Answers from Our Experts (5)
Live music is abundant in Atlanta - be it blues, jazz, alternative or the Fox Theatre’s massive “Mighty Mo” organ.
If you’re a blues-lover, try out Blind Willies, named after the legendary Georgia songwriter “Blind” Willie McTell. The packed house is known as Atlanta’s finest blues bar where everyone tries to “keep the blues alive.” Reservations are not accepted. Expect local and national talents, including regulars like House Rocker Johnson.
In the quirky Little Five Points neighborhood, the Star Community Bar is a fun rock ’n roll dive bar with bass performances and celebrity guest bartenders. Enjoy comedy and variety shows at this off-beat bar.
For laid-back fare and smooth jazz and killer cigars, try Beluga Martini Bar. Enjoy comfy sofas, signature drinks and live music at this local Buckhead lounge favorite. The bar also serves beer, wine, liquor and champagne, in case jazzy martinis don’t suit someone in your party.
Atlanta’s oldest Irish pub, Limerick Junction is a transporting space. Relax in the dark-stained woods, live folk music, cold Guinness brews and tasty Irish classic dishes. This Virginia-Highlands haunt is a neighborhood landmark.
The historic Fox theatre is a premiere spot for live entertainment seating more than 4,500 people. From Broadway to rock music, the theatre also features “Mighty Mo,” the Fox’s priceless organ. Considered the theater’s crown jewel, it can whisper or bellow Beethoven like no other.
If you’re lucky enough to be in town over Memorial Day Weekend, you’re likely to catch the Atlanta Jazz Festival held at Piedmont Park in Midtown. One of the country’s largest free jazz festivals, you can also enjoy more than 100 of the best jazz performers during the entire month of May at metro venues. The festival features jazz legends, as well as a kids’ zone and a youth band competition.
The Atlanta Symphony Orchestra is a Grammy Award-winning ensemble that creates magical music. There’s no dress code, and you can jump in on a free concert preview on Thursday night before the subscription event.
In Midtown, famed Atlanta jazz club Churchill Grounds serves coffee specialties with its live music. The club is dedicated to featuring accomplished jazz musicians and finding the next Louis Armstrong.
You can sit in on a jam session at Café 290, a venue for mainstream and alternative jazz. Café 290 also features of paintings depicting jazz legends, so you can pair one art form with another.
Atlanta has a vibrant music scene that spans many genres (with special nods to country, hip hop and Southern rock) and boasts as many venues as any big city. To narrow down your options, five of the best places to hear live music are:
1. Chastain Park Amphitheater. This summer home of the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra is a lovely place to picnic while you listen to the ASO or the national recording artists who stop by during Chastain’s summer concert series. The calendar is weighted towards timeless favorites the whole family can enjoy — think James Taylor and the Beach Boys.
2. The Fox Theatre. Peachtree Street’s “fabulous Fox” draws both big-name bands and touring musicals to its historic stage. The only thing more impressive than the talent is the theater’s over-the-top Moorish architecture.
3. Eddie’s Attic. This small Decatur club gave a lot of famous voices their start, from Sugarland and the Civil Wars to John Mayer and Shawn Mullins. Some still drop in from time to time, though most nights feature lesser-known (for now) acoustic acts. Eddie’s serves food, but you may want to grab a pre-show bite at one of the restaurants that make Decatur a top Atlanta dining destination.
4. The EARL. East Atlanta Village’s hipster-haven EARL is the place to go for up-and-coming local bands and great burgers in an intimate space. Well-known indie artists from elsewhere — the Hold Steady, Blitzen Trapper, St. Vincent — pop up on the schedule too.
5. The Tabernacle. Built in 1910 as a church and infirmary, the Tabernacle was reconceived as a music hall for the 1996 Atlanta Olympics. It’s an atmospheric and acoustically gifted venue for catching very popular performers in a relatively small space.
If your idea of a good night out involves a few drinks and a live band or two, you're in luck — Atlanta is one of the few can't-miss cities below the Mason-Dixon line for touring musicians. Indie acts, Broadway shows and Top 40 headliners all make regular stops through the A. Here are a few of my favorite venues:
Terminal West. One of Atlanta's newest live music halls is also one of its coolest. Industrial details lend this West Midtown club a naturally hip vibe, and with 7,000 square feet, it's one of the few clubs I've ever been to that has more than enough space for everyone. When you need a breath of fresh air, head to the outdoor roof deck. It overlooks the historic train tracks that give this club its unique vibe. The acoustics here are fantastic, the drinks are strong and the bartenders are refreshingly nice.
The Earl. This East Atlanta Village mainstay is part restaurant, part dive bar and part music hall. Local and nationally touring musicians (plus a few comedians, here and there) regularly make appearances on the small and intimate stage in the back of the building. First time visitor? Just walk through the restaurant and down the narrow hall to the door on your left, and thank me later for making you look like a seasoned EARL veteran.
The Fox Theatre. The Fabulous Fox, as it's called, is an Atlanta landmark for plenty of good reasons: the Moorish architecture, its historic landmark status and, of course, an impressive lineup of Broadway shows, concerts, comedy performances and special events. Unlike most of the city's more casual venues, this is a place where you won't feel out of place if you dress up. In fact, doing so actually makes the experience that much better.
The Masquerade. Since 1989, The Masquerade has hosted a bevy of hard rock, indie, metal, punk and rockabilly acts on its three stages and in its outdoor music park. There's a certain playful grittiness to this venue, from its roots in the Old Fourth Ward neighborhood to the names of its levels: Heaven, Hell and Purgatory.
Piedmont Park. The picturesque urban green space in the heart of Midtown Atlanta turns into an open-air live music venue several times throughout the year. Music Midtown, the Atlanta Jazz Festival and the Atlanta Dogwood Festival provide some of the best opportunities to hear national and local musicians while enjoying the fresh air and pristine views of the city's skyline.
For chill live music, it’s JCT Bar. The Earl is where I’d go for a midsize venue, and for a little bigger show, I like Tabernacle and Variety Playhouse. I like those sizes a lot better than the bigger venues. I don’t like outdoor venues too much because of the sound.
From big-name artists traveling with an entourage, to unsigned acts, Atlanta’s longtime been a destination on many music tours. Our favorite haunts have charm that cannot be replicated.
Eddie’s Attic. John Mayer, Sugarland, and the Indigo Girls all have played at the intimate Decatur hotspot for live music, Eddie’s Attic.
Tabernacle. On any give night, the historic Tabernacle hosts some of the best performers in the country. Its stage has seen likes of everyone from comedian Lisa Lampanelli, to mainstream acts like Fun.
Variety Playhouse. Located in the very eclectic section of town known as Little Five Points (or L5P), the Variety Playhouse is a great place to see bands in an intimate setting. With both standing and theatre-style seats available, there’s not a bad seat in the house.
Fox Theatre. On the National Historic Register, the Fox is classic Atlanta and its more than 4,600-seat theatre is the premier spot to see everything from touring Broadway acts, to movies, and bands.