Some of the best music venues in Santa Fe are green lawns that hold pop-up concerts a few times a summer and centuries-old church sanctuaries on Sunday, where the acoustics are pitch perfect. One of the best venues in town, an outdoor concrete bowl designed by famous architect Poalo Soleri on the campus of the Santa Fe Indian School, where Michael Franti regularly performed, was closed in 2010. But Santa Fe still offers some excellent places to see a live show. It all depends on what kind of music you want to hear. There’s everything in the city from the open air of the Santa Fe Opera to intimate restaurant bars to outdoor stages with beer nearby. The venues listed below made the top five list for one or many of the following attributes: acoustics, ambience, and ability to attract top musical talent. Or for simply putting on an unforgettable show.
The Lensic Performing Arts Center
The home venue for the Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival, the Santa Fe Concert Association, and the Santa Fe Symphony Orchestra and Chorus, the acoustics and ambience here are hard to beat—18 microphones are aimed at the stage and orchestra pit. Built in 1931, the glamorous Lensic was an escape from the depression and is still an exciting place to see a concert.
Sol Santa Fe Stage & Grill
A casual burgers and craft-beer bar with a generous outdoor stage area that can comfortably squish a few hundred standing music lovers. One of the liveliest shows I saw in Santa Fe was when Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros played here right after “Home” went viral. This summer’s big act is the Hold Steady in August.
The Cowgirl Hall of Fame
A popular venue for local bands and singers, the Cowgirl’s outdoor patio is the best place in town to order a Silver Coin, a giant plate of green chile chicken enchiladas, and sit back to listen to live music and entertainment like Cowgirl Karaoke seven nights a week in the summer.
Flamenco guitarist Joaquin Gallegos, who El Meson bills as “Passionate, Soulful Flamenco Guitar,” will not disappoint. He along with other local vocalists, jazz guitarists, and tango dancers perform at El Meson’s newly renovated bar nightly. Order a few tapas and you’ll feel like you’re in Madrid.
Santa Fe Opera House
Open in back to the wild western backdrop of the sun sinking below the Jemez Mountains, the Santa Fe Opera stage is a stunning place to see a concert or an opera diva perform. The wide spaces between the seats are also perfect for dancing, especially when David Byrne comes to town.