Top U.S. Cities to See Live Music

The ice clinks in your glass as you swirl around amber liquid, anxiously waiting for the first act to go on. Dim lights, sticky floors, and a few too many sharp elbows are all staples of a true dive theatre. Soon enough, the music will thrum in your ear drums, the spotlights will blind your eyes, and all of the delicious pain will be worth those long hours of raw energy and unique sounds of a band just on the brink of stardom.

The U.S. has always been a hub of some of the biggest musical acts in the world. From Janet Jackson (Ms. Jackson, if you’re nasty), to Madonna, to Nirvana, to Taylor Swift, to 50 Cent, this is a country that offers the best music around. Come see it for yourself in the top cities for live music in the country:

Seattle, Washington 

If you think the 1990s are over, you haven’t been to Seattle recently. As the hub of the grunge movement, there is still a deeply rooted Pacific Northwest gritty sound. It’s the kind of music perfectly paired with plaid shirts, thick beards, and jeans that may or may not have cost $200 to look vintage. For live entertainment, head to Neumos in Capitol Hill. This large venue does its part to host local bands, as well as larger alternative music acts like the Yeah, Yeah, Yeahs and The Shins. You may also want to head into the Moore Theatre, which is the oldest operating theatre in Seattle. Catch a show from the likes of Patti Smith, Ben Howard, and Soundgarden. The Moore is also just a few blocks away from the famous Pike Place Market and Puget Sound if you want to show off your grunge-cool band T-shirt amongst the throngs of tourists.

Austin, Texas

week 34_1_Guitar against a Brick Wall

When a city calls itself The Live Music Capital of the World, you best believe you’re in for a vacation full of music as husky as the Texas BBQ. There are over 250 live music venues throughout the Austin area, and asking a local for the best one in town is sure to incite passionate rants. Still, you can usually find what you need on the one of the most popular stretches of town: Congress Street. Home to the Continental Club, The Elephant Room, and the Paramount Theatre, this avenue has a ton of animated spots. Cruise down Sixth Street to uncover another hot area filled with small bars and music clubs. As far as famed venues go, you can’t miss the Moody Theatre, where the Austin City Limits show is taped each year; The Hole in the Wall, which maintains a dive feel right next the University of Texas campus; and Stubb’s Bar-B-Q, where you can order smoky ribs before heading to the outdoor stage. Whether you’re rocking a cowboy hat or hipster suspenders in the crowd, you can’t beat Austin’s music scene.

Los Angeles, California 

Everyone in Los Angeles is split in half. Half waiter, half actor, half retail salesperson, half musician, and so on. This is a city of dazzling promise, with the biggest entertainers in the country calling the area home. When it comes to venues, you can usually stick with the biggest ones around. Check out the Staples Center, which hosts huge acts like Paul McCartney, Lady Gaga, and Snoop Dogg. Does the name seem oddly familiar? The Center is also home to the GRAMMY’s and other huge events throughout the year–complete with red carpets and one-hit wonders posing for their close-ups. Prefer a venue that’s more gritty? Check out The Wiltern, which often features acts like Bush, The Growlers, and Ryan Adams. While you’re in town, you may also recognize the Greek Theatre, which was featured in the movie “Get Him to the Greek.”  Luckily, it’s not just Russell Brand and Jonah Hill who love this joint. This outdoor theatre has been around since 1929 and puts on a wide variety of music, like jazz, indie rock, and reggae. Word to the wise: Remember to leave for any LA show early; bumper-to-bumper Los Angeles traffic is just as aggravating as they say.

New York City, New York

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Name a music genre and if it didn’t start in New York, it blew up in New York. From hip-hop to disco to salsa, the City that Never Sleeps has a loud soundtrack. The Big Apple has every type of theatre you can imagine, but if you’re looking for the biggest, you can’t miss Madison Square Garden, where artists like Jay-Z and Barbara Streisand have played. The historic Apollo Theatre is also worth a visit and still showcases blues, hip-hop, and soul. Radio City Music Hall is another favourite, with bands like Arcade Fire and singers like Madonna putting on stunning performances. For small to mid-sized venues, don’t discount Bowery Ballroom on the Lower East Side or Death by Audio in Brooklyn. Both intimate spaces put on shows sure to rattle your rib cage. That being said, you don’t have to go to a venue to catch a show; musicians often play in the subway stations and on the trains themselves.

If you’re someone who picks vacations based on concerts, don’t put off a holiday to The States. Whether you want big sounds and big hair in Texas or gritty tunes and holey band T-shirts in Washington, this is a music tour you won’t want to miss.

Which city is your favourite place for live music?

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About Author

Jennifer Cuellar

Jennifer Cuellar is a writer, an avid explorer, and fan of all things Games of Thrones-related. When she’s not sipping tea in a café by the beach, she’s off writing about wondrous cities you simply have to visit. From mountain peaks to downtown streets, there’s a world of adventure waiting to be explored. She spotlights top cities to tour, which attractions you’ve got to see, and off-the-beaten path activities to try during your next vacation. Let’s go travel!


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