When you think live music in Seattle, you might think of mainstay clubs on Capitol Hill and downtown. But the city's also full of smaller, neighborhood gems hosting up-and-coming acts closer to home (and with fewer parking headaches).
If live music is on the docket, mainstay clubs on Capitol Hill and downtown are usually what come to mind. But on those nights when you’d rather stay closer to home or explore somewhere new, there are plenty of smaller neighborhood clubs tucked into Seattle’s sprawl. The cherry on top: These clubs offer stellar acts — without the commute, scarce parking, or crowds of the city’s music hubs.
North Seattle and Shoreline
Substation: The first stop is Substation, nestled into the not-quite-Fremont, not-quite-Ballard zone affectionately referred to as “Frelard.” It’s in an unassuming building you could very well walk right past. But inside, it has all the charm of a typical club: a good bar, some arcade games and serviceable bathrooms with humorous graffiti. Substation also has two stages, allowing bands to play simultaneously and audience members to wander between, plus perks for musicians like rehearsal space and an on-site recording studio for rent. The space books interesting shows, from local hip-hop, rock and experimental acts to touring bands from other parts of the country. 645 N.W. 45th St., Seattle, substationseattle.com
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North City Bistro: If you live farther north than Ballard and Fremont, North City Bistro can be a nice night out in Shoreline. It’s a spot to catch the top-notch jazz acts you might see at venues like Tula’s Restaurant & Bar — but without the commute to Belltown. Another perk: They serve dinner and offer a great wine selection, so it’s a great date-night venue. 1520 N.E. 177th St., Shoreline, northcitybistro.com
Chapel Performance Space: This gorgeous space is located in the Good Shepherd Center in Wallingford. For 60 years, the Good Shepherd Center was a shelter for young women seeking education and training. It now houses nonprofit organizations and schools, and on the fourth floor the Chapel, where the original architecture and stained-glass windows make for a sublime listening atmosphere. For that reason, shows there lean toward more contemplative genres: local jazz, classical and folk. 4649 Sunnyside Ave. N., Seattle, livemusicproject.org/venue/the-chapel-at-the-good-shepherd-center/
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Seamonster Lounge: Feel like getting funky? The Seamonster in Wallingford offers jammy, soulful music almost every night of the week, with a minimal cover charge (or none at all). Before a recent remodel, the Seamonster was a tiny, cramped space with a minuscule dance floor. Since the expansion, it’s much more comfortable, with a large backlit bar and an enlarged space for dancing. That’s a good thing — because the usual suspects at Seamonster shows and jam sessions are some of the best funk and jazz musicians around, from Funky 2 Death to Cubano Y Latino to Joe Doria. They’ll bring you to your feet. 2202 N. 45th St., Seattle, seamonsterlounge.com
The Kraken Bar & Lounge: In the heart of the University District, The Kraken is a venue that’s increasingly supportive to musicians just getting their start in the Seattle scene. For that reason, you may not recognize many of the acts there. But that doesn’t mean the show will be bad — in fact, it could mean you’re catching an exciting new act before they break. Matched with the dimly lit interior packed full of pirate-y décor, The Kraken delivers an experience you won’t regret. 5257 University Way N.E., Seattle, facebook.com/KrakenBarSeattle/
Blue Moon Tavern: Self-identified as the city’s “most infamous bar,” Blue Moon Tavern has been around since 1934, founded soon after the repeal of Prohibition. Over the years, it has been a hub for counterculture icons like author Tom Robbins and poet Theodore Roethke, and that history of housing creative people can be felt the second you step inside. That atmosphere makes a great space to hear music, too. Like an older, grungier version of The Kraken, Blue Moon is also a venue where newer bands can break out and be discovered. This space is small, unfortunately, and often puts loud rock bands on the bill. So, beware, bring earplugs and enjoy this slice of old Seattle. 712 N.E. 45th St., Seattle, bluemoonseattle.wordpress.com
The Royal Room: In 2009, local musician and composer Wayne Horvitz approached two of his restaurateur friends to start a new Seattle venue: The Royal Room. With affordable cover charges, drinks and food, and a classy, night-on-the town atmosphere, this venue hovers between lounge-y dive and velvet-curtained club. This is reflected in the musical acts the space books as well. At The Royal Room, you can catch a local blues band or jazz trio, as well as bigger national world, jazz and blues acts stopping on their way through town. Don’t forget to leave some cash for the musicians in the donation envelope at your bistro table! 5000 Rainier Ave. S., theroyalroomseattle.com