Beijing has a great live music scene. Going to shows at the well-known live houses like Mao Livehouse and Yugong Yishan provides a great atmosphere to rock out, but can become quite pricey. For a more budget-friendly experience, check out the numerous venues regularly offering free live gigs around the city - it's not hard to find if you know where to look. Whether you're interested in listening or playing, there are great opportunities every night of the week to enjoy some free tunes.
1) Jiangjinjiu Bar
If your attention is on the music, Jiangjinjiu Bar is the place to go. This quaint spot in Gulou between the Drum and Bell Towers is best known for its spontaneous jam sessions. The eclectic assortment of acts includes a lot of cool minority bands and even the occasional acting troupe. It's not overly spacious (it comfortably houses about 40 people) but people crowd in nonetheless.
Beers are affordable starting out at 20 RMB, but don't expect to be wowed by the mixed drinks – they can sometimes taste a little funny or watered down. It's probably best to stick with beer here.
2) Temple BarView In Map
Not to be confused with the uber-swanky Contempio Temple Bar, recently opened Temple Bar is a huge space with all sorts of acts. There are free shows regularly, as well as bigger gigs which have recently included the Beijing Beatles. Free music is pretty regular on the weekends.
There's an extensive drink menu, with a wide selection of beers (starting at 15 RMB) and mixed drinks as well. Don't be surprised when this bar explodes in popularity, especially with Spring coming as the rooftop terrace opens.
It's a bit hard to find - you have to go to the back of the courtyard and through a red door to "B202". Once you find it though, you won't be disappointed.
Add: 202, Bldg B, 206 Gulou Dongdajie, Dongcheng District
Tel: 131 6107 0713
3) East Shore Live Jazz CafeView In Map
If you're looking for good jazz, give the highly-acclaimed East Shore a try. Enjoy a beer (starting at 20 RMB) and the impressive view of Houhai lake while taking in a string quartet act. Regular jam sessions bring talented musicians from around the city together for some improvised brilliance.
Add: 2/F, 2 Qianhai Nanyan Lu (just to the west of the post office on Dianmen Waidajie), Xicheng District, Beijing
Tel: 010 8403 2131
One of the best parts of Beijing's music scene is the open mic nights. This writer's personal favourites are Wednesdays at The Vanguard (VA Bar) and Thursdays at CD Blues, but other great ones include Lush in Wudaokou and East Shore. There's even a cool gypsy jam session hosted by the Hot Cat Club of Beijing every Tuesday night at Salud.
Here's a roundup of weeknight open mic nights and jam sessions around town:
- Sunday: Lush - For years now, Lush's open mic night has been wildly popular, with all kinds of acts. It's definitely worth checking out whether you're performing or sitting back and enjoying.
- Monday: VA Jazz - VA Bar in Wudaoying Hutong hosts their weekly jazz-themed jam session. Drink prices are just average, but be sure to try their mulled wine on cold nights. Open to all musicians, they offer a free beer to anyone that performs!
- Tuesday: Salud - The Hot Club of Beijing hosts a gypsy jam session in this well-known Nanluo bar. If you like swing music, make sure to check out the Hot Club - they also play for free on Wednesday nights at Modernista.
Jianghu Jiuba - The cosy space in a hutong courtyard is perfect for an intimate experience of their stellar house band. A lot of really talented acts come here, making it a great place for talented musicians to meet and collaborate.
- Wednesday: VA Bar Open Mic Night - A more diverse group of acts than their Monday night session. They welcome all acts and talent levels, so whether you're conquering that stage fright and performing for the first time, or a pro looking to jam with other talented musicians, VA Bar wants you on the stage.
- Thursday: CD Blues jam session is hosted by a great house band and attracts a lot of really talented acts. Drink prices are just okay, but it's worth it for the atmosphere.
So there you are - the best free live music in town. With so many cool places to enjoy some tunes, it's enough head-banging to last you to the New Year - or at least until it gets too cold to go out again.
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Keywords: free live music Beijing weekday performances Beijing music venues in Beijing best bars in Beijing
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