Going to see live music in a big city like New York or Austin is a once in a lifetime experience.
But have you ever experienced an independent show in one of America’s lesser known music cities?
Some of the best music scenes are in places you may never have heard of. It’s these smaller markets that are growing fast. The rise of independent music venues with strong local support is changing the face of live music. To find out the best and most underrated cities in America for music, keep reading.
On this list, Portland represents for the Northwest. It’s the best indie rock spot despite the area’s other big city Seattle getting all the hype. It even ranks on the Metro Music Index for the highest number of music businesses and concerts. Bands like the Dandy Warhols and The Decemberists all got their start here. There are over 100 venues to choose from, so a music fan is spoiled for choice. For something really weird, check out the venue Dante’s Live. A live karaoke band, or Sinferno Cabaret’s fire eating strippers, it has it all.
The Triangle, North Carolina
The area that is called The Triangle is actually a trifecta of university towns well known for their contribution to music. It’s made up of Durham, Raleigh, and Chapel Hill. It has a music venue on every corner, with one of the most famous being the legendary Cat’s Cradle. One of independent music’s definitive labels, Merge Records, has its headquarters here. Festivals from every music genre also love the Triangle, one of the more recent entries is the hip Hopscotch Music Festival.
Coming in at number four on a list of the best cities for music fans is the Midwestern city, Madison. The home of Nirvana in the 1990s, not to mention the Smashing Pumpkins, it’s a safe bet for indie talent. There are underground labels who call Madison there home, such as Kind Turkey Records and Crustacean records. One of the great things about Madison is that it has some of the lowest ticket prices. For the best of the city’s talent, check out acts at the Orpheum Theater, the High Noon Saloon, and the Majestic Theatre. If you’re looking for a more refined atmosphere, try to attend the yearly Isthmus Jazz Festival.
The capital of Washington state, Olympia, is a town of only 50,000 people. Still, in the 1990s it birthed the feminist punk underground scene known as the “riot grrrl” movement. Independent labels like Kill Rock Stars and Bikini Kill are based in Olympia as well. Venues include Rhythm & Rye and Northern. If you want an authentic local scene, this is the city to be. It doesn’t get a lot of touring acts so most of the music you’ll see is 100 percent local. The one ticket to get is to Music on the Mounds. Its location is kept secret until you buy, and it benefits local musicians.