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The Greatest American Music Venues (According to Musicians)

on April 27, 2016, 11:30am
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Meat Wave

“The Empty Bottle is hands down my favorite venue in the country. A mystically warm atmosphere, super-friendly staff, cheap drinks, and the best sound. Proud that it’s in Chicago.”


“We love the Masquerade. I’ve played some of our best shows ever there, seen some of the best shows there, and gotten incredibly drunk there. Sometimes all three in the same night.”

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Miike Snow

“Terminal 5. A lot of people shit on this place, but I love it. The first show I saw there was Prince when it was called something else, I can’t remember. He was playing his own impromptu after-party after having been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. That was the first time I’d seen Prince live. When playing there, you have an extraordinary connection to the fans for a venue of that size. Everything is stacked up on top of itself, people’s limbs are dangling over the railings, and they sit down and put their feet over the balcony’s edge. It gets quite rowdy, and the sound acquires a dark, industrial echo from the natural acoustics of the room. All in all, it reminds me of George Miller’s Thunderdome, a modernized version of the Medieval sport Bearbaiting. You can let loose an intense, trance-inducing energy there.”

Nick Thorburn

“It’s like picking The Beatles as your favorite band or Charles Manson as your favorite serial killer. Bit of an obvious choice, and totally ‘on the nose,’ but fuck it. Excellent sight lines from anywhere in the club, the sound is solid, and the staff are hilarious, friendly, and helpful. I always look forward to playing a show at the Bowery Ballroom.”

Palma Violets

After a short band meeting, we have decided that our favorite venue is Shea Stadium in Brooklyn. Run by the So So Glos, they’ve made it into a great space for new bands to start off their lives as musicians. We’ve played their twice, with great supports.”


“Saturn in Birmingham, Alabama. The stage is spacious, the sound is great, and the backstage is probably the best in the world.”



“Baby’s All Right in Brooklyn. Good vibes, good sound, good food. And our manager runs the place.”

Prince Rama

“The flyer read … ‘Take a trip to the Mojave Desert for a weekend of music at a dusty saloon oasis known as THE PALMS.’ This was the invitation to the festival called Deserted at the Palms in the tiny town of Twenty Nine Palms, CA. The stage that we performed on was constructed in the sand under the starry sky. The ‘green room’ was a pitched tent that had beer and an air mattress. From the campsite, the loud music mixed with thunder from a distant storm and echoed off of abandoned, weather-worn shacks and shape-shifting sand dunes. While performing, the cool, desert wind whipped through our hair, and sand mixed with the sweat and glitter under our eyes. A sense of acceptance swept over us as we were enveloped in the elements. How humbling to perform in such a powerful environment! What a welcomed change from the sterile, predictable rock club! While watching the other bands that night, I took my heels off and danced along with the rest of the audience. We all lost ourselves in the music. There was no cell phone signal to distract us, no Instagram to lure us into self-awareness. Suddenly, a jolt of fright rippled through the crowd. First one shriek, followed by a chorus of screaming. A flurry of flashlights. A GIGANTIC BLACK SCORPION WAS CRAWLIN’ AROUND THROUGH OUR BARE FEET. It darted and disappeared under the stage. Just as we were all breathing a sigh of relief, a crash of lightning lit up the night sky and knocked out all the power. What deadly thing could possibly be next? A Mojave madman shooting his gun in the dark silence?! I laughed — the desert is my favorite venue. It doesn’t get much more thrilling than risking your life for what you love.”


“We’ve been fortunate to visit some truly amazing venues throughout the continental United States. From historic buildings like The Roxy in LA to DIY spaces like Shea Stadium in Brooklyn and hidden gems like Saturn in Birmingham, Alabama, it’s difficult to pick just one. Having said all that, we gotta go back to the best venue in the most Canadian city in America: The Triple Rock Social Club in Minneapolis, MN. Any venue run by seasoned touring veterans — in this case, Dillinger Four — always knows exactly what touring bands need: food, booze, and a raucous venue where beer cans being thrown at you means you’re playing well. Not to mention the fact that their brunch is the best fucking cure for a Triple Rock hangover. 10/10, would play any time.”

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