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The Best Spots for Live Music in Sacramento
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The Best Spots for Live Music in Sacramento

Picture of Catrina Pang
Updated: 18 December 2015
California’s capital city is home to much more than just historic buildings and political figures. The diversity of its population makes it also a cultural and artistic hub, filled with dynamic local talent. With amazing live music venues featuring everything from coffee and art to dance clubs to open jazz jams, Sacramento offers some of the best intimate and personal spaces for visitors to experience music in a whole new way.

Crest Theatre

A historic theater located in downtown Sacramento just blocks away from the State Capitol, Crest Theatre was originally opened in 1912 as a vaudeville palace called the Empress Theatre. The building visitors see today is as it was back in 1949, when it was revamped as Sacramento’s New Perfect Theatre, which operated as a main stream movie house until 1979. Today, it operates as an art film theatre and live concert hall, making it Sacramento’s last intact movie palace. The building features a gorgeous art deco interior and a 95 foot neon marquee, and it receives many accolades from concert goers who enjoy the intimate interior and fine acoustics. Crest is home to The Sacramento French Film Festival, Sacramento Film and Music Festival, Sacramento Jewish Film Festival, Sacramento Gay and Lesbian Film Festival, and A Place Called Sacramento Film Festival. It also hosts many popular live concerts and comedy shows such as Kathy Griffin, Lisa Lampanelli, Arlo Guthrie, Kris Kristofferson, Nickel Creek, Merie Haggard, Zappa Plays Zappa, and many more.

Crest Theatre, 1013 K St, Sacramento, CA, USA, +1 916 476 3356

Shine Sacramento

Located in downtown’s historic Mansion Flats neighborhood, Shine Sacramento is a welcoming community gathering space for celebrating local food, drinks, music, and art. A friendly, casual, comfortable spot, Shine is a fiercely independent, local family operated coffee shop, art gallery, and live music venue. Every Thursday night, Levi Saelua and the Shine Jazz House Band put on an open jazz jam, and guests can bring their own instruments to join in or they can just soak in the sounds with a tasty beverage of coffee, juice, kombucha, beer on tap, or delicious wine. In addition, every Friday and Saturday night features the very best local bands in Sacramento as well as many up-and-coming touring bands. The live music shows include everything from rock, alternative, funk, and jazz to fusion, bluegrass, soul, and even psycho-billy. Shine is known for being a pleasant, comfortable, and intimate live music venue, and it also hosts open mic nights on the first and third Wednesdays of each month, encouraging all forms of poetry and acoustic performance.

Shine Sacramento, 1400 E St, Sacramento, CA, USA, +1 916 551 1400

Old Ironsides

A family owned nightclub, bar, and restaurant, Old Ironsides started back in 1934 when WIlliam Bordisso obtained the first liquor license in Sacramento after Prohibition. He established the business and fostered the relaxed neighborhood atmosphere that Old Ironsides continues to offer to this day. Over 80 years later, the Bordisso/Kenelos family keeps the tradition of serving good food and drink in a friendly, family atmosphere alive. Today, Old Ironsides continually hosts the best in local and touring live music acts on Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays. Shaun Slaughter and Roger Carpio’s popular Indie/rock dance club Lipstick has continued to run a line around the house once a month for over 15 years, drawing in people from all over and becoming a Sacramento staple. Tuesday nights feature karaoke, and Wednesdays are the long running Open Mic night. Locals love to come regularly for the friendly service, great drinks, and intimate atmosphere that allows for an up close and personal view of the bands.

Old Ironsides, 1901 10th St, Sacramento, CA, USA, +1 916 443 9751

The Torch Club

Established in 1934, The Torch Club is one of Sacramento’s oldest bars and is home to the best in local and national blues acts with live music six days a week. The bar tends to attract older crowds who enjoy a divey atmosphere and great deals on drinks. They’ve got tables for seating that offer great views of the stage, though concert nights can get really crowded, so if you want to get a table you have to arrive early. There is also a dance floor for all the folks who love to dance, as well as more seating at the bar. The staff are friendly and hard working, and the atmosphere is relaxed in the quaint and personable space. The Torch Club’s location right in the middle of Sacramento makes it close to everything if you want to go bar hopping or get dinner first. The dimly lit bar, the tapestry behind the stage, and the paintings of sad clowns remind visitors of being in Chicago, and this go-to spot of many locals is the place where live blues, rockabilly, americana, R&B, soul, and jazz music abound.

The Torch Club, 904 15th St, Sacramento, CA, USA, +1 916 443 2797

Ace of Spades

Sacramento’s newest all ages live music venue located in the heart of Downtown Sacramento’s ‘R Street District,’ Ace of Spades is the perfect place to enjoy a show no matter what age you are, or to have a dinner and some snacks while drinking a cocktail in one of the four bars. For a bar and show venue, the floor space is quite large, and the stage is small and close-up. There is plenty of standing room to the side on an elevated lounge area, as well as an upstairs overview area, and the sound projects extremely well throughout the building. Despite the fact that all ages are welcome, even older crowds can enjoy themselves at Ace of Spades without worrying about teenagers causing scenes, thanks to the special areas and bars for guests over 21. The place is very popular, with long lines outside before the doors even open, but the staff are always efficient and well organized. The place does get packed, though every visitor gets a great up close and personal experience with the performers.

Ace of Spades, 1417 R St, Sacramento, CA, USA