Author: Evans, Bill

Checking out the New Freight and Salvage: All You Need to Know!

As we count our blessings this holiday season, near the top of the list for all of us should be the opening of the “new” Freight and Salvage Coffeehouse in downtown Berkeley. Have you had the chance to go yet? If you haven’t, you’re missing out on one of the biggest things to happen to acoustic and bluegrass music in northern California in recent memory. This winter provides a great opportunity to check out the new venue, as this is the time of year that many renowned old-time and bluegrass acts grace the stage. Here’s a complete user’s guide to the new Freight!

The new $11 million Freight and Salvage Coffeehouse is located at 2020 Addison Street, just off Shattuck Avenue, which is the main north/south thoroughfare running through downtown Berkeley. What’s a bit confusing here is that the “old” Freight also had an Addison Street address but that location was a little over a mile to the west in a much different part of town. This new address situates the Freight right in the heart of what’s become a vibrant downtown arts district: it’s directly across the street from Berkeley Repertoire Theatre and the world renowned Jazzschool as well as being close to many fine downtown Berkeley restaurants. From the moment you step into the block, you get the sense that you’re in a place where things are happening. It’s easy to catch a great dinner and then head over to a Freight performance (most Freight shows begin at 8 p.m. with doors opening at 7 p.m.).

If you live in the Bay Area, the best way to get to the new Freight is via BART as the new venue is just steps away from the Downtown Berkeley station. BART trains run until midnight and this is an inexpensive way to beat the traffic snarls that are common occurrences on East Bay highways on weekend evenings.

If you prefer to drive, you’ll find parking to be a LOT more convenient - and safer - than at the old venue. There’s metered street parking in the blocks surrounding the venue that’s free after 6 p.m. and there are several parking garages within a two-block walk that charge a $5 evening rate (except on the afternoons and evenings of a Cal football game, when it’s a steep $20). If you park in the city garage that’s a block south of the venue with entrances on both Center Street and Allston Way, the Freight will stamp your parking ticket for a $2 discount. Note that there’s also a parking garage on Addison a few steps west of the Freight but this garage offers no Freight discount.

It’s best to purchase tickets in advance, especially for a show that’s likely to sell out (such as last weekend’s Crooked Still concert). Advance tickets are available at the box office, which is open every day from noon to 7 p.m. but it’s also possible to get advance tickets via mail order as well as via credit card charge by phone or online.

Now, let’s get on to the good stuff - the venue itself and the folks who are coming to play. In terms of a concert-going experience, the new Freight is simply incredible! I mean REALLY, REALLY incredible. It’s now one of the best rooms to hear acoustic music in the entire United States. While the performance space seats 420 and can accommodate up to 200 standing, the new Freight still feels about as intimate as the old venue and it’s much, much more comfortable: there’s no more getting a sore butt in an old wooden chair or having to lean sideways to see around the 6’ 6” guy directly in front of you. Each row of seats is higher than the one in front of it and there’s enough space between the seats that you won’t find yourself pressed close against a folk music fan that you’d otherwise prefer not to know so well.

The surfaces of the performance room are covered with dark wood, reminiscent of the old venue and there are now beautiful, simple “folk chandeliers” gracing the ceilings that bask the entire room in an intimate warm light. The sound and staging is unparalleled: there’s a professional computerized lighting system and a state-of-the-art sound system from Meyer Sound with the best Bay Area sound techs setting the stage and running the board. If you’re a Freight performer, you’ll experience a much more comfortable back stage area, with separate warm-up and changing rooms and even showers and a closed circuit audio-video system that allows you to see and hear what’s happening on stage. Taken together, all of these comforts create a slightly more formal environment than at the old venue, but it somehow still feels like the “old” Freight - from both the audience and the performers’ perspectives but without any of the annoyances of the old venue. Seating is first-come-first-served, so it’s best to get there early for a popular act but just about every seat in the house is good.

With the new Freight, we can all enjoy something new - a world-class venue where folk and bluegrass music and performers finally get the treatment they deserve. It’s like having a new performing arts center exclusively dedicated to the music we all know and love best. They’ve got some great music coming in the next few months. Here are a few not-to-be-missed highlights (you can find details on all of these shows and upcoming Freight workshops and classes at

Saturday, November 28: Laurie Lewis
Thursday, December 3: Peter Rowan Bluegrass Band
Wednesday, December 9: Bruce Molsky
Thursday, December 10: Nell Robinson
Thursday, December 31: High County and Dix Bruce and Jim Nunally
Saturday and Sunday, January 2 & 3: David Grisman Bluegrass Experience
Sunday, February 14: Nashville Bluegrass Band
Thursday, March 4: Dry Branch Fire Squad

We’ve waited a long, long time for this and the new Freight is deserving of your support. Don’t hesitate to drive from a couple of hours away for a show - you won’t be disappointed!

All the best,

Bill Evans

Posted:  11/27/2009

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