Columbus music venues 101

Chris DeVille, Columbus Alive

Dear incoming college students, aspiring scenesters and newcomers of all varieties: Columbus is full of places to see live music of many stripes. Allow us to show you around, neighborhood by neighborhood.

Arena District

The biggest glut of major music events happens here, with blockbuster tours through hockey hub Nationwide Arena (great sight lines), a steady stream of stars at pioneering indoor/outdoor venue LC Pavilion (questionable sight lines, especially inside) and upstart touring acts plus occasional locals at The Basement (awful sight lines). Mostly cover bands appear at nearby Park Street Patio.


Northwest of the Arena District you'll find a trio of music hotspots: Feast on Americana and more at Woodlands Tavern, traditional Irish folk music at Byrne's Pub and casual covers at Grandview Cafe.

Short North

Moving back east to High Street we find a trio of clubs best known for their dance events. The gay nightclub Axis mostly sticks to dancing, while the midsized Skully's and smallish Circus also host local and national rock and hip-hop concerts. If you're hosting a major local music event or bringing an up-and-coming rapper to town, Skully's is your place. Brothers Drake Meadery has also begun hosting music events from hip-hop to folk-rock.

Campus (High Street)

Trekking back east to High Street, you'll come to the Ohio State campus, home to the city's most iconic venue, the historic High Street haunt Newport Music Hall, and its most respected, the forward-thinking Wexner Center for the Arts. Big-name acts and dominant locals play the Newport; the Wex attracts marquee hipster favorites and obscure acts that might not otherwise come to Columbus. Just west of High Street, there's also the massive Schottenstein Center, which attracts arena shows when not hosting Buckeye sports. Bernie's, a basement dive bar with a storied history, is where your friend's band might play their first gig.

Just past the dorms and classrooms you'll find an underground comedy and music niche at Kafe Kerouac. Nestled between Hudson and Arcadia is a newly brimming cluster of rock clubs: indie rock rallying point Kobo, punk and garage rock-focused Ace of Cups and metal-friendly confines of Ravari Room, all of which feature a mix of local and national talent.

Campus (Summit Street)

Next, turn East on Hudson and head back southward on Summit Street, a strip featuring the Americana-, jazz-, folk- and indie rock-friendly Rumba Cafe, DIY space Wild Goose Creative, twin skuzz-rock bars The Summit and Cafe Bourbon Street and the longstanding catchall Ruby Tuesday (not the chain restaurant), which specializes in jam bands but serves all flavors.


Keep following Summit southward until it turns into Third Street and you'll be back Downtown, where the venues are spread across an array of neighborhoods. To the east, on Parsons Ave., there's Carabar, probably the hippest and most musically diverse bar in town (punk, metal, hip-hop, indie, folk, dance, etc.).

Hip-hop fans also flock to Icon for dance nights, spoken word and parking lot concerts, or to The Mansion for marquee touring rappers.

Converted church The Bluestone hosts major DJ parties and concerts from metal to country. Experimental Gay Street arts space Skylab brings in eye-popping leftfield entertainment, while the new Brewery District bar Double Happiness offers uber-hip DJ parties and rock shows. Outland is a goth bar that sometimes hosts big underground rock shows.

Dance your ass off at Wallstreet Nightclub or Long Street District, or enjoy the occasional iconic figure at historic Downtown theaters like the Southern (Jeff Tweedy), the Lincoln (Booker T), the Palace (Morrissey) or the Ohio (Tom Waits).


South of Downtown, Hal & Al's serves up microbrews, vegan food and many genres of music. On the North Side, Alrosa Villa, which claims to be the nation's longest standing rock club, hosts metal shows plus occasional reggae and rap events. In the Polaris area, Kickstand Pub hosts mostly cover bands.