Music Venues in Bristol

Great venues in Bristol toi enjoy live music and performances

Having gone to university in Exeter, I’ve gone up to Bristol on many occasions to see live bands.

What’s great about Bristol is that they’ve got a really good mix of small clubs (Thekla, The Louisiana, Exchange) and mid-capacity venues (O2 academy and Colston Hall), although it does lack an arena or stadium for huge acts. Here at Guitar Lessons Bristol, we’re always on the look-out for places to see live bands, so we thought we’d compile a list to help you out too.

The Louisiana

The Louisiana doesn't look like much on first viewing. From the outside, it looks thoroughly unremarkable, a pleasant yet inconspicuous local. But the discreet façade hides a secret: that The Louisiana is one of the best places in Bristol to see live music. Up a small flight of stairs is a brilliant, small capacity gig venue that has played host to The Strokes, King’s of Leon, Muse, Mumford and Sons, Placebo, The Black Keys, The White Stripes, The Libertines, Elbow, Bloc Party… the list literally goes on and on. Most of these bands played The Louisiana in their infancy, a testament to the venue’s on-going commitment to showcasing new music. They still put on 2 or 3 gigs a week, and me and Matt (Guitar Lessons UK’s creator) even went a couple of months ago to see Drenge and support band The Wytches, both of whom can be said to up-and-coming bands. If you want to take a look for yourselves, head down to Wapping Road, Bathurst Terrace, Bristol, BS1 6UA.

The Exchange

The Exchange is a small, 500 capacity venue located a bit out of town at 72 – 73 Old Market, Bristol, BS2 0EJ. As a venue for seeing live music, it’s perfect: the combination of a small stage, rough-and-ready crowds and minimal security results in bands playing half their set in the middle of the crowd; a more interactive audience experience you could say. Combine these facets with the fact that The Exchange usually book bands that stray somewhat from social convention and you’ve got an electrifying gig. I went to see Palma Violets supported by Childhood play here in the Autumn of 2012 and Palma Violet’s encore saw both bands and about members of the crowd share blood, sweat and tears in a group hug/free-for-all with each other and security. If there’s a band you like playing here, it is not one to miss.


Tell anyone that you’ve been to see Goldie Lookin’ Chain in the middle of the River Avon and they’ll probably assume that you’ve taken too many of Bristol’s choice chemical delicacies. But no, Thekla is a club on a boat. And once you’ve got over the novelty of partying on water, the music isn’t half bad either: Jake Bugg, Jagwar Ma, Temples and Swim Deep have all played there and they have weekly club nights that are great if you want something a little bit quirky. Why not set sail for East Mud Dock, Bristol BS1 4R and see if the Thekla floats your boat?

Colston Hall

Colston Hall is Bristol’s largest concert and oldest concert venue and has been bringing the people of Bristol music for the last 140 years! Not only limiting itself to the showcasing of top music, it also puts on a number of great comedy and drama performances. Jimmy Carr and Micky Flanagan have recently gigged here and they currently are hosting ‘Room on a Broom’, a family-orientated drama production. Musically, Colston Hall appears to target an alternative, and slightly older, audience. Robert Plant is booked in for August 2013 and the venue has seen some incredible bands play, from The Beatles to The Rolling Stones. Classical Music aficionados are also treated to the annual International Classical Concert Season, which sees regular performances from the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra as well as visiting performances from the London Philharmonic Orchestra and Symphony Orchestra. The Hall is located right in the middle of Bristol on Colston Road, and if it sounds like your sort of place, you can find it at Colston Hall, Colston Street, Bristol BS1 5AR.

The O2 Academy

The 02 Academy is the favourite haunt of established bands; you’re unlikely to uncover a hidden gem of a band here (unless they’re the support act of course). But the O2 is great for seeing bigger name acts: I’ve seen Miles Kane, Django Django, Peace and The Cribs here. It’s also unusual for an o2 in that the stage and pit are rectangular, meaning that you are never very far away from the band. The o2 also plays host to great club nights which are very popular with university students. The O2 Academy is located on Frogmore Street, BS1 5NA, in the heart of Bristol and I’d recommend visiting one of the many cider pubs beforehand.

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