Heading out of town and looking to catch an earful? Check out some of our favorite small concert venues across the country.Knuckleheads
Kansas City, Mo.
You might think you misread the directions when stumbling upon this blues bar, which is tucked away in an industrial district next to train tracks and a motorcycle shop. But what’s the point of a blues venue that doesn’t get rustic right? When the weather is warm, the spacious patio is a great place to hang in casual shorts and sandals — a dress code is most certainly not enforced. The beer is cold, the neon is bright, the food is fried to oblivion, and the best up-and-coming blues bands in the country stop in on a regular basis.
Acts you can expect: Wayne “the Train” Hancock, Jim Suhler and Monkey Beat, Watermelon Slim
Take a seat at a candlelit table, enjoy full food-and-drink service, and watch some of the best musicians of the Pacific Northwest and beyond in this sleek hall primed with a one-of-a-kind sound system, the acoustics of which are so balanced, you won’t miss a shimmering detail of plucked guitar or grand piano. (Even the bathrooms have their own speaker systems.) You can also find a regular rotation of local jazz acts at the venue’s lounge, the Musicquarium, where the massive fish tanks are almost as colorful as the signature cocktails.
Acts you can expect: Neko Case, Ottmar Liebert, Iron & Wine, Bob Schneider
The Amsterdam Bar
Locals in need of a break from Dallas’ see-and-be-seen scene know to check out Exposition Park, a modest cluster of bars and galleries that caters to the city’s artsy outcasts. Though the range of jukeboxes and DJs at these spots is notable, most impressive is Amsterdam Bar’s Monday-night jazz series, where Duke Ellington Orchestra saxophonist Shelley Carrol has sat as host and ringleader for more than five years.
Acts you can expect: Shelley Carrol, Earl Harvin, players from the University of North Texas’ famed jazz department
This converted warehouse looks more like a library than a music destination, with bookshelves lining the walls and antique European decor throughout. But if you’re looking to catch a show in New York City, your best bet might be getting out of Manhattan and seeing an up-and-coming act among Union Hall’s so-called indie-lectual crowd. Between sets, entertain yourself with a little indoor bocce ball.
Acts you can expect: Fred Armisen, St. Vincent, Kimya Dawson, Eugene Mirman, Cursive
Over the past decade, Chicago has blossomed into the epicenter of America’s indie-rock movement, and the Lakeview neighborhood proudly illustrates why with a cluster of clubs featuring the country’s best young bands. Schuba’s stands out with its high-caliber, Americana-leaning calendar, but this slick, hardwood-lined venue is also startlingly comfortable for a small house: plenty of ventilation, reasonable crowd sizes (even on sold-out nights) and a table-lined bar to escape to between bands.
Acts you can expect: Blitzen Trapper, Sondre Lerche, Poi Dog Pondering, The Cave Singers
“Comeback Kid,” Sleigh Bells
Reign of Terror (Mom + Pop, $13)
“You gotta turn around, never
let your guard down,
I see you, but no one’s gonna save you, baby.”