Live in St. Louis: A Diverse, Arch-Sized Music Scene
In any given week in St. Louis, there are up to 300 chances to treat your ears to some phenomenal musicianship. Whether it’s Stevie Ray Vaughn-esque shredding in the Soulard neighborhood, cool vocal stylings at a hip suburban bistro, or the joyful jamming of a Grateful Dead tribute band in the Loop, the live music scene is rocking visitors, conventioneers, and locals every single night.
Yes, St. Louis is a must-stop for all the big concert tours from AC/DC to Zac Brown. The town itself brims with musical talent, and historically, always has. But we’re not always good at letting others know about it…“Devil at the Confluence tells of an old local legend that says the devil made a deal with the city,” say its author and local music historian Kevin Belford. “The devil ‘granted’ that more great talent, artists, and songs could come out of here than any other place on earth. But the trade-off was St. Louis could never let anyone know the music came from here.”
With all due respect to Mr. Beelzebub, we’re working to change that.
“The St. Louis music scene is very diverse—there are just so many genres of music being played here,” says Penny Moon, a local musician who plays in several bands and runs the largest band agency in the metro area. “And there are a lot of bands playing music that is not mainstream.” Of particular note is a vital tribute band scene where you can catch versions of KISS, Fleetwood Mac, Guns & Roses, Beatles, Elvis, and more. “The tribute scene is incredible here, but there’s also a burlesque scene. You can find everything here.”
Moon points out what so many of the locals are well aware of—it all can be traced to our rich history in the blues. St. Louis has always been one of the world’s top five indigenous blues music cities, and now we have a National Blues Museum. The blues genre alone account for nearly 50 acts a week performing at public and private functions, understandably as the town has always been the true crossroads, tying Chicago to the Mississippi Delta, Memphis to the West.
If you’re staying downtown, there are many rollicking live music venues you can count on. Soulard has already been mentioned, and at the neighborhood’s 20-plus bars, live music is typically playing at more than half of them. At 700 Broadway there is the treasure that is BB’s Jazz, Blues and Soups, which usually features several acts a night. Across the street, Beale on Broadway has not only blues but also rockabilly, soul, and R&B. Just at the end of the block is the popular Broadway Oyster Bar, which always has great live music, too. Ballpark Village puts on amazing summer concerts, plus a dueling piano bar. Then of course there’s Jazz at the Bistro, which brings in national acts like Brandford Marsalis in addition to local crooner Erin Bode. Schlafly Tap Room not only brews good suds, but but always has great Americana/folk and rock acts playing every weekend. Hometown hero and now national act Pokey LaFarge often plays Off Broadway, a great club where a lot of rock and folk acts kick it out. My parents did the Lindy Hop at the Casa Loma Ballroom when they were kids, and you can still hit the dance floor to great swing music including our own Miss Jubilee and the Humdingers. Across the river at Pop’s Nightclub, you can catch harder-edged fare. Finally, how about going to Blueberry Hill where St. Louis legend Chuck Berry played hundreds of shows—after all, he is the true king of rock and roll.
And those are just the opening notes to a symphony of music options. Here are some sources to plan your memory-inducing St. Louis evening of great live music: the Riverfront Times, the St. Louis Music Press, and a list of the 50 best music venues from St. Louis Magazine.
As local boy Miles Davis once said, “Do not fear mistakes—there are none.” And you won’t make a mistake in taking in the sounds of any of the great players in St. Louis.