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18 of the Best Bars for Live Music in San Diego

Jam out at these cathedrals of booze and tunes, hosting bands of every genre
San Diego live music bar The Casbah featuring a local band performing on stage
Photo Credit: Cole Novak

A surefire cure for post-shift blues or weekend scaries? A stiff drink and a loud band. San Diego County is jam-packed (no pun intended) with bars lending stage space to local groups and buzzy out-of-towners. No matter what day of the week it is or what obscure musical styling tops your Spotify Wrapped’s list of genres, here’s where to catch live music in San Diego.

Downtown | Normal Heights | Ocean Beach | City Heights | Encinitas | Spring Valley

San Diego live music bar The Shout! House in the Gaslamp Quarter downtown featuring dueling pianos playing jazz music
Courtesy of The Shout! House

Live Music Bars in Downtown San Diego

Patrick’s Gaslamp Pub

Founded in 1933—long before the Gaslamp shed its seedier reputation as a debaucherous playground for ne’er-do-wells—Irish bar Patrick’s remains a popular haunt for fans of Guinness, baseball (it’s half a mile from Petco Park), and live tunes, especially of the blues, soul, and rock ‘n roll varieties.

428 F Street, Gaslamp

The Shout! House

Want to pick the songs you hear? Tuesday through Sunday, The Shout! House pits two musicians against one another, each taking to a grand piano to tickle the ivories with audience-requested tunes, backed by a full band. Dancing at your table is encouraged.

655 4th Avenue, Gaslamp

The Casbah

The Casbah is legendary in San Diego—for good reason. Founded in 1989, the downtown venue has hosted such giants as Nirvana, Alanis Morisette, and Arcade Fire. Up-and-comers still cross the threshold six or seven nights a week, playing for cover prices far lower than those at other institutions of this caliber.

2501 Kettner Boulevard, Downtown

Exterior of live music bar the Sycamore Den in Normal Heights
Courtesy of Sycamore Den

Live Music Bars in Normal Heights

Soda Bar

Foster the People, Phoebe Bridgers, and Grimes are only three of a very long list of now-legendary musical talents who have rocked the stage at Normal Heights’ Soda Bar, a pint-sized launching pad for about-to-be-big names and hidden gems alike. Check out their list of upcoming shows to see live music any day of the week. You might just catch the next indie star.

3615 El Cajon Boulevard, Normal Heights 

Blind Lady Ale House

Bar food gets a bad rap, but Blind Lady Ale House—affectionately known as BLAH—draws San Diegans to Normal Heights just as much for its creative pizza menu as for its long tap list (and vegan options abound). Jam to live jazz every Thursday over a plant-based, mushroom-and-orange-zest pie.

3416 Adams Avenue, Normal Heights

Lou Lou’s Jungle Room

A newer addition to North Park’s revamped LaFayette Hotel, the sexy, animal-print-drenched Lou Lou’s beckons well-dressed locals to its dimly lit annals for live music across genres, including jazz. Many concerts are free, though some follow a reservation-only “supper club” model, setting you back $95 per person for dinner and a show.

2225 El Cajon Boulevard, North Park

Sycamore Den

A 1970s-inspired space complete with conversation pit and wood paneling, Sycamore Den hosts live tunes on Thursday nights. It’s a gamble what genre you might get—from an intimate acoustic set to a rollicking rock show—but a few things are guaranteed: a tightly curated but tasty cocktail list and free popcorn and games.

3391 Adams Avenue, Normal Heights

A singer performing at San Diego live music The Holding Company in Ocean Beach
Courtesy of The Holding Company

Live Music Bars in Ocean Beach


A stalwart fixture in San Diego’s music scene for nearly 40 years, Winstons has been an incubator for such lauded acts as Rebelution and Slightly Stoopid. Every Monday, catch Grateful Dead cover group Electric Waste Band (they’ve played Winstons weekly since 1992); Tuesday through Sunday, jam out to up-and-comers at ticketed shows and open mics.

1921 Bacon Street, Ocean Beach

The Holding Company

This OB hot spot welcomes guests with a laid-back space where college bands and established groups tune their guitars. If you’re looking for more energy, head upstairs to the second floor, where the bass is booming and the dance floor is crowded. Though they are only separated by a flight of stairs, the two floors feel like night and day.

5046 Newport Avenue, Ocean Beach

The Harp

This frill-less, longtime local watering hole was almost lost to corporate uncool-ing before four locals—Miles Doughty (Slightly Stoopid), Jeremy Diem (Hodad’s), Tyson Green, and Steve Ashton—stepped up to save it. The Irish pub has remained mostly the same, but with more free music.

4935 Newport Avenue, Ocean Beach

Aquarius Bar & Grille

After their beloved Mission Bay Deli closed, Debi and Tim Nolan sold their OB cafe and took over the space to open the Aquarius Bar & Grille. A sprawling, beachy eatery with a patio overlooking the Mission Bay marina, this spot for tacos, burritos, sandos, and beer offers daily live music, with weekly shows for Deadheads and reggae fans.

1548 Quivira Way, Suite 5, Mission Bay

Exterior of San Diego live music bar Til-Two Club in City Heights featuring a band
Courtesy of Til-Two Club

Live Music Bars in City Heights

Black Cat Bar

A divey locale with a spooky motif (think crystal chandeliers and lots of its namesake black cats), this City Heights spot hosts live bands on the weekends. A $5 or $10 cover typically gets you access to a handful of acts, plus billiards and some of the cheapest sips in town.

4246 University Avenue, City Heights

Til-Two Club

A one-time piano bar and steakhouse established in 1942, City Heights’ Til-Two Club is now a dimly lit hangout with all the trappings of a locals’ favorite: strong cocktails (including $4 well drinks during happy hour), bathrooms plastered with band posters, and live rock several nights of the week.

4746 El Cajon Boulevard, City Heights

The Tower Bar

An iconic City Heights sight since 1932, this colorful landmark served as a soda fountain, restaurant, and beauty shop before becoming a scruffy watering hole with a surprisingly robust liquor lineup (especially absinthe). Expect punk and metal bands at high volumes and low covers.

4757 University Avenue, City Heights

San Diego live music bar The Kraken in Encinitas featuring a jazz band performing
Courtesy of The Kraken

Live Music Bars in Encinitas

The Kraken

A 47-year stalwart on the shore in Cardiff, this cozy shack has borne witness to many a raucous post-surf hullabaloo. North County dwellers gather on The Kraken’s covered patio to shoot pool and dance to a broad range of genres six nights a week.

2531 South Coast Highway 101, Encinitas

1st Street Bar

A friendly pool hall along South Coast Highway 101, North County’s 1st Street Bar welcomes musicians in several genres, including roots, rock, blues, and western. A popular event is the Wednesday Night Ramble, a roaming country and Americana show that makes its way to 1st Street once a month or so.

656 South Coast Highway 101, Encinitas

The Roxy

The décor and cocktails at this spacious Encinitas spot for sips and bites harkens back to the Jazz Age. The music does, too—sometimes. You’re just as likely to hear classic rock or country blues when you settle in with a coupe glass any night of the week except Monday.

517 South Coast Highway 101, Encinitas

San Diego live music bar The Bancroft Bar featuring doors covered in band stickers and posters
Courtesy of The Bancroft Bar

Live Music Bars in East County San Diego

The Bancroft Bar

A bastion of rock and punk music in East County, Spring Valley’s Bancroft Bar hosts shows—typically with stacked lineups four or more bands deep—Thursday through Saturday (plus dart and beer pong tournaments on Sundays if you want to keep the party going while letting your eardrums recover).

9143 Campo Road, Spring Valley

By Noemi Portillo

By Amelia Rodriguez

Amelia Rodriguez is San Diego Magazine’s Associate Editor. The 2023 winner of the San Diego Press Club's Rising Star Award, she’s covered music, food, arts & culture, fashion, and design for Rolling Stone, Palm Springs Life, and other national and regional publications. After work, you can find her hunting down San Diego’s best pastries and maintaining her three-year Duolingo streak.

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