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18 of the Best Live Music Bars in San Diego

A surefire cure for the after-work blues or weekend angst? A strong drink and a loud band. San Diego County is chock-full (no pun intended) of bars that host local groups and lively out-of-towners. No matter what day of the week it is or what obscure style of music is at the top of your Spotify Wrapped genre list, here's where to catch live music in San Diego.

City center | Normal Heights | Ocean Beach | City Heights | San Francisco | Spring Valley

Courtesy of The Shout! House

Live Music Bars in Downtown San Diego

Patrick's Gaslamp Pub

Founded in 1933—long before the Gaslamp lost its seedy reputation as a debauched playground for ne'er-do-wells—Patrick's Irish Bar remains a popular hangout for fans of Guinness, baseball (it's half a mile from Petco Park) and live music, particularly of the blues, soul and rock 'n' roll variety.

428 F Street, Gaslamp

The Shout! House

Want to choose the songs you want to hear? From Tuesday to Sunday, The Shout! House pits two musicians against each other. Each of them sits down at a grand piano to tickle the keys with songs requested by the audience, accompanied by a full band. Dancing at your table is encouraged.

655 4th Avenue, Gaslamp

The Kasbah

Casbah is legendary in San Diego, and for good reason. Founded in 1989, the downtown venue has hosted the likes of Nirvana, Alanis Morisette, and Arcade Fire, and up-and-coming talent still comes here six or seven nights a week, playing at ticket prices well below other institutions of its caliber.

2501 Kettner Boulevard, Downtown

Exterior view of the live music bar Sycamore Den in Normal Heights
Courtesy of Sycamore Den

Live Music Bars in Normal Heights

Soda bar

Foster the People, Phoebe Bridgers and Grimes are just three of many now legendary musical talents who have rocked the stage at the Soda Bar in Normal Heights, a tiny launching pad for up-and-coming big names and hidden gems alike. Check out the list of upcoming shows for live music every day of the week. You might just catch the next indie star.

3615 El Cajon Boulevard, Normal Heights

Blind Lady Ale House

Bar food gets a bad rap, but Blind Lady Ale House—affectionately known as BLAH—draws San Diegans to Normal Heights for both its creative pizza menu and its long tap list (and there are plenty of vegan options). Every Thursday, you can jam out to live jazz over a plant-based pizza topped with mushrooms and orange zest.

3416 Adams Avenue, Normal Heights

Lou Lou's Jungle Room

A newer addition to the revamped LaFayette Hotel in North Park, sexy, animal-print-adorned Lou Lou's draws well-dressed locals to its dimly lit annals of live music of all genres, including jazz. Many concerts are free, but some follow a reservation-only “supper club” model that charges $95 per person for dinner and a show.

2225 El Cajon Boulevard, North Park

Sycamore Den

A 1970s-inspired space with booth seating and wood paneling, Sycamore Den offers live music on Thursday nights. It's a hit or miss as to what genre you'll get – from an intimate acoustic set to a rollicking rock show – but a few things are guaranteed: a carefully curated but tasty cocktail menu, plus free popcorn and games.

3391 Adams Avenue, Normal Heights

A singer performs at The Holding Company live music concert in Ocean Beach in San Diego
Courtesy of The Holding Company

Live Music Bars in Ocean Beach

Winston's

Winstons has been a staple of the San Diego music scene for nearly 40 years and has been an incubator for such acclaimed acts as Rebelution and Slightly Stoopid. Every Monday you can catch Grateful Dead cover band Electric Waste Band (they've played Winstons weekly since 1992); Tuesday through Sunday you can rock out to up-and-coming talent at ticketed shows and open mics.

1921 Bacon Street, Ocean Beach

The holding

This hip spot in OB welcomes guests with a relaxed ambiance where college bands and established groups tune their guitars. If you're looking for more energy, head upstairs to the second floor where the bass thumps and the dance floor is packed. Although they're only separated by a staircase, the two floors feel like night and day.

5046 Newport Avenue, Ocean Beach

The Harp

This no-frills, old-established local pub was almost lost to corporate uncooling before four locals – Miles Doughty (Slightly Stoopid), Jeremy Diem (Hodad's), Tyson Green and Steve Ashton – stepped in to save it. The Irish pub remains essentially the same, but with more free music.

4935 Newport Avenue, Ocean Beach

Aquarius Bar & Grill

After their beloved Mission Bay Deli closed, Debi and Tim Nolan sold their OB Cafe and took over the space to open Aquarius Bar & Grille. This sprawling beachfront eatery with a patio overlooking the Mission Bay Marina offers tacos, burritos, sandwiches and beer, daily live music and weekly shows for Deadheads and reggae fans.

1548 Quivira Way, Suite 5, Mission Bay

Exterior view of San Diego live music bar Til-Two Club in City Heights with a band
Courtesy of Til-Two Club

Bars with live music in City Heights

Black Cat Bar

This City Heights spot is a seedy place with a spooky theme (think crystal chandeliers and lots of black cats, giving it its name). Live bands perform here on the weekends. A $5 or $10 cover charge usually gets you access to a handful of performances, plus pool and some of the cheapest drinks in town.

4246 University Street, City Heights

Til-Two Club

A former piano bar and steakhouse built in 1942, City Heights' Til-Two Club is now a dimly lit hangout with all the trappings of a local favorite: strong cocktails (including $4 drinks during happy hour), restrooms hung with band posters, and live rock several nights a week.

4746 El Cajon Boulevard, City Heights

The Tower Bar

A City Heights landmark since 1932, this colorful building served as a soda fountain, restaurant and beauty salon before becoming a dingy dive bar with a surprisingly extensive alcohol menu (mostly absinthe). Expect high-volume punk and metal bands and low admission prices.

4757 University Street, City Heights

The Kraken live music bar in Encinitas, San Diego, features a jazz band
Courtesy of The Kraken

Bars with live music in Encinitas

The Kraken

This cozy shack, which has been on the Cardiff coast for 47 years, has been home to many a noisy post-surf party. North County residents gather on the Kraken's covered patio to play pool and dance to a variety of genres six nights a week.

2531 South Coast Highway 101, Encinitas

No. 1 of 1 Street Bar

North County's 1st Street Bar is a friendly pool hall located on South Coast Highway 101 and welcomes musicians of various genres, including roots, rock, blues and western. A popular event is the Wednesday Night Ramble, a country and Americana show that comes to 1st Street about once a month.

656 South Coast Highway 101, Encinitas

The Roxy

The decor and cocktails at this spacious Encinitas spot for small bites and drinks are reminiscent of the jazz era. And sometimes the music is, too. You're just as likely to hear classic rock or country blues if you sit down with a coupe glass any night of the week except Monday.

517 South Coast Highway 101, Encinitas

The Bancroft Bar, a live music bar in San Diego, has doors covered in band stickers and posters.
Courtesy of Bancroft Bar

Bars with live music in East County of San Diego

The Bancroft Bar

A hotbed of rock and punk music in East County, Spring Valley's Bancroft Bar hosts concerts Thursday through Saturday—usually with packed lineups of four or more bands (plus darts and beer pong tournaments on Sundays, if you want to keep the party going and give your eardrums a rest at the same time).

9143 Campo Road, Spring Valley