Live Music Venues in Tallahassee
By Kati Schardl
All musical roads lead to Tallahassee, it seems.
With two universities and a community college, the city has a built-in audience for bands touring the college circuit in the Southeast. The city also boasts the only Florida stop on the legendary Mississippi Blues Trail, a jazz club that draws the genre’s top stars to play intimate concerts, two new amphitheaters, a world-class concert hall and a burgeoning local music scene that spills out of Tallahassee’s dives, clubs and coffeehouses.
If you find yourself in Florida’s Capital City, here’s an overview of where you can slake your musical thirst.
B Sharp’s Jazz Cafe
648 W. Brevard St.
At B Sharp’s, proprietors Gerri and Clarence Seay have welcomed such luminaries as Wynton Marsalis (and little brother Jason), Marcus Roberts, Dr. John and Scotty Barnhart to their gem box of a listening room in the heart of Tallahassee’s historic Frenchtown neighborhood. It’s also a haven for professors and students from the top-notch jazz studies programs at Florida State and Florida A&M universities. There’s no raised stage in the club, which seats fewer than 100 – musicians perform at floor level and it makes for a wonderfully intimate musical experience.
Bradfordville Blues Club
7152 Moses Lane
The property where a cinder-block juke joint dubbed Bradfordville Blues Club sits under moss-hung live oaks has been a stop on the “chitlin circuit” since black musicians began making the rounds of backwoods bars and downtown honky-tonks back in World War II. Blues legends still grace the corner stage, dancers from all walks of life shake their tail feathers on the dance floor, a bonfire burns outside under the oaks and Miss Ernestine is still frying up fish in her cook shack by the club. The BBC is as authentic – and welcoming – as it gets.
Capital City Amphitheater
1001 S. Gadsden St.
Tallahassee’s newest civic green space, Cascades Park, has been dubbed “the crown jewel of (the) community.” The centerpiece is Capital City Amphitheater, a 3,500-seat outdoor venue that has hosted concerts by Wilco, the Avett Brothers, Peter Frampton, Jason Isbell, Tracy Lawrence, Charlie Wilson, Boz Scaggs and O.A.R. The venue also presents seasonal concert series to showcase local and regional acts and is home to the annual Word of South festival.
FSU student union, 75 N. Woodward Ave.
Back when Florida State University was known as “the Berkeley of the South,” Club Downunder was a cave-like subterranean music venue in the student union that welcomed performers plying the folkie coffeehouse circuit and blues legends such as Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown. Now located above-ground in the former union bookstore, the Downunder books acts geared to the college audience, and the entire music-loving community benefits.
1105 E. Lafayette St.
This former IGA supermarket has been the site of some of the most memorable concert experiences in Tallahassee. Owner and local impresario Scott Carswell (who also books the acts for the Capital City Amphitheater) presents an eclectic lineup at The Moon, with a regular boot-scootin’ country night, urban music nights and concerts by acts from all musical genres – classic rock, soul, hip-hop, blues, jazz and indie rock (the latter booked in conjunction with the folks from FSU’s Union Productions office). The club is also the unofficial home of George “Dr. Funkenstein” Clinton of Parliament-Funkadelic fame.
The Pavilion at the Centre of Tallahassee
2415 N. Monroe St.
The newly opened Pavilion amphitheater anchors the redesign and reconfiguration of one of Tallahassee’s first shopping malls. The 6,500-seat amphitheater is sheltered from the elements and has already booked shows such as the Taste of Chaos tour featuring Dashboard Confessional, and concerts by the Steve Miller Band, Alice Cooper and Rascal Flatts.
Ruby Diamond Concert Hall
222 S. Copeland St., FSU
The lovely grand dame of Florida State University’s campus is named for one of the university’s most beloved and legendary benefactors. It underwent an extensive refurbishment in 2009 and is a state-of-the-art facility that seats 1,200-plus and has a world-class sound system and acoustic design. It is the base for the university’s annual Opening Nights Performing Arts series, as well as performances by the acclaimed FSU classical, jazz and world music orchestras and ensembles.
Side Bar Theatre
809 Railroad Ave.
Side Bar Theatre serves up piping-hot live tunes for the indie and college music crowds. Its lineage stretches all the way back to a legendary venue called the Cow Haus, which became the Beta Bar, which moved and morphed into the Side Bar. This is where you’ll find everything from touring jam bands to head-banging metal acts to au courant indie bands. Side Bar is also a hub for local bands to stretch their wings and win fans.
1133 Thomasville Road
When the local jazz players aren’t polishing their chops at B Sharp’s, they can be found jamming at Waterworks, the city’s premier (and only) tiki bar. Classical music ensembles perform on the small raised stage, as do local indie bands, acoustic units and soloists. The bar also hosts a weekly Science Salon, Patio Theater movie screenings and other theme nights.
Follow your ears (and check out the websites) to find live music at these additional Tallahassee-area venues:
926 Bar & Grill
926 W. Tharpe St.
Bird’s Aphrodisiac Oyster Shack
325 N. Bronough St.
The Fox & Stag
1122 Thomasville Road
From the Heart Studio
55 Rose St., Sopchoppy
The Junction at Monroe
2011 S. Monroe St.
Miccosukee Land Co-op Community Center, 9601 Miccosukee Road