Suzhou’s burgeoning live music scene has never enjoyed more venues or a greater following. Within just the last year or so, we’ve seen a steady rise of music-friendly spaces all the way from downtown to east of Jin Ji Lake. No matter what your taste in crowds or music may be, Suzhou has got you covered. Before we look at the best of live venues, however, there are some notable exceptions. Bars that regularly host a house band, but aren’t venues for shows or music festivals, have been omitted. That’s simply because there are so many bars that include a resident band (often via the Philippines), that it would be too difficult to list them all here. The following live music hotspots offer variety in bands and genres. Let’s take a look at your best bets as you sojourn through the city in search of great tunes and good crowds.
At the far end of the Shi Quan Street bar scene, Q’s is fast-becoming a gathering point for local musical talent. With weekly shows by one of nine different bands, there’s something for everyone to enjoy. The management is eager to give any local band with skills a shot at the stage, and many newly-formed bands have found Q’s a great launching pad for their development. Not just for music lovers, Q’s is home to weekly pool tournaments (Thursdays), Wii games on the big screen (weekends), and a karaoke bar on the third floor (nightly).
Add: 53 Shiquan Jie, Suzhou
Tel: 0512 6526 3251
With open mic Wednesdays, The Bookworm has carved out a niche for culture vultures. The fully-stocked bookstore-cum-café with music is sure to keep those in need of intellectual stimulation coming back. Home to acoustic guitar sets and inspiring vocals, open mic night makes the most of an intimate space to entertain customers who enjoy a latte as much as a beer. In addition to its impressive, open-to-the-public entertainment, The Bookworm frequently has traveling bands come through to delight audiences. The annual literary festival (each spring) seems especially inviting for guest musicians.
Add: Gunxiufang 77, Shi Quan Street, Canglang District, Suzhou
Tel: 0512 6524 7529, 1391 5589 753
Opening hours: 9:00 – 1:00
Wave Bar 珀翠酒吧
If heavy metal, punk, and hard rock are what you want to hear, and if you want to see Chinese bands from as far away as Beijing and Xi’an come and perform, then Wave Bar is the place for you! Founded by a consortium of like-minded musicians, Wave Bar is a not-for-profit venue that boasts low cover fees and beer prices. A recent show featured cult favorite, Suzhou-based Moye, with Shanghai group Screaming Savior closing out the evening. Wave Bar doesn’t currently have a huge English-speaking following, most likely due to its somewhat concealed location. The collaborators hope to ameliorate this problem with more English updates on their site.
Add: 35 Shijiaxiang, Lindun Lu, Pingjiang District, Suzhou
Tel: 134 0423 2410 (tickets and directions)
Backstreet Bar and Cheers
Long a haven for music-lovers, Backstreet continues its decade-long service with live shows every Wednesday through Sunday night. This “dive bar” hasn’t changed much through the years, yet it never fails to exude a welcoming neighborhood sensation to visitors. Founder Johnny Bing, himself an accomplished guitarist and singer, has made music a priority in this Feng Huang Street setting. The crowd here is noticeably livelier than at other bars near Shi Quan Street. Indeed, years of live shows have developed a unique following of audiophiles who frequent the venue. If a more local crowd of Suzhou music fans is what you seek, look no further than Backstreet. Nearby Cheers Bar, also owned and operated by Johnny, takes a softer approach to its music. Smooth Jazz and Bossa Nova ooze from the bar’s beautiful singer and her backup musicians. Within a minutes’ walk of one another, guests can start out with slow melodies and move on to rock as the night’s excitement grows.
Add: 171 Fenghuang Jie, Canglang District, Suzhou
Tel: 0512 6515 4895
Add: 261 Fenghuang Jie, Canglang District, Suzhou
Tel: 0521 6511 8376
Opening Hours: 19:00 - 02:00
Honorable Mentions: Ganesh and Country City USA
While these venues have yet to show Suzhou what quality of music they will bring in, their plans seem laudable enough. Ganesh, a two-story Indian restaurant and Nepali jazz bar east of Jin Ji Lake, plans to start bringing in live jazz music to Suzhou. If successful, it will certainly be the first of its kind for a music venue anywhere in the city, let alone east of the lake. Country City USA is said to open on July 4th, but has advertised its live country music theme for quite some time now. When it finally opens we’ll all get to find out just how “Western” music, cowboy hats and all, will do here.
Add: Building C3, Moon Harbor, Suzhou Industrial Park, Suzhou
Tel: 0512 6956 9808
Country City USA美国乡村俱乐部
Add: 2F, 621 Shiquan Jie, Suzhou
Tel: 151 5041 8737
Opening Hours: 18:00 till late
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