Southgate House Revival

Credit: Southgate House Revival

If you're anything like me, life doesn't get much better than being shoulder-to-shoulder with complete strangers, mutually enjoying some live music at a local show. Lucky for me (and you!), Cincinnati has tons of amazing small venues that cater to all audiences, ages, genres and moods. You won’t find Taylor Swift or Beyonce at one of these places, but you may find your new favorite DIY band - and that's why I love them. 


These are sorted by “moods”, but keep in mind – venues love to genre-bend! The beauty of the local, small venue is that you never know who or what you’ll be able to see there. Be sure and check out their event calendars or social media to see what they’ve got coming up. Some of these places are free to walk in to, while others may be ticketed. Check them out to learn more!


Mood: Grungey. Divey. Small – up close and personal. Served with a shot and a beer, please.

MOTR Pub; Located on the lively Main Street in Over-the-Rhine, MOTR is THE go-to spot for local, live music. They have something nearly every night - from comedy to open-mics, so it's worth dropping in. Pro tip: their $5 shot and beer combo is best followed up with a late night TLT (tofu-lettuce-tomato). 

The Comet; Cincy's eclectic Northside neighborhood is known for having a fun nightlife, due in part to places like The Comet! They keep a solid calendar of live music - and also serve up killer late night tacos and nachos. 

Northside Tavern; Northside Tavern is a popular spot with free live music all year round. During the summer, hang out on their outdoor patio in between sets. 


Northside TavernCredit: Northside Tavern

Mood: Theater-sized; expect some bigger tours and artists to stop here. Expect any and all genres at these spots; on Wednesday catch a jam band and maybe a rapper on Friday.

Bogart’s; If you're from Cincy - you've been to Bogart's for a show. This theater-sized venue has been open for DECADES, can pack in a few hundred folks and pulls some solid touring acts. There are tons of restaurants, bars and tattoo shops (if you're feeling wild) nearby in Clifton, so making a night of it is not difficult. Definitely check out their calendar of events and buy tickets ahead of time. 

Ludlow Garage; named after its history of originally being an auto body shop, this unique venue has a full-service bar and restaurant upstairs, with stage and seating downstairs. 

Madison Theater/Madison Live; The Madison Theater is basically Bogart's Northern Kentucky cousin. Similar in size, layout and vibe - it's located on Madison Avenue, which is home to a lot of fun restaurants and bars. Grab dinner across the street at Libby's or The Standard. The Madison Live is a smaller venue space located right next door to the theater. Buy your tickets ahead of time. 

Woodward Theater; Located just across the street from MOTR on Main Street, the Woodward Theater is worth checking out off vibes alone! This space is on the larger side and truly beautiful inside. Tickets are typically required. 

20th Century Theater; Part-time wedding venue, part-time music venue, this historic building is located in Oakley, a great area for bar-hopping and nightlife.


Meetings at BogartCredit: Bogart's

Mood: Are you a jazz and fancy cocktail enthusiast? OR do you just need an impressive first date idea? Pinkies out at these places and prepare to bask in main character syndrome. Life should feel like a movie sometimes, and these places will do the trick. 

Caffé Vivace; As if Mount Adams isn't cute enough as it is, Caffe Vivace feels like something out of a movie. A coffee shop by day and jazz bar at night - this would make for a great first date. Or 7th. 

Blind Lemon; Another Mount Adams gem, this MIGHT be my favorite cocktail bar in the city. Walk down some stone steps and through an alley and you're in the Blind Lemon's foliage-filled courtyard. Sipping cocktails and listening to music at the Blind Lemon is the IDEAL summer evening - and one of the most Insta-worthy spots you can find in the City. No cover or tickets required; check ahead of time for live music. 

Schwartz Point; This is a classic, Euro-style jazz joint located in the heart of OTR. It's small, intimate and focused on the music. The small cover/drink minimum goes towards supporting some of the region's most talented musicians. 

Jeff Ruby’s bar; Okay, hear me out. Swanky Jeff Ruby's Steakhouse might not be the first spot that comes to mind when you think "live music"... but the mother of pearl piano holding court over the art deco bar is REAL and the house band knows how to use it. The bar area in Jeff Ruby's has a much more relaxed atmosphere than the formal dining room, is full-service and takes reservations. 

Blind LemonThe Blind Lemon; Credit: @jguentert5

Mood: Folksy, all-welcome crowd. From bluegrass to metal, all walks of life are welcome here – usually with a cold beer.

Southgate House Revival; This church-turned-music-venue features multiple stages and several bars. Nestled in the absolutely gorgeous Mansion Hill neighborhood of Newport, this unique venue makes watching live music surrounded by stained glass a really beautiful and memorable experience. Tickets may or may not be required, depending on the event. 

Molly Malone's; Classic neighborhood Irish pub in Covington. From bluegrass to a solo acoustic guitar player, this is a cozy bar that live music only makes better. No cover or ticket required!