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Eye tunes: Venues where you can hear — and see — live music in Rochester


Music: the life blood that pumps through any college town, or any city for that matter. Rochester is no exception to the rule. Maybe you want your music loud (and the crowd louder), or perhaps you want some java with a side of programs and pamphlets while somebody plays soulful acoustic guitar. Either way, Rochester's live music venues have you covered.

            We've got massive stages that have been home to myriad national acts, cool clubs sprinkled with local acts you haven't learned to love just yet, and cozy coffeehouses for the crooner set. This guide is limited to some of the more prominent local venues that regularly host live music; check City Newspaper every Wednesday for a full list of that week's concerts, or go online to to search the events calendar.

            In the meantime, sit back, keep your arms and legs inside the newspaper, and dive into the wonderful music venues that you should call home for the next four years (or five or more, if you're going to be one of those fancy doctor types).


Auditorium Theatre

885 E Main St | 585-222-5000,

A home to Broadway spectacle and touring comedy and music acts, the Auditorium Theatre brings in something for everyone. Past musicals have included "The Phantom of the Opera," "Disney's The Lion King," and "Wicked." Musicians such as Kenny Rogers, B.B. King, Tom Jones, and AniDiFranco have hit the stage recently, and big-time comics such as Bill Cosby have also packed the place. The future of the Auditorium is murky, however, as the Rochester Broadway Theatre League -- the organization that books the Aud -- is currently actively seeking a new venue in which to present its many touring shows.

Blue Cross Arena

1 War Memorial Sq | 585-758-5300,

The bigger they are, the louder the hall. Or something like that. The Blue Cross Arena, the venue with the largest seating capacity in Rochester, is the place to go for the biggest touring acts that come through the FlowerCity. Bringing in names such as Bruce Springsteen, Rush, Aerosmith, Fleetwood Mac, Carrie Underwood, and even the duplicitous Hannah Montana/Miley Cyrus duo (just a tip: don't wear the t-shirt from that show to class the next day), the Blue Cross only hosts a few shows a semester. But with names like that, who can complain?

Gordon Field House

1 Lomb Memorial Drive, RIT | 585-475-4121,

While you won't find many women at RIT (while the male-to-female ratio isn't quite 99:1, it might seem that way sometimes), you can still find good concerts. Gordon Field House brings in its fair share of touring acts, and students get discounts at most shows, which is always a plus. Recent acts at the Field House include Snoop Dog, Maroon 5, Panic! at the Disco, Kanye West, Sum 41, and even 50 Cent. RIT also brings in big-name comedians as well throughout the year, rounding out the venue's appeal.

Main Street Armory

900 E Main St | 585-232-3221,

Yes, you are in the right place, and yes, it looks like a giant castle. And you'll be spending many nights here enjoying the big names that the Armory brings. Reopened as a music venue and sporting arena in 2006, the Armory has again set itself on the Marauder's Map that is Rochester's music scene. The venue continues to bring in big names, with the likes of Modest Mouse, Breaking Benjamin, Disturbed, Busta Rhymes, Shinedown, and the locally connected Flogging Molly all having laid siege to the mighty Armory over the past few years.


Abilene Bar and Lounge

153 Liberty Pole Way | 585-232-3230,

Relatively new to the club scene in Rochester, Abilene has made a name for itself with its combination of live music, atmosphere, and drinks that it brings together under one roof. Embracing styles such as country, rockabilly, and reggae, Abilene also hosted the Americana/Roots stage for this year's Xerox Rochester International Jazz Festival, a testament to its growing place in the local music scene. Abilene also keeps prices low, with many shows being completely free. And with open jam sessions every Wednesday, Abilene invites you (yes, even you) to join the musical camaraderie.

Bug Jar

219 Monroe Ave | 585-454-2966,

Nothing buggy about this venue and bar rolled together, as the Bug Jar brings in just about as many shows every year as there are days on the calendar. You can almost always count on a band playing every night, and if you do the math, that's a lot of shows that you can't keep making excuses to miss. Shows are usually cheap (and the drinks cheaper), and with names like The Arcade Fire, The White Stripes, Ninja Academy, and Vampire Weekend to its credit, the Bug Jar is a great place to catch smaller acts on the brink of the big time. If you are just too damned hip for your own good, you'll fit right in.

California Brew Haus

402 W Ridge Road | 585-621-1480‎,

Although it's not an actual brewery, Calafornia Brew Haus does offer a braggingly high 250 different types of beer. And what better place to go for live music than a brew house? Offering bands almost every weekend, it is open every day of the year, including holidays, giving you no excuse not to check it out at least once. You'll have to navigate the venue's MySpace or Facebook to find shows, but with the prevalence of music, taking a shot in the dark to enjoy the food, drink, and music is a guten way to experience Rochester firsthand.

Dinosaur Bar-B-Que

99 Court St | 585-325-9127,

This regional chain started in Syracuse before bringing its unique twist on bar-meets-restaurant-meets-music-venue to Rochester more than a decade ago. Featuring rootsy acts that are as good as the food, Dinosaur has hosted Redline Zydeco, The Buddahood, Les Dudek, and many other blues, jazz, or like-minded acts, and almost all the shows are free. So grab some ribs (or the Devil's Duel wings) and be sure to check it out. Just don't drive your stolen cop car through the doors on your way out.

The DubLand Underground

315 Alexander St | 585-232-7550,

Another two-for-one venue, the Dub Land Underground hosts a full bar on its first level, while the "under" level holds the music hall, and why yes, a second bar. With a name like DubLand, the venue brings in more than its fair share of DJs, as well as other electric acts that are sure to hit that specific musical need of yours. Names that might ring some bells include Slick Rick, DJ Nu-Mark of Jurassic 5, and The Brown Bag All Stars.

The German House

315 Gregory St | 585-442-6880,

A 100-year-old theater, the German House, much like the Armory, is a reminder of Rochester's great history. Bands such as Reverend Horton Heat, Enter the Haggis, and GreatBigSea have all played at this historic venue. Fitting roughly 400 people at its larger theater stage, the German House also holds the aptly named The Keg (a.k.a. Downstairs at the German House), a smaller area for more intimate shows, meetings, or performances. Find the upcoming concert schedule at up

MontageMusic Hall

50 Chestnut St | 585-232-1520‎,

The MontageMusic Hall fills in the gaps between places like Water Street and the smaller clubs on the list. Montage tends to gravitate toward the more hardcore and metal ends of the musical spectrum, but also hosts shows for the massive local jazz festival as well. Bands like Clutch, Stemm, and Otep have all graced the Montage stage. If you're looking for shows you'll have to navigate the venue's MySpace (that thing you used to use in high school), but the club-like atmosphere of the venue is perfectly suited for the college-aged and aolder crowds.

Water Street Music Hall/The Club at Water Street

204 N Water St | 585-325-5600,

A double threat, Water Street houses both a large-stage music hall and an intimate club stage for smaller acts and acoustic sets. Giving you the best of both worlds, Water Street is able to cater to a wide range of acts. Chances are you'll find at least one show on the venue's sprawling schedule that will suit your musical tastes. Bands such as Taking Back Sunday, Ben Folds, The Derek Trucks Band, AFI, and hometown favorites Giant Panda Guerilla Dub Squad are among the many groups to have called Water Street their Rochester music home.


Boulder Coffee Company

100 Alexander St, 585-454-7140‎; 955 Genesee St, 585-287-5210‎ |

College and coffee seem to have been fused together like Sauron and his ring, so much so that many can barely think of one even existing without the other. Now with three locations (a third operates with limited hours at the Rochester Public Market), locally grown chain Boulder Coffee Co. offers you that college coffee-shop. With open mic comedy, jam nights, and plenty of indie, folk, acoustic, and even piano-based acts, Boulder gives you a great chance to pick up some coffee (or something coffee-adjacent) while checking out local or national singers and songwriters. Serving both the Brooks Landing developments and the South Wedge, Boulder has become a part of both neighborhoods' distinct flavor and atmosphere.

Lovin' Cup

300 Park Point Drive | 585-292-9940‎,

It seems that just about everything you could possibly want is located within the Park Point college town at RIT, and Lovin' Cup is no exception. Music, food, and the café experience are all combined with a unique attitude and flair. With food selections such as "I'm Hot for Teacher," "Baby, Now that's I've Fondue," and "Rage Against the Green," Lovin' Cup is a unique and musically obsessed venue that you won't want to miss. Live music and open-mic nights abound, and make sure to check out the art and the fanciful wine rack and other surroundings. It all adds to the creative atmosphere at Lovin' Cup.

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