If music is therapy, these seven cities offer a lot for the traveler looking to leave behind the stress of modern life. Looking to escape with great live music and a rich musical history? These places offer plenty of musical gems.
New York, NY
NYC has an electric energy, with buzzing streets and sleepless nights. A few wise souls have said that you can spend a year in NYC and still not have seen it all.
In New York, you could find yourself at a diner, seated next to a modern-day Llewyn Davis. You could also spend the night head banging (or fist-pumping, depending on your taste) until the crack of dawn spills over that iconic skyline.
The upcoming summer months will be sure to offer lots of options to enjoy live music in the outdoors, with festivals like Central Park SummerStage
, Governor's Ball
, Summer Jam
, Northside Festival
, and Celebrate Brooklyn
As the city with possibly the longest music history in the U.S., Memphis is a great city to visit to experience blues, and soul and learn more about the birth of rock and roll.
As you make your way to Memphis, make sure your mix playlist includes Johnny Cash, Elvis, and B.B. King – these legends and many others developed their craft in the Blues City.
, Dad’s Palace
, Levitt Shell
, and Blues City
are a few spots in a long list that are great to check out.
Beale Street, pictured here, is a significant location in the city's history. On Beale Street, you'll find festivals and outdoor concerts that draw huge large crowds of blues enthusiasts.
Grab a Belle Meade Bourbon, served neat, and then head for a walk through the streets on Nashville.
These streets were once walked by the big stars groomed in "The Music City". Such artists include Billy Cox, Chet Atkins, June and Johnny Cash, The Black Keys, Miley Cyrus, Dolly Parton and so many others.
If you're travelling to Nashville in the upcoming warmer months, be on the lookout for the CMA Music Festival, Nashville Pride, Nashville African Street Festival and Live on the Green Music Festival. Ryman Auditorium, The Basement (and record store Grimey’s on top of it), and Robert's Western World are just some of many venues to visit.
Lower Broadway, pictured here, is a renowned entertainment district known for its iconic country music.
Put away your travel guide – travellers to Austin can be rest assured that a buzzing venue filled with live music is never too far away.
With the official city motto of "live music capital of the world", Austin is an ideal choice for live music aficionados.
Traditionally country, jazz, rock and folk have a long history here, but on any given night visitors can experience an intriguing mix of genres while walking through the town.
That mix inspires plenty of experimentation. Live venues to watch for include The Victory Grill (where Etta James and Billie Holiday performed), Beerland for punk and garage shows, The Broken Spoke for a true honky tonk experience, and the legendary Continental Club for swing, jazz, blues, and country.
Austinites are friendly so if you decide to give two-step a chance, you’ll be sure to find yourself a dance partner.
Craving a European destination, but can’t afford the longer flight? Spend some time in Montreal and with its architecture, parks, and scenic views, you’ll forget which continent you’re on.
Montreal's music scene benefits from international influences and its French Canadian roots. That translates to a lot of experimentation in genres and styles: The Arcade Fire, Grimes and Wolf Parade got their start here.
The city hosts the Osheaga Music Festival in the summer, with an impressive line-up that doesn't disappoint. The International Jazz Music Festival in June offers free concerts with excellent performances. And the summer festival season winds down, enjoy a last big hurrah with Pop Montreal in September.
Fun venues to check out include Petit Campus
, Le Cagibi
, Casa Del Popolo
and Divan Orange
Neil Young was born here, and later expanded his music career in the city. Since then, Toronto has seen its evolution of plaid-clad, guitar-strumming musicians. Today, the music scene continues to expand. Metric, Broken Social Scene, The Constantines and plenty of others likely rode the city’s signature streetcars when they developed their music here. The hip hop scene is also prominent here and Drake is just one in a list of hip hop musicians that includes K-Os, Kardinal Official, Majid Jordan and PartyNextDoor.
For live music in Toronto check out the Horseshoe Tavern, Lee’s Palace, The Phoenix, or venues like The Danforth Music Hall. A sonic sister city to Austin, Toronto also hosts NXNE, a spin on SXSW, in May.
New Orleans, LA
The birthplace of jazz, New Orleans is a must-see for anyone who appreciates music history. A place with deep roots that has produced groundbreaking musicians, New Orleans is known for bringing jazz and funk to the world. It now also has a strong hip-hop scene and a vibrant metal scene. Your memorabilia from this city will include tributes to Louis Armstrong to Frank Ocean and you can expect a party scene that doesn’t let down.
Snug Harbor Jazz Bistro
, The Spotted Cat Music Club
, Balcony Music Club
are a few on a large list of clubs, bars and venues with live music.
Image: French Quarter in New Orleans
There you have it – seven cities to get you started on a live music trip across North America. Just remember to pack those mixed CDs for the road, dancing shoes, and a sense of whimsy.