Seattle is renowned for its fruitful and incredibly diverse music scene, which has birthed the likes of Pearl Jam, Jimi Hendrix, Modest Mouse, Brandi Carlile, Macklemore, Odesza, Nirvana, Chastity Belt, and Fleet Foxes, among others. And not only is the scene here exciting and vibrant, but there’s an abundance of venues in all shapes and sizes hosting concerts on the reg by both local and national talents, not to mention a range of bars that serve drinks and live music, and numerous clubs where you can dance the night away.
BARS AND VENUES
With us since 1934, the Blue Moon is dingy but well-loved, and pretty much everyone is welcome on its bar stools (Richard Hugo and Allen Ginsberg have even been on them). The place hosts a wide variety of local talent, from stand-up comedians to live music, almost every night of the week.
This is Seattle’s oldest bar, and it knows how to party. Famous for being where Nirvana played their first-ever Seattle show.
Chop Suey is a confusingly decorated music venue that has pinball machines, a photo booth, and a kitchen window from which to buy chicken and other fried delights. The venue also hosts an eclectic array of live music, from hiphop to metal to singer-songwriter types, almost every night of the week.
The Clock-Out Lounge is a bar-restaurant-club-venue hybrid and an absolute treasure in South Seattle. They book both local and touring acts in just about every genre, and they also have weekly drag shows and comedy and trivia nights.
The new and improved Crocodile is a 30,000-square-foot complex that includes three venues: the revamped 750-capacity Crocodile itself, the 300-capacity Madame Lou’s venue, and Here-After, a 100-seat comedy club and movie theater. There’s also a daytime cafe and cocktail bar, the Society, and the 17-room Hotel Crocodile. (JAS KEIMIG)
El Corazón and the Funhouse
Focused on hardcore, punk, screamo, and metal, El Corazón (“The Heart,” a reference to the fact that the space has been a live music venue, bar, or club since 1910) has a show nearly every single night. The beloved punk dive Funhouse has been resurrected in a second room and features more “intimate” head-banging bills.
This famous joint dispenses dinner service, cocktails, and world-renowned jazz and fusion acts for all who wander there. Hot tip: It’s also all ages, all the time (just not in the bar, sorry).
Offering a strange brew of live music, Nectar was built in 2004 and tends toward reggae, hiphop, bluegrass, and EDM in a nice, airy space, including a patio and multiple levels indoors.
Neumos and Barboza
Neumos is one of the hubs around which Capitol Hill rotates. Its main showroom is invariably packed to capacity as people dance or sway to the latest mega-hyped act to roll through town. Located in the Neumos basement, Barboza is a sweaty, intimate little shoebox-shaped room that hosts a wide range of up-and-coming local and touring talent.
Now nearly 100 years old, the Rendezvous oozes character and history.
Its decadent glamor is evident in its restored 1926 Jewelbox Theater, the Red Velvet Lounge, and its downstairs Grotto, thought to be the venue’s original speakeasy. The entertainment schedule includes comedy shows, weird music, karaoke, variety shows, and burlesque.
The Royal Room
A wood-bedecked space with great acoustics in Columbia City, the Royal Room made its name on jazz bookings (it is partially the brainchild of musician and composer Wayne Horvitz), but has since expanded into folk, world music, and multimedia events. Music booker Tish Gallow also produces tributes to prominent Black musicians, including A Tribe Called Quest, Prince, Queen, Whitney Houston, and more.
The Showbox is a great place to see a show, even when it’s sold out. There’s hardly a bad sight line in the house, it’s got two bars, and the room has the classic charm of an old theater. In 2019 it was granted landmark status by Seattle’s Landmarks Preservation Board.
Skylark Cafe and Club
Serving up plenty of traditional American food, weekend brunch, drinks, and rock ‘n’ roll. Their calendar also features trivia and drag bingo, and many events are all ages!
Slim’s Last Chance Chili Shack & Watering Hole
Slim’s has a great country-time roadhouse vibe. In the summertime, Americana, punk, and rock groups play on a covered outdoor stage in the big backyard while happy people lounge at picnic tables.
Sunset Tavern and Tractor Tavern
Dropping in on a quality live music set is easy in central Ballard, with the Sunset and Tractor down the street from each other. The Sunset is a former Chinese restaurant that’s now a fun, divey rock ‘n’ roll bar with live music across all popular genres, a photo booth, and friendly bartenders. The Tractor holds court just two blocks away, with gritty saloon-esque decor, tallboys aplenty, and the best selection of live local and national rock, pop, alt-folk, and blues in town.
The Triple Door
The Triple Door is the swankiest sit-down live music venue in Seattle—lush darkness and twinkling lights, an antique gold-framed stage with plush red curtains, and great semi-circular booths with table service from the Asian-fusion Wild Ginger restaurant. Upstairs, there’s the Musicquarium Lounge, a soothing grotto of a room with a giant fish tank, a great happy hour, and free live music or DJs nightly.
The Vera Project
Seattle’s “premier” all-ages venue, the Vera Project is a mostly volunteer-run, cathedral ceilinged hall next to the Seattle Center that plays host to local hotshots as well as nationally touring acts.
Century Ballroom is a big, beautiful performance hall that hosts an array of dance nights, covering everything from swing and salsa to tango and bachata. Don’t know the moves but still want to party? They offer free or cheap 30-minute lessons before most events!
With its high ceilings, mirrored bar, and vintage Cuban decor, Havana is airy and elegant, and they serve mojitos for as long as you want them. Every night has a different DJ, usually a good one, and themes include old-school 1990s on Tuesdays and house and party music on Wednesdays.
Monkey Loft is a surprisingly intimate cocktail bar and DJ venue, with an attempted industrial aesthetic and a destination vibe for dance music enthusiasts. Placing them above the competition is their “Deck,” an outdoor, after-hours patio with a fireplace, several seating areas, and pretty incredible skyline views.
Q’s interior is sort of like where you’d expect the cast of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine to party—a wavy collection of pillars and rounded walls in a cavernous but beautifully lit space with lights and a huge wall for visual projections. They also host world-renowned DJs, local house music talent, and have an all-around solid crew of resident spinners.
Just a five-minute walk down First Avenue from the aforementioned Monkey Loft is Supernova Seattle, a warehouse-sized dance club with dazzling decor and a calendar full of appearances from both up-and-coming and big-name DJs, drag queens, and the occasional surprise celeb guest. (Snoop Dogg stopped by in December and brought with him Warren motherfucking G!) DJs spin from inside an oversized mirror ball, aerial dancers hang from the ceiling, and balloons and confetti fill the air, and that’s just an average Saturday night. Even the entryway is exciting, lined with super Instagrammable mirrors and flashing lights. Worth noting: It’s only open 9 pm-4 am Friday and Saturday, with the occasional Thursday night party.
See even more dance club options in the Queer section here.