Chances are if you’re a music fan, you’ve visited your local dive bar, concert hall, or mid-sized indie venue more than once. Which is cool—local landmarks, coupled with a brew and a ballad have been the basis of many memorable nights out, cool dinner party stories, and unlikely friendships. Why not take this memory-making recipe on the road? An epic venue can transform a good concert into a landmark event, or at the very least provide some additional Instagram candy. Here are a few that deserve a spot on your musical and travel bucket lists.
Red Rocks Park and Amphitheatre
According to many, the most beautiful venue in the US sits just outside of Denver, in the suburb of Morrison. And given that Red Rocks Amphitheatre is literally carved into the side of the mountain, the “many” may be right. Even if no one playing catches your fancy (unlikely since recent bands have included Vampire Weekend, Tyler the Creator, Nine Inch Nails), go just for the view—tours are $8 in season, $12 during offseason. If you’re a morning person you can also join up with their sunrise yoga, runs, or winter sports sessions. And if you’re not a morning person…well, it’s all good, you were probably at the show the night before anyway.
Want to get close to a slice of true punk history? Located in Groningen, a city in the northeast of the country, VERA started its life as a student club before pivoting to become one of the country’s first underground venues. The punk club went on to be the first venues in the Netherlands to host performances by Sonic Youth, Nirvana, and The White Stripes. (Along the way VERA also spawned a sister club called The Vera Project in Seattle, Washington.) Everything is done in house by a volunteer staff of 200 people, including a venue-specific zine, charity projects, and unique silkscreen posters for each show. Want to join their staff of volunteers? Even better.
Walt Disney Concert Hall
Los Angeles, CA
The glorious Frank Gehry curves of the Walt Disney Concert Hall have been giving Downtown Los Angeles a playful sense of whimsy since 2003. (It doesn’t hurt that it’s located next door to The Broad Museum, another example of maximal architecture.) The opulence continues throughout the interior, with a Phantom of the Opera-sized concert organ, and circular stadium seating that puts the artist in the center of the action. Embrace the power of the Mouse House and go for an upscale night out, since it’s one of the Los Angeles Philharmonic’s regular venues, or go to enjoy contemporary artists—which in the past have included Beck, Bjork, Joanna Newsom, and M83.
Yes—you’ve been to a music festival. But have you ever been to one in a power plant? Held in Helsinki’s defunct Suvilahti factory every August, Flow Festival features twisted pathways, art-covered walls, and even a drag queen DJ tent. Add to that this incredible flex: the fifteen-year-old festival also happens 100% carbon neutral and features opportunities for attendees to donate to tree-planting initiatives around the world. Might be enough to make you (momentarily) forget their crowd-drawing headlines, which in the past have included The Cure, Sai, Morrissey, and Kendrick Lamar.
Pappy & Harriet’s
First, some backstory: In 1946 Dick Curtis started Pioneertown as a backdrop for 1880s-style cowboy movies, which despite his enthusiasm, turned out to be a limited market. (Although those with the wild west in their blood will recognize scenes from Gene Autry’s show filmed there.) Ultimately the town fell away and became an unincorporated community of the Morongo Basin. But the 420-person strong community still has Pappy & Harriet’s, a honky-tonk, cantina, and home to some of the best, underrated concerts in the area. During Coachella season this becomes a hot spot to catch off-venue shows between weekends. But rarely a weekend goes by you won’t see upcoming artists like Soccer Mommy and Jade Bird, and established acts like Neon Indian, Courtney Barnett and Jenny Lewis wooing the small room. Because even cowboys need a night off.
Acropolis of Athens
Admittedly it takes a certain caliber of artist to perform a show at the Acropolis—which is why you’ll only see big-ticket names like Sting, Foo Fighters, and most recently Florence + the Machine take the stage. But it doesn’t take much to turn a night out at the UNESCO world heritage site into an event. Constructed between 160AD – 174AD as a memorial to from Herodes Atticus to his late wife (beats making your love Instagram official), the UNESCO World heritage site allows 4680 attendees to sit on the edge of the hill overlooking the city while taking in the concert of a lifetime. Dramatic, artsy, and more than a bit romantic—just like Athena herself would have wanted it.