A great venue can help define its neighborhood or city. It becomes an integral part of the cultural fabric of a community. Of course, while music venues may come and go — or in the case of New York City’s iconic CBGB, see its name wind up on an airport cafe while its hollowed out remains serve as a clothing store — there are still plenty of stellar places committed to providing the best experience to fans and bands alike. To celebrate some of these culturally-defining havens, here are ten great live music venues, from dive bars to amphitheaters, that you should check out next time you want to take a trip in pursuit of musical inspiration:
9:30 Club – Washington, D.C.
The 9:30 Club took its name from both its original opening time of 9:30 pm, and its original address, 930 F St, Washington. First opening back in 1980, Nightclub 9:30 (as it’s now formally known) catered to bands at the dawn of the alternative movement before becoming synonymous with the D.C. hardcore scene of the mid-1980s. Foo Fighters’ leader Dave Grohl grew up worshipping at the altar of the club during those punk days, sneaking in for the first time at the age of 15.
After outgrowing its old location, it closed its doors on January 1st 1995, re-opening at its new location four days later. In the years since the move, the all-ages venue has hosted headliners from Bob Dylan to Adele, as well as secret shows from the likes of Radiohead and the Red Hot Chili Peppers. Moreover, acts ranging from Bad Brains to Josh Ritter and Psychic TV have all released respective ‘Live at the 9:30 Club’ albums over the years, helping earn it praise as one of the best and most musically diverse clubs in America.
The Hole In The Wall – Austin, TX
Opening in 1974, The Hole In The Wall has remained a staple of live music in a city that’s famous for it. The venue houses two stages, a smaller one tucked in the front window, and a more conventional setup in the rear of the building. It’s become known as both a stepping stone for new bands and a hotspot for Austin’s musical elite. Eclectic musical offerings aside, THITW also offers some of the best ‘you won’t believe this happened here‘ stories imaginable, including (but certainly not limited to) Don Henley surprising Mojo Nixon on stage for a spirited rendition of Nixon’s “Don Henley Must Die.”
News that the venue was facing a possible relocation from it’s iconic location prompted fans and patrons to circulate a petition in an attempt to save it. Later, it was announced that the venue had worked out a deal, and will continue to amass great rock and roll stories for at least a few more years.