1. O2 Academy
Situated right behind the Colston Hall, the O2 Academy is one of Bristol’s most popular and spacious live music venues. The venue has played host to a number of UK and international artists, bands and DJs over the years and hosts a regular indie and rock club night called Ramshackle. Upcoming gigs in 2019 include Young Fathers, Fun Lovin Criminals, White Denim and Maribou State.
2. Colston Hall
In a city that, surprisingly, lacks a stadium venue, the Colston Hall offers world-class music across a range of genres. One look at the names that have played here is enough to demonstrate how highly a gig at the Colston Hall is regarded in the industry. Everyone from David Bowie to Atomic Kitten, Ozzy Osborne to the Osmonds has played here while artists as diverse as Michael Buble and Joy Division have enjoyed the special vibe at this venue. The Colston Hall is undoubtedly the place to see classical music in Bristol and also plays host to the city’s annual jazz festival.
3. The Old Duke
Situated right in the heart of Bristol’s historic Welsh Back area, a stone’s throw away from Bristol Bridge, the Old Duke is the bastion of Bristol’s jazz and blues scene. Named after Duke Ellington, this pub shares its street with some of the best bars in town and is known for its eclectic programming and authenticity (this is more music venue than pub). The Old Duke was named as one of twelve other venues that had made the most important contribution to UK jazz music in 2009 by the Brecon Jazz Festival.
4. Zed Alley
Started by local band Hooper, Zed Alley has a rough and ready low-fi feel and hosts an open mic and band nights. Literally underground, this Cavern style club has brilliant acoustics thanks to the tunnels it’s set in, there’s a reasonably priced bar, an eclectic lineup of bands and upcoming events and a brilliant vibe, combining to make this the best-kept secret in the city.
5. The Golden Lion
Keep walking up the Gloucester Road and you’ll eventually come to a pub called the Golden Lion. With the kind of authenticity that most bars would give half their profits for, this lively venue is all about live music and has become something of a landmark thanks to its sprawling mural and non-stop roster of bands, artists and other live performers playing every day of the week. Hosting every type of live music from open mic nights to blues, funk, rock, electro and old crooners, this is a venue that feels genuinely local and authentic thanks to its loyal clientele and great community spirit.
6. The Canteen
The Canteen has divided opinion since it first opened its doors in 2009. Some accuse it of helping to gentrify the Stokes Croft area, whilst others love its mix of live music and really great food. There’s no doubt that the Canteen is right at the heart of the neighbourhood. Housed in the unlovely Hamilton House and with free entry and a different live act every night of the week, this much-loved venue hosts everything from jazz and funk to soul and indie with special events and an ever-changing, responsibly sourced menu that is worth the visit alone.
No list of the city’s music venues would be complete without Thekla, Bristol’s most recognisable left field venue. Though not as out there as in its heyday when it opened as a cabaret theatre, this metal hulled former German ship is now a live music venue, permanently docked in Bristol’s docks just behind Queens Square. A unique and legendary venue, Thekla is always worth a visit from the top deck smoking area with its amazing views over the city to the lower decks where all the sweaty, noisy action happens. Check out the venue’s history page on their website to see just some of the brilliant acts and artists that have graced Thekla’s stage over the years (and that’s not including the hundreds of DJs who have performed there).
8. The Louisiana
The Louisiana has been a springboard for bands as diverse as the Chemical Brothers, Scissor Sisters, Super Furry Animals and Florence and the Machine, this tiny 140 capacity venue which is family run has become a place of pilgrimage for fans from all over the country eager to see great bands before they make it big. The venue also features as one of the eight venues for Bristol’s Dot-to-Dot festival.
9. St George’s
Maybe it’s the superb acoustics or the general atmosphere of calm appreciation, but St George’s has become one of the go-to venues for folk, roots and world music acts and other less energetic bands who like the reverent atmosphere that this beautiful church offers. The venue plays host to an excellent classical programme but spans a range of musical genres with plenty of family-oriented events. The garden pavilion extension is another exciting space and there’s a decent cafe bar.
10. The Fleece
How could we live with ourselves by not including the legendary Fleece in this line up of live music venues? Wander around the corridors of this long-established gig venue and you’ll see just some of the legends that have graced its stage, from Ed Sheeran to PJ Harvey. The venue is tucked away in a side street just around the corner from Bristol Bridge and is an absolute must visit for every music lover visiting Bristol.