Live Music Venues in Sarasota and Bradenton
By Vanessa Caceres
Downtown Sarasota is famous for its restaurants, Saturday farmers market, and eclectic mix of shops. The soundtrack is live music, including Mattison’s City Grille, offering up a mix of live music seven days a week in the heart of downtown.
From Spanish guitar to blues to rock ‘n’ roll, Mattison’s managers keep the music mix diverse to appeal to a wide range of visitors. The clients include tourists, families, couples looking for a good meal and live music, and full-year and part-time residents.
The restaurant has all-outdoors seating, although many of the seats are under an awning, and a cover for all is used when it rains. At night, tiki-style torches illuminate the outside, giving guests something mesmerizing to watch while waiting for food or listening to musicians.
Watch the foot traffic go by in downtown as you eat, or turn all your attention to the music. On a recent visit, Billy Seward and the Memphis Soul entertained a handful of dancers, and there was an overall laid-back vibe.
"When you think of a quintessential Florida moment, you think of an evening out at Mattison's,” said Aleksandr Belyayeva of both New York City and Sarasota, who visits frequently with his wife, Irina. “The live music, the ambiance, and the crowd are everything you might wish for on a warm, moonlit Sarasota night. We have brought many international guests there, and each visitor was just as enamored as we are."
Kim and Robert Livengood of Sarasota like to visit on a Sunday afternoon to hear live music and indulge in chef Paul Mattison’s bruschetta. Another favorite for the Livengoods is trying the pizza of the day. And the restaurant’s outdoor location doesn’t deter them.
“Although it’s outside, we really like going there when it rains. It’s covered so you don’t get wet,” Kim said.
Regular additions to the music mix include popular local acts such as The Lisa Ridings Band, Tropix, Doug Deming and the Jewel Tones, Brian Spainhower, and the Debbie Keeton Jazz Band.
Most of Mattison City Grille’s music is at night, although there is also daytime music from noon to 3 p.m. on the weekends.
No visit to Mattison’s is complete without trying some of the chef’s creations. (Owner Paul Mattison is a famous chef in the Sarasota area.) Calamari, crab cakes, and crispy chicken wings are among the appetizers; New Zealand lamb rack, Niman Ranch pork loin medallions, salmon gremolata, and Joyce Farms roasted half chicken are among the dinner entrees.
For more live music in Sarasota and Bradenton, check out the following venues:
Ace’s Live Music, Bradenton
This unpretentious nonsmoking bar just minutes from Bradenton Beach and Anna Maria has been around for a few decades. It’s become a favorite for serious music lovers and musicians. One example: Drummer Claude Hudson “Butch” Trucks, a founding member of The Allman Brothers Band, has played there (The Allman brothers formed in Jacksonville, and the band has ties to the Sarasota area.) The music mix at Ace’s includes blues, rock, funk, country, jazz, and zydeco.
Motorworks Brewing, Bradenton
This busy craft brew destination combines beer fun with live music, not to mention a few other events (beer yoga or trivia night, anyone?) There are bands most nights of the week in the Beer Garden; Motorworks, located next to Bradenton’s Village of the Arts, is in a 1923 building once used as a car dealership.
The Blue Rooster, Sarasota
In the mood for Southern comfort food mixed with blues or gospel? Then stop by the Blue Rooster. Visitors praise its Sunday gospel brunch, with a brunch buffet and an energizing gospel performance from Truality. Buffet highlights include biscuits with gravy, cheesy grits, fried chicken, and collard greens. Other days feature jazz and blues from local performers, including Lauren Mitchell and Her Band, the Damon Fowler Group, and Kettle of Fish. Fried green tomatoes, fried okra, catfish, and pork chop are among the regular menu’s Southern favorites.
The Five O’Clock Club, Sarasota
For a well-rounded mix of live bands, it’s hard to beat The Five O’Clock Club in the Southside Village area. From reggae with Jah Movement to dance party rock with Guilty Pleasures to Southern gypsy funk with Come Back Alice, guests kick back during happy hour and stay to groove with the tunes that last till later in the night. Depending on when you visit, The Five O’Clock Club may have an upbeat feel or more of a coffee shop vibe depending on who plays, says Bradenton resident Matt Humphrey. The club has several nonsmoking hours, although smokers can be on the club’s patio.
The Gator Club, Sarasota
A longtime fixture in the downtown Sarasota music scene—it’s been around since 1913—the Gator Club features R & B and top 40-style performers. The Gator Club is in a restored historical brick building not far from Mattison’s City Grille.
Van Wezel Performing Arts, Sarasota
Located along the picturesque Sarasota Bay, the Van Wezel attracts famous larger-scale performers, including musicians and comedians. Music acts coming in 2017 include Michael Bolton, the Sarasota Orchestra, Gladys Knight, and Kenny Rogers.
Siesta Key Oyster Bar, Siesta Key.
Called SKOB for short, Siesta Key Oyster Bar bills itself as the place for “great food, fresh oysters, cold beer, live music and tons of fun.” Located in Siesta Village not far from famous Siesta Key beach, SKOB has a regular mix of musicians, including Al Donadi, Kettle of Fish, and Mike Tozier. Eat your oysters, crawfish, or shrimp while enjoying music most nights of the week and in the afternoon on Fridays and Saturdays.