First, a small disclaimer. There wasn't really any live music at the Academy of Sciences. But there was a DJ, and drinks, and a whole lot of living animals, and fish, and plants... So I think that, in aggregate, I can get away with calling it "live".
We spent a total of about 36 hours in San Francisco last week, where it fell to me to set the agenda. My birthday, my tour priorities! Compared to Los Angeles there is a lot to do and see there, but I knew that we couldn't pass up what Wikipedia says is one of the ten largest natural history museums in the world. Then I found out that they host a 21 and over night every Thursday. I remember touring a museum after hours with my girl scout troop when I was a kid; the mystery and illicit feeling of being there after the unwashed masses had gone home. No way was I going to miss the opportunity to do that again, especially if champaign cocktails were on hand.
When we arrived I was astonished to see that the place was packed! Even in February, in the driving rain, this was clearly the place to be on a Thursday night. And with good reason. The museum has been in existence since 1853. It was formed just three years after California joined the Union, but even back then it was striking blows for gender equality. Almost immediately a resolution was passed to "approve of the aid of females in every department of natural science, and invite their cooperation". At the time it was housed in China Town, but soon the 80,000 visitors it attracted each year forced it to move to Market Street. Sadly, it was badly crippled in the terrible 1906 earthquake, but it rose from the ashes to set up shop in its current location in Golden Gate Park.
Disaster struck again in 1989 when the Loma Prieta earthquake damaged the grand old building and rendered the aquarium portion almost unusable. Never a backwards-looking institution, it was decided to take the opportunity to completely re-imagine the building. Today it is one of the "greenest" museum designs in the world, right down to the insulation in the walls which is made out of scraps of recycled denim.
Incorporated into the new design are bits of the old art nouveau Stienhart Aquarium, which lend a bit of intimacy to the shiny new public spaces. Since we were there after dark there were added bonuses too: most of the nocturnal animals were wide awake and extremely active, including a giant Pacific octopus which was much wider than my outstretched arms. Was it responding to the music or just annoyed at the invasion of its privacy? I won't speculate, but I will say this: child or adult, nothing beats a night at the museum.