Despite being a small city, there is plenty of live music in York. Expect to find quirky singer-songwriters, gypsy jazz, Delta blues and gruff two-piece garage bands.
York’s Live Music Venues
Hosting a wide range of events, including celebrity chefs, big-name comedians and live music, York Barbican is York’s largest venue and the place where the more established acts tend to play – it has a standing capacity of 1900.
The other large-ish live music venue in York is Fibbers (now relocated to Toft Green). It hosts a wide range of artists from up and coming new bands through to 80s heavy metallers, chart-topping 90s indie, country singers and tribute acts.
Just off of Coney Street and part of the City Screen complex, The Basement is hidden away underneath the cinema cafe. This intimate venue with a capacity of just 100 often showcases local bands but also hosts touring artists from a whole range of genres – alt-pop, punk, folk, country and more.
Along a bit and round the corner, Dusk – a cocktail bar on New Street – also has gigs of an evening from time to time, often with a distinctively punky flavour.
Two newer ‘players’ on the York live music scene are The Fulford Arms and The Crescent. A large single room pub just outside the city centre, The Fulford Arms is a proud supporter of independent music and hosts regular gigs every month.
The Crescent too, a former working men’s club, seems to be committed to providing a space where people can come together and enjoy a whole range of music. Both venues host artists and bands from various musical niches – so you can expect to find quirky singer-songwriters, gruff two-piece garage bands and noisy politically engaged punk.
The Black Swan on Peasholme Green is home to The Black Swan Folk Club who have a regular monthly programme of folk singers and musicians’ nights. The pub also hosts other gigs upstairs in their function room which are mainly of an acoustic-style nature.
Another pub a short walk from the city centre is The Spread Eagle on Walmgate. Popular with the students who live nearby, there are regular gig nights throughout the week – most of which are free entry – featuring indie / punk / garage / metal bands from across the north of England.
Although dedicated to the promotion of ‘early music’ the National Centre for Early Music – or NCEM for short – also hosts world music, jazz and folk concerts as well. A converted medieval church, it is something of an unusual venue which is perhaps fitting as you’ll find music here that you won’t find anywhere else in York – Russian folk song, guitar virtuosos and the Yiddish Twist Orchestra.
For those after classical music then the music department at the University of York has a dedicated concert hall and smaller auditorium. Their programme usually features a mix of orchestral and choral works (some of which are performed at York Minster) as well as the occasional jazz ensemble playing more ‘challenging’ music. Concerts are generally only performed during term-time.
Live Music in York’s Pubs & Bars
Goodramgate is a good place to start if you’re looking for live music in York. First up as you head away from Low Petergate is The Snickleway Inn which usually hosts a couple of folksy-style music nights every month – often on a Thursday or Friday night.
A few doors down on the opposite side is The Habit where live music is on offer five nights out of seven. Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday are all open mic nights of one sort or another run by local singer-songwriters, and on a Friday and Saturday night they have live music from 9pm. It’s quite a small place (‘cosy’ if you’re an estate agent) so acts tend to be soloists – one man and a guitar – or duos, rather than full-on bands.
A hundred yards further down you’ll find The Golden Slipper which has live music on a Sunday afternoon from about 4pm. The Royal Oak next door has a resident blues band who play on a Wednesday night – recommended – and usually have live acts on a Friday night as well.
The Roman Bath, the pub-cum-museum on St. Sampsons Square at the end of Parliament Street has live music four nights a week from Thursday to Sunday. Bands here are typically more to the rock ‘n’ roll end of the spectrum and tend mainly to play covers.
Although they have DJs on a Thursday, Friday and Saturday night, Sotano just off of Stonegate does also have some live music as well – Tuesday is open mic night and on a Sunday they have late night jazz from 9pm.
At the top end of High Petergate, The Eagle and Child has live jazz on a Thursday night and may well have more events in the near future. The Three Legged Mare has an open mic night on a Thursday, resident pianoman on a Friday and guest acts on a Saturday night.
If you carry on down Low Petergate, the street eventually opens out into King’s Square where you’ll find The Last Drop Inn – another York Brewery pub – where you can often find a singer-songwriter from 9pm. The final York Brewery pub, The Yorkshire Terrier on Stonegate, also occasionally has a man (or woman!) with a guitar in it on a Friday night.
On Fossgate, Sutlers usually have an accompanied singer performing some easy-listening jazz on a Sunday night – and they also occasionally have music on a Monday and Tuesday as well.
The Ossett Brewery pub The Hop a little further down Fossgate offers live music four nights a week in the large open drinking / dining area at the back. The music is predominantly acoustic guitar based but can be any number of styles – Americana / folk / pop and rock covers.
Just inside the walls next to Fishergate Bar you’ll find The Phoenix Inn – the unofficial home of the York jazz scene. There’s live jazz here usually on Sunday and Monday nights and there’s also a jazz jam session on Wednesdays.
Another pub a little way from the city centre is The Victoria Vaults on Nunnery Lane (although its only a 5-10 minute walk from the train station). They have a really wide range of music on offer every month, anything from gypsy jazz or country, through to blues, folk, swing and funk-rock.
York Open Mic Nights
At the time of writing these are the open mic nights in York currently running:
- Monday – The Habit, The Golden Ball
- Tuesday – Sotano, The Spread Eagle (open jam night)
- Wednesday -The Phoenix Inn (jazz jam), The Victoria Vaults (gypsy jazz jam twice a month), The Habit
- Thursday – The Three Legged Mare, Thomas’s of York, The Habit, The Edinburgh Arms (open jam night)
- Friday – The Nook
- Saturday – Nowt
- Sunday – Dusk, The Hop, The Red Lion, The Black Horse
There are plenty of other pubs in York, some a little further out of the city centre, offering live music of one sort or another – to find out what’s on in York over the coming weeks, including all of city’s many open mic nights, check out our full listings pages.
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