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St Louis Music Scene

Lauren Wells | February 19, 2014

The History

Jazz, blues, country, and bluegrass thrived throughout St. Louis’ music history.  Since 1955, artists like St. Louis native Chuck Berry have become Rock and Roll pioneers.  The singer-songwriter still plays local gigs in one of his hometown venues!  The New Wave scene of the 80’s transitioned into the hard rock/metal period, churning out bands like Anacrusis.  Garage and rock bands like the Primitives (who later became alt-country band Uncle Tupelo) and Blue Moons also impacted the music scene in 1980’s St. Louis.  Indie roots band the Bottle Rockets got their start in 1992, later breaking up and becoming the bands Son Volt and Wilco.  Hard rock band Cavo was founded in 2001 and three years later punk rock band Living Things got their start in St. Louis.  With its eclectic sound, St. Louis has become a diverse home to all musical genres.

The Venues

Established in 1818, the Old Rock House is a St. Louis staple.  Bands like Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr., Carbon Leaf, Cherub, Green River Ordinance, and the Ataris hit the stage at this old restored venue.  For certain shows, the Old Rock House sets up tables on the main floor where you can be served food and drinks while enjoying the live music.  The setting is intimate and clean, with three floors: a basement bar area with seating, a floor level with a bar and standing room section, and an upper level with a bar and balcony to view the band.  Partly a restaurant and partly a venue, the Old Rock House is great for a relaxed evening of seeing an up and coming band.

The Firebird is a beloved indie rock venue in Midtown St. Louis.  Featuring bands like the Gaslight Anthem, Jukebox the Ghost, Purity Ring, and the Raveonettes, the Firebird is a no-muss, no-fuss type of venue.  With simple décor and an emphasis on the talent, this venue is for those of you who want to see the bands that are known in their unique niche.  Pay attention when you’re heading to the Firebird, their lack of exterior signage sometimes makes them hard to spot!

Don’t worry about finding the Pageant, though! Their bright purple and red marquee is as eye-catching as they come.  Founded in 2000, the 2,300 capacity Pageant has become one of St. Louis’ most popular venues.  Bands who have performed here include Arctic Monkeys, Neutral Milk Hotel, the Airborne Toxic Event, Fitz and the Tantrums, Young the Giant, and Dark Star Orchestra.  On the plus side, you’ll always have options for viewing the show: the large GA section, near the bar, sitting in the balcony area, or front row center.  Pick a spot and jam out!

Jazz more your thing?  Jazz St. Louis is a non-profit organization that promotes jazz through live events, education and outreach programs.  Founded in the 90’s by the “Jazz Mom” herself (the late Barbara Rose), Jazz St. Louis puts on a performance series called Jazz at the Bistro held at the Grand Center arts district.  Jazz at the Bistro has been named one of the top 10 places to hear live jazz in the U.S. by USA Today, and CNN.com also featured the venue as “one of nine great jazz joints.”  With an intimate listening room and reserved table seating, this experience will relax and soothe you.  Prepare to be impressed: Jazz St. Louis books more than 400 concerts per year, including the Bistro performances, and features jazz legends as well as up and coming talent.

Established in 1972, Blueberry Hill is a St. Louis landmark.  Located along the St. Louis Walk of Fame in the Loop, Blueberry Hill features a permanent monthly residency starring Chuck Berry.  Other acts playing at Blueberry Hill include Catie Curtis, Buffalo Killers, Fanfarlo, and Jake Clemons.  With a full menu, four private party rooms, pop culture memorabilia covering the walls, darts, pinball, video games, and a photo booth, Blueberry Hill will find a way to keep you entertained.  Feel free to bring your furry best friend: their patio is dog friendly!

The 3,500 seat Peabody Opera House has hosted shows by the greats: Bob Dylan, Cream, the Grateful Dead, Neil Young, the Rolling Stones, David Bowie, the Eagles, Journey, Greg Allman, Billy Joel, and R.E.M. have all taken the stage.  Adjacent to the Peabody is the Scottrade Center, a state-of-the-art sports and entertainment arena.  The complex features modern glass and concrete architecture and is housed in downtown St. Louis.  Hosting over 175 events per year, the Scottrade Center replaced the Keil Auditorium in 1994.  Billy Joel, Chelsea Handler, Miley Cyrus, Cher, and Katy Perry are some of the big names the venue brings in throughout the year when they’re not hosting professional bull riding, wrestling, or professional basketball tournaments.

Off Broadway features indie bands like Foghorn Stringband, Dawes, Caroline Smith and the Right Now, San Fermin, Those Darlins, Shovels and Rope, Turnpike Troubadours, and Beth Bombara.  The venue’s plain brick exterior makes way for an intimate, but not too crowded, concert going experience.  Located in the Marine Villa neighborhood of St. Louis, Off Broadway is a charming favorite among the locals.  OB has two bars, plenty of space, upstairs seating, and a heated patio for you smokers. This up close and personal venue is a great place to support local music.

The Sheldon Concert Hall hosts over 350 jazz, folk, and classical music events each year.  Dave Brubeck, Herbie Hancock, Doc Watson, Judy Collins, Lyle Lovett, B.B. King, and Diana Krall have performed at the Sheldon.  With impressive art galleries and educational outreach programs, the Sheldon is a fine arts oasis.

The Sheldon is often overshadowed by its neighbor, the Fox Theatre.  A former movie theatre, the Fox was established in 1929 as one of the five theatres built by the Fox Film Corporation (the others are in Brooklyn, Atlanta, Detroit, and San Francisco).  Seating 4,192 concertgoers, the Fox hosted Chuck Berry’s 60th birthday concert led by Keith Richards as musical director.  Kathy Griffin’s stand up show even filmed an episode here, and the Les Miserables 17 year tour played its last show at the Fox.  The theater even has a Wurlitzer pipe organ and extravagant décor reminiscent of Indian mosques.

The Lumiere Theatre at Lumiere Place Casino and Hotels brings in artists like Travis Tritt, Kevin Eubanks, Josh Gracin, and Chrisette Michele, among others.  Enjoy poker, slots, and the in-house lounge Aqua.  You’ll never need to leave the Lumiere – they have all things entertainment!

Opened in 2010, River City Casino books well-known comedians like Whitney Cummings along with musicians like Rick Springfield.  Located in Lemay, River City Casino is located on 56 acres of land with a 90,000 square foot gaming floor, 2,000 slot machines, and 55 gaming tables.  Don’t blow too much of your money gambling– save it for a gig at their events center!

The Chaifetz Arena at St. Louis University hosts Blues and comedy festivals as well as nationally touring acts like Arcade Fire, 2 Chainz, Demi Lovato, and Justin Moore.  The home to SLU men’s and women’s basketball and women’s volleyball, the Chaifetz opened in 2008 to much acclaim.  Keep your eyes peeled for the next A-lister coming to town!

If you’d rather get a bit grungy and avoid the mainstream crowd, check out Fubar in downtown St. Louis.  Hosting bands like SEEKER, Capture the Crown, Unresolved, Pain After August, and Silent Hollow, Fubar books a lot of punk and metal bands you probably haven’t heard of just yet.  The venue is split into two rooms: one for enjoying the show, and the other for playing some pool, picking tunes on the jukebox, and practicing your video game skills.  Don’t expect girls wearing pearls and guys in salmon colored pants; this venue is a rough around the edges dive bar with a lot of personality.

An American fare restaurant and music venue, Plush books bands with weird names and quirky indie sounds: Smooth Talkin’ Pervert, Eclectic Tuba, Without Hazard, Other People, and Houndmouth have all fit the bill.  Plush is a good spot for dinner and a casual show with some of your friends.

Home to the NFL’s St. Louis Rams, the Edward Jones Dome can seat up to 70,000 people.  Mainly a venue for sporting events, the Edward Jones Dome sometimes hosts concerts such as those for large internationally touring acts like One Direction.

The Festivals

Loufest, held every September in Forest Park, features top musical acts like the Killers, Wilco, the National, Alabama Shakes, Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros, Local Natives, Fitz and the Tantrums, Ra Ra Riot, and Jim James.  With major corporate sponsors like Slacker Radio, Chipotle, and Verizon, there are tons of places to take a break from all the live music action.  A lot of money and passion goes into generating this festival, and the result is two days of non-stop outdoor entertainment. 

The Chaifetz Center hosts the St. Louis Music Festival every February and features talented soul and R&B artists like Maze, Frankie Beverly, Anthony Hamilton, and Joe.  These Grammy nominated/winning artists have led impressive careers—it’s an honor to be able to see them in this festival setting as they play their hits. 

Every summer, the open-air Whitaker Music Festival invites concertgoers to bring a picnic and a cooler to this local event.  Funded by the Whitaker Foundation, this festival supports the arts, diversity, and heritage of St. Louis.  Every Wednesday between June and August, a new local or up-and-coming musical act takes the stage to draw in family-friendly crowds looking to enjoy a casual summer night. 

For you blues lovers, the Big Muddy Blues Festival hosts regional and local bands on two smaller stages, while the large main stage accommodates national headliners.  Located along the St. Louis Riverfront, Big Muddy celebrates the art of the blues genre, including soul, R&B, rockabilly, gospel, and jazz.  Check out the 30+ bands and wander the cobblestone streets for a weekend that’s sure to put a smile on your face. 

The Fair Saint Louis Foundation presents the Celebrate St. Louis Summer Concert Series, which takes play every July and features two local bands as opening acts to a nationally touring headliner.  Country star Josh Turner, alt-rock band the Urge, and Christian rock band NEEDTOBREATHE are the types of acts you’ll be enjoying at this mini festival.  With a wide variety of festival programming, each year brings something new to the St. Louis music scene.