Bay Area great for live entertainment, not Hayward

Louis LaVenture,

The Bay Area is a gold mine for concerts and live music. The Fox Theater, Yoshi’s, The Bill Graham Civic Auditorium, The Greek Theater; the list goes on forever.

In just one month, I saw Nas, Lauryn Hill, SchoolBoy Q, Joey Bada$$, Bambaata Marley, Little Simz and Ezale perform. Even better, all of the performances were in the East Bay: Oakland, Berkeley and even Alameda.

None of those performances were in Hayward.

Then I started to think, when have I ever seen a popular or well-known act perform in the city I grew up in? The answer: never.

As a college student and a Hayward native, it sucks. Some of the best times I’ve ever had were at a show. Why shouldn’t I be able to enjoy that in Hayward?

There’s the Bal Theater in San Leandro that draws popular acts from time to time like El Debarge, Tony, Toni, Tone, Jodeci and Pete Escovedo, but never big names on a regular basis.

There is essentially just one venue in Hayward to see live performances, The Bistro in downtown on B Street. Since it opened in 1994, The Bistro has live music seven days a week and never charges a cover to get in. However, it’s small and the bands and acts are usually not well-known.

However it hasn’t always been this way. Hayward used to draw big names. In the 1970s and 1980s former hot spots The Haywire, Mexicali Rose and The Tamarack Inn used to frequently host popular musicians, which included a slew of local hip hop, rap and R&B acts. In the late 90s, that trend began to go away, possibly because of outbreaks of violence at local shows.

In 1996, Mexicali Rose on Mission Boulevard and Valle Vista Drive, just down the street from the CSUEB Hayward campus, hosted a hip hop and rap show, headlined by Oakland rapper Richie Rich. Before the show ended, gunshots erupted in the parking lot and the show was canceled, according to HPD. The venue eventually switched to Spanish music only.

In 1997, another hot spot for live music in Hayward, formerly known as The Seafood Loft on West Winton Avenue, was the location of a deadly shooting of a teenager. Tennyson High School junior Davon Johnson was shot and killed after he was caught in the crossfire between some attendees in the parking lot and the security guards working the event, according to the Hayward Police Department.

In 2006, Hayward officials voted to abolish “Happy Hour” in the city, citing that it “Encourages more drinking,” something the city did not want to do. Despite the urging of then Hayward Mayor Michael Sweeney, in Sept. 2013 the city voted 5-2 to bring back “Happy Hour” a time frame where restaurants and bars have special lower prices on drinks and food. However, that didn’t bring back the live music.