Let the music take you...
Some cities just live and breathe music, but where are the top places music lovers should travel to at least once in their lifetime? Ben Groundwater reports.
You know when you’re in a city that loves music. It’s all the venues displaying lists of bands coming to play. It’s the record stores that sit on every corner. It’s the sound of live music floating through the air, working its way out of pubs and bars and theatres and clubs.
Some cities just live and breathe music. It’s in the DNA. It’s not a part of life – it is life. It is the sort of places that every music fan should visit in their lifetime.
(First though, a short admission – I’ve had to exclude some truly great music cities from this list, purely for the sake of space. So to New York, Portland, Seattle, Memphis, Chicago, Cleveland, Boston, Leipzig, Bologna, London, Vienna and many more: apologies.)
Los Angeles’ musical glory years are probably behind it, but that doesn’t mean you can’t have fun visiting the venues that made it famous. For Beach Boys vibes, drive out to Santa Monica. Lovers of the Doors, go straight to Venice Beach, or stay at the Alta Cienega Motel.
Those who dig Spandex and big hair, meanwhile, head to the Sunset Strip, where 80s icons rocked venues like Dragonfly, the Roxy and the Viper Room, drank at the Rainbow Bar and Grill, and caused havoc in the Chateau Marmont. It seems like there isn’t a moment in the day or night in Havana that isn’t punctuated by the beat of bolero, the rhythm of cubaton, the sway of danzon. Music is everywhere in the Cuban capital, being played by buskers on street corners, pouring out of bars and clubs, drifting from the windows of apartments and houses. People here love music, and they love to dance. ‘‘Music City’’ is so named because it lives and breathes live music – Nashville was and still is a major hub for country and western; however, with the likes of Jack White (White Stripes) and Dan Auerbach (Black Keys) setting up shop here, Nashville also has a huge indie and blues scene. There are hundreds of music venues to visit, from the famous Ryman Auditorium, to the Bluebird Cafe and the Station Inn. Berlin’s musical history is a long and fascinating one: David Bowie used to live here, Iggy Pop recorded here, as did U2. In the 70s Berlin was on the forefront of the punk scene: the city is still home to classic clubs like SO36 in Kreuzberg, and Schokoladen in Mitte. The modern-day scene, meanwhile, is all about techno and dance, housed in megaclubs like Berghain and Tresor. For some laid-back fun though, head to the Mauerpark on Sundays to watch bands busk and random punters sing open-air karaoke. Austin hosts the now worldfamous South By Southwest music festival every March; however, at any time of the year the self-proclaimed ‘‘live music capital of the world’’ is rocking, with hundreds of music venues playing host to indie, country, rock, blues, metal and more. Spoon, Iron and Wine, Willie Nelson, Dixie Chicks, Jimmie Vaughan – they’re all from Austin. The infamous Hacienda club might be long gone, replaced by a block of apartments, but there’s PHOTOS: GETTY IMAGES still great music in Manchester, remnants of the halcyon Madchester and Brit-pop days. Though you won’t see Oasis or The Smiths any more (you can do a walking tour, however, to check out their old haunts), venues such as Band on the Wall, Gorilla and the Castle Hotel are always hosting local and international acts. The Irish love a song, something you’ll appreciate from the moment you set foot in any traditional pub across the country. If there isn’t a band on stage, there will be regular punters bringing along their instruments to get the crowd going. To listen to traditional music in Dublin, head to the Cobblestone or O’Donoghue’s, grab a pint and get ready to sing. Any student of musical history, any fan of the hippie movement of the 60s and 70s, would already know about San Francisco. This is the home of Haight-Ashbury, the district that played such a huge part in hippie and psychedelic culture, and many of the landmarks of that era remain. You’ll also find Amoeba Music in the Haight – a must-do record story for vinyl fans. Ageing punks, meanwhile, should head across to Berkley to visit the classic 924 Gilman St venue. Cali is known as Colombia’s ‘‘salsa capital’’, which pretty much makes it the world’s salsa capital. If you love to dance, or you love to watch other people who actually know what they’re doing dance, then you have to visit Cali, and prepare for a few long nights. Zaperoco is the city’s classic salsa venue; however, you should hop between Tin Tin Deo, Siboney and La Topa Tolondra to get the full experience. New Orleans’ musical chops really need no introduction. This is a city with a musical obsession, the birthplace of jazz, with influences from all over Africa and the Caribbean that can still be heard today. There’s always music playing in New Orleans – if it’s not in the pubs and clubs and dedicated music venues, then it’s probably being played on the streets in a ‘‘second line’’ parade. There are a few African cities with great music scenes – Essaouria in Morocco is another to check out – but the best of them might just be Johannesburg. There’s a huge range of live music to check out in Jozi on any given night, from jazz to house, hip-hop to traditional African styles. – Traveller
Aloe Blacc performs in New Orleans, Louisiana.
Members of the hip-hop group Nuevo Mundo use a laptop to play American dance music at the Jardines del Mella, Havana, Cuba.
Danny O’Donoghue from The Script performs at The Ivy House in Dublin, Ireland.