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The 100 Greatest American Music Venues

on April 29, 2016, 1:00am
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80. The Capitol Theatre

Port Chester, New York

Capitol Theatre Port Chester, New York

Established: 1970
What You’ll See: Ryan Adams, Phil Lesh & Friends, Alice Cooper, Macklemore & Ryan Lewis

Way back in the day, Port Chester’s 1,800-capacity The Capitol Theatre was designed by prolific architect Thomas W. Lamb, opening on August 18th, 1926. Originally a movie palace, the theatre was around to show contemporary films, including Gone with the Wind and Casablanca, the cost of admission being as little as a nickel for a double-feature Sunday matinee.

In 1970, once the venue was renovated for use as a performance space, promoter Howard Stein booked the likes of the Grateful Dead, who played 18 dates at the venue between 1970 and 1971, and Janis Joplin, who wrote the Pearl a cappella “Mercedes Benz” at nearby Port Chester bar Vahsen’s.

As a result, the two-part venue is known as “the original rock palace.” Though it was also a catering and special events facility for a time, The Capitol Theatre reopened as a concert venue in 2012. The first performer to grace the stage after the reopening? A good one: Bob Dylan.

–Michael Madden

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79. Paradise Rock Club

Boston, Massachusetts

Paradise Rock Club Boston, Massachussets

Established: 1977
What You’ll See: Of Montreal, Run the Jewels, Grimes, Wavves

Ask any Boston veteran about local music and they’re bound to bring up the Paradise Rock Club within a matter of seconds. It’s the go-to club for big names seeking intimate sets (Death Cab for Cutie, Grimes, Snoop Dogg) and rising acts about to break into the mainstream (Frank Ocean, Tame Impala, First Aid Kit). The historic venue opened back in 1977 to cater to the city’s enormous student population.

A redesign in 2010 rid the venue of its pesky poles (not that one), though two still stand on the floor like giant, metallic trees, giving it that love-to-hate-it charm. Booking ownership has been passed down from one set of hands to the next, drastically changing the acts that perform there, but it’s most revered for its early days when it snagged The Police, Blondie, and even U2 on their first US tour — a show that Bono and co. still say made Boston the first city to embrace them outside of Dublin.

–Nina Corcoran

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78. Georgia Theatre

Athens, Georgia

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Established: 1978
What You’ll See: Alabama Shakes, My Morning Jacket, Willie Nelson

Thirty-one years after being established, the Georgia Theatre, which opened in 1978 and hosted hometown band The B-52’s the same year, suffered a serious setback on June 19th, 2009. That morning, a fire caused major damage to the iconic Athens venue, collapsing the roof and causing headlines nationwide. It was the incident that was the subject of the 2011 documentary Athens Burning, directed by Andrew Haynes, Jacob Kinsman, and Eric Krasle.

But while some were quick to deem the place done for following the blaze, it did reopen in August of 2011, triumphantly so. In the years since, it’s hosted Alabama Shakes, My Morning Jacket, Willie Nelson, and many more. It’s safe to say the beloved venue has made an impressive recovery. We consider it the Classic City’s best venue save for the 40 Watt Club, which, coincidentally, also opened in ‘78.

–Michael Madden

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77. Paper Tiger

San Antonio, Texas

Paper Tiger San Antonio, Texas

Established: 2015 (but, really 1996)
What You’ll See: Built to Spill, Swans, Antwon, Frightened Rabbit

Paper Tiger wouldn’t be what it is without The White Rabbit, San Antonio’s former favorite spot for local music. The venue looked like a rundown building that was more concerned with housing local bands than achieving fame by bringing in an influx of burgeoning and ubiquitous artists. While the venue had its share of hip-hop like Tyler, The Creator, the venue was a dingy, steamy mecca for under-21 teens looking for a dose of heavy metal.

Even though the Rabbit stood on its own for 18 and a half years, the owners sold it, which spawned a new brand, new look, and new everything. Thus the Paper Tiger was born. The venue is partners with Transmission Events, who also run Fun Fun Fun Fest, which brings national touring bands who had previously bypassed San Antonio for Austin. The new venue is a nice addition as it has brought in a more eclectic roster of hip-hop, indie, punk, and electronic.

–Alejandra Ramirez

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76. Henry Miller Memorial Library

Big Sur, California

henrymillersign The 100 Greatest American Music Venues

Established: 1980
What You’ll See: Yo La Tengo, Jonathan Richman, Arcade Fire

Prolific American writer Henry Miller was a resident of Big Sur, and when he died in 1980, his best friend, Emil White, converted his own house into the Henry Miller Memorial Library. Situated in the midst of a lush forest that runs along California’s Central Coast, the cozy, rustic house is now a non-profit organization that continues to honor Miller’s memory with gallery viewings, creative workshops, and, yes, live music performances. But wait, you might say, how on earth could a tiny house in the woods double as a concert venue?

The concerts actually take place outside, taking full advantage of Big Sur’s natural beauty (and the house’s generously-sized yard). Local folk and acoustic acts are a common sight on the bill, but this place has also hosted an impressive number of indie icons, including Yo La Tengo, Animal Collective, and even Arcade Fire, who famously stopped by in 2010. Oh, to watch The Suburbs in the middle of the woods. Irony aside, that would be something special.

–Collin Brennan

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75. The UFO Factory

Detroit, Michigan

The UFO Factory Detroit, Michigan

Established: 2014
What You’ll See: The Detroit Cobras, The Hentchmen, John Krautner, Pretty Ghouls

UFO Factory has an extraterrestrial name, but the bar, art gallery, and live music venue has worked its way into the very fabric of Detroit’s Corktown neighborhood since landing there in 2014. The space — which used to be a DIY venue in Eastern Market, once upon a time — is now located right across from where the old Tigers Stadium once stood, and it’s a prime example of the “New Detroit” movement that seeks to attract artists to the inner city.

The venue certainly makes it worth the trip for musicians, with everything from a premium sound system to a popcorn machine (not to mention, vintage arcade games and a giant projection screen for showing films). But UFO Factory is first and foremost a local venue, and its silver-painted halls have hosted the likes of The Detroit Cobras and punk legends The Hentchmen.

–Collin Brennan

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74. High Dive

Gainesville, Florida

high dive The 100 Greatest American Music Venues

Established: 2011
What You’ll See: Against Me!, Chuck Ragan, PBR, and plenty of star tattoos

High Dive exists at SW 2nd Avenue as Gainesville Rock City’s demilitarized zone. Like the Dothraki holy site Vaes Dothrak, you’re welcome as long as you aren’t an asshole. And it’s been that way for many years. The spot has welcomed several owners and name changes since the early 1990s, but it’s perhaps best known as the flagship location of Nigel Hamm’s legendary venue Common Grounds — which officially closed in 2011 after a meteoric 15-year run.

During Common Grounds’ run, the likes of Hot Water Music, Less Than Jake, Morningbell, Holopaw, Isaac Brock, and Conor Oberst could be spotted hanging out, whether they were scheduled to perform or were just enjoying a cold Mexican beer as the Florida humidity burrowed past the outdoor porch and into the midsize rectangular structure.

As such, Common Grounds lived up to its name, improving on the whimsical, albeit slanted, design of the Covered Dish before it by transforming the weekend venue into a daily town hall that mingled national acts with emerging indie artists and side projects, comedians, college kids, The Fest punks, and plenty of sun-baked locals. Years later, High Dive continues this tradition, ensuring that Gainesville remains Florida’s most alternative city and a cool place to see live music.

–Dan Pfleegor

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73. Newport Music Hall

Columbus, Ohio

Newport Music Hall Columbus, Ohio

Established: 1984
What You’ll See: Baroness, Chief Keef, Eagles of Death Metal, Migos

This Ohio hall is owned and operated by the Columbus-based PromoWest Productions, which runs several venues, Newport being the one that made this list. It’s positioned across the street from the Ohio Union of the Ohio State University, and in the period of time that it’s been there, it’s become “America’s longest continually running rock club.”

Formerly known as the State Theater and the Agora Ballroom, the name has always implied class. With beautiful ballroom architecture, the 1,700-capacity hall at 1722 North High Street has a particularly gorgeous look to it from the outside. Inside, it’s elegant, too, with a timeless look. For a place that appears timeless, though, it’s remarkably consistent about booking cutting-edge acts.

–Michael Madden

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72. Churchill’s Pub

Miami, Florida

Churchill’s Pub Miami, Florida

Established: 1979
What You’ll See: Jacuzzi Boys, Negative Approach, Thee Oh Sees, Charlie Pickett, Shannon and the Clams

In the heart of Little Haiti, right next to Sweat Records, Churchill’s Pub serves as Miami’s No. 1 spot to catch live punk, jazz, and everything in between. It has a rich history, booking both local bands going nowhere and nationwide acts on the rise. In the past decade, its booking has only gotten better, as more and more bands make their way down to Miami, from La Luz to Iceage. It’s a lovable shithole, often referred to as the CBGB of Miami, what with its grotesque bathrooms and general grime.

But Churchill’s is also undeniably unique, thanks to a dedicated community and a diverse slate of shows and events. It’s more or less the foundation of South Florida’s freaky scene, having hosted the likes of noise legend Rat Bastard and metal rockers Torche. It’s a place where you can catch free jazz on Monday night or watch someone take a shit on stage during International Noise Conference. Dirty, small, smoky, and worn out, Churchill’s keeps Miami weird.

–Rebecca Bulnes

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71. Tennessee Theater

Knoxville, Tennessee

Tennessee Theater Knoxville, Tennessee

Established: 1928
What You’ll See: Gregg Allman, Ghost, John Prine, Bonnie Raitt, Sturgill Simpson

Originally designed by Chicago architects Graven and Mayger, Knoxville’s Tennessee Theatre is an absolute visual stunner, a mix of architectural styles featuring French/Czech chandeliers and Italian terrazzo floors. Located inside Knoxville’s 10-story Burwell Building, it first opened as a movie palace in 1928, and its breathtaking interior is why the venue’s still easy to call “palatial” today.

The Historic Tennessee Theatre Foundation was started in 1996 to preserve, maintain, and operate the Theatre, leading to a $25.5 million renovation and restoration that commenced in 2003 and resulted with its reopening in 2005. Some credit the project with boosting the overall appeal of downtown Knoxville. Outside of concerts, the Theatre hosts performances by the Knoxville Symphony Orchestra, in addition to the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony.

–Michael Madden

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