The live music scene in Burlington Vermont has a long history of turning out great bands. The most famous is Phish, pictured above. They were formed in 1983 by University of Vermont students Trey Anastasio and Jeff Holdsworth, bassist Mike Gordon, and drummer Jon Fishman. Others artists, such as Grace Potter, Dispatch and Neko Case have made Burlington one of the best places to hear live music in the Northeast.
Great live music can't happen without fantastic music venues and Burlington has its share. Nectar's was opened in 1975 by Nectar Rorris and hosted Phish for the first time in 1984. Higher Grounds is the biggest concert venue and hosts bands from around the country. Numerous smaller clubs like Arts Riot have proliferated in recent years creating a vibrant music community for all to enjoy.
If you like live music then you'll love Synaptic Supercollider💥 - a conference and festival that takes place in Burlington every October. The event brings together forward thinkers to discuss new trends in innovation entrepreneurship, music, lifestyles and the arts.
Radio Bean is on the corner of Winooski Ave and Pearl St, just a few steps away from the top of Church Street and all it’s shops. Along with the constantly rotating live band selection, there’s a small menu plus a selection of beers and cocktails. Should you decide to dance and pull a muscle, Radio Bean also has natural salves on hand to soothe those aches and pains. Radio Bean is a quirky venue and definitely a great part of the local nightlife; don’t hesitate to pay Radio Bean a visit.
Higher Ground doesn’t look like a live music venue from the outside, but don’t let that fool you. There’s 3 bars and the venue stages both local and national artists along with regular DJ nights. The acoustics are brilliant and there’s plenty of parking at this nightclub, so grab your friends and ascend to the Higher Ground. You won’t regret it.
Arts Riot is a combination of live music venue, art gallery and cafe, with local craft beer and cocktails thrown in for good measure. Currently they’re closed due to the pandemic, but Arts Riot has partnered with their neighbors to put on a lightshow through January and February. It’s called South End Glowup; drive down Pine St after dark to experience some sparkle. When the venue is open, Arts Riot has a warehouse-type atmosphere, with tall bars and a solid menu. There’s a piece from every area of Burlington’s nightlife in the venue, and I urge you to check it out.
Nectars is a combination of pub and music hall, with just the right amount of dim lighting and close quartered seating. No salads here; you’re getting solid food for the money: fries, wings, burgers, etc. Every genre of music from reggae to classic rock is performed at this venue, and Nectar’s hosts a steady stream of local, regional and national acts. Their website describes Nectar’s as Burlington’s premier live music venue, and the home of the world's best gravy fries. Pay a visit to Nectar’s and find out for yourself.
Red Square is a hugely popular club on Church Street, right in the heart of Burlington. There’s a rotating roster of live music, seven days a week, and local DJ’s spin regularly too. Not only that, like any good venue in Vermont, there’s a huge variety of craft beer and liquor for you to enjoy. If you prefer a bar with some live music, go earlier in the day, but if you prefer harder beats and some spring in your step, visit at night for a slice of the Burlington nightlife. You’ll love it.
The Monkey House is just outside the Burlington area, on Main St in Winooski. They have a wide selection of both local Vermont beers and ciders, along with some others from around the New England area. In fact, The Monkey House is Winooski’s prime bar & live music venue. The Monkey’s will also be starting their pizza n drinks takeout service in 2021, so don’t worry: you can get a piece of The Monkey House any time. Unfortunately, they’re currently closed due to the pandemic, but have no fear, the doors to The Monkey House will be open soon. When they are, be sure to stop in for a good drink and a good time.
Club Metronome is a nightclub right in the heart of Burlington. It’s actually in the same building as Nectar’s, which means your eating and drinking needs are already taken care of at this venue; just sit back and watch the performance of the night unfold. Tickets are available on Club Metronome’s website and, while you’re at it, grab a t-shirt from Nectar’s website, as a memento of your time at the combination nightclub and bar.
The Flynn Center for the Performing Arts is Burlington’s best theater, with multiple stages upon which are performed everything from comedy to orchestrations of Rachmaninov’s Third. If you fancy becoming the next Nicholas Cage, take one of their acting classes, or if your jokes would make Kevin Hart blush, join the Flynn Center’s comedy courses. The Flynn Center has been around since 1930, enduring World War II and every part of history laid at the doorstep since then. It’s a magical place, and you should absolutely attend an event there.
SideBar is a charming little bar tucked away between an alley and Muddy Waters Cafe on Main St in Burlington. Blink and you’ll miss it; the doorway is small. There’s live music every night in SideBar, in addition to their great local spirit, cider and beer selection. Examples of that selection include their Lemon Blueberry Mojito, North by Northwest Chardonnay and Barbados Mule. SideBar’s website doesn’t go into much detail, preferring to keep their offerings a surprise. Next time you’re on Main St, check them out.
The Skinny Pancake has outposts all over Vermont, including Burlington. The Burlington location looks right down College St to the waterfront and over Lake Champlain. The Skinny Pancake actually began as a food cart, supported by a flatbed made from a sailboat trailer. Unfortunately, that idea was scrapped when owners Jonny and Benjy realized customers don’t like eating in the rain. In 2007, the first Skinny Pancake officially opened on the Burlington waterfront and has been serving sinfully good food ever since, along with live music from local bands. I’ve eaten many a pancake at the Skinny Pancake, and I can safely say they’re one of the best. Certainly the best in Vermont.
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