Legendary American Live Music Venues

Good live music can transport you to another place—let you de-stress and just get lost in the rhythm and beat. From giant stadiums to intimate clubs, the U.S. is filled with live music venues, some of which have reached legendary status. Whether this status is for amazing natural acoustics, like those found at metro Denver’s Red Rocks Amphitheater, or historical infamy, like The Fillmore in San Francisco, these American venues are famous for putting on a great live show.

Highlights
1805 Geary Blvd
If walls could talk, you’d be stuck in conversation with the Fillmore for hours. The building was a dance hall when it opened in 1912 and a roller rink during the 1940s, and led its first concerts in 1952 with artists like James Brown and Ike & Tina Turner. But in the mid-1960s, the venue really had its moment. Concert promoter Bill Graham made the ballroom a hub for psychedelic music and brought would-be legends like the Grateful Dead, Big Brother and the Holding Company, Jefferson Airplane, and Santana to the stage. Needless to say, there’s history here. Learn it best by attending a show. The standing-room-only ballroom still brings in big-name artists—think Lorde and the 1975—at budget-friendly prices, along with a constant stream of smaller acts. There’s a full-service restaurant and a bar, and the vibrant collections of old photos, artwork, newspaper clippings, posters, and billings will school you on the club’s colorful past.
18300 W Alameda Pkwy, Morrison, CO 80465, USA
Just outside of downtown Denver, Red Rocks Amphitheater is the only naturally-occurring acoustically perfect amphitheater in the world. Since it first opened in 1941, it has been home to iconic music performances, from opera to rock. The stage is flanked by two 300-foot orange sandstone monoliths, like sails in the sky. During the day, fitness junkies run up and down the 69 rows of seats. If this is a feat you’d like to tackle, just make sure to take precautions since you’ll be at 6,450 feet above sea level. There are also hiking and biking trails nearby where you can discover some of the flora and fauna of this uniquely situated park where the Great Plains meet the Rocky Mountains.
726 St Peter, New Orleans, LA 70116, USA
Preservation Hall occupies a worn Creole town house that was originally built as a home in the early 19th century, and that had evolved into an art gallery and performance space by 1961. (It was founded by a man of philanthropic bent who fretted that the great, aging New Orleans musicians no longer had a place to play.) It hasn’t changed much since the ‘60s—audiences cluster on benches or stand along the back wall to hear whomever is playing that night. Among the glories of New Orleans is traditional jazz, which is still very much alive here and never feels as if it belongs in a morgue—or even an intensive care unit. Check the schedule for upcoming acts, but don’t get hung up on specific performers; every night offers something worth stopping by for, and everyone leaves in a better mood than when they arrived.
116 5th Ave N, Nashville, TN 37219, USA
After the Grand Ole Opry left the Ryman Auditorium, country legend Roy Acuff said the redbrick building with its Gothic arches and stained glass windows might as well be torn down. The Ryman had been home to performances and broadcasts since the 1940s, but it was in poor condition and lacked air-conditioning and proper dressing rooms. Fortunately, its legacy as “The Mother Church of Country Music” prevailed and, after years of sitting practically empty, the auditorium was renovated and began hosting shows once again. Originally built as a church, the grand hall has spectacular acoustics and a lingering magic in its pews from all those years spent witnessing country music history. A trip here is practically obligatory when visiting the Music City.
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