Widespread Panic at The Fox Theater

The band Widespread Panic, on stage at the Fox Oakland Theater

The band Widespread Panic, on stage at the Fox Oakland Theater

Last night I made it to a fantastic concert by the southern rock jam band Widespread Panic in Oakland. With a sound that appeals to a lot of the same people as The Grateful Dead or Phish, this is a great band to see when you just want to get out of your head for a couple of hours and live in the music. The band laid down a medium-fast groove on the first number and kept it up throughout the evening. They pretty much carried the same tempo through every song up to the encore, when they played a couple of slower pieces, then finished with a couple more fast songs. Unfortunately, though, last night might have been your last chance to see this band in northern California for quite a while. In business for 25 years, the band has announced they’ll go “on hiatus” after the current tour.

So what I really want to talk about is the venue. This was my first time seeing a show at the Fox Oakland Theater, and I was totally blown away by the place. The Fox Oakland was a 1928 movie palace that was closed in 1966 and only reopened in 2009 after years of neglect, followed by years of restoration work by the Friends of the Oakland Fox and the city of Oakland. Both the facade and the interior were just astounding, truly capturing the old theater magic. The interior decoration is a whimsical take on the exotics settings of early film, using elements from Indian and Middle Eastern art and architecture. The bold colors give the feeling that whatever entertainment you’re about to take in at the theater is totally apart from everyday life outside.

If you know the beautiful restoration work done at the California Theater in San Jose, that gives an indication of the quality of what was done at the Fox Oakland, but the Oakland theater is not a place for symphonies or events that require evening dress—they could stage an opera here but it would have to be something big and colorful like Die Entführung aus dem Serail. For a band with a bit of a psychedelic image and a bright light show like Widespread Panic, the Fox Oakland might just be the premiere venue.

If any of the upcoming shows at the Fox Oakland appeal to you, I absolutely recommend taking the drive up to see it at this fantastic venue.

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