Best Venues for Live Music in Charleston, SC
By Amber Nolan
The power of live music is undeniable, and Charleston has many options for soaking in the sounds of indie rock, jazz, bluegrass, rap, jam bands, reggae, and many other types. While many venues on the local music scene are clustered in the downtown area, other terrific places to hear live music can be found throughout Charleston.
Larger venues like the North Charleston Performing Arts Center and the Music Farm showcase well-established, national acts on large stages that draw massive crowds, but a number of restaurants, bars, and lounges have also stepped up their musical entertainment. Some, like the Mill, Pour House, and Tin Roof have become go-to venues for locals with regularly scheduled performances.
Many bars also offer killer drink specials, pool games, darts, and lunch and dinner menus so you can grab a bite before - or after - the show. Boone's Bar has several levels of entertainment while the Windjammer has a beach location with volleyball and bikini contests in the warmer months. For a slower pace, swing by the Charleston Grill for live jazz music seven nights a week.
You can't go wrong with the Royal American or Tattooed Moose, two local favorites with a laid-back atmosphere, great beer specials and musical lineups. We've rounded up the 10 best live music spots in Charleston to help you get your groove on.
10 North Charleston Performing Arts Center
For more than 20 years, the North Charleston Coliseum has been bringing sporting events and musical acts to the lowcountry. This massive venue has 14,000 seats and showcases world-famous acts on the big stage. The South Carolina Stingrays ice hockey team call it home, but when they aren't playing, it has hosted the American Idol tour, America's Got Talent, jazz festivals and a slew of performers. At any time, you can expect a selection of musical acts like Cyndi Lauper and comedians like Lewis Black. Their "best of Broadway" offers incredible shows like the Jersey Boys - without the Broadway prices. (843-529-5050)
9 Boone's Bar & Grill
Conveniently located in middle King Street's shopping and restaurant district, Boone's Bar and Grill serves up dinner on weekdays, and both lunch and dinner on weekends. Menu options include handmade burgers, tacos, and specialty sandwiches. In the evening hours, Boone's is a very popular spot for students and young people out for a good time. With two bars, a multi-level space, live music in front of a 17-foot projection screen, and a generous outdoor patio, Boone's has it all. Boone's is a casual, laid back nightlife spot, with local and domestic beers on tap, nightly drink specials, and an extensive bourbon list. (843-577-6665)
8 The Mill
The Mill is North Charleston's premier music hotspot and is a chill, local's hangout. They continue to showcase the best of Charleston's live bands, and the music selection includes indie rock, punk, and fusion bands. While waiting for the music to start, check out darts, pool tables, bar puzzles and mega-touch video games. The bar serves a wide selection of beer, and is perfect for a casual night out with friends. The menu includes wraps, burgers, and salads - but don't expect anything fancy: most people come for the vibe, not the food. It's more like a living room tucked away from the mobs of tourists on King Street. (843-225-2650)
7 Charleston Grill
Those looking for jazz bars in Charleston, SC are delighted to discover the Charleston Grill. Although technically a restaurant, this elegant establishment offers live jazz music seven nights a week. Most evenings feature the smooth sounds of the locally acclaimed Quentin Baxter Ensemble, but on Sundays the beloved Bob Williams Duo plays. Guests can listen while enjoying a meal in the lavish dining room or a cocktail at the swanky bar. The extensive restaurant menu makes this ideal for "date night," with southern items like seared flounder and shrimp served with butter grits and gravy, or traditional dishes like ribeye and grilled salmon. (843-577-4522)
6 The Royal American
The Royal American can easily become your new go-to bar in Charleston. Strings of tiny Christmas bulbs provide some of the lighting, and one wall is made almost entirely of old National Geographic magazines. The menu includes homemade beef jerky, muffaletta sandwiches, Frito pie, and even a good ole' fried bologna sandwich. This bar has transformed from bring-your-own CDs to a regular live music venue (visit their website for the performance schedule), but be aware that most of the bands require a cover charge. A decent variety of beer is served in cans, tap, or bottles and budget diners will appreciate their brunch menu, with most items under $7. ((843) 817-6925)
5 Pour House
The Charleston Pour House is a fun hangout that schedules live music just about every night. Both local bands and national touring acts, play covers or originals, and anything from country to rock to reggae. Check out Metal Monday for live band karaoke. Bartenders are known for being entertaining and talented, and the crowd is not averse to getting' down on the dance floor. It's a great place to uncover new, undiscovered bands and hang out with the locals. In 2012, they celebrated their 19th anniversary! An open-air environment invites visitors, there is a great variety of music, and drinks are incredibly reasonable. (843-571-4343)
4 Tattooed Moose
Offering a cool, dive-y atmosphere, the Tattooed Moose is quickly becoming a favorite among Charleston locals. The bar's extensive beer menu includes drafts, bottles, and cans, as well as a healthy selection of craft brews. Happy hour specials on drinks and food run from 4pm until 7pm, Monday through Friday, and free live music kicks off every Tuesday at 9pm. Those in need of a late night dinner or snack (the kitchen stays open until 1am) can choose from great food options, including the famous duck fat fries and "duck club." Sunday brunch draws the crowds with bloody Marys, banana French toast, and a garbage plate - a true hangover helper. (843-277-2990)
Situated along the Isle of Palm's main drag, this beachside hangout boasts scenic views and a great party atmosphere. The Seaside Inn is located just next door if you need to crash, and the bar serves up burgers, sandwiches, and wings. Stick around for the live bands that perform on Friday through Saturday night at 10:30pm. Many bands regard the Jammer as one of the Southeast's top venues. During the summer months, there is music or some form of entertainment nearly every night, and things can get a little crazy! From beach volleyball tournaments to the summer bikini bash (sponsored by Budweiser), there's always something happening at the Windjammer, so head on over! (843-886-8596, 843-886-8948)
2 The Tin Roof
This 150-capacity venue hosts a variety of local and touring musicians and as well as open mic comedy, art shows, local artists and other special events. The little dive bar and "hipster" hangout also serves Sunday brunch and has cheap eats like burgers, sandwiches, and hot dogs. Try the Maple Leaf, a beef dog covered in maple-soy syrup, bacon, relish, and mustard. Mondays are movie night with happy hour specials all night, Tuesdays are double features, and Wednesdays are half-priced hamburgers. There are usually bands playing three to five nights a week, with outdoor seating and a wall mural of Willy Wonka adding to the anything-goes vibe. (843 571-0775)
1 Music Farm
From the enormous dance floor to the massive bar, this place continues to be Charleston's premier live music venue and offers local, regional and national acts (think Wu-Tang Clan, Flogging Molly, 311, Colbie Caillat, Grace Potter, and Badfish). Although you will find all age groups in this high-energy club, it remains primarily a 20-something crowd and weekends are especially busy. The cover charges change depending on who is performing, and the ticket office accepts cash only. After the show, many bands linger around the entrance for photos and autograph signings. Often, groups are just under the radar - but large enough to have a following around the US. You'll also find well-established bands who prefer a smaller venue. (843-577-6989, 843-722-8904)
About Amber Nolan
Originally from upstate New York, this restless traveler has a knack for befriending interesting characters. You can usually find her just about anywhere that has a hammock. Amber's favorite places are Iceland for its remoteness; Panama for its parties; and Peru for its history. Her work can be found on MSNBC.com, Frommers, and Sherman’s Travel, where she served as the Cruise Editor and Senior Producer. She is currently working on a comic novel about her shoestring travels as she hitchhikes on airplanes across the country in an effort to visit all 50 states. See Jethiking.com.
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