The 40th Street Warehouse
b. February 6, 1996
d. February 1, 2005
The 40th Street Warehouse was started nine years ago, in Oakland, California, with hopes of creating a space to work on art and music and life in a town of cramped options.
The first shows were artsy and small—noise music and twisted visuals—stark, one could say. Over the next few years, the character of the place shifted to a loosely-conceived crust scene and later into a more politically-oriented DIY punk sort of world. With this came an increase in vision and organization, and as the venue became a Venue things kind of exploded. We began to rethink what the space meant to us, and decided that we wouldn’t accommodate as many bigger bands, instead choosing to open up space for smaller or more fringe acts to find a home. Cabarets moved in, as did a wider range of musical sensibilities. Workshops happened and the first East Bay Skillshare found a partial home here.
Last year, well into the beginning of the end, some long-cooking pots began to boil over. For a few years the landlord had been talking of the theoretical day when she would kick us out to renovate the Warehouse and make it into live-work lofts. She had been waiting until the condos she’d built behind the building found tenants, and soon they did. It’s unclear who, but it was around this time that someone began calling the police on our shows. For weeks in a row we had to deal with police presence (this after maybe two calls a year for the past many), culminating in a serious blow to the warehouse that forced us to stop all shows, when the police came one afternoon to have a talk. The space was just in slumber until we regrouped, we thought—but that was before an eviction notice came.
And here we are, evicted, the place about to be knocked to the ground. Nine years, maybe five hundred shows, upwards of 40 roommates and a looming cloud of mostly pleasant memories later. In a just world, places like 40th would not be part of the dirty cycle of gentrification—not participants or sufferers, of which we are both—and homes like this one, here, could last forever. Now what we get to do is learn our lessons and take them with us as we start again.
The warehouse was the first place I really made my home and the place that taught me how to find home in any place. It has been a converging web of many different communities here in the bay, and amidst its limitations and its boundaries (cultural, musical, social, class, and on and on) I feel like it’s very clearly not just me who’s grown in big ways through the plurality of the changing faces that this place has borne.
There’s important models to be built from the ruins and memories of places like this and I don’t want to let that slip away. I feel that there’s clear lessons—knowledge built on trial, failure, and time—lessons about the many meanings, facets, and depths of the ubiquitous word “community” and the worth and necessity of semi-sacred gathering halls like this one. Something to take with us as we struggle to construct healing realities within the cultures of degradation we all endure and perpetuate and reside in. For me there’s a lesson in having to take it with me or watch it die.
I hope I’m not just aggrandizing this place through my milky haze of nostalgia (because I’ve got one, for sure). I just mean to recognize the many ways in which this space—a place of growth and of stagnancy, careless gestures and sincere connections at once, and a waystation for many—has given a stronger sense of home to those who’ve known it, like a tiny anchor to secure you just enough that you can handle the fact that you’re still floating away.