Some believe that it’s music that makes the world go round, and certain live music venues give meaning to that. Housed in former churches and dance halls, these iconic live music venues commemorate their local histories and represent the spirit of their neighbourhoods. If you happen to be in one of these cities, why not drop by for a gig.
The 100 Club, London
This West End venue started as a swing club in the 1940s before it became known for live jazz acts, then later, punk and rock. At one point in the ’70s, there was even a Chinese takeout hidden inside the club. The club’s red walls with big lettering spelling out “100″ have also welcomed “secret” performances by major acts including the Rolling Stones and Alice Cooper, and sometimes hosts comedy shows and dance classes.
The Bowery Ballroom, New York City
Like many Lower East Side buildings, this grand three-storey Beaux-Arts structure on Delancey Street which supports up-and-coming and established artists has seen many iterations. It was built as a theatre in 1929 just before the Stock Market Crash and abandoned until after World War II when it became a retail store, then jewellery store, shoe store and lighting and carpet shop. In 1998, it was converted into the Bowery Ballroom, now a popular live music haunt.
Vicar Street – Dublin
Thomas Street is known for St. James’s Gate, where Guinness is brewed, but this Dublin street is also famous for another reason. Live music venue Vicar Street is easily recognisable as the red-brick corner building on the street and the mammoth space inside seats over a thousand people and about 1,500 for standing shows. Since it opened in 1998, stars such as Bob Dylan, Ed Sheeran and Lana Del Rey have all performed here.
The Fillmore, San Francisco
It wouldn’t be a stretch to say that no other building encapsulates the spirit of Fillmore Street – a historically working-class and ethnically mixed area of San Francisco – than the Fillmore. Built in 1912 as a dance hall, it later became a roller rink. In 1954, Charles Sullivan, an African-American businessman, started booking bands at the venue. By the ’60s, it became known as a centre for psychedelic music and counterculture and has hosted Janis Joplin and Jimi Hendrix. The live music is a little more mainstream these days though the past is celebrated in vintage psychedelic posters.
Preservation Hall, New Orleans
This is the quintessential New Orleans jazz hall. Located in the buzzing French Quarter, the crumbling yet charming two-storey wooden-board building began as an art gallery in the ’50s. The owner, art dealer Larry Borenstein, lined up jazz bands to play, and the live music eventually drew more crowds than the art. In the ’60s, Allan Jaffe took over the management and booked local jazz musicians, many of whom were living in poverty. Today, Preservation Hall is run by Allan Jaffe’s son, Ben Jaffe, and it’s as hopping as ever.
Wieliczka Salt Mine, Krakow
The Wieliczka Salt Mine in Krakow, Poland gives a whole new meaning to the term “underground club”. Tourist hotspot by day, come evening, this 700-year-old salt mine turns into a live music venue. People venture more than 300 metres underground for the concerts and the mine has hosted big names in the classical music world such as Oscar-award-winning Polish composer Jan A. P. Kaczmarek. It’s especially lively during the New Year’s Eve event when it hosts choirs and operas from around the world.
The Bluebird Café, Nashville
The baby-blue awning and glass-walled shopfront look humble enough, but the Bluebird Café is where some of the most renowned songwriters come to take centre stage. Here, on a little stage inside the café, they perform country music – as well as pop and rock – hits that they have written, but that artists get credit for. In 2012, the café also made an appearance on the drama series, Nashville.
King Tut’s Wah Wah Hut, Glasgow
Known simply as King Tut’s, this snug Glasgow venue – it holds just 300 people – is where many big-name bands got their start. In 1993, The Verve, Radiohead and Oasis all played here, and it was during this time that Oasis was discovered during a live gig and signed onto the record label Creation. These days, King Tut’s continues to host up-and-coming musical talent, but it also serves great burgers and makes their own King Tut’s Lager.
The Roxy Theatre, Los Angeles
The Roxy celebrated its grand opening on the Sunset Strip in 1973 with a three-night performance by Neil Young. Over the decades, it drew rock, punk and metal acts and though it has mellowed down a bit, the Roxy is still the place to go for a fun, unpretentious night out in West Hollywood. In 1986, Guns N’ Roses recorded live in the Roxy, and in 2011, Sum 41 shot a music video here. It’s not just live music though; there are also live comedy nights and performance art shows.
Since the former 19th-century church became Paradiso in 1968, it has seen many different types of worshippers. Located in Amsterdam’s nightlife district, the massive concert hall hosted countless punk acts in the ’70s and raves and dance parties in the ’80s. David Bowie and Lady Gaga have performed here, though Paradiso is also known to support indie bands and as such remains a true alternative live music club.