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Seattle has a rich and varied music scene. It is justifiably known for the grunge sound of the 90's and bands like Nirvana, Pearl Jam and Soundgarden, but in the last decade there have been a number of significant breakout indie artists from Seattle including Death Cab for Cutie, the Shins, Fleet Foxes, Band of Horses and, recently, Head and the Heart. There continues to be a great indie rock scene but there is also a very robust alt-country roots scene, new soul revival, and thriving hip hop community. The focus of this article is to highlight some of the many live music venues around Seattle that showcase rock, roots, soul, hip hop etc. The venues listed here are all in the downtown core (Downtown, Belltown) or in close in neighborhoods (SoDo, Capitol Hill, South Lake Union, East Lake, the University District, Fremont and Ballard) with the exception of one significant newer venue located in Columbia City.
Most of the venues below are in the immediate vicinity of Pike Place Market except that the Paramount is about a half a mile up Pine and Highway 99 Blues Club is about .2 miles below the market on Alaskan Way.
The Showbox is a historic 1939 venue that has a lot of great live music bookings. It has a capacity of about 1000. They are strong on rock, indie-alternative and have also booked some impressive world music talent. The Showbox has another venue in SoDo (see below) and they cosponsor events in other venues like the Paramount, the Triple Door, the Crocodile, Neumo's, WaMu Theater and even Key Arena (all below),
The Hard Rock right across from Pike Pl Market downtown that has regular live music on their second floor stage.
The Triple Door (in the same area) has a gorgeous table seating mainstage with eclectic bookings. There is often also music the adjoining Musiquarium lounge.
The co-owned Moore and Paramount are beautiful historic spaces that periodically eclectic offerings but periodically put on rock and other popular music shows. The Paramount was a originally an opulent movie theater built in the late 1920s. It's current seating capacity is about 2800. The Moore was built as a playhouse in 1907. It has a capacity of 1400.
The Highway 99 Blues Club on Alaskan Way at the bottom of the Pike Hillclimb (across from the aquarium) showcases blues, honkey tonk, country and rockabilly.
Belltown is the area directly north of the heart of downtown Seattle and Pike Place Market bordered by Denny on the North. There is some disagreement locally about its exact boundaries but for the purpose of this article both venues are within two blocks of one another, on Second Ave., between Blanchard and Battery.
The Crocodile, perhaps most famous for its role in the grunge scene, briefly closed its doors a few years ago but was promptly resurrected. A few years back Paste Magazine included the Crocodile in its list of the 40 top music venues in America. They have a packed calendar of indie rock and more.
The Rendezvous/Jewel Box Theater has a wide range of offerings including theater burlesque and live music. There is live music up to five nights a week and the offerings range from country/roots to singer songwriter, folk, rock and punk.
The area around Seattle Center (home to amongst other things the Space Needle and Experience Music Project/Science Fiction Museum) just north of Belltown and Downtown, host some of the biggest music festivals in Seattle including Bumbershoot and the NW Folklife Festival (which has a strong live music component). There are two classic music venues in the area.
The Funhouse specializes in harder rock and punk including surf/skate rock and even some garage/rockabilly/punkabilly influenced bands.
The Vera Project, an all ages space on the Seattle Center grounds has a reputation for quality shows and they tend to get a fair number of buzz worthy up and coming Pacific NW/Seattle bands.
Experience Music Project doesn't have shows frequently enough to really be considered a live music venue but they will have shows on their SkyChurch stage periodically and other times they are a participating venue for festivals like Bumbershoot.
Key Arena is Seattle's former NBA arena and will periodically host the biggest internationally known artists like Radiohead, the Black Keys, LMFAO, and Madonna.
South Lake Union
If you see references to these clubs being Eastlake neighborhood venues that is misleading. The venues are on Eastlake Ave E, on the West side of Interstate 5 but they are all between Denny and Mercer, south of Lake Union. The Eastlake neighborhood is the area between the East shore of Lake Union and the North end of Capitol Hill.
El Corazon is the biggest player of the South Lake Union venues. They have a very full calendar that is mostly rock. This description of the range of music is from the website: "Rock N’ Roll. Punk Rock. Indie Rock. Hardcore. Metal. Sweater Rock. Emo. Math Rock. Experimental. Post Punk. Electroclash. You name it."
The Black Lodge. An "secret" venue with a number of hot shows is in the same building as LoFi Performance Gallery (which has live music itself in addition to DJ sets) accessed through a separate unmarked door. They don't have a website but their shows will show up on local music websites listed below.
Neumo's is the largest venue on Capitol Hill (650-700 capacity) and one of the most influential in town with top level talent. The billings are diverse with hip hop, electronica, roots rock, indie rock and more all possible. It is the successor to the influential Mo's Mo'Roc'N Cafe. They have a separate basement venue as well.
Chop Suey has a cool kitschy Asian decord and hip crowd but they offer comedy nights and DJ dance parties, not just bands. However occasionally they have some pretty intriguing shows.
The Comet Tavern is another characteristic venue. It is a total dive of a place but has character. They have a full calendar with shows every night or two. Their website is not showing all the shows but check out the music calendar sources listed below. The music can range from indie rock to metal or punk to roots to singer songwriter. Something is going on with their website. The Myspace page blog has a calendar.
Ballard is in the next band of neighborhoods north of downtown. It is a little more than 5 miles north of downtown and north of the ship canal. The venues below are all on historic Ballard Ave. except for the 2Bit, which is just off the bottom of Ballard Avenue on Leary near the Ballard Bridge.
The Sunset Tavern is a small but hip venue with a retro Asian feel. They have a full calendar with eclectic offerings but indie rock will be most common.
The Tractor, is one of the top venues in Seattle and in fact a few years ago Paste Magazine included the Tractor as one of the country's 40 best music venues. The Tractor attracts local and national talent with a focus on roots/country/americana, new folk and singer songwriter. They also host Seattle's yearly Shake the Shack Rockabilly Ball.
Conor Byrne is the successor bar to the famous Owl in a location that has been a tavern for over 100 years. They offer live music a number of nights a week. Like the Tractor they focus on roots, country, americana, new folk and singer songwriter. Recently Conor Byrne has acheived some press for helping launch The Head and the Heart but other emerging stars from Seattle like Bryan John Appleby, Damien Jurado and Pickwick are known to frequent the bar.
The 2Bit Saloon is a divey joint that has a really decent albeit small back room with a stage. They focus on booking punk, all kinds of metal and hard rock.
The High Dive is a great small venue in a funky part of Seattle with a wide array of bookings. They have quite a bit of indie roc/ indie pop/power pop, but they'll have metal, hard rock, roots rock, country/americana and more.
Nectar Lounge. The offerings here are eclectic also -- there could be reggae, hip hop, americana or hard rock but they do a lot of reggae and hip hop. It is one of the most reliable places in Seatle to catch hip hop apart from festivals.
The University District
The Neptune. A new STG property in a former historic movie theater. The Neptune, like the Paramount and Moore, does not exclusively book bands but the have been offering a very exciting lineup heavy on solid Seattle and NW talent.
Blue Moon Tavern is another Seattle icon. It has been a U.District fixture since the early 1930s and has a strong countercultural and literary associations. They have live music three times a week (Thursday through Saturday). The offerings are all over the place but could include funk, classic rock, instrumental/jazz and more.
Cafe Racer in the U.District is a small venue but they have a pretty intriguing set of bookings with a fair amount of quiet indie, roots and improvizational sessions.
The Shobox SoDo is a larger venue with capacity of around 1500 with a wide variety of shows from pop to roots to metal.
The WaMu theater is the largest venue in town short of an arena show with flexible capacity of 3000 to 7000. They probably have an event every two weeks to a month.
A bit further south is Studio 7 a venue that features in the hardest punk and metal.
Down on the South side of town in the fun and hip Columbia City neighborhood there is a new-ish but significant live music venue, the Columbia City Theater which has become influential in the Seattle music scene. They regularly get some of the best talent from Seattle and beyond and have benefits, special shows and the like.
There are free music shows all year round in Seattle. These might be on the beach at Golden Gardens in Ballard, the Harbor Steps downtown, the Seattle Center's Mural Ampitheater or at some of the summer neighborhood festivals. At the clubs and bigger venues most music requires an admission charge (although there are often free shows to be found around town). Depending on the venue and artist admission can range from $5 or $10 to as much as $60-$75. Most of the smaller club venues are going to be in the $8-$12 range. The bigger venues with nationally known touring bands are more likely to run from $25-$30 and the biggest name artists playing at venues like the Paramount or WaMu Theater will have tickets up into the range stated for premium seats.
A lot of the venues listed above are bars so they are strictly 21+ for admission. However other venues have all ages shows where they segregate the bar, hand stamp etc. There are some all strictly ages venues like the Vera Project. Check the show listings to be sure.
More up to date information on listings, prices, show information and recommendations and reviews check out the following
You can usually filter results to the weekend, live, rock etc and on Seattle Weekly you can definitely pick neighborhoods.
If there are bands that look interesting most have official website, bandcamp, myspace or other links.
The following blogs and websites are also helpful to give you more information about bands and shows: