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Here are four excellent ways for all ages to enjoy the music scene in San Diego County without rigid age restrictions getting in the way.
San Diego can be a paradise for connoisseurs of spirituous libations—you know, alcoholic drinks. The craft beer scene in San Diego has exploded to become one of the largest in the world, with 120+ breweries in town. Likewise, the craft cocktail movement has turned bar-hopping in town to an even classier and more palate-pleasing weekend activity. Naturally, this spills over into live music as well, for which there is no shortage of bars, lounges or clubs in town where revelers of legal drinking age can not only see their favorite bands perform but likewise have a couple rounds of cocktails or perhaps a pint on nitro.
For those aged 20 and under, however, that’s not terribly helpful. Given most venues that serve alcohol don’t allow anyone under the age of 21 to enter, that means it can be a little complicated for music lovers to enjoy San Diego’s musical offerings before hitting the legal drinking age. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t some great options for music lovers of all ages. And remember that all ages means just that: You can get in if you’re in high school or a freshman in college, but even if you’re a veteran of the scene and just want to see a show without the need for a drink you can drop in as well. But all-ages music activities in San Diego aren’t just limited to live music, as there are other musical offerings in town that all ages can enjoy. Here are four of San Diego’s best spots.
The Irenic isn’t solely a venue for live music. From the outside, it sure looks a lot like a church, and when you head inside, a church is what it turns out to be: Mission Gathering, to be specific, which holds services on Sundays. During the week, however, it’s a non-denominational center of activity for both local and touring acts. It’s held shows by the likes of Nada Surf and goth-rock icon Peter Murphy, and the catering license it holds as an operational church means that it can still serve beer and wine if you’re of age.
A historic co-op opened in 1980 on the campus of UC San Diego, the Che Café has been hosting live shows for decades. It’s hosted countless bands that have since become far too big to fit a crowd within its cozy confines, including Green Day, Rage Against the Machine, Jimmy Eat World and At the Drive-In, and still has a regular rotation of local and touring bands playing its stage to this day. It’s much more than a music venue, however, also being a source of student activism, which only stands to reason, given that it’s named for Argentine revolutionary Che Guevara. For those feeling a little puckish at one of its live events, the Che Café has a functional kitchen where volunteers cook up vegan vittles.
Shows at the Che are usually inexpensive, and the atmosphere is welcoming on several levels. The volunteers of the co-op encourage tolerance and discourage violence, and though it’s been the source of some friction with UCSD faculty over funding for upgrades, the university recently came to an agreement with the Che to fund necessary inspections of the facility and allow it to continue to operate without having to interrupt its programming schedule or relocate.
Considering sales of vinyl have been booming for the past several years, buying records is now something that younger people are becoming more invested in. Teenagers and millennials are partially responsible for making records more popular than they have been in years. And San Diego has its share of outstanding vinyl emporiums. In Mission Hills, M Theory stocks its share of new and used vinyl, including an ample selection of local bands. But up the coast in Encinitas, the long-running Lou’s Records features its own impressive record stacks, and just a few blocks from the beach!
To nurture the budding musician in the family, take a trip to El Cajon, 25 miles east of downtown San Diego, to visit local guitar makers Taylor. The company makes high-quality acoustic guitars that have put San Diego on the map for musical manufacturing, and there are free factory tours Monday through Thursday. It’ll be a great introduction to playing music for the younger members of the family, but it’ll appeal to the longtime music fans as well.
Photo credit: Alex Matthews
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