13 Hip Live Music Venues To Visit In Seattle

July 6, 2015

Seattle, fondly nicknamed as "The Emerald City",  is known for a lot of things. It has earned the top spot of America’s “smartest city” list, and has become one of the world’s leading cities for start-up businesses, green industry and sustainable development.  And aside from its commendable green economy, Seattle’s unique identity and character can also be rooted from its noteworthy musical history. After all, it is the foundation of performing arts in the northwest, the nest of the earlier developments of jazz, and—of course—the home of grunge music.

Keep in mind, its thriving live music scene used to be the first-time stage of the world’s most notable artists like Nirvana, Soundgarden, Pearl Jam, Macklemore, Death Cab for Cutie, and the Jimi Hendrix.

Heading to Seattle? You might want to try these top live music venues to experience the real Seattle rhythm.

1. The Showbox

For almost seven decades, The Showbox has been catering 200 national and international diverse acts every year. The 1,100-capacity music venue can also accommodate all of its guests with party drinks in their two bars placed a few steps above the main floor. The range of artists they bring on stage stretches from the classics like Nat King Cole, to rap icons like Kanye West, or EDM legends Daft Punk, to pop stars like Lady Gaga. Its establishment gave a massive addition to Seattle’s already burgeoning music scene.

2. Columbia City Theater

This former vaudeville theater, which was built in the early 20th century, earned its credibility for showcasing quality live music by being the oldest of its kind in Washington. This literally underground music haven has witnessed the humble beginnings of legendary jazz powerhouses Duke Ellington and Ella Fitzgerald.  Since its re-opening in 2010, music-magazine SPIN named it as “the finest sounding room” in Seattle.

3. The Crocodile

If you are a huge hip-hop fan, you might find The Crocodile as your sanctuary. Opened in the dawn of 90s grunge music era before Nirvana became a household name, The Crocodile has  since transformed itself as Seattle’s most known stopover for everything hip-hop. REM, Death Cab for Cutie, and Macklemore are just a few of the numerous acts who filled and turned-up its cramped stages.

4. Electric Tea Garden

Living up to its name, Electric Tea Garden is a popular after-party rendezvous where its cool down post-rave party vibe is matched with electronic music. Rather than a rapturous strobe-lit atmosphere, this quasi-legal after-hours club surprisingly has an underground feel. This promoter of “all forms of DJ culture” is located along the busy bar strip of Pike Street. Every night, a specific type of electronic music is being played to cover both ends of this wide genre.

5. The Highline

The Highline in Seattle probably has the strangest combo to offer among all live music venues in the city since it is where both vegetarian and metal-heads feel the most at ease. Dubbed as the city’s epicenter of CVLT metal scene, The Highline’s vegan menu and homemade booze completes its overall package. This lair for the hardcore rockers doesn’t only promise the nights to be alive, but it also incredibly loud.

6. Q Nightclub

This is where strobe lights prance across the bouncy and lively dance floor, the electronic music place for dancing in the northwest—Q Nightclub. Grunge may be what Seattle’s music is most famous for, but thanks to this state-of-the-art multilevel lounge and nightclub, electronic music has soared to great heights in the city as well. Requiring no particular dress code to partygoers, Q is known for staging top caliber DJs and also their on-point drinks and cocktails.

7. The Royal Room

If you are looking for a laid-back place to dine-in or to have a chill drink with your friends on a weekend minus the loudness and the blinding lights, The Royal Room awaits you in the neighborhood of Columbia City. This “collaborative community space” hosts the best local and national touring jazz and blues musicians.

8. Tractor Tavern

Although it showcases a variety of live acts, Tractor Tavern, which is embellished with cowboy boots from the ceiling and cow skull on stage, is more known to be hold country and a bit of rock’n’roll acts. Located at the historic district of Ballard, Tractor Tavern has stood twenty years strong in celebrating “diesel music, drinks and dancing.” Every year, it is jam-packed with booked shows of local, national, and international acts.

9. Vera Project

Vera Project is not your typical music venue because it is a community movement that hosts weekly musical shows to music lovers of all ages. Run and managed by volunteers of all ages as well, Vera also offers hands-on education on the music industry. Their unique setup aims to transform the community through “collaborative, youth-driven engagement in music art.” Aside from music, Vera also offers programs like visual art exhibits, silkscreen printing/classes, and event production training. Because this intimate space is youth oriented, they don’t, however, serve alcohol drinks.

10. Barboza

If you want to spend your night with a few friends and a few drinks in a very intimate spot, Barboza is the place to be. Located at the nightlife hub of Pike St., Barboza has enough space for you to dance or discover new talents and emerging artists.

11. The Paramount Theater

One of the city’s pride and joy, The Paramount Theater began a grand movie house in the 1920s and since then became the concert venue of some of the music industry’s biggest names. Paramount is two-balcony theater with a 2,800 seating capacity. It is the most diverse venue in Seattle as it can hold broadway theatre, dance parties, concerts, comedy shows, family engagements, or jazz. Some of its notable performances include concerts by Pink Floyd, Madonna, and their very own Nirvana.

12. The Neptune Theater

For 90 years, The Neptune Theater witnessed the transformation of music and arts in Seattle. Originally built as a cinema, Neptune is now one of the city’s most popular multi-use arts venues, holding film screenings, comedy shows, and of course concerts from the broad spectrum of musical genre. It can accommodate up to 800 patrons with complete and brand new amenities. Just recently renovated by the Seattle Theater Group to maintain its legacy, Neptune still holds the elegance of the 20s.

13. The Triple Door

Started out as an underground burlesque house, by the change of management, Triple Door is now one of the best upscale venues for live music shows in Seattle. Designed with tiered booths and elegant lighting, Triple Door has been known to match their diverse and eclectic musical lineup with their Pan Asian food menu. To acknowledge its humble beginnings, Triple Door still showcases burlesque.  Classy venue with tasty food and commendable music performances, what more can you ask for?

Seattle’s richness in music guarantees locals and tourists to find the perfect place to watch live music acts. These venues come in all shapes and sizes, streets and corners, and in different storey. You are assured to find the one that would perfectly fit your taste!

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Ashley Thompson
A fun size lass born in rock and roll who dreams to become a rock star, or a world traveler, or both.
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