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The music is live and kicking at these awesome Orlando venues



What’s that Triumph sang about – the “magic power” of the music? Whether you've heard of Triumph of not, the sentiment holds true; and Orlando's certainly an ideal city when it comes to magic! Most people aren’t steadfast in their musical tastes. Jazz, blues, hip hop, soul, rock, country…. It just depends on the mood, really. So, what’s yours? Looking for a Disney-based haven where you can feed your tummy, sate your liver and enjoy live tunes with the kids? Check out Raglan Road, where two stages offer up two different live-music vibes and Irish dancers stomp nightly.

Feel like unearthing something special that many locals aren’t hip to just yet? Head over to Maitland for cool jazz, smooth wines and tasty tapas at Jazz Tastings, an unexpected oasis in an unassuming shopping plaza. Touring acts of all stripes hit Disney Springs’ House of Blues, a beautiful venue with great sound and multiple bars – but then, they also visit The Social and Will's Pub, two stellar venues held dear in the hearts of local music lovers. From the smoky “underground” jazz vault of downtown’s Tanqueray’s to the truly unique space of the Timucua Arts Foundation's White House, there are enough live music haunts in town to please everyone, whether your love of music was born of the Victrola, the Discman or the MP3.

 


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10
Downtown


Small, smoky and, if you like intimate spaces and great music sans pretention and expensive decor, kinda dive-bar sexy, Tanqueray's is an "underground" music venue where the drinks are cold and the horns blow hot. Wind your way downstairs and there's that feeling of immersion into music that's pure and free and primal. The place has big-city, film-noir essence, friendly staffers, inexpensive beverages and a devoting following. For some, it's the ideal appetizer for a night exploring Orlando's downtown. For others, it's a nightcap. Or perhaps a way to extend the revelry into the wee hours in the company of some spectacular local musicians.

Recommended for Live Music because: Live music and cheap drinks every night of the week. 'Nuff said.

A.D.'s expert tip: In keeping with the unwritten rules of dive, smokers are welcome. Sensitive nonsmokers will want to take note.

Read more about Tanqueray's →


9
Disney Springs ®


With live music on two different stages and Irish dancers every night of the week, Raglan Road really packs in the entertainment. And there's plenty of good food and cold drinks with which to enjoy it. Monday through Sunday you can stomp, clomp and kick up your heels (or, you know, just watch) with Raglan's talented dance troupe from 5 -10 p.m. Performances run every hour on the hour. On Sundays, the Rollicking Raglan Brunch Irish Dance Show fills in the morning/midday slot (noon to 4 p.m.) and the Celtic revelry continues through to 10. A number of bands grace the main and patio stages â€" the latter is a lovely place for an al fresco pint â€" between 7:30 p.m. and 1:30 a.m. For brunch, the music starts up at noon.

Recommended for Live Music because: Much as it is in Ireland's local pubs, RR's atmosphere melds a great bar with live music in a place that's suitable for the whole family.

A.D.'s expert tip: If you like a jig after a pint or two, this could be your place. Raglan Road features live entertainment every night of the week.

Read more about Raglan Road Irish Pub →


The Alley


Smoking-hot blues acts, both local and national, grace the stage of this long-standing Sanford standby virtually every night of the week to the delight of regulars and those still stumbling in to discover its welcoming and unpretentious vibe. Hungry folks enjoy it twice as much since the Alley is connected to town favorite, Fuel BBQ. Jam nights welcome walk-in musicians to the stage; reasonable drinks welcome everyone else. Motorcycle enthusiasts can be on the lookout for bike nights, as well. Dance and party with old and new friends or just sit yourself down with a beer and enjoy the dive-bar atmosphere and quality musicianship.

Recommended for Live Music because: Great, free music amid the festive, friendly atmosphere of Orlando's best Farmer's Market. It's a no-brainer.

A.D.'s expert tip: Burnt ends at Fuel BBQ: have them! This is a down-to-earth place for a party or a chill night out. If you're searching for upscale, look elsewhere.

Read more about The Alley →


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This unassuming but amazing little venue in the Milk District is a favorite among the arts community in Orlando, and lovers of live music in general. Its size ensures that no seat is a bad one. At Plaza Live, artists from Intergalactic to the Irish Rovers, Citizen Cope to Yngwie Malmsteen, Bruce Hornsby to Judy Collins to Travis Tritt, pack the place regularly, along with comedy shows and other events, including occasional food-truck gatherings in its parking lot. An on-site bar ensures all whistles stay wet on performance nights. Its undergone some renovations in recent years; those of you who haven't seen it in a while may be impressed by the upgrades.

Recommended for Live Music because: Plaza Live Orlando boasts a wonderfully diverse roster of performances and unpretentious, anti-club vibe (extra points for ample parking and a great location).

A.D.'s expert tip: Don't sweat parking! It's not something you often hear regarding venues near downtown, but Plaza Live has plenty. And get this: it's free.

Read more about The Plaza Live →


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Disney Springs ®


The acts that perform at Orlando's House of Blues run the gamut from metal to folk, rock to pop, country to â€" of course â€" blues and everything in between (and let's not even talk about its Sunday Gospel Brunch). HOB is an all-around incredible venue â€" wonderful sound, great atmosphere and home to the largest musical folk art collection in the world. Balcony seats afford birds-eye views but reasonable design â€" there are higher and lower portions on the first floor for better vantage points if you're not one for the proper "floor section" fray â€" are easily staked out. The sound is solid, as are the pours at the bar.

Recommended for Live Music because: Great sound? Check. Diverse acts? Check. Chuck in the phenomenal folk art, indoor/outdoor bars and Downtown Disney location and HOB is a five-way winner.

A.D.'s expert tip: Wanna stake out a great spot (especially if you're vertically challenged like me)? Come early. I like the rail by the first-floor bar. It's elevated, allows for leaning and gives you a place to set down a bag, beer or both.

Read more about House of Blues Orlando →




It's a common occurrence in the City Beautiful: you're minding your own business in some unassuming little shopping plaza and BOOM! (or in this case, the noise is a bit smoother, maybe with a little piano, some sax and some subtle, sultry vocal acrobatics) you unearth a small treasure you never knew existed. Such could be the case with Jazz Tastings, an intimate and cosmopolitan little hang tucked into the Village Plaza in Maitland. Live music six nights a week seduces customers, many of whom say they feel like regulars on their first night thanks to gracious staffers and owners who oversee the operation from end to end. A small menu of interesting tapas and rich desserts rounds out the experience, but the music and ambiance â€" and maybe a nice bottle of bubbly â€" would surely be enough to keep you in your seat for the evening.

Recommended for Live Music because: For being a hidden, jazz-laden gem the locals are still stumbling upon (and pairing it with nice light fare), Jazz Tastings gets the nod.

A.D.'s expert tip: The wine is fine and the tapas are tasty. Come hungry and sample. Their upscale version of chicken and waffles may hit a high note.

Read more about Jazz Tastings →




What's black and gold and red all over? If you're in downtown Orlando and don't know the answer, the joke is on you, because you're missing out on the Bosendorfer Lounge, one of the city's sultriest locales for cool martinis and even cooler live jazz and soul. It's a sleek, stylish hotel haunt. And whether it's the soothing tinkle of the piano for which it is named (a gorgeous instrument, one of only a handful in the world) or the strains of Latin or acid jazz serving as the aural accompaniment to your wine or cocktail, it's certainly one of the toniest bars in downtown to catch some live music. Friday and Saturday nights, from roughly 7:30 p.m. to midnight, give or take, you can do just that.

Recommended for Live Music because: If Michelle Pfeiffer needed a piano on which to croon and vamp in a slinky red dress, the smart money says she'd pick the Bosendorfer.

A.D.'s expert tip: The music continues on Sunday mornings, as well. Pop in for the jazz brunch and see why it's among Orlando's most lauded.

Read more about Bosendorfer Lounge →


3
Downtown
The Social


Consistently voted a favorite live-music venue by critics and locals alike, the Social's laid-back vibe, efficient barkeeps and relatively intimate space draw an eclectic crowd of music lovers, be it blues, folk, rock, metal, reggae... Really, anything goes. With quality sound and an unpretentious atmosphere, the Social hosts big-name acts along with local and regional favorites, making it an ideal venue not only to catch your favorite acts but discover new ones on the nights your live music craving won't go unsated. The Social also features regular and semi-regular genre-driven nights. Salsa Sundays, for example, feature DJ Frankie spinning salsa, merengue and bachata with an open premium bar for a flat cover. Salud!

Recommended for Live Music because: The Social is where locals catch hot nationals, old favorites and burgeoning bands from ska to speed metal.

A.D.'s expert tip: On a busy night, your best bet for a faster drink is at the second bar in the back.

Read more about The Social →


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Mills 50


Serving up drinks and live music to Orlando locals thirsty for both for 15-plus years, Will's is something of a petri dish for indie music, a come-as-you-are joint if ever there was that has played host to burgeoning acts of all stripes. Recent improvements to the joint have only bolstered its ability to musically baptize all comers. Bands love playing here. People love seeing them. And if you're looking for reasons to come by before showtime, how do pool, drink specials, 16 taps flowing with microbrews and free WiFi sound? Important to note: Will's Pub isn't just about touring acts; they also host open-mics, hip-hop nights, poetry slams and more.

Recommended for Live Music because: Will's Pub prides itself on a make-up of craft beer, booze, bands and billiards. A legion of loyal locals keeps them high on the list.

A.D.'s expert tip: For a mellower, smoke-free alternative, check out Will's Pub offspring Lil' Indies right next door. More great music to pair with beer and wine.

Read more about Will's Pub →


Timucua Arts White House


What happens when a world-class musician converts his beautiful downtown Orlando home into an amazingly intimate performance space Find out at the Timucua Arts White House, a beautiful, intimate venue that hosts musicians and artists from all over the world in, well, a living room. Yes, really. What's more, often these exhibits and performances come free of charge. This is a special venue, an exceptionally unique performance space that really showcases the incredible artistic reach of the Orlando community. Bring a covered dish or a bottle of wine to share and spend the evening amid the intimacy and warmth of this arts-driven city.

Recommended for Live Music because: Chamber. Jazz. Electronic. Latin. Funk. Classical. Experimental. You name it. The performers here are world-class and the venue is like no other.

A.D.'s expert tip: Get on the mailing list for a head's up on the well-known international, national and local talent on tap.

Read more about Timucua Arts White House →


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Meet A.D. Thompson

Amy Drew has spent nearly three decades as a professional writer and roughly half her life as a Floridian. The words, she has found, come easier with bare feet and rum.

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