This story is brought to you by The UC Theatre Taube Family Music Hall.
After 18 months of pandemic-induced closure, The UC Theatre’s doors reopened September 5th, thanks to support from donors and the city — and we have hosted more than 50 artists over the past three months. With strong COVID-19 safety procedures in place, so many happy people gather at every show, grinning beneath the protection of their face masks.
This joy was especially notable at our Nov. 2 Dia de los Muertos show when a pair of concert-goers were pulled up on stage and, to everyone’s surprise, one got down on bended knee. This tender moment quickly turned to celebration as the performers, La Santa Cecilia, invited them to stay on stage for their first dance as a newly engaged couple.
Reopening has brought us precious moments and incredible evenings, including performances by Lawrence, New Found Glory, The Black Dahlia Murder, Bayside, Social Distortion, Thrice, JJ Grey & Mofro, Japanese Breakfast, and Kolohe Kai. We’ve all enjoyed that magical interaction between audience and artist that only happens at a live concert.
But reopening has also brought challenges: the ongoing uncertainty of the pandemic and the fluctuations of public health precautions; the logistics of checking each patron’s proof of vaccine before shows. We, too, miss the good old days when we didn’t have to worry about deadly viruses, but we are dedicated to creating a safer environment for everyone to have fun.
Some of our safety efforts were simplified when the City of Berkeley mandated that all music venues with capacity over 1,000 require proof of vaccination from patrons, rather than accepting negative test results. Fortunately, the majority of our concert-goers have been unaffected by Berkeley’s vaccine-only mandate: even before the mandate, 98% of people coming to The UC Theatre were fully vaccinated. The order came into effect in mid-October, leading to some backlash from people unable or unwilling to get vaccinated, some of whom had purchased tickets before the policy was put into place. Many of those frustrated became understanding when they were informed of the local mandates, and some even declined a full refund, donating their ticket value to our education program, Concert Career Pathways.
The UC Theatre’s community engagement manager, Monica Motta, who has been present at every show since reopening, says that at least once per show patrons will approach her and express their gratitude and relief for the thoroughness of our vaccine check and tell her that it helps them feel comfortable coming into the theatre.
With solid precautions in place, the fun has continued. On Halloween, we hosted a sold-out screening of The Rocky Horror Picture Show, featuring the Bay Area cast Barely Legal. Before our building was renovated into a music venue, it was a movie theatre that held the second-longest-running sequence in the country of The Rocky Horror Picture Show midnight screenings, lasting 22 years, until January 1999. Now, we keep this tradition alive every Halloween and Valentine’s Day. Both audience members and cast members don exciting and raunchy costumes, and the cast leads the entire theatre in a true experience.
“What a night to remember! It was nothing I’ve interacted with before because we got to throw things, scream and yell things back to the movie. It felt like you were up there on stage with them. Doing it once makes you want to go back, and it feels like it’s going to become a tradition with my friends,” wrote one attendee named Jessica on social media. Mark your calendars for The Rocky Horror Picture Show on Valentines Day 2022.
The crazy fun of The Rocky Horror Picture Show brought a great sense of catharsis — and relief that the rowdy event happened at all. At the beginning of reopening our doors, there were concerts that had been rescheduled or canceled due to a variety of difficult-to-predict causes. Travel restrictions have fluctuated, barring some international artists. In other cases, crew members have fallen sick with COVID-19 and been quarantined. But announcements for show changes have gotten exponentially better over the last couple months as people continue to get vaccinated and remain careful.
The safety, comfort and long-term happiness of our community members remain our highest priorities. Navigating the challenges of COVID-19 are well worth it when we witness the joy of concert-goers who have waited almost two years to get down to their favorite band, amidst a sea of people. We owe it all to those who supported us throughout the pandemic, without whom we would not still be here today. The UC Theatre owes its success as an independent no-profit music venue to community-minded people with great philanthropic heart who invest in our success — words can not express how grateful we are for the community support we enjoy.
It’s finally time to gather your friends and family and enjoy the magic that is live music. We can’t wait to see you all soon as we continue to announce amazing shows to our 2022 calendar.
This story was written and paid for by The UC Theatre Taube Family Music Hall, whose mission is to present a vibrant range of live performances to advance the appreciation of music, culture and education in the Bay Area.