San Diego’s Local’s Top 3 Favorite Music Venues


San Diego is known for it’s perfect weather, consistent surf and dreamy beach culture but San Diego is also a music town. There is a strong history of music worship that is sunk deep San Diegans’ bones and few intimate music venues that are considered the shining gems to the Locals. Many bands stop in San Diego as part of their SoCal leg and there are multiple venues that can host arena sized acts of all genres, but these smaller venues offer a familiar and consistent place to catch the greatest bands from the local music scene and the most enjoyable and quality ways to see national touring acts passing through.

1. The Casbah / 2501 Kettner Blvd.
San Diego had had a spotlight shining on it’s thriving underground music scene since the 90’s – once touted as “the Next Seattle.” The Casbah, opened in 1989, was where it went down.  Many iconic punk, and post punk bands made the Casbah their choice stop in Southern California’s southern most city. It’s touted that Nirvana, The Smashing Pumpkins and The Cult played there back in day as well as The Black Keys and the White Stripes, as as many more jaw droppers that moved onto stardom. It’s a cozy venue of approximately 175 capacity. Tape from years of band posters and stickers decorate the dark walls covered in layers of paint. More curious details include that the club is located downtown directly under the flight path for planes landing at the San Diego International Airport and people live in small apartments directly above the club – adding to it’s legit legendary counter culture vibe. The Casbah is the place to play and ideally sell-out for any local band any night of the week and a place to still catch the coolest up and comers as well as still bands like The Melvins and Mudhoney. 

2. The Belly Up Tavern / 143 S. Cedros Ave
This vaulted ceiling, wood beamed, 600 Capacity venue is extremely special to locals. The Rolling Stones and the The Red Hot Chili Peppers played here in recent years past. Need more be said? It is standing room only, informal enough to lean on the stage but sophisticated enough to welcomed the most renowned musicians from around the world of any genre. It offers the freedom to dance and move freely as well as always providing elevated seats with tables along the side and towards the back. It’s impossible to not have a good view or feel close enough. It opened as a bar 40 years ago in Solana Beach, a beach town about 25 minutes north of the City of San Diego, and morphed into a music hot spot. It encompasses the vibe of San Diego with a giant Great White Shark art installation hanging from the ceiling, a wall covered from top to bottom with framed music posters from local artist Scrojo and serving local craft beer. The venue offers a place that is comfortably welcoming to a swath of different facets of society from the young surfer coming straight from the beach to the more mature aged or high end crowd. With consistent quality and delivery of great sound and lighting, the Belly Up is a repeat stop for the greats, top tier legends, and local bands.

3. The Observatory North Park / 2891 University Ave
An old theater built in 1929, this 1,100 capacity venue has had many life forms. With the large stage and tremendous production value, it’s a favorite to see a big concert in a small package. With the raked floor coupled with several tiered landings towards the back, it is impossible to not have a good  view from almost anywhere. Mostly nationally renowned acts come to play to many sold out shows. Bands like Run the Jewels and Queens of the Stone, just to name a couple, consistently choose to grace the stage of this old theater when they could have chosen to play to much bigger audiences. This creates a place where everyone in the room is a fan where an audience giving full attention, singing along, is a regular occurrence. An indoor live show is rarely better than one with a favorite touring band, a great line of sight, amazingly full sound and a good unifying energy in the crowd.


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