1. The Great American Music Hall, San Francisco
A Bay Area cultural landmark since it opened in 1907, the Tenderloin concert venue has lived through the Jazz boom with performances by legends like Duke Ellington, as well as the Grateful Dead, a headliner of 60s counterculture. So, suit up in your rock star best and follow the smell of patchouli and weed to 859 O’Farrell Street, where the historic music hall stands gloriously under its original marquee. Today, mainstream acts come and go, but the real star of the show is the grand interior filled with marble columns, tiered balconies, and ornate frescoes.
2. The Fillmore, Miami Beach
When Jackie Gleason relocated his hit television show to The Fillmore in 1964, he put Miami Beach on the map. Although the interior has undergone major modifications over the years, the Art Deco façade is well preserved, making it a popular filming location for movies and series set in the 50s and 60s. Today, it’s one of the few live venues left in Magic City after the closing of the beloved Grand Central downtown. Big names like Iggy Pop, Tori Amos, and David Gray have performed here as well as the annual South Beach Comedy Festival that happens every spring.
3. Paramount Theatre, Austin
Considered the live music capital of the world, Austin lives up to its reputation, especially for its cherished Paramount Theatre, the oldest standing theatre in the city. Built over 100 years ago, the stage has hosted luminaries such as Katherine Hepburn and the master escape artist Houdini. In 1916, the notorious illusionist drilled a hole in the proscenium for a trick and after all these years, the “Houdini Hole” is still there, serving as a reminder of the stage’s legendary past. With its immense ceilings, intricate ceiling fancywork, and tiered balconies, the majestic space is a beloved piece of American history and center stage for a huge range of acts from rock to country.
4. The Roxy, Los Angeles
The first week it opened in 1973, The Roxy started off with a bang by hosting rock legend Neil Young. Since then, the Sunset Strip hotspot has featured musical luminaries like Bob Marley and Bruce Springsteen as well as the historic world debut of Paul Reubens and his 80s Pee-Wee Herman character. It also has its share of haunting legends; the famous nightclub was the last place John Belushi was seen before his fatal overdose on March 5th, 1982. Possible ghosts aside, there are few places better to see a rock show in Los Angeles than the legendary Roxy.
5. Radio City Music Hall, New York City
Commissioned by Rockefeller after the 1929 stock market crash in 1929, Radio City has been America’s showplace for major film openings, with over 700 films debuting in the theatre since 1933. Gregory Peck, a former usher at the venue, walked the red carpet for the first screening of To Kill a Mockingbird. Audrey Hepburn also appeared there for the premier of the classic romantic comedy Breakfast at Tiffany’s. From performances by Frank Sinatra and Ray Charles, to being the site of the Grammy’s and Tony’s, the American people’s palace will forever be the magical place for stars in the spotlight.
6. The Grand Ole Opry, Nashville
To hear debuts by today’s hottest country singers as well as legendary stars of country music, head to Music City and the Ryman Auditorium. It all started in 1925 with fiddle player Uncle Jimmy Thompson performing a new show “The WSM Barn Dance” and the Harmonica Wizard DeFord Bailey playing his heart out. Since then, The Grand Ole Opry has helped launch the careers of famous country crooners like Dolly Parton, Patsy Cline, and Hank Williams, among countless others. For the past 90 years, the iconic music hall has been a cultural institution of Nashville and the jewel in the crown of country music.
7. Wild Bill’s, Memphis
The former gas station might not be much to look at, but this divey juke joint in Midtown is a historic hotspot to hear authentic blues that originated in the Delta. Locals always say there are two reasons to go—when you’re feeling good and when you’re feeling bad. Whatever your mood, they swear by it, claiming it’s better than therapy. Situated a few miles from the tourist track off Beale Street, the classic blues joint often hosts jam sessions with the original trumpet player from Otis Redding’s band.
8. Tipitina’s, New Orleans
With a blues and jazz heritage as strong as the roots of the Delta, New Orleans is still the stomping grounds for the best musicians in the world, and no trip to New Orleans would be complete without a trip to one of it’s legendary music venues. In 1977, a group of die-hard jazz fans known as the Fabulous Fo’Teen opened Tipitina’s as a venue for Professor Longhair to perform in his later years. In a tribute to the neighborhood juke joint, Longhair wrote and performed his classic hit “Tipitina’s,” the iconic jam that is quintessential New Orleans. After filling up on Purple Haze, craw-daddys, and a few Sazeracs, get on your blue suede shoes and hit Tipitina’s for an epic night.
9. Showbox, Seattle
Seattle might have brought us good coffee and classic rom coms, but it’s also the birthplace of 90s grunge, a movement that left a lasting imprint on American music and culture. And thanks to places like Showbox, the local music scene continues to thrive. Since it opened in 1939, the stage has hosted a long list of legends from Muddy Waters and Duke Ellington of the Jazz boom to Nirvana and The Ramones in the 90s. Today, it’s a local institution featuring 200 concerts a year with mainstream headliners like Billy Idol, Lada Gaga, and Daft Punk.
10. Ground Zero Blues Club, Clarksdale, Mississippi
Living up to its namesake the club is considered “Ground Zero” for blues around the world, and Clarksdale has a rich musical heritage that came out of the Delta in the early days of blues. Established by Morgan Freeman in 2001, the blues joint is situated on Blues Alley and is home to musicians following in the tradition of John Lee Hooker and Muddy Waters. For an authentic Mississippi experience, get on the Blues Highway and head to this favorite blues club for classic sounds of the Mississippi Delta and Southern comfort staples like crispy catfish and slow-cooked barbeque.