- Huge street festival in downtown Oakland
- Drinking craft brews at an outdoor beer garden
- Pissing off an “artist” at a gallery
- Unbelievable pieces of cut paper art
- Watching a 66 year old woman perform in a burlesque show
Check out the other Andy’s Days of Fun here.
Oakland is one of those places I wish I knew better. It used to be a crime-ridden area that you wanted to avoid. However, over the past few years, as skyrocketing housing prices pushed artists, musicians, and entrepreneurs out of San Francisco and over the bridge into Oakland, the city has transformed into a hub of culture, hipsterdom, and technology. Kinda like what happened to Williamsburg in NYC about 10 years ago.
Now downtown Oakland is littered with trendy art galleries, craft brew houses, and hip cafes. But don’t be too quick to call it gentrified. Despite all the recent change, the city still hangs onto it’s rough past. And it’s that unique blend that gives Oakland its character. That is what I’m about to get a taste of tonight.
Get ready Oakland, cause Andy is coming to have some fun. Chomp!
One of the events I’m going to tonight is Oakland First Fridays. It’s a free street festival on the first Friday of each month where food trucks, artisans, and bands take over Telegraph Avenue for the entire night. The festival only started about 3 years ago, but has quickly blossomed into a major draw for families and young people alike.
The other event I’m checking out is Art Murmur, which is an art crawl through the galleries of Oakland. The event coincides with First Fridays, and many of the participating galleries are close to Telegraph Ave.
My plan tonight is to check out the street festival, eat some good food, see come cool art, and hit up some interesting bars in downtown Oakland. Since all these activities are better done with friends, I invited a few to join me for the night.
And here is what we did:
- Over the bridge and into Oakland
- Exploring Oakland First Fridays
- Meet and greet over beers at Telegraph beer garden
- Mocking overpriced art at Johanssen Projects
- Noming on beef bulgogi at Korean Plaza Asian Market
- Wine and crafts at 25th Street Collective
- Awesome art Mercury Twenty
- More drinks at Mua Oakland
- Epic burlesque show at Stork Club
- Final beer at Diving Dog Brewhouse
5:30 pm: Over the bridge and into Oakland
I had planned on taking BART to 19th Street so that I didn’t have to drive after drinking. Safety third! However, there was some major traffic and I was running late. So I decided to drive to Oakland instead.
I picked up Rebecca and her roommate Claire in the Haight and got on our way. It was all of our first times going to First Fridays and we were all curious and excited. Even the Friday rush hour traffic couldn’t dampen our mood.
We got into downtown Oakland around 6:45 pm and picked up Claire’s boyfriend Jason. Then we got super lucky and found a spot right on West Grand street, 1 block from the start of First Fridays. The night was getting off to a good start. I’m always happy when I get good parking. =)
6:45 pm: Exploring Oakland First Fridays
The street was already pretty crowded at this point.
A little further in we caught a group dance performance. They looked like students from a dance studio in Oakland.
Lots of vendors shopping their wares.
Some of my friends were already at the Telegraph beer garden, so we headed over there to meet up with them and get a beer.
6:50 pm: Meet and greet over beers at Telegraph beer garden
I love beer gardens, and downtown Oakland has a number of them, probably thanks to the warmer weather in the East Bay. Telegraph beer garden is a block from the start of First Fridays, which made it a great place to meet. There is an outdoor bar and an indoor bar where you can order food. The beer at the bar are all pretty reasonably priced at $6 or $7.
Dan and Alice were already there with drinks. Dan has lived in Oakland for 9 years and Alice used to work nearby. They know the area fairly well and would play tour guide for the night. I got myself a beer and joined them outside in the garden.
- Cost: $6 + tip
There were some cool murals on the walls here.
At this point Holly showed up with her coworkers. Our little group was now at 9 people.
After our beers we headed back toward 23rd street to our first art gallery of the night. On our way we saw this Korean drumming performance.
I used to perform in a group just like this back in college. I even have a picture of us in costume. There I am on the left!
We crossed the street and went to Johanssen Projects.
7:30 pm: Mocking overpriced art at Johanssen Projects
Johanssen Projects had mostly art pieces like the one below. I think this one was priced around $16,000, or the price of a mid-sized sedan. How do artists decide what to charge for these things?
This piece was more interesting, mostly because it was so bright. This one costs over $30,000.
Then there was this piece. If you put your hand in front of the camera it would change the image on the wall. I thought it was an interesting use of video. So of course I go and put my face in front of the camera to see what would happen.
At this point the artist rushes over to me and yells at me to stop touching the art. WTH? Chill out asshole. I wasn’t even touching it. Also, what the hell is the point of the camera if you can’t put anything in front of it? Kevin McCoy, you are a jerk.
By this time we were all starving and needed to get some food. We headed up Telegraph in search of food trucks. There was a lot of good street art along the way. I prefer this type of art to overpriced art in stuffy galleries.
7:45 pm: Noming on Korean food at Korean Plaza Asian Market
Luckily we walked by Korean Plaza, where they were serving up street side Korean food.
These women were cooking furiously and could barely keep up with the orders. Everything smelled so good and I had a hard time choosing. I went with an order of the beef bulgogi and bibimbap.
- Cost: $8 for bulgogi and $5 for bibimbap
We then sat on these colorful stools and ate our food. It felt a lot like being in an Asian street food market.
From here we turned on 25th street to check out some more art galleries.
8:10 pm: Wine and crafts at 25th Street Collective
The first place we stopped at was 25th Street Collective. It wasn’t so much an art gallery as a shopping area for fashion and crafts. There was also a small wine shop here called Two Mile Wines, so we stopped for a second drink.
- Cost: $6 for wine, $2.50 for chocolate covered Brazil nuts
Alice recently joined a fitness challenge and decided to complete her daily workout at the collective. Rebecca joined as well. Here the boys were judging their forms for planking. I think Dan approves.
There were several galleries near 25th Street Collective, so we wandered out to see more art.
8:20 pm: Awesome art at Mercury 20
So far First Fridays has been super chill. There was plenty to do and see, and it wasn’t crowded. Here people are just hanging out in the street, enjoying the warm evening.
This was probably my favorite piece of the night. The details are so intricate I can’t even imagine how the artist did it. At first I thought this was done by computer but it was in fact made by hand.
Mike Dirda showed up with his girlfriend at Mercury Twenty. They had a show to go to so didn’t stay long. I think he came mostly to prove that the girlfriend he had been talking about was real. =P
I also met up with Sara Yin who was cruising First Fridays with her coworkers. It’s so nice to run into people in the Bay Area like that. I like the small town feel of the bay.
We left the gallery and went looking for our next watering hole. On the way we saw these guys. If you didn’t pay attention you wouldn’t know that these were mannequins staring at smart phones. Kinda sends a message huh?
What time is it now? Beer time!
9:05 pm: More drinks at Mua Oakland
We went to Mua since it was along the way and not loud. The interior was actually quite nice. It’s more of a restaurant but they did have a small bar section. We got our drinks and relaxed for a while. While ordering my beer I caught the smell of some delicious wings. I might have to come back for those.
One of the places I really wanted to check out was Classic Cars West. Unfortunately it was past 10 pm and they were closed. But we did see this car.
The original plan was to head towards Jack London Square after the Art Murmur to check out Hoodslam, an armature wresting show/performance. Instead, Dan suggested that we go check out some puppet burlesque. Having never heard of such a thing, I had to go see it.
10:15 pm: Epic burlesque show at Stork Club
The puppet burlesques show happens at the Stork Club on First Fridays. Good thing there’s no cover!
Notice the action figures/dolls behind the bar? I had a feeling this puppet burlesque show was going to be interesting.
Here was our host. She was a very sassy black woman who was hilarious.
Hmm… where are the puppets? Apparently it’s not a puppet burlesque show but a normal burlesque show. But still, we have a stripping nun so it’s all good.
The next performer was some kind of burlesque super hero?
The following performer was by far the funniest of the night. She came in dressed as a can of Spam. She even made a can opener that she used to undress herself. Brilliant!
The final performance of the first show was this 66 year old woman. She was amazing! I could not believe how confident she was of her body. I wish I had her confidence and I’m only half her age. She had the entire crowd hooting and hollering the entire time.
That burlesque show was awesome and I’m really glad we went. All the performers were great and I was laughing and cheering the whole time. The girls had a great time as well.
It was near midnight at this point and we had been hanging out for over 5 hours. Time really flies huh? We decided on one more drink before heading home.
We headed towards Make Westing, a very popular Oakland bar, and saw these cool looking bikes in front of the bar.
The bar was a bit too crowded and we wanted some place chill to drink and chat. We went across the street to Diving Dog Brewhouse instead.
11:30 pm: Final beer Diving Dog Brewhouse
Matty showed up and we all ordered one more round of beers. Diving Dog has a very large selection of beers. I forgot what I ordered but I think it was red IPA. There’s Holly pretending to be a nice girl in front of her coworker Dylan. But we all know the truth.
Apparently you can make your own beers here at Diving Dog. I’m not sure how it works but that’s a very interesting business model.
We hungout at the bar for probably another hour before saying our goodbyes. It had been a long day and the bed was calling my name.
That concludes Andy’s Night of Fun in Oakland. I hope you learned a lot about First Fridays and Art Murmur and go see it for yourself one of these days.
How the night went:
I had a great time hanging out with my friends and exploring downtown Oakland. I felt like I got to know the area and found a few places I’d like to return to. The burlesque show was the highlight of the evening and I highly recommend it to everyone. Overall I didn’t get to go to as many places as I would have liked, but I did enjoy all the places we went to. All except that gallery where I got yelled at by the artist…
Things I would do differently for next time:
- Take the BART: You don’t have to worry about parking, and you can drink without having to drive. It’s probably also faster considering the rush hour traffic.
- Start earlier: First Fridays and Art Murmur both end at 9 pm. Next time I’ll start closer to 6 pm so I can see a few of the places I missed.
- Get to the burlesque show early: The bar is not that big and it’s nice to get in early to grab a booth or a spot near the front.
Again, here’s a handy map of all the attractions, restaurants, and bars I visited in this post: Map
If you enjoyed this post, please check out the other Andy’s Days of Fun here.
What did you think of this tour? What did I miss? What would you have done differently? Please share it in the comments. I’d love to hear what you have to say.