Concerts in Atlanta: Guide to the best music venues

The Atlanta concerts scene is crowded.

Ask ten people who they consider to be their favorite band and you'll get ten answers. Music is subjective like that. Our tastes are a reflection of the lives we've led; we grow to love (or hate) the music we've heard at home since we were babies, we build our social identities around music and culture during those awkward formative years and we ultimately settle into the nostalgic glow of adulthood. We might even find common ground with our parents and grandparents as we age. It's okay; don't get weird about it.

RELATED: Want a place to hear good music in Atlanta but not a full concert? See our guide to Live Music venues in Atlanta

One thing that has remained true over time is that music is linked to the surrounding environment. A white-hot band playing a killer venue on a cloudless night seems like a safe bet for a great time. Occasionally, they even give you a "where were you when," moment to endlessly assert your superiority over future generations. Even science agrees that venue is a big part of the connection between musician and audience.

No matter what kind of beats get you fired up, Atlanta is a great town to catch a show. The very best spots?

5. Eddie's Attic

Do you like John Mayer? The Civil Wars? Justin Bieber?

You can call Eddie Owen to thank him. The namesake for Eddie's Attic built his club to focus on musicianship above all else, and the club grew a reputation for cultivating up-and-coming artists from Atlanta and around the world. The venue's Open Mic Shootout has seen minor-league versions of John Mayer, Shawn Mullins, Clay Cook and other noteworthy artists take home the $1000 prize, back when that was an amount of money that mattered to them.

Although Eddie is no longer involved with Eddie's Attic (he now runs Eddie Owens Presents in Duluth), the venue continues to be a favorite for catching a show.

4. Center Stage / The Loft / Vinyl

One of the most underrated spots in Atlanta is Rival Entertainment's triumvirate offering of Center Stage, the Loft and Vinyl. The three spaces are all in one building on West Peachtree Street that was originally built as a theater.

"With live theater, your space had to be intimate enough for clear sight of an actors facial expressions," said Rival Entertainment's Alec Wooden. "Because of the history of the space, the experience of music feels closer at Center Stage. It's not the long rectangular room that you're used to. Our venue puts you on top of the action."

As its name suggests, Center Stage is the largest of the three sister stages, while Vinyl and the Loft each offer their own unique experience. Wooden adds that "it's fun to see artists move up the ladder as they progress. Bands who've played at Vinyl will later play at the Loft when they've grown, or Center Stage from the Loft."

Whichever stage you're at, the sister stages at Center Stage are each intimate and acoustic. So much so that Elton John even spent four months recording The Captain & the Kid on site at Center Stage.

3. Terminal West

Terminal West is the future. If you like bands that others haven't heard of yet, then Terminal West is for you.

Yet for all its buzz, it's not a pretentious place. In fact, the vibe at Terminal West is decidedly modern and hardworking. The staff even replies to almost every Yelp review they receive, which is a refreshing breath of fresh air in the Ticketmaster era. The location at the King Plow Arts Center on the westside is, frankly, cool. You just feel like someone who is in the right place at the right time when you catch a show here.

Terminal West is run and staffed by people who care about not only the venue but also music in Atlanta, and their dedication to the sound and environmental aesthetic are apparent. The place sounds good, looks great and has the sorts of features that keep people coming back; excellent guest service, liquor drinks and craft beer, with synchronized bar tabs for convenience. The rooftop views and ease of parking push Terminal West into a category all their own - Best New Venue.

If you haven't been, do yourself (and the local music community) a favor and check out a show at Terminal West this summer.

Explore2. Variety Playhouse

Little Five is alive. Variety Playhouse is its beating heart.

The Playhouse is housed in a World War II-era theater and appointed with a nostalgic art deco feel. Like everything else about the neighborhood, the Playhouse feels free to dance to the beat of its own drummer. It's an indie-pop death metal bluegrass jam band, with a jazz trombone opener and an EDM light show afterparty. They don't book today's biggest bands, they book today's best bands.

And the two decades of nearly non-stop jams have paid off with an endless list of awards, including dozens of Best Concert Venue awards and an amazing roster of bands who call the stage home. The Playhouse has become an Atlanta institution, and it's ever closer to carving its place out among the most legendary music sites in the country.

Explore1. The Tabernacle

There is nowhere better in Atlanta to see live music than the Tabernacle.

What was founded in 1898 (the current building dates from the early 2oth century) as a Baptist Church later morphed (during Olympic construction) into the House of Blues. In its present form, the Tabernacle has become one of the most celebrated music venues in the country.

Rightly so. Bands don't so much play the Tabernacle as rock it, sometimes literally. Panic! at the Disco caused just that when the buildling had to be evacuated for possible floor cracking. The building is, of course, safe today, but you can definitely feel the shake of 2,600 dancing fans from its sideline rafters. Atlanta wouldn't want the biggest concert moments of the year any other way.


Browse upcoming Atlanta Concerts on the Access Atlanta Concerts Calendar

More Atlanta Concert Venues from the Access Atlanta Concerts Calendar