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Top 9 Best Folk Venues and Clubs


It's always a pleasure to play in a venue whose sound person has plenty of experience working with acoustic guitars, and making sure people can actually understand your lyrics.

The venues on this list go the extra mile to not only make sure their performers sound great, but that the folks in the audience have a wonderful experience, as well.

1. Club Passim - Boston, MA

Boston's non-profit, smoke-free, all-ages venue has become the centerpiece for one of America's most lively and talented communities of traditional and contemporary folk singer/songwriters. The open mic night is fantastic, and always attracts great players. Concert nights feature some of the best writers of the region, as well as great touring artists. Besides that, it's a comfortable space that feels great to play in, and the sound system is fabulous.

2. Cactus Cafe - Austin, TX

Austin's Cactus Cafe has played host to a veritable who's who roster of singer/songwriters. It's one of those venues that, as a fan, you could probably show up at any night and expect great music. As a performer, you can rest assured that the sound system wasn't made for rock bands (something you come to relish on the road), and they actually know how to make acoustic guitars sound as great as they should.

3. Sidewalk Cafe - New York, NY

If it weren't for the thriving east village music scene that centers here, the Sidewalk Cafe would be just another dingy hipster dive bar on Avenue A. Nonetheless, somehow the Sidewalk has become a beacon of folk (er ... anti-folk) activity. Where Bleecker Street used to be the place to be in the 60s, the Sidewalk has taken over with a full-throttle "folk you" to its west side counterpart. The stage is nice and roomy, and the folks who run the sound know how to do it right.

4. White Eagle - Portland, OR

Portland's White Eagle has helped to keep this thriving folk town's scene alive for several years. What began as sort of a small community bar has become the coveted venue at which to play if your a Portlander with an acoustic guitar. Open mic nights are well-attended and peopled with great writers. What makes it even more spectacular, perhaps, is the fact that the club is also a small inn run by the McMenamins Brewing Company.

5. Eddie's Attic - Atlanta, GA

Atlanta is a great town to play in as a folk artist – there's certainly no shortage of venues for budding singer/songwriters, and no dirth of opportunity to hear new music if you're a fan; but Eddie's Attic is its own little pocket of fabulousness just on the outskirts of town. It's hard to even put my finger on what it is that distinguishes it from all the other bar/listening rooms in the country, but suffice it to say, Eddie's Attic just rules.

6. The Bluebird - Nashville, TN

Next to the Ryman Auditorium, the Bluebird is probably the coolest venue in all of Nashville. There's nothing particularly aesthetically special about the place; but what distinguishes it from so many other clubs around the country is the discretion with which they plan their performances. The Bluebird only showcases great songwriters – period; which makes it a coveted destination for players and a great place for spectators, as well.

7. The Bitter End - New York, NY

Many of the great folk clubs in the West Village have come and gone for various reasons. Nonetheless, The Bitter End has survived through decades and generations of folk singer/songwriters as they make their pilgramage to the hallowed sidewalks between Houston & 14th Street in New York City. The stage is roomy, the sound is brilliant, and the room itself just feels good to be inside.

8. Freight & Salvage Coffeehouse - Berkeley, CA

This non-profit, smoke-free, all-ages venue in Berkeley has been going since 1968. It plays host to all sorts of traditional musicians and their enthusiasts – whether it's jazz, bluegrass, traditional & contemporary folk, blues, gospel, or world beat. Although much of their line-up these days tends more toward world music, bluegrassers and contemporary songwriters are still well-represented. The place is run with progressive values in mind, and is well-respected by its local community.

9. The Grey Eagle - Asheville, NC

This smoke-free, all-ages venue is one of the better listening room-style clubs in the country. The staff is friendly and corial, and the performers are always top notch. They run a great weekly open mic night, and attract a lot of touring national and regional artists. It's also a major centerpiece in Asheville's thriving folk music community.

What's your favorite folk venue?

Vote in the folk music forum

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