Where To Go For Live Music In Charleston
Credit: Richard Ellis / Alamy

As a Charleston local, it’s been amazingly cool to watch the rise of the hometown band Shovels and Rope. Long before they played the big clubs in New York City, hit the airwaves on KEXP and appeared on David Letterman, Carrie Ann Hearst and Michael Trent spent years working the bar circuit in Charleston (they were special favorites at The Pour House on James Island). And a good part of their fan base is still here.

“Sho-Ro” isn’t Charleston’s only musical darling, though. If you’re a live-music fan, there are plenty of great venues where you can catch bands these days, both downtown and in outlying neighborhoods. The offerings range from outdoor rock festivals to cozy shows in bars. Among the acts you might want to catch the local members of Hootie and the Blowfish, who play gigs around town; they also play a benefit show over on Daniel Island once a year. And the North Charleston Coliseum and the Performing Arts Center always draws its share of big-name performers, from Lyle Lovett to Widespread Panic. Here’s a list of places to check out for upcoming shows:

Charleston Music Hall

A few years ago, a recent College of Charleston grad took over bookings at this mid-1800s venue, and the terrific shows ranging from jazz to folk to rock haven’t stopped since. On a recent summer weekend, the line-up included both Strings & Salsa on Friday and Average White Band on Saturday.

The Pour House

Follow Maybank Highway until you see the large, low-slung shack painted in swirling, overlapping murals. Shows (some are free) are held outside on the back deck in the afternoons and early evenings; later at night shows move inside to a small stage. Expect a crowd; this place draws lovers of both music and beer.

Dock Street Theatre

It’s a quintessential Charleston pleasure to catch a mid-day chamber music concert here during the Spoleto Festival in late May and early June. Everything about this venue is special. Once a 1700s theater and 1800s hotel, the building has a gorgeous cypress interior, and a recent renovation upgraded both the stage and seating areas.

Royal American

Set by the railroad tracks on out-of-the-way Morrison Drive, this place opened a few years ago and proudly bills itself as a dive. Local live music acts, $2 beers, and an easygoing vibe all add to the appeal here. The menu of bar food—pickled shrimp, fried bologna and potato chips—doesn’t hurt, either.

Charleston Grill

Night after night, live jazz is played into the wee hours at this swanky, wood-paneled restaurant inside Belmond Charleston Place. For a classic Charleston experience, dress up before you go, then order Campari cocktails or wine (there’s more than 1,300 bottles in the cellar here), and settle into a plush booth to listen.