The 20 Best U.S. Cities for Live Music


We're in the business of live music. After all, we sell tickets to a lot of concerts across America and we know a thing or two about all the hot music scenes.

We wanted to determine THE BEST cities in the U.S. for experiencing live music, the cities that are better than the rest, the places in which live music fans get the absolute most enjoyment.

To determine the best cities for live music, ClickitTicket compared the 100 most populated U.S. cities and only considered the city proper in each case and excluded cities in any surrounding metro area.

Methodology

The specific criteria we used to whittle it down to the top twenty includes the following:

  • The number of live music venues the city has
  • The number of concert tickets sold in the city per year for the last two years
  • If the biggest names in music (A-list acts) usually include the city on their tour itinerary
  • The number of A-list acts that performed in the city over the last two years
  • The number of concerts held in the city every year
  • Online sentiment of the city's music offerings
  • If the city has both small intimate music venues and larger ones too
  • How receptive and active the city itself is in attracting musical acts
  • The diversity of musical genres offered in the city's venues
  • The number and quality of music festivals the city offers

What follows are the best cities in the U.S. to enjoy live music. Each city offers unique musical experiences that you'll enjoy to the utmost. Whether moving there or simply visiting, each city on our list is a musical destination on its own.

 

Albuquerque

Albuquerque is one of those cities that's big enough to host the biggest names in music but with a hometown tradition that showcases a wide range of local and regional artists. Venues like the Sunshine Theater and Isleta Amphitheater provide much atmosphere and drive for Albuquerque's bustling music scene.

You probably know many of the bands and artists who have played here – Brad Paisley, Alice in Chains, Foreigner, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Tech N9ne, Iron Maiden. And there's a slew of acts you've never heard of but could if you make plans to visit New Mexico's largest city and drink in the southwest hospitality in the many clubs, cantinas and theaters.

The Best Venues in Albuquerque

Isleta Amphitheater
Popejoy Hall
Sandia Resort and Casino
Sister Bar
Route 66 Casino
Sunshine Theatre
Tingley Coliseum
Launchpad Night Club

The Best Music Festivals in Albuquerque

World Music Festival
Summerfests
¡Globalquerque!
Albuquerque Folk Festival

Congo at Globalquerque in Albuquerque

 

Austin

With the University of Texas right here in Austin, you can be assured of nightlife and a music scene that never fails to excite and entertain. From country greats like Tim McGraw to the smooth sounds of Chick Corea to the crunching metal of Judas Priest, Austin is one of those cities that truly has it all when it comes to live music.

And don't forget Willie Nelson's 4th of July Picnic at the Austin360 Amphitheater, a must-play event for a huge list of top entertainers. The 2019 lineup includes Willie (of course), Luke Combs, Steve Earle, Alison Krauss, the Casey Kristofferson Band and a lot more.

The Best Venues in Austin

The Continental Club
The Mohawk
ACL Live At The Moody Theater
Austin360 Amphitheater
Wells Fargo Center - PA
Bass Concert Hall
Antone's Nightclub
The Rusty Mule
The Roosevelt Room
Skylark Lounge
The Little Longhorn Saloon

The Best Music Festivals in Austin

Austin City Limits Music Festival
Austin Reggae Festival
Fall Pecan Street Festival
Austin Sky Lantern Festival

Austin City Limits Music Festival in Austin

 

Boise

If you're thinking that because Boise is on the smaller side of our best cities for live concerts that not much goes on there, think again. You'll find a bunch of local and upcoming talent across a wide range of genres stirring it up in bars, clubs and theaters. Then there's Taco Bell Arena, a 12,000-seater on the Boise State University campus, where you can hook up with the biggest acts with the biggest shows.

Musical artists love to play Boise, and some who already have and are scheduled to soon include Jai Wolf, Elle King, Debbie Gibson, The Offspring, Colin Hay and Dawn of Ashes. Whether you're into rock, country, jazz or classical or anything in between, you gotta check out the Boise music scene.

The Best Venues in Boise

Neurolux Lounge
Morrison Center For The Performing Arts
Knitting Factory Concert House
Idaho Botanical Garden
Moon Time, Coeur D’Alene, ID
Taco Bell Arena
Cider
Egyptian Theatre - Boise
The Olympic - Boise

The Best Music Festivals in Boise

Treefort Music Fest
Boise Music Festival

 

 

Boston

Boston is well-known for its sports teams, but it's just as well-known for its tremendous music scene. “Beantown” spawned the 1970s supergroup Boston and another supergroup that's still going strong today, Aerosmith. Food and music go together in a huge number of smaller venues throughout Boston's historic neighborhoods. And with all the colleges and universities in Boston, the live music scenes is thriving.

Then you've got TD Garden with 18,000+ seats, and the world-famous House of Blues across the Charles in Cambridge. You know the names who have played here: Donna Summer, New Kids on the Block, The Cars, Brian Wilson, Slayer, Foreigner, Wu-Tang Clan and, of course, Aerosmith, Boston and just about every other musical icon. When you experience the Boston music scene, you'll know why they say there's nothing else like it.

The Best Venues in Boston

TD Garden
House Of Blues - Boston
Rockland Trust Bank Pavilion
Agganis Arena
Wang Theater At The Boch Center
Orpheum Theatre - Boston
Paradise Rock Club
Berklee Performance Center

The Best Music Festivals in Boston

DayWave Music Festival
Boston Calling Music Festival
Boston Hip Hop Fest
Outside the Box Festival
Boston Summer Arts Weekend

Aerosmith at the TD Garden in Boston

 

Charlottesville

Are you into live country music? What about classic rock, oldies, metal, bluegrass and anything else that has instruments and singers? Then you need to touch down in Charlottesville and drink up the city's vibrant music scene. At the Southern Café & Music Hall, you can dine on delicious fare while enjoying a huge list of indie bands and up-and-comers both local and from far away.

Other memorable shows are happening at John Paul Jones Arena at the University of Virginia, a 14,000-seater that's hosted the likes of Willie Nelson, Miranda Lambert and Alison Krauss. Virginia is happening, and Charlottesville is the best place to start your journey.

The Best Venues in Charlottesville

John Paul Jones Arena
Sprint Pavilion
The Southern Cafe & Music Hall
Ntelos Wireless Pavilion
The Jefferson Theatre
Paramount Theater

The Best Music Festivals in Charlottesville

Summer Fest
Charlottesville Chamber Music Festival
Lockn' Music Festival

 

Chicago

The music scene in Chicago is everything anybody could wish for. Leading the charge is world-famous blues in venues of all sizes dotted throughout the city. Blues legend Buddy Guy is one name that stands out as helping put Chicago blues on the map. Beyond the blues, there's every kind of rock, pop, jazz, indie, country and punk you can imagine.

If you're into big events, the annual Millennium Park Summer Music Series features more than 10 free concerts mid-June through mid-August. Lollapalooza brings four summer days jam-packed with a gigantic list of top-name and regional performers across all genres. Who might you see in Chicago? The Who, The Rolling Stones, Slash, Ariana Grande, Death Cab for Cutie, Lil Wayne, Kacey Musgraves, Snoop Dog – they're all part of an ongoing lineup that's literally too big to count.

The Best Venues in Chicago

Aragon Ballroom
Lincoln Hall
The Southgate House Revival
metro
The empty bottle
House Of Blues - Chicago
Allstate Arena
Hollywood Casino Amphitheatre - Tinley Park
Reggie's Music Joint
Des Moines Civic Center

The Best Music Festivals in Chicago

Lollapalooza
Pitchfork Music Festival
Chicago Blues Festival
Chicago Open Air
Ravinia Festival
Riot Fest

Lollapalooza

 

Cincinnati

For a wide range of genres including hip hop, indie rock, garage punk, pop and old and new rock, make sure to stop off in Cincinnati for a day. Or two or three. From smaller venues like Arnold's Bar & Grille, established in 1861 but ultra-modern today, to spacious places like PNC Pavilion, you'll get more than you came for when you check out your favorite acts and bands all over Cincinnati.

Who plays this riverfront city? How about Rob Zombie and Marylin Manson, for fans into heavy, dark sounds? Or Buckethead, if amazing guitar work is your thing? Or Carrie Underwood, for lovers of all that's laid-back and tuneful? And this is just the tip of the iceberg in Cincinnati's many hot music venues.

The Best Venues in Cincinnati

Arnold's Bar & Grille
Bogart's
The Southgate House Revival
The Jazz Club at Schwartz’s Point
The Southgate House Revival
Riverbend Music Center
The Ludlow Garage
Taft Theatre
Riverfront Live
Cincinnati Music Hall

The Best Music Festivals in Cincinnati

Bunbury Music Festival
Cincinnati Urban Music Festival
MidPoint Music Festival
SummitFest
Cincy Blues Fest
Bellwether Music Festival

 

Fort Lauderdale

From laid-back to formal, from hot local bands to the biggest names in the music industry, Fort Lauderdale's music scene is jumping all year long. Large venues such as American Airlines Arena, Pro Player Park and Seminole Hard Rock Hotel are easy to access and feature ongoing shows packed with excitement for people of all musical tastes.

Fort Lauderdale is so much more than spring break destination, it is a music-lover's destination. If you thrive on fun in a musical and bustling beach community, this is the city to head to for a full music schedule with acts like Ariana Grande, Korn, Evanescence, Tom Jones and Judas Priest.

The Best Venues in Fort Lauderdale

Hard Rock Event Center At The Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino
Revolution Live
Blue Jean Blues
Broward Center for the Performing Arts
Culture Room

The Best Music Festivals in Fort Lauderdale

Tortuga Music Festival
Sandz Caribbean Music Festival
Riptide Music Festival

 

Houston

Houston is steeped in authentic country sounds, as you would expect from Texas' largest city. But don't let the cowboy hats and boots fool you. This metro area is well-known for bringing to town the top names in the music business from all genres. Ariana Grande, Jennifer Lopez, Tiffany, New Kids on the Block, Debbie Gibson, ZZ Top and many more spectacular acts are the norm for the Houston music scene.

From small bars, clubs and music halls to Houston's premier concert (and sports) venue, the 18,000-seat Toyota Center, you'll have a lot of fun in this city taking in all the music that drives your world.

The Best Venues in Houston

Warehouse Live
The Music Box Theater
Pro Player Park
House of Blues - Music Venue
Continental Club
The Secret Group
Mo's Place
Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion
White Oak Music Hall
Toyota Center

The Best Music Festivals in Houston

Free Press Summer Fest
Day for Night
The Texas Taco Tequila & Music Festival
Heat Wave Music Festival

New Kids on the Block at the Toyota Center in Houston

 

Louisville

Kentucky is known for bluegrass music, and you'll find plenty of it in Louisville. But you don't have to stop at bluegrass. Louisville's music scene is big and bold, offering something for everyone across all genres and styles, in intimate clubs and halls as well as major arenas.

From Fourth Street Live's “Hot Country Nights” series to big shows at the KFC Yum! Center and the Louisville Palace, you won't have any trouble hooking up with your favorite styles of music. Names that have toured through Louisville include Jamey Johnson, Hozier, Tool, Cody Johnson, Rob Zombie and Buckethead.

The Best Venues in Louisville

Louisville Palace
Mercury Ballroom
KFC Yum! Center
Headliners Music Hall - KY
The Tiger Room at Trixie's
Iroquois Amphitheater

The Best Music Festivals in Louisville

Forecastle Festival
Bourbon & Beyond
Louder Than Life
Blues, Brews & BBQ Festival

 

Minneapolis

When you're up Minnesota way, you'll see some of the top names in the music industry at the many happening music venues in Minneapolis. It may be known as a cold-weather city, but the sounds bursting from its convenient clubs and large concert halls and arenas are blazing hot. First Avenue and The Varsity Theater are known for hosting more national acts than just about any other smaller venue in the city.

Minneapolis is a music-lover's dream. If you want to go big, the Minnesota State Fair and the Xcel Energy Center won't disappoint. Come to Minneapolis and enjoy musical artists like Chicago (the band), Pink, Cher, Hozier and Jennifer Lopez.

The Best Venues in Minneapolis

The Armory - Minneapolis
Xcel Energy Center
First Avenue
Skyway Theater
Icehouse MPLS
Varsity Theater
7th St. Entry
Palace Theatre
Northrop
Dakota Jazz Club

The Best Music Festivals in Minneapolis

Rock the Garden
Soundset Music Festival
Basilica Block Party
Stone Arch Bridge Festival

 

New Orleans

Just say “New Orleans,” and you've said just about everything possible about live jazz, rock, blues, country, Cajun and every other kind of music. In the Big Easy, it's all about nonstop entertainment and all the collateral celebrations you can handle to make your stay here more than memorable. One of the city's biggest draws is the New Orleans Jazz Festival, running every spring since 1970.

Recent artists to appear include John Fogerty, Jimmy Buffett, Stevie Wonder, Pearl Jam, the Neville Brothers, Paul Simon and Snoop Dog. No, they're not all jazz musicians, but this is New Orleans, where things are always done a little differently. And if you're a massive live music fan, you may want to consider retiring in New Orleans.

The Best Venues in New Orleans

House Of Blues - New Orleans
Southport Music Hall
The Fillmore - New Orleans
Smoothie King Center
Saenger Theatre - New Orleans
UNO Lakefront Arena
The Civic Theatre
Tipitina's
Preservation Hall

The Best Music Festivals in New Orleans

New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival
French Quarter Festival
Voodoo Music Experience
Essence Festival
Satchmo SummerFest
Bayou Boogaloo
Ponderosa Stomp
Crescent City Blues & BBQ Festival

STP at the Voodoo Music Experience

 

New York

Describing the live music scene in New York would be like describing the music scene for an entire country. If it's anywhere, it's in New York City. All day, all night – something tuneful is going on in the city's hundreds of musical venues ranging from holes in the wall to world-renowned showcases like Radio City Music Hall and Madison Square Garden, which for most artists is considered the venue to book on their national and international tours. (Elton John has played the Garden more than 50 times; Justin Bieber sold it out in two hours.)

When you avail yourself to all-things-music in New York City, the world truly is your oyster. For musical performers, New York can be a career-making stop. Like “Old Blue Eyes” Frank Sinatra sang, “If I can make it there, I'll make it anywhere.”

The Best Venues in New York

Rockwood Music Hall
Terminal 5
Bowery Ballroom
Music Hall at Snug Harbor
Town Hall Theatre - NY
Radio City Music Hall
Mercury Lounge - NY
Carnegie Hall
Mercury Lounge
Barclays Center
Madison Square Garden
Brooklyn Steel
Forest Hills Stadium
The Apollo Theater

The Best Music Festivals in New York

Governors Ball Music Festival
Panorama Music Festival
Afropunk Festival
Electric Zoo
Mountain Jam

Paul McCartney at Madison Square Garden

 

Phoenix

The entire Phoenix region is a hotbed for rock, blues, jazz, country, hip hop and pop music. Here you'll see all the big names as they make their way through Arizona including artists like Tiffany, Good Charlotte, New Kids on the Block, Ariana Grande and Breaking Benjamin. Many truly iconic names have played Phoenix: The Rolling Stones, Willie Nelson, Paul McCartney and Jennifer Lopez, to name just a few.

Concerts in this desert city come in all shapes and sizes, from out-of-the-way music halls and bars to big venues like Talking Stick Resort Arena with 18,000 seats just waiting for you to sit in one of them.

The Best Venues in Phoenix

Talking Stick Resort Arena
Music Hall At Valley Bar
The Crescent Ballroom
The Rebel Lounge
Comerica Theatre
Rhythm Room
The Van Buren
Ak-Chin Pavilion

The Best Music Festivals in Phoenix

Urban Splash Music Fest
McDowell Mountain Music Festival
Phoenix Lights
The Phoenix Salsa/Bachata Festival

 

Pittsburgh

Are you into famous names like Peter Frampton, Sammy Hagar, Mariah Carey, the Drifters, David Crosby and Night Ranger? Or maybe discovering new bands, local talent and diamonds in the musical rough is more your style. Either way, Pittsburgh has you covered with great shows every day at clubs, cafes and bars as well as theaters and larger venues such as PPG Paints Arena and the giant Heinz Field.

The Pittsburgh music scene is like no other. Musical acts that have showed their stuff on the Pittsburgh music scene include The Who, DMX, Evanescence, John Mayer, Iron Maiden and many more covering all musical genres.

The Best Venues in Pittsburgh

Howlers
Stage AE
The Rex Theater
Mr Smalls Fun House
PPG Paints Arena
Club Cafe

The Best Music Festivals in Pittsburgh

Pittsburgh International Jazz Festival
Bow Ties and Sundresses II: Summer Music Festival
Instrumental Collaborative Piano Festival
First Choice Wine Festival
Overnight Camping at Bluegrass Festival

Taylor Swift at Heinz Field

 

Raleigh

Noted for having the most music in North Carolina, Raleigh is rocking all year long with a wide sampling of artists and bands from all musical styles and backgrounds. Residents and visitors enjoy performances in sprawling arenas, concert halls, small playhouses and quirky dives that only locals know about.

Looking for names you know? How about Paul McCartney, Bryan Adams, Earth, Wind & Fire, The Charlie Daniels Band and Travis Tritt? They've all brought down the house here. Plus, there's a never-ending roster of up-and-coming local and regional bands. From the huge, 19,000-seat PNC Arena to eclectic smaller venues like Abbey Road Tavern & Grill and Lorraine's Coffee House, it's easy to pack your schedule with the kinds of music you love the most.

The Best Venues in Raleigh

The Ritz - Raleigh
Red Hat Amphitheater
Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts - Meymandi Concert Hall
PNC Arena
The Lincoln Theatre - Raleigh
Coastal Credit Union Music Park at Walnut Creek

The Best Music Festivals in Raleigh

Groove in the Garden
Hopscotch Music Festival
Dreamville Music Festival

 

San Antonio

Big-city excitement with a downhome flair – that's the perfect description of the live music scene in San Antonio. The number of concerts and acts flowing through the city keeps growing with a kaleidoscope of genres from blues and rock to country and hip hop.

Here you'll enjoy an always-evolving schedule of indie bands and local artists on the way to making it big as well as the national artists you've been dying to see like Ariana Grande, Carrie Underwood, Wiz Khalifa, Violent Femmes, Dwight Yoakam and other major players. From the intimate Aztec Theatre to the 18,000-seat AT&T Center, it won't take you long to get into the groove and enjoy musical entertainment like only San Antonio can deliver.

The Best Venues in San Antonio

AT&T Center
The Aztec Theatre
Boneshakers
Luna
Sunset Station
Vibes Event Center
Paper Tiger
The Rock Box - TX

The Best Music Festivals in San Antonio

The Texas Taco Tequila & Music Festival
San Antonio Water Lantern Festival
Mala Luna Music Festival
Big Salsa Festival Concerts

 

Tampa

No matter what kinds of sounds you dig – hard rock, soft rock, easy listening, country, blues – when you get into Tampa, you'll find them all. Tampa is a hub for live music within its many clubs, bars and theaters along with Amalie Arena that holds almost 20,000 music fans.

A wide range of musical styles populate Tampa's concert calendar at popular venues like MidFlorida Credit Union Amphitheatre at the Florida State Fairgrounds, Red Star Rock Bar and the Brass Mug, a little, ferocious dive bar that's known as “Tampa Bay's music core.”

The Best Venues in Tampa

MidFlorida Credit Union Amphitheatre At The Florida State Fairgrounds
The Crowbar
The Ritz Ybor
Brass Mug
Red Star Rock Bar
Orpheum
The Capitol Theatre
Amalie Arena

The Best Music Festivals in Tampa

Sunset Music Festival
Tampa Bay Margarita & Music Festival
Uptown Music Festival
Righteous Rockers Outdoor Music Festival

Zac Brown Band at the MidFlorida Credit Union Amphitheatre in Tampa

 

Tempe

You know something pretty spectacular is going on in a city when you have concerts with the likes of The Rolling Stones, Jennifer Lopez, Paul McCartney, Willie Nelson and Carrie Underwood. Well, that's the type of entertainment you'll get when you come to Tempe. Sprawling stadium shows, intimate bars and clubs, and everything in between, all featuring an amazing selection of artists from every genre.

In all, Tempe boasts more than 40 exciting music venues that crank up the heat (not that Tempe needs any more heat!) as you enjoy long nights year-round checking out all the musical styles that rock your boat.

The Best Venues in Tempe

Marquee Theatre - AZ
Tempe Center for the Arts
Yucca Tap Room
Tempe History Museum

The Best Music Festivals in Tempe

Innings Festival
Arizona Aloha Festival
Pot of Gold Music Festival
Tempe Festival of the Arts

Kendrick Lamar at the Pot of Gold Festival in Tempe

 

Tucson

With its large population of students from the University of Arizona, it's no wonder the music scene in Tucson is always swinging. And it's no trouble finding a venue with the style of music you love and the ambience that's just what you're looking for.

There's the solar-powered Sky Bar Tucson and the all-ages club The Rock for more intimate experiences, and the Rialto Theatre and the AVA Amphitheater for larger concerts. Bands and acts that have touched down in Tucson include Good Charlotte, Jenny Lewis, Vanilla Ice, Coolio, The Bash and Insane Clown Posse.

The Best Venues in Tucson

Tucson Music Hall
191 Toole
Anselmo Valencia Tori Amphitheater
Sky Bar - Tucson
Rialto Theatre - Tucson
Centennial Hall - AZ
Club Congress
The Rock

The Best Music Festivals in Tucson

Tucson Sky Lantern Festival
HOCO Fest
Tucson Folk Festival
Dusk Music Festival

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