Talents Continue to Rock Seattle Stages Where Legends Once Reigned

The power of live music to make folks feel good is on full display at a host of Seattle night clubs. If listening to bands and vocalists show off their skills is how you like to spend an evening, you'll find that Seattle does things right. Multiple options let you tap into the venues that 10Best readers favor, like Showbox at the Market, just blocks from downtown's Pike Place Market, or you can get a taste of the city's offerings by visiting spaces like Neumo's, which is known for its rock music at a bustling location in Capitol Hill. While many venues on the local music scene are clustered in the downtown area, remember that terrific places to hear live music can be found all throughout Seattle. Popular neighborhoods north of downtown and Lake Union like Ballard and Fremont feature more intimate venues with smaller stages and friendly vibes.

Consider stopping by the Experience Museum Project by day to learn about the city's storied musical past. By night, plan a musical adventure that will introduce you to some of the scene's up-and-coming talents. To get a feel for current music offerings, pick up a copy of The Stranger or do research on helpful websites like Happy listening!


Showbox at the Market
Photo courtesy of Showbox

Although it's experienced a variety of incarnations, the Showbox today is a must-visit place to catch touring bands. Amid Art Deco columns, young and hip crowds clamor to hear and see their favorite groups. There's even a dance floor for them to show off their moves if the spirit strikes. Plus, several bars accommodate patrons with a good menu of libations. If hunger strikes, check out the Green Room for some Mexican-inspired pub grub. To be one of the first in the door, head to the Green Door (if you're 21 or older) before the show to enjoy food and drinks--and to get an earlier entrance. DJs play when bands aren't booked.

Paramount Theatre

Dating to the late 19th century, this venue has been restored to the glory it knew as a movie theater in the 1920s. These days, you can catch acts as diverse as Boyz II Men and The Head and the Heart to Sturgill Simpson and The Beach Boys, and there's even the odd speaking engagement, too (think beloved figures from Dr. Maya Angelou to Anthony Bourdain). Enjoy the sumptuous, gilt-edged surroundings as you take in a show. The ambience is decadent; for example, three million crystal beads adorn 218 chandeliers and light fixtures. If dancing is called for, the seating area quickly converts to a stunning hardwood ballroom floor. The "wow" factor here is definitely worth the trip!

Columbia City Theater
Photo courtesy of brianteutsch

Columbia City Theater boasts one of the most intimate settings for live performances in Seattle, in a charming neighborhood south of the city. Since the venue reopened a few years back, its gotten rave reviews and attracted a flock of loyal fans. Built in 1917 as the first vaudeville theater in the state of Washington, the venue played a major roll in the Seattle jazz boom of the 1940s, hosting stars like Duke Ellington, Ella Fitzgerald and Fats Waller. The theater then served as a neighborhood cinema during the '50s and, in the '60s, the establishment resumed hosting live events yet again. In recent years, highlight performances have included those by The Fleet Foxes, Everclear, Head and the Heart, Pickwick, Damien Jurado, Sera Cahoone, Ravenna Woods, Mikey and Matty, Campfire OK, Grand Hallway and Ivan & Alyosha. Concert goers can first enjoy drinks in the adjoining bar, where local ales, creative cocktails and small plates fill the menu.


An eclectic lounge hides behind this unassuming storefront off Wallingford's main strip on 45th Street. Featuring live music almost every night of the week, it promises a unique mix of jazz, soul, R&B, and blues. DJs fill the gaps on off-nights. With a fairly small stage, the club delivers an intimate listening experience and a chance to connect with performers. A limited but solid menu, helpful servers, and well-poured drinks increase the attractiveness of this neighborhood gem. Try creative cocktails like the Cucumber and Orange Soda or The Mermaid, a refreshing mix of raspberry stole, muddled lemons, soda and a splash of cranberry juice.

This small, recently-revamped, hipster music venue slash Flying Squirrel Pizza joint proves a favorite among locals for the comfortable atmosphere, ample seating, decently priced covers, and quality of shows by up-and-coming but still obscure rock bands. The stage here is low for a face-to-face experience. Early birds hang out in the sectioned-off bar area up front to enjoy food and drinks before or after the set begins. The drinks are great and the pizza is even better. Though Ballard has several options for catching live music, this is one of the more intimate and cozy, in our opinion.

Located at a thriving Pike Street intersection in Capitol Hill, this music club hosts awesome punk and indie-rock concerts and has attracted bands like Black Mountain, Vampire Weekend, Buckethead and The Reconteurs. The space was originally opened as Moe's Mo'Roc'N Café in 1994 and re-launched in 2003 under its current name. The venue prides itself on "an always relevant and carefully curated music calendar, outstanding light production and state of the art sound system." The digs accomodate 800 fans, mostly with standing space, but three bars and balcony seating are available, too. Next door, Moe Bar offers a chill space in which to enjoy food and drinks (and a daily happy hour from 3 to 7 p.m.).

This local institution is the place for true jazz lovers, and the "best of" awards it's garnered are proof of its quality and longevity. The elegant club offers specially created artwork and first-rate lighting and sound systems. Patrons dress for the evening, and many of them dine in the club's restaurant before they partake of the musical entertainment, which includes two sets nightly. A full service bar makes sure that you'll have a cocktail or glass of wine to add to the mellow atmosphere. Some of jazz's best talents have played here (Tito Puente, Branford Marsalis, Diane Schuur, and Cleo Laine), and aficionados always make the Alley a West Coast stop.

Fremont Abbey Arts Center
Photo courtesy of Corinne Whiting

Fremont Abbey Arts Center remains one of the city's biggest champions of local talent. In their own words, "Abbey Arts focuses on local music, contemporary dance, visual art, spoken word and storytelling," and show formats include multi-arts collaborative performances like The Round, a monthly showcase during which three songwriters share the stage with other musicians, a slam poet and a live painter. Other performances that come to the Abbey's intimate space--a stunning 100-year-old brick church building, originally St Paul's Lutheran Church--include close-up concerts, new dance performances set to live music, community gatherings like The Moth storytelling event (a must-see in our humble opinion), dance classes, plus a variety of workshops and "artistic life celebrations."

The Triple Door
Photo courtesy of Angela Sterling

Located in Seattle's historic Mann Building, this intimate and sophisticated award-winning music and dinner theater occupies the renovated space that formerly housed the Embassy Theater, originally a 1920's vaudeville house. The Mainstage, downstairs on the lower level, is an intimate candlelit spot with state-of-the-art sound and booths that offer clear sight lines to the stage. An Asian-fusion menu is provided by Wild Ginger restaurant next door, and the same cuisine is available upstairs in the Musicquarium Lounge, where live music, DJ sets, and the happy hour are legendary.

This beloved Ballard nightspot features a smorgasbord of impressive music on a weekly basis, and performances range from zydeco, bluegrass and country to rock, folk, jazz and beyond. In addition to great live music, the Tractor also offers a friendly, neighborhood vibe as well as local beers on tap. Completing the distinctly American scene are walls decorated with old tractor parts and farming implements, and cowboy boots dangle from the ceiling rafters. Cash only at the door; Visa and Mastercard accepted at the bar. Square dancing often happens on Monday evenings, accompanied by the music of the Tallboys, who often busk down by the Pike Place Starbucks.


Meet Corinne Whiting

Corinne hails from the other Washington, where she caught the travel bug early on. Corinne studied abroad in Strasbourg, France (undergrad) and in Edinburgh, Scotland (graduate school). She's...  More About Corinne