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Music—Madonna once sang—makes the people come together. She was right. American music has an incredibly rich tradition and people have been coming together to see it live for decades be it in an upscale and opulent setting or standing cheek-by-jowl in a dirty, smoky back room bar. In honor of this week’s Grammy Awards, here are 10 amazing music venues you must visit before you die.

Carnegie Hall

Carnegie Hall | Flickr CC: Phil Dolby

Carnegie Hall: New York City
The Big Apple deserves its own list of amazing music venues to visit including gargantuan greats like Madison Square Garden and Barclays Center, legendary favorites like Radio City Music Hall and the Village Vanguard and gone but not forgotten dives including CBGB’s and Max’s Kansas City, but we just couldn’t resist the inclusion of Carnegie Hall. Built in 1891 and still considered one of the most important musicvenues in the world (it recently held a memorial concert for David Bowie), Carnegie Hall is still a top-notch place to hear classical and popular music and includes numerous world premieres like Gershwin’s An American in Paris and Judy Garland’s Judy at Carnegie Hall.

Grand Ole Opry

Grand Ole Opry | Wiki CC

Grand Ole Opry: Nashville, TN
Music City is no slouch when it comes to performing arts venues and it was a nail biter picking the city’s very best (Ryman Auditorium comes to mind). But in choosing America’s most iconic music venues, there was just no way the Grand Ole Opry was going to be left off this list. Launched in 1925 as a radio broadcast (which it still is), the venue hosted the likes of Patsy Cline and Hank Williams in its early days and later the likes of Dolly Parton, Garth Brooks, Carrie Underwood and the Dixie Chicks. We love that the stage’s backdrop resembles a barn and that backstage and post-show tours can be arranged for visitors.

Related: These are America’s top music cities

The Fillmore: San Francisco, CA
Straddling Japantown and the Western Addition, the historic Fillmore was made famous by legendary music producer and impresario Bill Graham who staged a show by the San Francisco Mime Troupe there in the mid-60s. Graham later secured the lease to this SF venue and it became the stomping grounds for rock bands made famous by the counter culture including the Grateful Dead, Jefferson Airplane and Janis Joplin and also the Velvet Underground and Nico. It remains a classic venue for live music including a 2016 calendar boasting the likes of St. Lucia, Guster, the Indigo Girls, Dead Kennedys, Deer Hunter and many others.

First Avenue | Photo: Mulad via Wikimedia Commons

First Avenue | Photo: Mulad via Wikimedia Commons

First Avenue: Minneapolis, MN
One word: Prince. Although the Twin Cities are home to a rich and verdant music tradition including big names like the Replacements, Soul Asylum, Semisonic, Morris Day and the Time and Babes in Toyland, this classic downtown rock venue owes much of its success to the Purple One who famously made it his home base and later introduced its interiors to the world via the movie Purple Rain. Lucinda Williams was married there in 2009 and U2 wrote part of the album October there during a sound check. First Avenue continues to maintain a packed weekly calendar including nightly shows, live comedy, jazz brunches, and tribute nights.

The Troubadour | Gary Minnaert via Wikimedia Commons

The Troubadour | Gary Minnaert via Wikimedia Commons

Troubadour, Los Angeles, CA
If the mid-century signage out front doesn’t make you swoon, everything else about this classic L.A. nightclub should. Originally a coffee house when it opened in 1957, it moved locations shortly thereafter and has since been the stuff of legends. A young Elton John made his debut at the Troubadour in 1970 in a string of six sold-out performances that Rolling Stone has called one ofthe 20 most important concerts in the history of rock and the room is considered a career maker for folk musicians and singer-songwriters like Joni Mitchell, Carole King and James Taylor. Richard Pryor recorded his album debut there in 1968 and the bar is where Don Henley and Glenn Frey of the Eagles met.

Pabst Theatre

Pabst Theatre | Flickr CC: Alejandro Lavin, Jr.

Pabst Theater: Milwaukee, WI
It’s easy to let Cream City slip the brain when it comes to iconic music but let’s not forget that the Guinness-certified largest music festival in the world—Summerfest—happens there every July. The Pabst was built in 1895 and is the fourth largest continuously operating performing arts venue in the United States and inside its halls is a tradition rich in importance. Pianist Rachmaninoff played here as did prima ballerina Anna Pavlova. Its lineup continues to be diverse including 2016 headliners such as Patti LaBelle, Adam Lambert, comedian David Cross and celebrated storytelling series the Moth.

Green Mill

Green Mill | Flickr CC: BriYYZ

Green Mill: Chicago, IL
First-time visitors to this classic Windy City institution can’t help but imagine a smoke-filled roaring 20s saloon packed with gangsters, flappers and the sound of jazz. That description isn’t far off as the Mill, established in 1907, was an Al Capone favorite during the 1920s and included at the time a network of underground tunnels to allow for the transportation of alcohol to the club. In the 1980s, when the city gave birth to slam poetry, the Mill began hosting it every Sunday and has done so ever since (thisyear marks its 30th anniversary). Jazz can still be heard most nights of the week, but don’t miss the Saturday afternoon weekly live magazine and salon “The Paper Machete.”

Lorde at the Showboxt at the Marke | By Kirk Stauffer via Wikimedia Commons

Lorde at the Showbox at the Market | By Kirk Stauffer via Wikimedia Commons

The Showbox at the Market: Seattle, WA
As famous to the denizens of Emerald City as Starbucks and nearby Pike’s Place Market are to the world at large, this legendary live music venue turned 75 years old in 2014 and continues to be a staple in Seattle’s celebrated music scene. Its vertical neon sign is a classic in its own right nevermind the astonishing roster of musicians who have played here over the course of eight celebrated decades including Mae West, Jimmy Durante and Nat King Cole in its early days, megawatt stars like Lady Gaga, Paul Simon and Kanye West and grunge bands and indie darlings including Pearl Jam, Death Cab for Cutie, Sleater-Kinney, Bright Eyes and the B-52’s.

Preservation Hall

Preservation Hall | Flickr CC: Phil Roeder

Preservation Hall: New Orleans, LA
Given how crumbling its facade is (which don’t get us wrong, is part of its charm), you would be tempted to think this Big Easy jazz hall has been belting music out its windows and into the French Quarter for a hundred years now, but alas this N’Awlins institution is only 55 years old (although the building dates to the early 19th century). Regardless, it was founded as a place to preserve Traditional New Orleans Jazz and indeed it does much to the delight of tourists who cram the room seven nights weekly to hear either the Preservation Hall Jazz Band or another just like it. The building is without a bar (and A/C), but this is NOLA baby so justbring your own in from a neighboring saloon.

Possessed by Paul James at Hole in the Wall | Photo: Frank Villasana via Wikimedia Commo

Possessed by Paul James at Hole in the Wall | Photo: Frank Villasana via Wikimedia Commons

Hole in the Wall: Austin, TX
Dubbed the “live music capital of the world,” Austin is home to numerous legendary venues from the classical revival Paramount Theatre built in 1915 to the now shuttered Victory Grill which was originally part of the Chitlin’ Circuit (a name used to describe clubs that welcomed African American performers) and boasted performances from the Billie Holiday, James Brown and Etta James. But if we’re insisting upon a venue everyone should visit, the winner is the acoustically excellent Austin City Limits Live at the Moody Theater, which hosts more than 100 live performances annually and is also home to the long-running PBS series Austin City Limits for which the venue is named.

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*Header image by Señor Codo, Flickr CC

Tagged: California, Midwest, New York, Top 10 Lists

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Jason Heidemann

Jason Heidemann

Jason is a Lead Content Specialist for Expedia Group, and manages content initiatives across numerous Expedia-owned brands. His work has been featured in the Chicago Tribune, Time Out, the Huffington Post, Chicago Magazine, Passport and many others.

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