Last updated: 11:00 PM ET, Sun December 06 2015

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  • Rosalind Cummings-Yeates | December 6, 2015 11:00 PM ET

    Traveling Notes: The 7 Best Cities For Live Music

    Traveling Notes: The 7 Best Cities For Live Music

    PHOTO: Shemekia Copeland at Chicago Blues Festival 2015. (photo via Facebook/Chicago Blues Festival)

    For serious music fans like me, traveling isn't just about seeing new sights and sampling unfamiliar food, it's also about hearing new sounds. Every city has a soundtrack, whether it's flamenco in Granada or go-go in DC, there are always interesting beats and rhythms to discover. That said, certain cities offer up such an array of non-stop music in a variety of genres that it’s worth a visit for the music alone.

    Considering my criteria of accessibility, frequency, variety and quality, here is my list of cities with the best live music scenes:


    Many of my favorite musicians hail from London and it's not hard to figure out why. This sprawling, diverse, urban center attracts talent from all over Great Britain and they compete to develop some of the most innovative and catchy music anywhere. Buskers play on most street corners and clubs pump out a melange of melodies. Although the big venues have battled with developers to remain open, there's never any shortage of quirky pubs and multi-use spaces hosting live acts. From folk and dub-step, to grime and pop, you can hear it all in Londontown.

    My picks for London live music: The Dublin Castle, Camden’s ultimate indie music club and Brixton’s low key The Windmill.


    It's not called Music City for nothing. Despite its reputation as the headquarters for country, you can hear all types of music in Nashville. From the time you hit the airport, where you'll most likely be greeted with a flawless live band, there's practically no place you can go in the city without hearing a musician or being near a studio, record label or music venue.  One of my favorite “only in Nashville” activities is honky-tonking, which consists of bar-hopping through the dives that line Broadway and dancing your way through multiple sets in each space. In Nashville, you have to check out Bluebird Cafe for singer-songwriter nirvana and Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge for serious honky-tonking.

    New York

    Despite the downward spiral of the recording industry and a focus on digital music, New York is still the center of the action. Major labels, talent scouts and legendary venues like Carnegie Hall still function as the proving ground for hopeful musicians from all over the world. And you can hear anything, at anytime, whether you crave Broadway classics, cutting edge hip hop, bhangra or Beethoven, it's all here. Head to the Bowery Ballroom for an eclectic mix of New York sounds and SOB’s for world music grooves.


    The city has been a cultural hub for much of the last century and music has long been a focus. Although Berlin bills itself as the electronic music capital of the world, there's much more to hear than just mechanical beats. The local band scene is particularity creative and you can listen to live riffs on subways, abandoned industrial buildings, raves and even old school clubs. Go to Knochenbox for Berlin live performing faves on Wednesday nights and Bei Roy for the cutting edge local music scene.

    New Orleans

    Music is as much a part of NOLA's DNA as gumbo and the French Quarter, so it's no surprise that it boasts one of the most distinctive music scenes in the world. New Orleans is a jazz city and you can hear it anywhere at any time of day but you can also catch zydeco, soul, hip hop and rock at bars and restaurants and at the city's signature music festivals. Don’t miss legendary venues Tipitina’s and Preservation Hall for a taste of live music NOLA style.


    Many visitors get so distracted by Montreal's striking landscape, architecture and foodie scene that  they overlook the impressive live music. This would be a mistake. Eloquent musicianship abounds all over the city and you can hear it in clubs, bars and at the hundreds of cultural festivals that Montreal is famous for hosting. Club Soda serves up a singular mix of Montreal and international acts, while Divan Orange is noted for experimental music and late night partying.


    I may be a little biased, but the Windy City is the place where blues, gospel and house music developed into expansive industries, and the music scene reflects that accordingly. It's the home of the blues so you can hear the best blues musicians in the world on any night of the week but you can also hear top-notch jazz, R&B, reggae, rock, country and folk. Visiting Buddy Guy’s Legends is a requirement for live blues and Metro offers up everything else, including a noted house DJ venue, Smart Bar, in the basement.


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Rosalind Cummings-Yeates Far-Sighted Field Notes

Rosalind Cummings-Yeates Rosalind Cummings-Yeates is a journalist, author and blogger who specializes in travel and culture topics. She loves guiding readers through the richness of various cultures and discovering the essence of a destination. Her travel and culture blog, Farsighted Fly Girl, offers travel insights through the music, food, art and history of various countries and cultures. Join her on the journey at www.Rosalindcummingsyeates.
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