Listening Rooms provide the heartbeat of the true MUSIC scene worldwide. By Music scene, we mean the collective of doers that create and perform music meant to be heard, felt and experienced. The kind of music where lyrics matter, where melody matters, where songcraft matters. This is not the kind of music one would typically dance to but rather that which must be absorbed, soaked-in and felt. music that evokes emotion over adrenaline and digs deep into the head and the soul rather than the body.
Below we have compiled a list of what we consider the best venues in the US for this music based on an artist and patron-centric criteria. Average attendance, box office grosses, and the popularity of the headliners have not been taken into account here, nor should they have been. There are literally hundreds of other venues nationwide who fit the criteria that this list is based upon. We chose our favorites.
1. 20 Front Street (Royal Oak, MI) - Once a quaint antique shop in Royal Oak, Michigan has, over the past few years become the go-to spot for local, regional and well-known national touring artists with specific emphasis on indie, Americana, folk, traditional, indie-folk, acoustic, singer/songwriters, duos and trios. The mostly acoustic, intimate listening room is designed to evoke sound quality and provide a live music experience unlike any other venue in the area. CLICK HERE to learn more about 20 Front Street.
2. The Listening Room (Port Clinton, OH) - The Listening Room in Port Clinton OH is a favorite stop in the Great Lakes area on most singer/songwriter itineraries. The Listening Room features some of the best artists and singer-songwriters from across the United States. The Listening Room - Port Clinton is located inside the OurGuest Inn and Suites hotel in downtown Port Clinton, Ohio. It is a simple, yet unique idea: to create a venue where talented singer/songwriters can perform to people who want to enjoy live, original music. The crowd is quiet and you can enjoy the experience in a respectful atmosphere without the loud noise and chatter of the typical bar environment. Port Clinton is located just outside Toledo OH and is a perfect stop between Cleveland or Columbus and Detroit or Royal Oak (see above). Click HERE to learn more about the Listening Room
3. The Peoples Room (Mobile AL) - The Peoples Room, located directly across the street from the fabulous Battle House Hotel of Mobile AL features the finest local, regional, and national singer/songwriters and storytellers in an intimate setting where the artist can connect with the audience in a clean, quiet, and comfortable setting where the focus is 100% on the artist and their music. Outside distractions and talking over the artists are not allowed. Click Here to learn more about the Peoples Room.
4. Dosey Doe Big Barn (The Woodlands, TX) - The Dosey Doe is an 160 year-old Kentucky barn literally transported to the side of a freeway in the Houston suburb of The Woodlands, Texas. Originally built as a tobacco barn in Kentucky, the 300-600 year old growth oak and birch massive beams are the foundation not only for a beautiful room for also for great acoustics. It is a place where memories are made. No need to run from restaurant to music hall, as here you have it all. Nationally recognized artists from around the world no dominate the calendar here: from the late Jerry Jeff Walker (R.I.P) to The Rippingtons, Dave Mason to Lee Roy Parnell, Clint Black to Bela Fleck, Leon Russell to Spyro Gyra, Steve Wariner to Hayes Carll, Roger Creager to Mel Tillis, Manhattan Transfer to Gallagher... up very close and personal. Most artists will stay to have photos taken and give autographs after the show. Many very rarely do it anywhere but here and almost everyone says it is one of their favorite rooms to play. Click Here to learn more about Dosey Doe
5. Seven Steps Up (Spring Lake, MI) - The second Michigan based venue in our little listicle here, Seven Steps Up is a true artists venue. Seven Steps Up Live Music + Events is an intimate "listening room" style live music venue. Seven Steps Up has a capacity of 132 seats, about half of which are table seats with the remainder just comfortable chairs. Patrons are asked to engage in the music rather than conversations with their friends. Pristine acoustics and a world class sound system in "listening room" environment creates magical evenings of live music. For more information on this staple of live acoustic, Americana, Indie, Folk and indie-pop music, Click Here to learn More about Seven Steps Up
6. 04 Center (Austin,TX) - The 04 Center is a beautifully appropriated state of the art listening room and event venue in the heart of South Austin. Nestled in the former sanctuary of a church-turned-event center with a connected Mexican Restaurant, the O4 Center is the antithesis of the Red/River and 6th Street scenes that define Austin Music. Unlike many typical listening rooms, especially those that are connected to a church, the 04 Center does sell alcohol. There is ample parking in the adjacent lot and the staff treats both the patrons and the artists like family. Click Here to learn more about The 04 Center
7. Freight and Salvage (Berkeley, CA) - The Freight andamp; Salvage Coffeehouse is a nonprofit community arts organization dedicated to promoting public awareness and understanding of traditional music—music that is rooted in and expressive of the great variety of regional, ethnic, and social cultures of peoples throughout the world. Since its founding in 1968, the Freight andamp; Salvage has been deeply rooted in that aspect of Berkeley’s culture that embraced freedom, justice, acceptance, collaboration, and innovation. The Freight is mission-driven, and has become a world famous venue for traditional music– music that is rooted in and expressive of the great variety of regional, ethnic, and social cultures of peoples throughout the world. Click Here to learn more about The Freight and Salvage
8. The Roasting Room (Bluffton, SC) - Full disclosure, I am an agent in the music business. I regularly book my artists at this venue and every single time I have, they have called me the next day raving about what an amazing experience they had. The Roasting Room is an acoustically-tuned special event space featuring local to nationally touring musical acts and the largest selection of bourbons in the area. With a stunning view of downtown Bluffton's Calhoun Street and cool river breezes from its over-sized covered porch, this venue seats 60 inside and 30 outside. The Lounge has a full bar with over 160 different bourbons, an espresso bar, and an exceptional stage for live music. Click Here to learn more about The Roasting Room
9. Caffe Lena (Saratoga Springs NY) - Caffè Lena presents extraordinary music in an intimate setting steeped in history. It is widely recognized as the longest continuously operating folk music venue in the United States. The Library of Congress calls Caffè Lena “An American treasure,” and has been recognized by The GRAMMY Foundation for their important contributions to the development of American music. That said, they are proud to be able to stay true to Lena’s founding vision of simplicity, kindness to strangers, and art above profit. Click Here to Find out more about this incredible listening room in upstate NY. Click Here to learn more about Caffe Lena
10. Blue Jay Listening Room (Jacksonville, FL) - Blue Jay Listening Room is a beautifully sacred, intimate music venue with a carefully curated environment allowing you the space to listen, expand your musical knowledge and share in an experience you will never forget. It gives you an opportunity to take a deep breath, be present, connect, feel and to be inspired. Blue Jay Listening Room encourages community and togetherness through the gift of live music. Click Here to learn more about the Blue Jay Listening Room
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