Best Venues For Discovering Up And Coming Artists

Is your go-to venue for a local music fix getting stale? Curious about where good music is at these days? Lucky you. We scoured the country for the best places to scope out the most talented of the undiscovered. From dive bars to converted warehouses to former art galleries, there’s one thing they all have in common: they book some seriously hard-working bands worthy of recognition. Check out our list below.

LOS ANGELES

The Echo/Echoplex

1822 Sunset Blvd, Los Angeles, CA

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Photo: Debi Del Grande

In a land teaming with aspiring musicians, there’s no better place to get accidentally splashed by hardworking, undiscovered musicians’ sweat than The Echo. Located on the hipper east end of Sunset Boulevard (just kidding), the Echo hosts a mix of buzzy local and national acts each week. And, like the Echo’s cooler older bro, the Echoplex lives in the basement and is known for hosting a mix of dubstep, hip-hop, and experimental electronic acts. He also moonlights as “that underground joint” for world class rock acts like the Rolling Stones to stage a secret show. 

Bootleg Bar

2220 Beverly Blvd, Los Angeles, CA

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Less than two miles away from The Echo is the Bootleg, a bar and theater rolled into one and the closest thing you’ll get to New York’s infamous warehouse scene in Los Angeles. With two stages and a screening room, their Monday night residencies (staged in the smaller room) are a rite of passage for any up and coming singer-songwriter and rock band in the area. At other hours, you might walk in and find yourself in the middle of a poetry slam session, or a taping for Jam In The Van. 

NEW YORK

Mercury Lounge

217 E Houston St, New York, NY 

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Photo: Village Voice

Its former booker quit his job to manage The Strokes after the band played there. If that’s not any indication of this venue’s taste, today, you can pop in and catch a set by Broken Social Scene’s Brendan Canning. Yes, as in a few hours from now. When monumental occurrences like this aren’t happening, on any given day the Mercury Lounge is likely hosting an EP or album release set by a promising new band. It’s no wonder it’s been called a refuge for indie bands in New York.

Rough Trade

64 N 9th St, Williamsburg, NY

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Photo: brooklynvegan Instagram

According to Twitter, a four-minute walk from L train’s Bedford Ave stop brings you to Rough Trade, the Mercury Lounge’s sister venue and record shop. Also host to dozens of upcoming indie rock acts testing out the waters, with an average of 2 Pitchfork-listed bands slotted per week. Wish that were a joke, but we did the math. 

Glasslands 

289 Kent Ave, Brooklyn, NY

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Photo: Time Out New York

The Glasslands is a converted warehouse that could double as a rustic loft, self-described as “formerly a homegrown community art space turned psychedelic venue partyhaus.” A nurturing space of sorts for upcoming experimental bands of every color, the venue has garnered a rep for booking up and coming bands on the brink of being noticed as up and coming. Animal Collective member Avey Tare debuted his Slasher Flicks side project here in 2013, while Smith Westerns and Yuck also played at the venue in 2011 shortly before imploding on the indie scene. 

AUSTIN

Mohawk Lounge 

912 Red River St, Austin, TX

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Photo: Briana Purser

The city of Austin is filled with reputable music halls. We’re not saying this one is worthier than any other of those fine establishments, but its two music stages and rooftop (renovated with recycled materials) are worth checking for their wide array of upcoming musicians — from indie to death metal to punk. Known to give away free tickets to shows when you come early for happy hour (talk about win-win), the Mohawk is as eco- and music-fan friendly as Austin gets. 

WASHINGTON

The Crocodile 

2200 2nd Avenue, Seattle, WA

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Photo: The Crocodile Facebook

Seattle has one of the best music scenes in the country, and The Crocodile is on top of it. While their claim to fame is launching bands like Nirvana and Death Cab for Cutie, The Crocodile has had its far share of revamps since it’s opening in 1991. Today, the venue is most known for being on the cutting edge of Seattle’s rising hip-hop scene, jumping on the Macklemore train years before the rest of the country. The venue only holds around 500 people, but its intimate crowds make for awesome shows across all genres. 

VIRGINIA

The Norva

317 Monticello Avenue, Norfolk, VA

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Photo: mrbrkly, Flickr

The NorVA, located in the heart of Norfolk, Virginia, is more than just a music venue. Aside from having James Brown perform at the grand-opening and being the stomping grounds of huge stars like Prince and Justin Timberlake, The NorVa has a hot-tub, sauna, and game room onsite. This local hotspot has live music seven days a week with performers across all genres. 

TENNESSEE 

The Bluebird Cafe 

4104 Hillsboro Pike, Nashville, TN

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Photo: The Nashville Food Project

The Bluebird Café is known for launching country music superstars the likes of Taylor Swift and Faith Hill. But on any given Writer’s Night, you can catch a local starving artist playing next to one of the industry’s most successful songwriters. Meaning, the venue knows how to keep things interesting. 

12th and Porter

114 12th Avenue N., Nashville, TN 

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Nashville may be known for its country roots, but it has a thriving indie music scene that’s really taking off. 12th and Porter is at the center of it, quickly becoming one of the must-play venues for local independent artists. Ranging from alternative to southern rock, 12th and Porter is the hot spot for celebrity music lovers. You never know who you’ll rub elbows with while watching the next big thing perform on stage. 

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