Charlie Perez/Demotix/CORBIS
Toni Garcia
January 23, 2015

In my list of Barcelona’s Best Festivals, I mentioned the role of the city as a refuge for independent bands and artists. The list below is a demonstration of that fact. All of the city’s best places to see live music are small venues that consistently offer patrons the best independent music performers—whether the genre is pop, rock, electronic, folk, or something else. (To see the big-name artists, like Beyoncé, Lady Gaga or U2—to mention a few who recently toured here—you’ll have to check the usual websites and take your place in the stands of stadiums or big auditoriums.)

You would think that a vibrant cultural city like Barcelona would be full of small live-music clubs—but in fact the opposite is true. The city council’s strict policies regarding live music venues have forced many places to close down over the years; today only a few remain. That’s why, in a city with so many large festivals, intimate live music performances are an uncommon treat to take advantage of.

Razzmatazz

When it comes to indie music, this is the most famous venue in town. The club first opened its doors in 1973 under the name Zeleste, but in 2000, after closing down due to financial woes, it reopened as Razzmatazz (the name is a tribute to a song by the British indie band Pulp). Today the focus here s on electronic, alternative and underground music; this is the place to discover what’s happening in Barcelona’s music scene.

Sidecar

This is one the tiniest venues you’ll ever see anywhere and that’s precisely why it’s worth the visit. A lot of local bands play here, knowing that it’s a good place to start out without the pressure of reaching “sold-out” status. I appreciate this place because the musicians are so close to you that you could touch them; the experience is simply beautiful.

Jamboree

Its location alone makes this music club a must-visit for Barcelona night owls. It’s located in the Plaça Real, a place seemingly loved by visitors (though much less by locals, especially when the sun goes down). In any case, this venue is full of music-lovers looking for funk, reggae and Afro-inspired rhythms. The place is dark, tight and people come here to dance: if that’s your thing, you’re not going to regret coming here.

Luz de Gas

Another place that is mandatory for hearing live music in Barcelona. When it comes to celebrities and well-heeled locals, this venue is the coolest in town, and regularly hosts pop and rock acts. The cocktails are great, the vibe is nice and there’s no need to dance and party if you don’t feel like it. The doormen can be ultra selective on Friday and Saturday nights so dress for the occasion.

Sala Apolo

This club, which has been a staple of Barcelona’s music scene for 25 years, is a classic for those who love to listen and dance. With two floors hosting musical acts ranging from hip-hop to techno, the place is almost always crowded—especially on weekends, when the experience can be downright unpleasant. A much better idea is to go on Thursday or to join Sala Apolo’s famous kick-off-the-week party, Nasty Mondays.

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