“Best” lists are often a matter of taste and boil down to the particulars you’re looking for in an experience as opposed to ranking in order from awesome to crap. When you’re considering music venues in Seattle, you’ll be pleased to know that there are many “best” places to see your kind of music. So in no particular order, here are your bases. Consider them covered.
For the slightly lesser known to nearly obscure musicians and indie rock bands you’ve got The Crocodile. Newly remodeled and attached to a pretty sweet back bar serving wood-fired pizza and great drinks with friendly service, this Belltown venue has a nearly 20 year history of support for the alternative-grunge scene and the claim to fame of being the training wheels for Seattle natives Nirvana and Pearl Jam. This venue is loud, standing room only and damn crowded on a good night.
The more popular, better known but not always completely mainstream or famous acts can be found at the Showbox at the Market. It’s a fairly large (for Seattle) art deco venue right on First Avenue downtown that has several bars and some seating around the periphery of a decent size floor. They pride themselves on their varied list of past performers and fittingly, the venue remains pretty neutral as far as the types of genres you can catch there on any given night.
Nine blocks away at The Paramount Theater, run by the non-profit arts organization, Seattle Theatre Group, you can find the big, mainstream acts, comedians, performance artists, and broadway shows. The interior of the 1920‘s-built theater is breathtaking but the sound is clearly better on the floor. The opulent details provide the perfect backdrop for your experience when you’re there to see a legend perform and in keeping with this sacred-space sort of vibe, the ushers and security can be pretty strict- even when the band (Widespread Panic, for example) draws a rowdy but fun-loving crowd, loosening up is not on the agenda. Compared to other Paramounts or Fox Theaters, this one is decidedly pinched, but in the scheme of things here in Seattle, also crucial.
Northwest of downtown in the Ballard neighborhood, tucked away among the little shops, bars and restaurants along historic Ballard Avenue is The Tractor Tavern. Known for their high-quality booking standards, if you prefer your music served with a side of dive bar, this is your place. It’s loud, dirty and a little bit awkward but it makes for an authentic show-going experience if you’re into the local rock/funk/singer-songwriter/tribute band sort of thing. There’s not much seating and the bathroom line is a hassle, but the sound is good and sometimes you just need a venue that’s a little rough around the edges.
Rounding out this “best” (but by no means exhaustive) list is The Triple Door, a classy, spendy, state-of-the-art dinner theater venue featuring national and local performers in an intimate space. If the act could be described as an ensemble or a trio or if it fits in or near the categories of jazz or burlesque and beyond, you may find them here. Comprised mostly of several candle-lit half-moon booths, there’s not a bad seat in the house. The sound is spot on and so is the food. The asian-fusion menu is from their popular next door neighbor, Wild Ginger. This is the perfect place to take someone on a romantic date and treat them to some of the finer things for a night.