As Georgia’s most populous city, and among the 10 largest metropolitan areas in the United States, it should come as no great shock that Atlanta offers a cornucopia of musical culture, history and entertainment offerings. Metro Atlanta’s diversity has expanded along with its population, making for a dizzying array of musical options to explore. Simply put, it’s a great place for lovers of live music, overflowing with a myriad of venues and festivals to suit any taste.
Known as a mecca for rap, hip-hop, soul and R&B, Atlanta also has loomed large as a destination for rockers since the 1960s. Country and blues are never hard to find in the capital city, where live music can be found any night of the week. With approximately 6 million people in the metro area, Atlanta is a major player in the festival scene, hosting huge multi-day shows at iconic Piedmont Park and Centennial Olympic Park, among other venues.
Read more aboutAtlanta's musical influenceand the artists who built their careers in Georgia's capital city.And, follow the tips below to find must-see music venues, festivals and more points of interest.
Excellent sound and lighting make this small Little Five Points club a popular destination for DJs, hip-hop, jam bands and indie rock.
Atlanta Symphony Hall
It should come as little surprise that this is the place to regularly take in a performance by the award-winning Atlanta Symphony Orchestra and Chorus, but this sonically pristine hall also hosts a regular infusion of big-name non-classical acts like Chris Cornell and Indigo Girls.
Named in honor of Georgia bluesman Blind Willie McTell, local and nationally touring blues/roots acts are the specialty at this intimate, long-running drinking hole in the Virginia-Highland neighborhood.
With a capacity of 1,500, this onetime movie house from the 1930s has been through numerous incarnations and currently attracts touring acts of all manner, not to mention musicals, comics and private events.
This efficient Midtown facility actually boasts three separate venues: the 1,050 capacity Center Stage Theater, with its steeply-inclined semi-circle of seats cradling a (usually) standing-room pit; mid-sized upstairs hall The Loft, which holds 650 standing; and the 300-capacity Vinyl, perfect for local bands and smaller-name touring acts.
A longtime social destination for music lovers during the warmer months, this open-air facility holds 6,900, with many of the closest views being at tables seating six. Yes, this means you can bring your own food and beverages (including alcohol) to most shows.
You might have spotted this modern, 2,750-seat facility in a few episodes of The Walking Dead, when it masqueraded as the headquarters for the Centers for Disease Control. But pre-apocalypse metro Atlantans cherish it for its wide variety of live music (Sufjan Stevens, Alice Cooper and Emmylou Harris have been among the headliners), comedy, dance and drama offerings. It’s also the home of the The Atlanta Opera.
The epicenter of Atlanta’s hip indie rock scene, this 270-capacity room is a consistently great place to enjoy scrappy local and touring bands. Divided from the rear performance space by a narrow hallway, the front room is a lively bar and restaurant frequented by a familiar cast of regulars and weekend warriors.
Opened as a movie palace on Christmas Day 1929, this ornate theater with beautiful, restored Moorish design and starry indoor “sky” is on the National Registry of Historical Places. Most often you’ll find touring musicals and retro movie events there now, but the 4,678-seat venue also books a steady supply major acts such as Beck and Leonard Cohen. The adjacent Egyptian Ballroom, often booked for proms and private events, is also occasionally used for concerts.
Scruffy but friendly dive bar hosts live local blues and roots acts seven nights a week. Atlanta institution Daniel Dudeck plays with his durable band Mudcat the last weekend of every month, plus every Wednesday with whomever shows up to join him. Don’t miss the venue’s two-day Chicken Raid festival every March, honoring late Atlanta bluesman Frank Edwards.
Part of Georgia State University, this 833-seat venue’s musical presentations are prestigious and diverse, befitting its academic affiliation. National and international jazz, world music and dance ensembles are what you’re most likely to discover here. Located in the heart of downtown’s historic Fairlie-Poplar district.
Upstairs, the main concert room holds upwards of 300, mostly for rock, roots, jam and indie acts, both touring and local. Downstairs, there’s a smaller venue better suited for singer-songwriters and aspiring acts building their fanbase. There’s also a large downstairs bar/restaurant area with a pool/game room.
Still known as a great place for twangy, rambunctious country-rock and rockabilly acts, this Little Five Points dive long ago transcended those boundaries to include punk, garage rock, metal, indie and even rap and hip-hop. There’s also comedy on Monday, a DJ dance party on Tuesdays and live band country karaoke on Wednesdays. Down in the basement, the Little Vinyl Lounge also hosts shows and weekly events.
Mid-sized concert hall in a beautiful, historic Baptist church from the early 1900s. With a capacity of 2,600, the Tabernacle regularly presents an array of touring acts like Wilco, Rise Against, Jeezy and Sturgill Simpson.
There isn’t a bad view in this mid-sized, spacious, well-designed Westside venue. Smart bookings cover a wide range, from rock to rap to electronic/DJ, both nationally touring and local. Yummy food and excellent craft beer selection, too.
Punk, power-pop, garage rock and related sounds reverberate throughout the East Atlanta business district when this two-day rumble at the EARL and 529 clubs gets rolling in April. Pleasingly cross-generational, you’ll enjoy veterans like Dwight Twilley or Flamin’ Groovies amidst a cavalcade of PBR-slugging upstarts.
Springtime jamboree brings a sea of music fans to this quiet 55-acre city park. Bands tend to be of the rootsy, Americana variety – Drive-By Truckers, Shovels and Rope, Lucero and Trombone Shorty are among past performers.
Arguably the biggest and most important hip-hop festival in the country, this sprawling four-day October affair stages concerts and events throughout the city featuring both established acts and little known aspiring MCs, DJs and musicians.
Longstanding independent bookshop with a sizeable selection of music-oriented tomes, as well as many local interest books (music and otherwise). In-store signings,readings, conversations and performances are a regular occurrence.
Atlanta History Center
Museum, gardens and research facility, with temporary exhibitions that occasionally focus on aspects or eras of Georgia’s rich musical history.
A worn-down 19th century cotton gin manufacturing complex that’s been repurposed into a urban arts community, housing residences and studios for hundreds of artists, performers, designers and the like, along with a small, pay-what-you-can coffee shop. Events can include but are not limited to live music of all sorts, offbeat theatrical and dance performances, film screenings, art exhibitions, etc. Goats and other farm animals roam the site, and the brick buildings in various states of dilapidation and abandoned machinery strewn about lend it a truly surreal atmosphere that’s been used for scenes in the Hunger Games films and The Walking Dead.
Although it’s evolved over the years, Little Five Points remains Atlanta’s “alternative” shopping and nightlife district, with several blocks’ worth of colorful boutiques, markets, eateries, bars and characters. Music lovers will want to spend hours browsing the racks at long-running record stores Wax n’ Facts (est. 1976) and Criminal Records (1991), as well as comparative newcomer Moods Music (2003), which specializes in neo-soul, acid jazz, Afro-Cuban, hip-hop and house music. For live music, the Star Community Bar and the Variety Playhouse have both been anchoring the neighborhood since the early '90s, and when weather permits, there are occasionally street musicians performing in Findley Plaza. To experience L5P on steroids, don’t miss the annual Halloween Festival and Parade in mid-October.
Want to seriously delve into the history of some of Georgia’s music and musicians, much of it little known? The Special Collections & Archives at GSU’s library is a priceless resource. The Johnny Mercer Collection includes decades of personal papers by the prolific Georgia songwriter, including an unreleased autobiography, song drafts, reviews, and much more, plus awards, video footage and other artifacts. Other collections are devoted to obscure Georgia musicians such as Emma Kelly, Bobby Atcheson, Cotton Carrier, Harpo Kidwell and numerous others from around the city, state and region.