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10 Best Live Music Venues in America

From big rooms to intimate spaces, here’s a selection of some of the country’s best live music spots

A Place to Bury Strangers performs at Brooklyn Steel.

A Place to Bury Strangers performs at Brooklyn Steel.

Sacha Lecca

With hundreds of incredible locations — including small clubs, big rooms and epic amphitheaters and arenas — it’s a formidable task to narrow down the best live music venues in the United States to just 10. Everyone has their own favorite based on past experiences, but the ones here are some of the most discussed and visited and memorable spots to hear bands perform, stretching from coast to coast.

best venues ottobar

Shane K Gardner/Rock N Roll Socialite

Ottobar, Baltimore

In the same way it would be hard to forget U2 playing a set in your living room, it’s hard to forget a night at Ottobar. For over 20 years, this dingy-yet-beloved rock club has hosted all kinds of bands — including improbably massive ones like the White Stripes and the Yeah Yeah Yeahs. Because its small stage is elevated, anywhere you stand feels like the front row. In more recent years, hometown heroes such as Future Islands, Animal Collective and Beach House have taken breaks from headlining theaters, arenas and festivals to blow the roof off of the place their careers started — and more often than not local legend John Waters is in the back, presiding over the party pit.

Ottobar opened in 1997, making it one of Baltimore’s longest-operating venues. It relocated in 2001 to a dubious block on North Howard Street that’s off-the-beaten-path but only a $5 cab from lots of areas of the sprawling city. Plus, free-and-plentiful parking beats any venue close to the Inner Harbor. For a prolific arts city that’s teeming with talent yet constantly recovering from DIY space crackdowns, transient student populations, and the like, Ottobar offers much more than consistent live music. It’s become an important community pillar, a home base and an undeniable hidden gem of the I-95 tour circuit. Plus, its official logo is a cat pawing a martini glass. What could top that? —SARAH GRANT

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