Live music in St. Louis is booming. Revived entertainment districts like Washington Avenue keep churning out new venues, while areas like the U-City Loop continue to expand. But it's not just quantity, it's quality and diversity. Local artists like Nelly and Erin Bode continue to turn national heads. Whether you're in the mood for jazz, blues, hip-hop or rock, St. Louis has the artist and venue to satisfy your musical mood. Here are a few top places to hear great live music in St. Louis.
Taking its name from an infamous riverfront saloon that once attracted steamboat captains and the likes of Mark Twain, the Old Rock House is today one of St. Louis' most attractive live music venues. Located in a beautifully renovated turn-of-the-century tavern, the Old Rock House is part southside bar, part restaurant, part swanky nightclub, part basement wine cellar, and many parts music hall.
Both the main floor and a mezzanine balcony offer great views of the stage, and a state-of-the-art sound system ensures everyone can enjoy the music, even those lounging in the cozy basement wine cellar. Top-notch local and national musicians play nightly, including an accoustic set that coincides with happy hour.
Photo © David O'Brien
Chuck Berry is still a rock star and he still rocks at Blueberry Hill almost every month. Seeing him perform in the Duck Room is a once-in-a-lifetime experience, and truly a St. Louis tradition that should not be missed. The Duck Room is also the place to catch many current rock star wannabes, both the best St. Louis has to offer and national acts.
Photo © David O'Brien
Joe Edwards, who also owns Blueberry Hill, did St. Louis a favor when he opened The Pageant in 2000. Built from scratch, The Pageant looks like a renovated art-deco theater. Its vibrant facade effectively extended the U-City loop by another block, and the nightclub filled a much-needed niche for a mid-sized venue for local and national rock acts. The main floor is like a large cabaret, with tables and chairs to the back, but room for those who want to stand and dance closer to the stage. A large balcony offers reserved seating, although the best place to be is standing at the railing. Acts include groups that are a bit past their prime, but still worth seeing, as well as up-and-coming bands that still fit best in an intimate environment.
Photo by Jim Monsour, courtesy BB's Jazz, Blues & Soups
A night at BB's is everything you'd hope for from a blues house. Exposed brick walls, great acoustics and some of the best blues this side of the Mississippi make BB's a great place to spend an evening. Cover charges are usually reasonable, especially considering the quality of acts BB's brings in and the proximity of your seat to the stage. There are certainly local blues bars that take pride in being more rustic, or more true to the back-room spirit of the blues, but BB's does the blues exceptionally well. And, as the name implies, it's nearly as famous for its soups. Those soups, and the rest of its menu, are definitely worth a separate visit for lunch, even when daylight's streaming in and the stage is empty.
Photo by Jason Greene, courtesy McGurks
McGurk's never seems to age or go out of style. It is arguably the most attractive Irish pub in St. Louis, with massive brick archways, decorative tin ceilings and elaborate woodwork that still looks brand new. But McGurk's has been churning out pints of Guinness and great Irish music for more than 20 years. Expect it to be packed most weekend nights with folks eagerly singing (or shouting) along to their favorite Irish drinking tunes and ballads. The bands are always top-notch groups straight from the Emerald Isle, and don't mind catering to rowdy crowds. For a more relaxing experience, catch a performance on a Sunday evening.