While Seattle has its share of midsize-to-large clubs like Neumos and the Showbox, and esteemed venues like the Paramount and the Moore, the smaller joints pack the most intimate experience. Here are our five favorite venues around town to catch a show and get up close--and not get lost in the crowd.
Renee McMahon Folks get down to Roy Kay at Ballard's Conor Byrne.
5. Conor Byrne: This cozy Irish pub in Ballard could just keep it simple with traditional music, but instead its nightly roster features some of the best of Seattle, including the Roy Kay Trio, Pablo Trucker, and Michael Vermillion. Its Sunday-night open mike holds the distinction of being the meeting place for The Head and the Heart.
4. The Black Lodge: For the Seattle DIY scene, nothing beats the Black Lodge, a BYOB venue
with PBR for sale out of a cooler. Its few scattered furnishings and tattered couches are worn and well-used, and when not hosting shows the space is a cooperative artist's residence. But the standing-room-only floor doubles as the stage, so when a band like Ravenna Woods headlines there, you're bound to be sweat upon, if not serenaded. Correction: Black Lodge does not sell PBR out of a cooler. That, according to the venue's management, is something that went on under the space's previous regime, when it was known as Holy Mountain. We regret the error.
3. Jewel Box Theater: This tiny theater tucked behind the Rendezvous in Belltown at its fullest can squeeze in maybe 75 lucky folks. Its website boasts it's been "entertaining Seattle since 1927" in one shape or another, and perhaps the secret to its longevity is its variety of bookings. On any given night you're likely to hear anything from indie rock to gothic punk, from up-and-coming local bands like Motopony and Sad Face to national touring acts like Wooden Shjips.
2. Cha Cha: It's usually just a Mexican-wrestler-themed watering hole, but when the Cha Cha puts on a show, it's going to be fun. This is the mecca of the Hill's hipster elite, and not without reason--it's centrally located on the Pike/Pine corridor, the tallboys are cheap, and their sound/booking guy is Kerry Zettel, who's in a bunch of Seattle bands (See Me River and Das Llamas) and started his own label (Aviation Records). So get in line if you know who's playing--the small basement venue here just can't hold everybody.
sachamaxim.com My Goodness rocking out at the Cha
1. Cafe Venus/Mars Bar: This little cafe/bar in Eastlake is known for its great brunch, but the atmosphere of its live shows is reminiscent of grunge-era Seattle: low ceilings and dim lighting, folks in baggy clothes slinking around, floors that may not have been cleaned in some time. Its bookings run the gamut, but every now and then a relic from grunge's early years will play here, like Rusty Willoughby of Flop and Gary Thortensen of Tad.