive to bluegrass music, in your area.

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About the Author

Richard Thompson

Richard F. Thompson is a long-standing free-lance writer specialising in bluegrass music topics.

A two-time Editor of British Bluegrass News, he has been seriously interested in bluegrass music since about 1970. As well as contributing to that magazine, he has, in the past 30 plus years, had articles published by Country Music World, International Country Music News, Country Music People, Bluegrass Unlimited, MoonShiner (the Japanese bluegrass music journal) and Bluegrass Europe.

He wrote the annotated series I’m On My Way Back To Old Kentucky, a daily memorial to Bill Monroe that culminated with an acknowledgement of what would have been his 100th birthday, on September 13, 2011.