arrow-down arrow-left arrow-right arrow-up play-button plus tab-indicator dots close menu search facebook google-plus instagram pinterest rss twitter youtube rss-two heart Check FeaturedBadge linkedin minus apps placeholder linkedin

4 Intimate Clubs for Live Music

Dimly lit local dives with exciting live music

While stadium-filling headliners make their way through San Diego, it's in intimate clubs and dives where you'll find some of the most exciting live music.

By: Jeff Terich; San Diego Music Expert

Ever since the early '90s, when magazines like Spin were proclaiming San Diego as "the next Seattle," the city has had a reputation for incubating a fertile music scene. So while stadium-filling headliners most certainly make their way through town, it's in the dimly lit dives and intimate clubs that you'll find the most exciting live music in San Diego. The city is littered with more than five-dozen clubs that host live music, and a long list of those have shows at least five nights a week. It's never hard to find a good band to see in San Diego, whether it's an up-and-coming artist at The Casbah, or a local showcase at Soda Bar. And while you're at it, settle in with a beer or a cocktail.

Belly Up Tavern

The central city area of San Diego has a fertile live music scene, but a short drive up I-5 along the coast will lead you to Solana Beach's Belly Up Tavern. One of the longest running venues in San Diego County, the Belly Up opened in 1974, and has been consistently hosting excellent local and touring acts, which range from reggae legends like The Wailers to contemporary indie rock artists like Twin Shadow, and occasionally full evenings with artists such as Graham Nash or Rufus Wainwright. The venue has a capacity of 600, which makes it one of the bigger bars in which to catch a show, and the Wild Note Cafe next door offers a chance to catch a bite beforehand. And if you want to make a day of it, the beach is just blocks away.

Where: 143 S. Cedros Ave., Solana Beach, CA 92075
> Find out more about Belly Up Tavern

The Casbah

No music venue is more iconic to San Diego than The Casbah. Opened in 1989, it's been the central hub for rock music in town, acting as both a Ground Zero for up-and-coming local bands, as well as the premiere destination for touring independent acts. The list of bands that have played here is stunning: Nirvana, Smashing Pumpkins and The White Stripes, just to name a handful of bands that went on to play theaters and coliseums 10 times the size of this intimate club. And the level of talent that comes through is just as consistent today - owner Tim Mays also books shows at bigger venues like The Irenic and The Observatory, for those bands that have grown a little bit since playing The Casbah. The biggest buzz bands on tour will almost certainly play here, but make sure to get your tickets early - they sell out quickly!

Where: 2501 Kettner Blvd., San Diego, CA 92101

Soda Bar

The Soda Bar hasn't been around nearly as long as The Casbah, but in just seven years, it's made a name for itself in town by keeping the calendar stacked with excellent shows. There's something happening every night of the week, and you could probably pick a random night and walk in to find something worth seeing, usually for a low cover charge (about $10 or less, depending on the show). They regularly put on showcase of great, young local bands, while they also play host all year to a long list of notable touring bands, which has more recently included Sylvan Esso, Cloud Nothings and Speedy Ortiz. About the name: You certainly can get a soda at Soda Bar, if that's what you're thirsty for, but they always have a lot of great craft beers on tap, including some local favorites like Green Flash and Pizza Port.

Where: 3615 El Cajon Blvd., San Diego, CA 92104

The Hideout

Only about one block west of Soda Bar, The Hideout is City Heights' other - newer - spot for a show on El Cajon Blvd. Opened in early 2014, The Hideout arrived as the latest in a long line of different bars to open with the same address. It was most recently named The Void (and before that, Eleven). With a complete makeover, a new menu of delicious, affordable cocktails (I recommend The Mule, or The Rabbit Hole) and a steady lineup of great bands on its stage, The Hideout established itself quickly in San Diego's music scene. It's one of the best places in town to catch new and cutting edge bands before they sell out a bigger room. And they've also got some comfy booths to settle into if you want to chill with a cocktail during happy hour.

Where: 3519 El Cajon Blvd., San Diego, CA 92104

An Important Note

Because all of these venues serve alcohol, you must be 21 or older to enter.

Find a place to stay

Book online or call 1-800-350-6205 to speak with a local expert

Related Articles and Features

Deals just for you

Restaurants

Wine Down Wednesday

Pinzimini - The Westin San Diego Gaslamp Quarter
Valid: Mar 28 - ongoing

Sip and celebrate with us every Wednesday with Half Price ALL Bottles of Wine offered with your dinner entree purchase in the Pinzimini dining room.  Pair your wine selection with...

Tours & Sightseeing

Receive a FREE Tote Bag With Purchase of Ticket!

San Diego Beer, Wine & Spirits Tours
Valid: Feb 4 - ongoing

Book any tour from this ad, and receive a FREE canvas tote bag! Choose from our world-famous Winery Train Tour, San Diego's most popular brewery tour - the Beer Train Trolley Tour - one of our...

Venues

$3.00 off Wine Tasting

Gianni Buonomo Vintners
Valid: Mar 26 - ongoing

Simply mention San Diego Tourism or Sandiego.org and you can enjoy $3.00 off a complete 6-flight taste of award-winning Gianni Buonomo Vintners.

Events to check out

Event

Big Bay Boom!

Jul 4, 2019

The Big Bay Boom July 4th Fireworks Show is back, promising another spectacular display over San Diego Bay. Fireworks will be discharged simultaneously from barges placed strategically around the Bay...

Event

La Jolla Half Marathon & Shores 5K

Apr 28, 2019

The La Jolla Half Marathon is one of America's most picturesque and beautiful point-to-point races. Starting at the Del Mar Fairgrounds, the course follows a scenic coastal route before reaching the...

Event

Gator By The Bay-Zydeco, Blues & Crawfish Festival

Bon Temps Social Club of San Diego
May 9 - May 12, 2019

Largest, authentic Louisiana-themed festival this side of the bayou. Features 4 days of live music - more than 100 performances on 7 stages, dancing, delicious Southern food - including beignets,...

Stay in touch

Sign up to receive the latest news, events, and updates about San Diego. Our monthly and weekly newsletters will keep you informed about the latest and greatest happenings in the destination.

Sign Up

Visitor planning guide

For the ultimate guide to planning your San Diego vacation, view and download the San Diego Visitor Planning Guide, packed with useful information that will help you plan the perfect San Diego getaway.

Read More

Partners

Explore

Plan

Stay

Follow Us

Language:

English | Change Language

Select your country or region

China FlagChinaGermany FlagGermanyGreat Britain FlagGreat BritainJapan FlagJapanMexico FlagMexicoKorea FlagKoreaSwitzerland FlagSwitzerlandBrazil FlagBrazilFrance FlagFranceAustralia FlagAustraliaCanada FlagCanada USA

Or use Google Translate

Afrikaans Albanian Arabic Belarusian Bulgarian Catalan Croatian Czech Danish Deutsch Español Estonian Filipino Finnish Francais Galician Greek Haitian-Creole Hebrew Hindi Hungarian Icelandic Indonesian Irish Italian Japanese Korean Latvian Lithuanian Macedonian Malay Maltese Nederlands Norwegian Persian Polish Portuguese Romanian Russian Serbian Slovak Slovenian Swahili Swedish Telugu Thai Turkish Ukranian Vietnamese Welsh Yiddish