Where to Catch Live Music in Seattle

From intimate indoor music halls to large-scale, outdoor amphitheaters, the city has a variety of venues for every type of concert and concert-goer.

Neptune Theatre
Photo by Christopher Nelson, courtesy of Neptune Theatre
Photo by Christopher Nelson, courtesy of Neptune Theatre

Seattle has more music venues than is possible to list in one go, and while that poses a logistical problem for this article, it also means that we are collectively spoiled for choice. As the unofficial capital of grunge in the 1990s, the home of Sub Pop, and the busking location of choice for a young Brandi Carlile, this town has seen more than a few musical acts rise to extreme levels of fame. That said, it’s also one of the best places to catch an indie rock show on a Thursday night with your buddies and bandmates in tow. Ahead, the best music venues in Seattle for huge celebs, humble newcomers, and every act in between.

Sunset Tavern
Photo courtesy of Sunset Tavern

Arguably Seattle’s best dive-bar-slash-venue, Sunset Tavern is the kind of spot where you can catch indie bands all the way from the east coast (Gustaf, Delicate Steve), plus a ton of local PNW acts (Tomatron, Sunbathe), most of which will only set you back 12 bucks. Décor-wise, this former Chinese restaurant turned music venue is just as charming and kitschy as you’d expect.
Where to eat and drink nearby: Hattie’s Hat, WeRo, Parish NW

The Crocodile has been through quite a bit of change in the last few years, most notably moving locations from their former spot (also in Belltown) to the old El Gaucho building, where they’ve now got multiple stages, a seated comedy club, and a 17-room hotel (apparently the likes of Bikini Kill and Radiohead used to play upstairs at the Sailors Union of the Pacific Hall). Most importantly, though, this is still the home of some of the best indie shows in town, so don’t let a new location scare you away.
Where to eat and drink nearby: Umi Sake House, Al Basha, Taqueria Cantina

Paramount Theatre
Photo courtesy of Paramount Theatre

Nestled in an almost-100-year-old theater that was originally christened the Seattle Theatre in 1928, the Paramount is appropriately lavish for the Roaring Twenties, and still sparkles with extremely intricate golden ceilings, multiple chandeliers, and an old-school stage complete with velvet curtains. You can catch some pretty big name acts here, but expect to pay accordingly for the splendor—and the sound.
Where to eat and drink nearby: The Carlile Room, Taylor Shellfish Oyster Bar, Kizuki Ramen & Izakaya

U District
Established in 1921 as a movie theatre (true locals may remember the 14-year streak of playing The Rocky Horror Picture Show once a week back in the ‘90s), the Neptune is probably the best spot to catch an indie band play a show in the U District. It’s also the host of the annual Seattle International Film Festival, amongst other arts and cultural events.
Where to eat and drink nearby: The Mountaineering Club, U:Don, Finn MacCool’s Irish Public House

Tractor Tavern
Tractor Tavern

Just down the street from Sunset Tavern on Ballard Ave, Tractor Tavern caters to the indie-twang aesthetic that we're hearing more and more these days from bands like Cut Worms and Half Stack, with cowboy boots hanging from the ceiling and thoroughly Western vibes all around. Local bands dominate here and much like Sunset, the shows are blissfully affordable and riotously fun.
Where to eat and drink nearby: Barnacle, Percy’s & Co., Ballard Pizza Company

Moore Theatre
Photo by Bob Cerelli, courtesy of Moore Theatre

Completing the trifecta of non-profit Seattle Theatre Group’s venues, Moore Theatre is steps from Pike Place Market, AKA, steps from one of the liveliest parts of downtown Seattle. Inside, this landmark 1907 building is less decadent than the Paramount, but just as historic and just as fun to catch a show while sitting in an old school movie palace seat.
Where to eat and drink nearby: Aburiya Bento House, Cloudburst Brewing, Jupiter Bar

Capitol Hill
Tucked away from Pike Street in the basement of its sister venue Neumos, Barboza is the kind of small club perfect for bands who can’t fill up a bigger space—like, say, Neumos—quite yet. Thus, it’s perfect for a spontaneous night of good music, and if you’re keen on busting out some moves, the $3 and Free dance parties are some of the easiest (and cheapest) ways to have a good time on Cap Hill these days.
Where to eat and drink nearby: Oddfellows, Via Tribunali, Havana

Photo courtesy of Neumos

Capitol Hill
Neumos may seem like a random gibberish name but that’s only until you learn the history of the venue, which, in short, involves Moe’s M’Roc’N Café and a relaunch in 2003 to New Moe’s (get it?). Nowadays, this spot hosts all the good indie bands you know and love in a prime Capitol Hill location that’s a hop and skip away from some of our favorite bars and restaurants.
Where to eat and drink nearby: Boat Bar, Pony, Linda’s Tavern

Capitol Hill
Though some may argue that Cafe Racer hasn’t been quite the same since moving locations from U District to Capitol Hill, this new era for a beloved mainstay of Seattle is shaping up to be just as delightful as the last. Come here for open mic night, comedy, karaoke, indie rock from locals like Megadose and No Cover, Sunday Jazz, or simply a very good drink.
Where to eat and drink nearby: Comet Tavern, Karachi Cowboys, Light Sleeper

Sea Monster Lounge
Photo courtesy of Sea Monster Lounge

U District
Jazz and funk are easiest to find in the U District at Sea Monster Lounge, a small spot on the main drag of N 45th Street that has free live music on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays. Subsequently it can get quite packed but usually in a fun, non-claustrophobic way.
Where to eat and drink nearby: The Octopus Bar, TNT Taqueria, Dick’s

This landmark jazz club, family owned and operated since 1979, is one of those bucket list places that’s played a defining role in Seattle’s music scene. Frequently playing host to some of the most iconic jazz acts of our time, Jazz Alley specializes in both legends and newcomers alike.
Where to eat and drink nearby: Wilmott’s Ghost, Mamnoon Street, Deep Dive

The Showbox
Photo courtesy of The Showbox

The Showbox has been a mainstay of the Seattle music scene since it opened in 1939 (hosting the likes of Duke Ellington, the Ramones, and Soundgarden), so much so that STG actually offered to buy it, in partnership with Historic Seattle, in 2019. It remains to be seen if the deal will actually go through but regardless, there’s plenty of good music to be had here in the meantime.
Where to eat and drink nearby: Old Stove Brewing, Maximilien, Alibi Room

The Triple Door
Photo courtesy of The Triple Door

A former vaudeville house turned movie theatre turned music venue, The Triple Door is yet another cornerstone of Seattle’s historic music scene located in the heart of downtown, just across from Benaroya Hall on Union Street. Swankier than some of its other counterparts, you can expect to have a sit-down, dinner-and-a-show kind of night here.
Where to eat and drink nearby: Ben Paris, Seattle Beer Co., Purple Café and Wine Bar

Substation is the truly no-frills watering hole for locals who love local music. A pretty tiny stage and dance floor make for an always intimate performance, and the neighboring combo of Bad Jimmy’s and Big Mario’s make for the perfect weekday (or weekend) night out.
Where to eat and drink nearby: Bad Jimmy’s Brewing Co, 4Bs, Big Mario’s Pizza

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Emma Banks is a contributor for Thrillist.