Travel

Where to Catch Live Music in Atlanta

From intimate indoor music halls to large-scale, outdoor amphitheaters, the city has a variety of venues for every type of concert and concert-goer.

Cadence Bank Amphitheatre at Chastain Park
Cadence Bank Amphitheatre at Chastain Park
Cadence Bank Amphitheatre at Chastain Park

Atlanta has long been a hub for live music. From the legendary Louis Armstrong performances at The Top Hat Club (now known as the Royal Peacock) on Auburn Avenue in the 1930s, to Sabrina Claudio perfecting an attention-grabbing set at Tabernacle, Georgia’s capital has long been home to some of the best concerts and venues in the country. If you’re looking for a life-affirming concert to check out right, look no further than these dive bars, concert halls, and amphitheatres.

City Winery

Ponce City Market
In addition to the overall coolness of PCM, it’s also home to City Winery, a place with a vast selection of wine (and a phenomenal Tasting Room), a restaurant with a dope menu, and of course-a stage where you can hear some of the best live music in the city. Along with its regular jazz concerts throughout the month, there’s also a wide range of performances from R&B and country artists as well. The ambience inside is intimate, and the outside patio gives you an amazing view while you listen to whomever is slated to grace the main stage.
Where to eat and drink nearby: Ruby Chow’s, Minero, and 9 Mile Station.

Olga Steckel/Shutterstock
Olga Steckel/Shutterstock
Olga Steckel/Shutterstock

Tabernacle Atlanta

Centennial Park District
Located in Downtown’s Centennial Park District, this former church has a long history behind its doors. The building opened in 1911 as a church and became a House of Blues in anticipation of the ‘96 Olympic Games-but to little success. A year later, it transitioned into the Tabernacle we know and love today. It regularly hosts local acts as well as global superstars, which means attendance can fluctuate from a few hundred people to almost 2,500. The main floor is standing room only, while there’s reserved seating in the upper levels, so the venue can accommodate anyone’s level of fandom.
Where to eat and drink nearby: Waffle House, Ted’s Montana Grill, and Margaritaville.

The EARL

East Atlanta Village
Nestled in the heart of East Atlanta Village, The EARL has long been a haven for both local and budding rock bands, as well as the more established independent artists. You can experience its vibe just by walking on Flat Shoals-many of its attendees are posted right on the sidewalk having a drink, clamouring over the evening’s more recent performance. Upon entry, you’ll pass the main room where you can sit down for a bite to eat while your favourite band rocks the house, or travel to the lower room in the back, where it’s more of a concert setting. The venue has held events for a variety of genres-from the heaviest of metal to the city’s A3C hip-hop festival-so whatever you like, you can find it here.
Where to eat and drink nearby: Argosy, EAV Thai & Sushi, and Blu Cantina.

Cadence Bank Amphitheatre at Chastain Park
Cadence Bank Amphitheatre at Chastain Park
Cadence Bank Amphitheatre at Chastain Park

Chastain Park Amphitheatre

Buckhead
Billed as the oldest outdoor music venue in Atlanta, the Cadence Bank Amphitheatre At Chastain Park provides best in rock, the hottest R&B, and hip-hop, or legendary performances from classic entertainers. With it being outside, you can bring your own everything, which adds to the overall live experience. It’s right in Buckhead, so there are plenty of sites to see outside of the place as well. It’s just crazy that acts such as Earth, Wind & Fire, Elton John, Anthony Hamilton, Alicia Keys, and the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra all performed here at one point or another. What makes the space really special is that you can come solo, for an intimate date night, or come for the perfect family outing with loved ones.
Where to eat and drink nearby: Hal’s, South City Kitchen Buckhead, and Goldbergs Fine Foods.

Center Stage

Midtown
The infamous Center Stage is actually home to three separate spaces. First, is the flagship venue-the historic Center Stage Theater-known for its acoustics and intimate live show experience. That’s where larger acts would perform, such as Jay Z, Lady Gaga, and Katy Perry. Second is the Loft, which is located on the second floor, offers full bar service, a view of the Midtown skyline, and has a capacity of about 650 people. Last (but not least) is Vinyl, the 300-capacity staple in the local music scene. At Vinyl you can check out some of the best up-and-coming talent before they hit it big.
Where to eat and drink nearby: DaVinci’s Pizza, Nan Thai, and Establishment.

The Fox Theatre
The Fox Theatre
The Fox Theatre

The Fox Theatre

Midtown
Constructed almost 100 years ago, this former Shriners headquarters has established itself as one of the premiere locations in Atlanta for live music. Its Islamic and Egyptian-inspired structure also provides an intimate setting for concerts, and it also contains a 3,622-pipe Möller organ that remains the largest of its kind in the world. The entire building exudes excellence-from the long, Hollywood premiere-like walkway to the mural of the evening sky above its stadium-style seating. The Fox is more upscale than some of the other highly regarded music venues in the city, so no matter the time of week, make sure you throw on your Sunday best.
Where to eat and drink nearby: Edgar’s Proof & Provision, Publik Draft House, and The Ponce Room Bar & Kitchen.

529

East Atlanta
In this East Atlanta spot formerly occupied by an old-school bar called the Village, you’ll find 529-a small venue with an alternative vibe and a fully stocked bar. It hosts up-and-coming bands about six nights a week, so there’s always music exuding from this spot in EAV. If you’re not able to get to the stage, there’s a closed-circuit TV above the bar on which you can watch the band playing. What 529 lacks in space it makes up for in aesthetic because of the live band selection, friendly staff, and easy access.
Where to eat and drink nearby: Flatiron, Octopus Bar, and The Glenwood.

Variety Playhouse
Variety Playhouse
Variety Playhouse

Variety Playhouse

Little Five Points
Located in the middle of Atlanta’s most unique neighborhoods-Little Five Points-this concert venue grew to become one of the best places in town to see the top bands in the 404. Part of the Variety’s charm is its subtle, not-too-large size. The smaller atmosphere gives for a more intimate setting for its attendees. It was constructed in the 1940s so its old-school architecture gives you a sense of nostalgia right when you walk through the door.
Where to eat and drink nearby: Corner Tavern, Hudson Grille, and The Vortex.

Aisle 5

Little Five Points
Aisle 5 is a music venue in Atlanta’s Little Five Points neighbourhood that hosts concerts for local and national touring artists. Its original name was the Five Spot, but in 2014 the entire place was renovated, and it received a new stage with an updated sound system. It isn’t married to any specific genre, so you can catch performances from artists specializing in hip-hop, rock, R&B, and many more.
Where to eat and drink nearby: Crave, Euclid Avenue Yacht Bar, and Thai 5 & Sushi Bar.

Buckhead Theatre
Buckhead Theatre
Buckhead Theatre

Buckhead Theatre

Buckhead
Built in 1930, this establishment initially ran as a second-run movie theatre but after several renovations and name changes, it is now known today as the Buckhead Theatre. It’s one of the few venues in Atlanta that actually looks like a traditional theatre from the outside-especially if you’re viewing it from Loudermilk Park. Although this establishment is equipped for weddings, seminars, and corporate events, it’s best for concerts and live music consumption. The state-of-the-art sound system and theatre-style seating (or standing, whichever is fine), makes for a high-quality listening experience.
Where to eat and drink nearby: The Iberian Pig, Velvet Taco, and The Capital Grille.

The Masquerade

Downtown
Established in 1989, and originally housed inside Dupree’s Excelsior Mill, The Masquerade moved to Kenny’s Alley in Underground Atlanta a few years ago. The venue features three music rooms: Heaven, 1,400 capacity room; Hell, which holds 550 concertgoers; and Purgatory which holds about 300 people. At the centre of it all is an open-air courtyard where you’ll find music enthusiasts from all walks of life. Throughout its history this event space has presented artists from different genres, including Nirvana, Nine Inch Nails, Kendrick Lamar, and the Foo Fighters, along with several others.
Where to eat and drink nearby: Jamrock Restaurant, Taqueria on Broad, and Thrive.

Terminal West
Terminal West
Terminal West

Terminal West

West Midtown
This former iron and steel foundry turned concert space in West Midtown regularly hosts some of the top local acts, but it also conducts shows for some big names as well. The venue holds a little over 600 people and is standing room only most of the time, so be prepared for an intimate environment filled with enthusiastic fans. One of the coolest things about Terminal West is that in addition to its modern production technology, it maintains the factory ambience. The venue’s acoustics and amazing audio system are why it remains a to-go spot for ATLiens and outsiders alike.
Where to eat and drink nearby: Ormsby’s, Barcelona Wine Bar, and Eight Sushi Lounge.

Sweet Georgia’s Juke Joint

Downtown
In 2011, Sweet Georgia’s Juke Joint opened in the iconic 200 Peachtree building in the heart of Downtown Atlanta. Modelled after the watering holes of yesteryear, this venue has a nostalgic wall of period photos, historic artifacts, and a 18-foot mural from local artist Stacy Wood. The live music is the real draw, where attendees are able to dance to the sounds of whatever band is playing that evening. The mixture of food, fun, and live entertainment is Sweet Georgia’s claim to fame.
Where to eat and drink nearby: Gus’s, Tin Lizzy’s Cantina, and Slice.

Smith's Olde Bar
Smith’s Olde Bar
Smith’s Olde Bar

Smith’s Olde Bar

Midtown
Founded in 1994, Smith’s Olde Bar has continued to be one of Atlanta’s most historic music venues. For years, this tiny Midtown bar across from Ansley Mall has hosted several local up-and-coming musicians, as well as some notable names in music such as David Bowie, Janelle Monae, Kings of Leon, John Mayer, B.o.B, Bjork, Zack Brown Band, and many more. Along with great music, SOB also provides some of the best billiards competition in the city.
Where to eat and drink nearby: Bantam + Biddy, Fat Matt’s Rib Shack, and Varuni Napoli.

Ladybird Grove & Mess Hall

East Atlanta Beltline
When it comes to ambience, this establishment really takes the cake. Located on the East Atlanta Beltline, the outside patio has the perfect view of the city’s evening skyline, and the firepits add to the intimate atmosphere. Pop up for their Grooves in the Grove, which is a weekly music series of local and national acts that bring indie, bluegrass, country and Americana-centric tunes to the Ladybird Grove & Mess Hall.
Where to eat and drink nearby: Superica, Ticonderoga Club, and Umai Sushi & Noodles.

The Eastern
The Eastern
The Eastern

The Eastern

Reynoldstown
Located in Reynoldstown, The Eastern is a state-of-the art live music venue located in the Atlanta Dairies complex. It opened in September of last year, but it’s already gained traction as a hotspot for live events and concert goers. In its brief history, the list of performers already includes artists such as Saint JHn, Big Boi, Thundercat, and more.
Where to eat and drink nearby: Agave Restaurant, Taqueria Tsunami, and Salata.

Northside Tavern

Home Park
The Northside Tavern was built in the 1940’s, and ultimately established itself as one of Atlanta’s best dive bars. With live blues seven nights a week-and no cover on Monday through Thursday-it’s definitely become a favourite with music lovers.
Where to eat and drink nearby: La Fonda Latina, Six Feet Under, and The Optimist.

Star Community Bar

Little Five Points
Star Community Bar is a standout venue in Little Five Points located right across the street from The Vortex. It has established itself as one of the best spots in Atlanta to check out local and rising alternative and indie-rock artists. It also has a great staff, pinball machines, a photo booth, and is home to the notorious Elvis Vault, filled with memorabilia from Elvis Presley.
Where to eat and drink nearby: Savage Pizza, Hattie B’s, and Elmyr.

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Okla Jones is an Atlanta-based journalist who writes about food, fine arts, and entertainment. His work also appears in ESSENCE, Creative Loafing Atlanta, and Consequence of Sound. Follow him on Instagram at @coolhandoak.

Travel

Ditch your Phone for ‘Dome Life’ in this Pastoral Paradise Outside Port Macquarie 

A responsible, sustainable travel choice for escaping big city life for a few days.

nature domes port macquarie
Photo: Nature Domes

The urge to get as far away as possible from the incessant noise and pressures of ‘big city life’ has witnessed increasingly more of us turn to off-grid adventures for our holidays: Booking.com polled travellers at the start of 2023 and 55% of us wanted to spend our holidays ‘off-grid’.  Achieving total disconnection from the unyielding demands of our digitised lives via some kind of off-grid nature time—soft or adventurous—is positioned not only as a holiday but, indeed, a necessity for our mental health. 

Tom’s Creek Nature Domes, an accommodation collection of geodesic domes dotted across a lush rural property in Greater Port Macquarie (a few hours’ drive from Sydney, NSW), offers a travel experience that is truly ‘off-grid’. In the figurative ‘wellness travel’ sense of the word, and literally, they run on their own independent power supply—bolstered by solar—and rely not on the town grid. 

Ten minutes before you arrive at the gates for a stay at Tom’s Creek Nature Domes, your phone goes into ‘SOS ONLY’. Apple Maps gives up, and you’re pushed out of your comfort zone, driving down unsealed roads in the dark, dodging dozens of dozing cows. Then, you must ditch your car altogether and hoist yourself into an open-air, all-terrain 4WD with gargantuan wheels. It’s great fun being driven through muddy gullies in this buggy; you feel like Laura Dern and Jeff Goldblum in Jurassic Park.  As your buggy pulls in front of your personal Nature Dome, it’s not far off that “Welcome…to Jurassic Park” jaw-dropping moment—your futuristic-looking home is completely engulfed by thriving native bushland; beyond the outdoor campfire lie expansive hills and valleys of green farmland, dotted with sheep and trees. You’re almost waiting to see a roaming brachiosaurus glide past, munching on a towering gum tree…instead, a few inquisitive llamas trot past your Dome to check out their new visitor. 

To fully capture the awe of inhabiting a geodesic dome for a few days, a little history of these futuristic-looking spherical structures helps. Consisting of interlocking triangular skeletal struts supported by (often transparent) light walls, geodesic domes were developed in the 20th century by American engineer and architect R. Buckminster Fuller, and were used for arenas. Smaller incarnations have evolved into a ‘future-proof’ form of modern housing: domes are able to withstand harsh elements due to the stability provided by the durable materials of their construction and their large surface area to volume ratio (which helps minimize wind impact and prevents the structure from collapsing). As housing, they’re also hugely energy efficient – their curved shape helps to conserve heat and reduce energy costs, making them less susceptible to temperature changes outside. The ample light let in by their panels further reduces the need for artificial power. 

Due to their low environmental impact, they’re an ideal sustainable travel choice. Of course, Tom’s Creek Nature Domes’ owner-operators, Cardia and Lee Forsyth, know all this, which is why they have set up their one-of-a-kind Nature Domes experience for the modern traveller. It’s also no surprise to learn that owner Lee is an electrical engineer—experienced in renewable energy—and that he designed the whole set-up. As well as the off-grid power supply, rainwater tanks are used, and the outdoor hot tub is heated by a wood fire—your campfire heats up your tub water via a large metal coil. Like most places in regional Australia, the nights get cold – but rather than blast a heater, the Domes provide you with hot water bottles, warm blankets, lush robes and heavy curtains to ward off the chill.

nature domes port macquarie
Photo: Nature Domes

You’ll need to be self-sufficient during your stay at the Domes, bringing your own food. Support local businesses and stock up in the town of Wauchope on your drive-in (and grab some pastries and coffee at Baked Culture while you’re at it). There’s a stovetop, fridge (stocked as per a mini bar), BBQs, lanterns and mozzie coils, and you can even order DIY S’More packs for fireside fun. The interiors of the Domes have a cosy, stylish fit-out, with a modern bathroom (and a proper flushing toilet—none of that drop bush toilet stuff). As there’s no mobile reception, pack a good book or make the most of treasures that lie waiting to be discovered at every turn: a bed chest full of board games, a cupboard crammed with retro DVDs, a stargazing telescope (the skies are ablaze come night time). Many of these activities are ideal for couples, but there’s plenty on offer for solo travellers, such as yoga mats, locally-made face masks and bath bombs for hot tub soaks. 

It’s these thoughtful human touches that reinforce the benefit of making a responsible travel choice by booking local and giving your money to a tourism operator in the Greater Port Macquarie Region, such as Tom’s Creek Nature Domes. The owners are still working on the property following the setbacks of COVID-19, and flooding in the region —a new series of Domes designed with families and groups in mind is under construction, along with an open-air, barn-style dining hall and garden stage. Once ready, the venue will be ideal for wedding celebrations, with wedding parties able to book out the property. They’ve already got one couple—who honeymooned at the Domes—ready and waiting. Just need to train up the llamas for ring-bearer duties! 

An abundance of favourite moments come to mind from my two-night stay at Tom’s Creek: sipping champagne and gourmet picnicking at the top of a hill on a giant swing under a tree, with a bird’s eye view of the entire property (the ‘Mountain Top picnic’ is a must-do activity add on during your stay), lying on a deckchair at night wrapped in a blanket gazing up at starry constellations and eating hot melted marshmallows, to revelling in the joys of travellers before me, scrawled on notes in a jar of wishes left by the telescope (you’re encouraged to write your own to add to the jar). But I’ll leave you with a gratitude journal entry I made while staying there. I will preface this by saying that I don’t actually keep a gratitude journal, but Tom’s Creek Nature Domes is just the kind of place that makes you want to start one. And so, waking up on my second morning at Tom’s —lacking any 4G bars to facilitate my bad habit of a morning Instagram scroll—I finally opened up a notebook and made my first journal entry:

‘I am grateful to wake up after a deep sleep and breathe in the biggest breaths of this clean air, purified by nature and scented with eucalyptus and rain. I am grateful for this steaming hot coffee brewed on a fire. I feel accomplished at having made myself. I am grateful for the skittish sheep that made me laugh as I enjoyed a long nature walk at dawn and the animated billy goats and friendly llamas overlooking my shoulder as I write this: agreeable company for any solo traveller. I’m grateful for total peace, absolute stillness.” 

Off-grid holiday status: unlocked.

Where: Tom’s Creek Nature Domes, Port Macquarie, 2001 Toms Creek Rd
Price: $450 per night, book at the Natura Domes website.

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