The bands and musicians that play Salt Lake inevitably come back, despite it being relatively far away from other tour stops—this city is full of passionate music makers and fans, and the stoke is infectious. And in addition to its popular outdoor music festivals and superstar arena concerts, Salt Lake has some awesome smaller venues that are booking killer shows. Here’s a guide to the best small and mid-sized places to see live music in SLC, and who’s playing this month.
Located in the historic Union Pacific Train Station, which served as Salt Lake’s passenger rail transportation center until the 1970s, The Depot is a mid-sized 1,200-capacity space that delivers a surprisingly intimate live-music experience. With general-admission standing room on the main floor, VIP balcony seating upstairs, and full bars on both levels, this 21+ venue offers good stage views from almost any spot in the house, stellar lighting, and set times that won’t have you nodding off in the cab on the way home.
Scene: Big-name national and international touring bands. Generally a mixed crowd that varies with the band.
Neighborhood: Downtown, on the north end of The Gateway Shopping Center. One block west of the Salt Palace Convention Center and across the street from Vivint Smart Home Arena.
Nearby Eats & Pregame Opportunities: Caffe Molise and Tin Angel are both excellent pre-show dinner options, and the Beerhive’s list of brews is almost as long as the pint-chilling ice strip running the length of its bar.
The Complex is actually four major venues under one giant roof—hence its name. The Rockwell (2,500 capacity) and The Grand (850 capacity) are all-ages venues, but both have bar areas in the back. The Vertigo is 21+ and fits 450 people, and The Vibe, also 21+, serves as a kind of chill-out area where you can have a drink and watch events in the larger venues streamed live. If you like big, frenetic warehouse shows, the Complex might be right up your alley. If you prefer a more intimate ambience, you might want to pass on this one.
Scene: National and international touring bands and big-name DJs. Rock, hardcore, hip hop, pop punk, and EDM. Crowd depends on the band and the venue (the all ages spaces obviously draw a younger crowd).
Neighborhood: The grittier west edge of downtown, two blocks from the UTA Intermodal Hub and adjacent to The Gateway Shopping Center.
Nearby Eats & Pregame Opportunities: Hit up Happy Sumo or California Pizza Kitchen at The Gateway for some pre-show grub, grab a drink at Bout Time Pub & Grill, or settle in with some elevated pub fare and craft beer at Red Rock Brewing Co. a couple blocks away.
The Garage on Beck
This laidback 21+ venue was first an auto repair shop, then a watering hole for off-the-clock refinery workers. When its current owner took over, he envisioned a spot that would preserve the bar’s throwback look and bring people together the way midcentury juke joints did. And voila: The Garage on Beck is now a cozy, friendly roadhouse bar and grill with modern amenities and a vintage vibe. Its giant patio overlooks the oil refinery’s night-lit pipes and towers—it’s an oddly aesthetic view with a Mad Max feel to it. Shows are played outside in warm weather; when it’s cold the bands play inside, down on the floor with the crowd. It’s a snug and social experience. The Garage on Beck is open whether or not there’s live music, just plan on paying a cover when there’s a show.
Scene: Local and small-name national touring bands. Lots of alt-country, folk, bluegrass, rock, and rockabilly. Mixed crowd likes to play cornhole, drink beer, and have a good time.
Neighborhood: The northernmost edge of the Marmalade neighborhood, right where the residential area meets a more industrial landscape.
Nearby Eats & Pregame Opportunities: The Garage on Beck has a full bar and a full menu of expertly prepared comfort food, including the tongue-in-cheek Fried Mormon Funeral Potatoes.
A Salt Lake staple, the 21+ Urban Lounge is a centrally located dive bar that consistently books awesome up-and-coming and established touring bands. And for as long as we can remember, it’s also been the place where local bands go to make their mark on Salt Lake and beyond. The Urban Lounge is owned by three friends with deep roots in the Salt Lake music scene. Two were local musicians (one still plays shows), and one managed the venue’s sound for over 10 years. The team does a bang up job of balancing their impressive roster of cutting-edge touring acts with their unwavering support of local musicians. Urban has a few booths and a handful of high tops, but for crowded shows, plan on standing (and if you’re short, stand up front).
Scene: Local, national, and international touring bands. Indie, hip hop, electronic, metal, folk, experimental, and all their relevant offshoots and fusions. Crowd skews 21-30 and is almost always pretty damn hip. Some bands will draw out the older school.
Neighborhood: Central City, within walking distance of shopping and dining on Broadway.
Nearby Eats & Pregame Opportunities: Across the street, Dick & Dixies is a classic neighborhood bar where you can have a drink while you wait for a late show to start. On Broadway, you can try next-level seafood at Current Fish & Oyster or enjoy a cocktail and a small plate at Copper Common.
Another long-time staple in the Salt Lake music scene, Kilby Court was “opened” over 15 years ago by a carpenter/artist who wanted to create an inclusive all-ages space for people to get involved with live music. Due to its packed shows and lack of licensing, Kilby was frequented by cops, and its owner was constantly cited. Today the tiny 200-capacity venue is owned by two of Urban Lounge’s proprietors and operates without any flak from the fuzz. This humble music shack has seen the beginnings of some very illustrious music careers—St. Vincent, The Shins, Neon Indian, The RZA, and Modest Mouse, to name a few—but more than a springboard, it’s a totem of the DIY indie spirit. The stage is at ground level, so folks get their music up close and personal, and the only amenities are the Christmas lights hanging from the rafters and the fire pit outside. No distractions and no frills, just good music and good feels.
Scene: Local and small national touring bands. Lots of indie, experimental rock and electronica, and underground hip-hop. The crowd tends to be young and passionate. Some bands will draw out the Gen Xers.
Neighborhood: Hidden away on a side street in the Granary district, home to ever more hip coffee shops, breweries, restaurants, and art spaces.
Nearby Eats & Pregame Opportunities: Sage’s Cafe is a great spot for sophisticated vegan dining, Frida Bistro will blow your mind with its modern Mexican fare, and Proper Brewing Co. offers a mouthwatering range of house-brewed beers.
Metro Bar has seen a few phases, but the latest phase seems to have stuck and become a distinct identity. This modestly sized 21+ venue has a dark-and-sexy vibe and is generally frequented by a mix of hipsters, burners, goths, drag queens, artists, and rockers in ratios that vary with the night’s event, which could be anything from a punk show to an aerial arts performance to a live-model sketch night followed by dancing.
Scene: Local and national touring bands. Heavy on punk, metal, and industrial, with sidesteps into other genres. The crowd is mixed, but you’ll almost always see some alternative fashion or festival wear.
Neighborhood: The grittier west edge of downtown, two blocks from the UTA Intermodal Hub, adjacent to The Gateway Shopping Center, and kitty-corner from The Complex.
Nearby Eats & Pregame Opportunities: Hit up Happy Sumo or California Pizza Kitchen at The Gateway for some pre-show grub, grab a drink at Bout Time Pub & Grill, or step it up at J. Wong’s Asian Bistro a few blocks away.
The State Room
Prior to opening The State Room, the venues co-owners were already heavily involved in Salt Lake’s music scene—one booked shows for Red Butte Garden Amphitheater, and the other booked the Snowbird Summer Concert Series and the Utah Arts Festival. Their 21+ venue is the favorite of many Salt Lake locals, and for good reason.
It’s small and intimate (300 capacity), but it never feels crowded, thanks to its mix of fixed theater-style seating, tables and chairs, and standing/dancing room. The crowd tends to be older (i.e. the majority of the folks here won’t be Snapchatting the show), and the bands’ names often fit the format of “John Doe & the Blanks.”
Scene: National touring bands. Rock, blues, folk, soul, alt-country, bluegrass, Americana, acoustic, and rockabilly. Crowd may include outdoorsy types, retired hipsters who got sitters for the night, and bespectacled creative directors.
Neighborhood: Right on State Street, in the Granary District. Within walking distance of the Grand America and Library Square.
Nearby Eats & Pregame Opportunities: Enjoy upscale Asian food in a private bungalow at Sapa, pop across the street to The Bayou for cajun-inspired dishes and a big beer list, or stop by Epic Brewing Co. for an award-winning stout or saison to go.