We know that some of us prefer your music to come from, you know, instruments, not a guy on his Macbook twiddling knobs. Some of you prefer to feel the energy of the performer and all the blood, sweat and tears they put into a voice, a guitar, horn, a keyboard or a drum kit. This list is for you: our favorite live music venues in Shanghai. (If you are indeed looking for nightclubs, check out this list.)
Address: Yuyintang, 851 Kaixuan Lu (near Yan'an Xi Lu) 凯旋路851号 (近延安西路)
One of the oldest venues of its kind in town, YYT is Shanghai's answer to CBGB's. It's been host to punk rock luminaries like D.O.A. and the Fleshtones as well as powerviolence band ACxDC. It also plays host to much of China's homegrown talent, like Round Eye, Brain Failure, Dirty Fingers and SMZB. And if you're an aspiring musician, Yuyintang does open mic nights on Mondays, too.
Where: MAO Livehouse Shanghai, 308 Chongqing Nan Lu (near Jianguo Zhong Lu)
When the underground can no longer contain a band they graduate to MAO Livehouse. This 800-capacity venue boasts one of the best sound systems in the city. Notable acts that have performed on the MAO stage include Peaches, Mono, Sepultura, Children of Bodom, Peter Murphy and Gang of Four. MAO Livehouse showcases plenty of local talent, too.
Address: Inferno, 1/F, Bund Square, 658 Dapu Lu (near Longhua Dong Lu) 打浦路658号1楼 (近龙华东路)
Once a divey neighborhood rock bar in the FFC, Inferno was forced to move to Bund Square, where it morphed into a full-on metal venue. If you like it when your ears bleed after a show, this is where you go. Inferno is also equipped with a stripper pole (usually used by drunken heshers). Come here to see anything fast, loud, heavy or all of the above.
Address: Live Bar, 1/F Wujiaochang West Building, 800 Guoshun Dong Lu (near Shuangyang Bei Lu) 国顺东路800艺术园区西一楼 (近双阳北路)
Located in the north of Shanghai, Live Bar is hardly accessible and relatively unknown, and that's probably just the way they like it up there. What it lacks in contemporary prowess, Live Bar makes up for it with a lot of heart, and it embodies the true spirit of rock n’ roll. The stage is massive, making it the perfect launchpad for stage dives.
Address: Harley’s Underground, B1/F, 265 Nandan Dong Lu (near Caoxi Lu) 南丹东路265号 地下一层 (近漕溪路)
Harley’s have been putting on rock shows since the '90s, but changes and renovations have proved to be a challenge for this dive bar/live house to keep up the momentum and become an institution. It's still working towards that objective that, announcing in 2016 that it will be a music and art hub for six days a week.
Address: The Pearl, 471 Zhapu Lu (near Wujin Lu) 乍浦路471号 (近武进路)
The Pearl hosts a bit of everything, from interpretive dance to comedy to magic shows, but the live band is one of the main reasons music lovers make the trek to this old theater in the Hongkou district. The tribute nights are the best, having hosted bands covering classics by Queen, The Doors, ABBA, and the great late Prince. The session musicians here hail from from JZ and Cotton Club.
Address: JZ Club, 158 Julu Lu (near Ruijin Lu) 巨鹿路158号 (近瑞金一路)
JZ is synonymous with the word "jazz" in Shanghai. There is live music here seven nights a week and can vary from Shanghai local/expat performers to concerts by nationally and internationally renowned jazz masters. Recently relocated, the JZ Club still maintains its trademark jazz atmosphere of retro Parisian with dim lights and vintage red-velvet deco.
Address: Heyday, 50 Tai'an Lu (near Xingguo Lu) 泰安路50号 (近兴国路)
Heyday is a nod to 1930's Shanghai, from the bartenders’ full suits to the burnished gold column that fans the dark ceilings. The "stage" area is just an open space on the floor between the tables, hence patrons are treated with intimate performances of jazz classics by the likes of Frank Bray and Jade Lee on a regular basis. This is one of the few upscale bars that allows walk-ins in casual attire.
Where: Shake, 3/F, 46 Maoming Nan Lu (near Jinxian Lu) 茂名南路46号3楼 (近进贤路)
From the people that brought you Heyday, Shake on Maoming Nan Lu has a similar upscale feel to it. Its based on New York’s social clubs of the 1960's which means it’s a cocktail bar, restaurant and live music venue all rolled into one, and often have its visitors spend the entire night there. Shake comes alive with soul music on the weekends, with the band churning out tunes by the likes of Ray Charles, Stevie Wonder and James Brown.
Address: Wooden Box Cafe, 9 Qinghai Lu (near Nanjing Xi Lu) 青海路9号 (近南京西路)
This spot is backed by the people at JZ Club and aims to showcase acoustic music in the heart of downtown Shanghai. Drop by for fine drinks and coffee, plus regular unplugged jazz, folk and gypsy tunes.
Main photo, Yuyintang, Inferno, On Stage, Live Bar and Harley's by Rachel Gouk.
This article was originally written by Zaruf Ezhan, Jan 2017. It has since been updated by Niesha Davis.
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