They say that music is the soundtrack to our lives so why wouldn’t that apply to our travels? You can hear the first few notes of a song and instantaneously be transported back to a time and place. Considering most people don’t go a day without listening to music, a city’s music scene is an integral part of its culture and therefore can be incredibly impactful in terms of a visitor’s experience. Whether you prefer a weekend long music festival, symphonies in state-of-the-art concert halls or simply some cozy crooners in the back of a bar, be sure to add these 6 cities to your bucket list for some killer live music.
Austin, TX – Live Music Capital of the World
You know you’re in the “Live Music Capital of the World” when even the grocery stores host live music. In fact, Central Market features live music three times a week, while Whole Foods Market hosts the “Music at the Market” series every Thursday evening in the spring. Texas’ capital city has produced amazing talent from the likes of Janis Joplin, Willie Nelson and Stevie Ray Vaughn. The city is home to an abundance of music venues like the early 20th-century Paramount Theater, the Moody Theater and famed Stubbs Bar-B-Q where musicians like Johnny Cash and Linda Ronstadt would play for their supper in the 1970s.
It’s nearly impossible to walk down 6th Street without hearing the echoes of acoustic guitar strings by every passing door. One of Austin’s highlights is undoubtedly its music festivals. South by Southwest (SXSW) and Austin City Limits (ACL) host an eclectic assortment of live musical talent from across the world. The city also supports two orchestras: the Austin Symphony and Austin Civic Orchestras, as well as the Austin Opera.
Add to your playlist: Folsom Prison Blues – Johnny Cash; Piece of My Heart – Janis Joplin; Devoted to You – Linda Ronstadt
Nashville, TN – Music City USA
They don’t call Nashville Music City USA and the Country Music Capital of the World for nothing. Nashville is home to the Country Music Hall of Fame, the annual four-day CMA Music Festival, and the Grand Ole Opry, a country music and variety show founded in 1925 and still recording live today at the historic Ryman Auditorium. Stroll down Lower Broadway and find that the world is quite literally a stage with daily performances at local bars and honky tonks like Tootsie’s. Visit songwriter haven Bluebird Café where the likes of Garth Brooks and Taylor Swift were discovered. While Nashville is known mostly as the U.S. hub for country and western music, it doesn’t stop there. The city is home to a huge rock-and-roll scene and East Nashville is an epicenter for indie acts as well.
Add to your playlist: Callin’ Baton Rouge – Garth Brooks; The Thrill Is Gone – B.B. King; Crazy – Patsy Cline
New Orleans, LA – Birthplace of Jazz
Let the good times roll in the Big Easy! You don’t even need to go to a venue to experience all the sounds that America’s Most Unique City has to offer. Simply step out onto streets to delight your ears. As the birthplace of jazz, music is engrained into the culture of N’awlins. Wander through the French Quarter on a Tuesday morning and you’re still guaranteed to find people playing in the streets. The city showcases everything from Cajun to the Blues to Hip Hop and everything in between. No city lives and breathes music quite like New Orleans where even funeral processions take to the streets with the “second line” and are turned into a brass band parade. Music is everywhere in NOLA and with festivals like Mardi Graz, Jazz Fest and VooDoo Music Experience happening almost every weekend, you won’t be able to miss it.
Add to your playlist: What a Wonderful World – Louis Armstrong; It Had to Be You – Harry Connick, Jr.; Ain’t That a Shame – Fats Domino
Chicago, IL – Midwestern Music Haven
The Windy City may have made its musical mark with its blues and jazz scenes (still flourishing, thanks to venues like Kingston Mines, Buddy Guys, and The Green Mill) but it also stays relevant with annual festivals, like the Chicago Blues Festival and Pitchfork Music Festival. Chicago is filled with classic theaters as well as modern clubs that host a diverse range of musical genres. The City of Big Shoulders has seen the rise of big name acts including Kanye West, Fall Out Boy, and Chicago. You may also have heard of a little music event in Grant Park called Lollapalooza, an annual festival which attracts visitors worldwide for three days of live performances from popular rock, hip hop and electronic music bands and artists.
Add to your playlist: Saturday in the Park – Chicago; Through the Wire – Kanye West; Sugar, We’re Goin Down – Fall Out Boy
Berlin, Germany – Techno Pop Capital
The capital city of Germany is one of the most significant cultural hubs on earth, with a unique blend of nationalities, ideologies and artistic movements. The techno movement hit Berlin in the 1980s and illegal party venues like legendary SO36 and Tresor popped up throughout the city in deserted buildings and basements that still stand today. Travelers from far and wide come to the music city to experience the entrancing blend that is Berlin and techno, partying to the beat from dusk until dawn. Given its cultural melting pot reputation, it shouldn’t be surprising that Berlin attracts an array of musical talent from all over the globe. Berlin’s live music scene showcases everything from punk and hip hop to countless jazz clubs and seven symphony orchestras. You are guaranteed to find something here for everyone.
Add to your playlist: Another Night – Real McCoy; Loved by the Sun – Tangerine Dream; Astronaut – Sido