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20 Small But Mighty Venues That Are Keeping Rock Alive

Bar backs, brutal bands, and unforgettable sweaty nights.

1. 40 Watt Club β€” Athens, GA

Since opening in 1979, 40 Watt Club has served live music to locals and University of Georgia students in Athens for the past 35 years. Despite its 500-person venue capacity, this humble music venue hosted some very large acts like Iggy Pop, Sonic Youth, Against Me!, and The Strokes.

2. Red7 β€” Austin, TX

Austin is the live music capital of the world, and for good reason β€” there are music venues everywhere. Positioned in the Red River Music District is Red7, a multimedia dual-stage music venue that is run by musicians, for musicians. You can rock out indoors and outdoors at the 7th Street staple. Hurry to this place because, at the end of September, it will move down the street to a venue potentially called "Sidewinder."

3. The Hole in the Wall β€” Austin, TX

Venues come and go in Austin, but one that has stood the test of time is the legendary dive The Hole in the Wall. Since opening in 1974, folks like Quentin Tarantino, Dave Grohl, and Natalie Portman have taken a seat at the bar, and acts like Fastball, The Attractions, and ...And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead have taken the stage. Get a slice of authentic Austin here and breathe in the history oozing from the walls.

4. Ottobar β€” Baltimore, MD

Ottobar first opened its doors in Baltimore in 1997 and has been rocking along strong since. There are two levels to this venue and a diverse mix of acts β€” past shows range from psychedelic pop band Of Montreal to heavy metal band Lamb of God.

5. 924 Gilman β€” Berkeley, CA

Though many punk venues have been forced to close their doors, like CBGB in New York City, 924 Gilman in the Bay Area is still going since it first opened in 1986. The Gilman is a DIY nonprofit venue that is completely run by volunteers. For nearly 30 years, this venue has helped to keep underground music and art alive in its quirky space.

6. The Middle East Restaurant and Nightclub β€” Cambridge, MA

The Middle East has been serving locals and college students some of the best rock shows in Boston. Sure, you can see a big show at House of Blues, but this small, intimate venue has a small feel and rich history that brings the music to life.

7. The Empty Bottle β€” Chicago, IL

The Empty Bottle first opened in Chicago in 1992, taking refuge in a cat-ridden bar in Ukranian Village. A year later, they moved a couple blocks up the street to a large venue equipped with sound equipment and without cats. You can thrash about to some killer bands, shoot some pool, play some pinball, and guzzle down cheap drinks β€” what's not to love?

8. Three Links β€” Dallas, TX

In the heart of Deep Ellum, Dallas's historic music and art neighborhood, lies Three Links. They don't call themselves a punk bar per se, but they mention that if you own a Clash album, you'll fit right in. Stop in for some tasty tacos from Fuzzy's and stay to hear some of the best up-and-coming local and national rock bands.

9. The Smell β€” Los Angeles, CA

The Smell in Los Angeles has been a thriving DIY venue serving the Los Angeles area since 1998. Dedicated to supporting artistic creativity and artistic freedom, this nonprofit focuses on and serves those who call The Smell home. The art on the walls, the bands on the stage, and the doormen are the same people you brush elbows with on the dance floor.

10. The Viper Room β€” Los Angeles, CA

Located on Sunset Strip in West Hollywood, The Viper Room was launched by Johnny Depp, who refurbished the existing bar in 1993. It quickly became a popular hangout for celebrities as well as a famous live music venue boasting performances by iconic bands such as Oasis, Run-DMC, and Green Day.

11. The Frequency β€” Madison, WI

Located in downtown Madison near Capitol Square is a humble little venue known as The Frequency. In this intimate space, you practically feel like a part of the show. If you're into spooky ghosts, hang in the fabled haunted green room for a little paranormal activity.

12. High Noon Saloon β€” Madison, WI

Resurrected from the ashes of the beloved club O'Cayz Corral, which burned down on New Year's Day of 2001, High Noon Saloon opened its doors in Madison, WI, in 2004 to feature both national and local live music as well as an ever-changing craft beer selection, seven nights a week. High Noon Saloon is also home to Rockstar Gomeroke, a karaoke night where you can sing your heart out while The Gomers serve as your backup band.

13. The End β€” Nashville, TN

Nashville is famous for being a hub for indie music in the United States. This small dive bar/music venue was established over 30 years ago and offers shows by local underground indie-rock bands as well as affordable prices and an outdoor patio.

14. The Basement β€” Nashville, TN

The Basement is an intimate neighborhood staple nestled under Grimey’s record store in East Nashville. The venue hosted a secret show by legendary band Metallica in 2008 and has since expanded into two locations.

15. Shea Stadium β€” Brooklyn, NY

Named after the baseball stadium in Queens, this DIY venue in Williamsburg offers an alternative recording process for up-and-coming artists. Bands perform intimate live shows here that are simultaneously recorded with minimal postproduction in order to preserve the magic of live performance.

16. The Marlin Room at Webster Hall β€” New York, NY

Any given night, Webster Hall's walls are booming with some of the best live acts in the nation. National touring acts play the Grand Ballroom, but for a sweaty, intimate vibe, thrash about in the Studio, and, for a bit more elbow room, head upstairs to the Marlin Room.

17. The Know β€” Portland, OR

Located in the central Alberta Arts district, The Know is a 10-year-old underground punk music venue. Offering affordable (and sometimes free) shows and hosting performances by metal and punk bands such as Heartless and No Statik, it is one of the most important music venues in the city.

18. Rickshaw Stop β€” San Francisco, CA

Formerly a TV studio, Rickshaw Stop arrived to the city by the bay in 2004. Artists such as Aloe Blacc, Veronica Falls, and The Jezabels have since stepped out and performed in front of the giant red curtains.

19. Chop Suey β€” Seattle, WA

Located in a 1937-built building in Capitol Hill, Chop Suey was originally home to alternative music shows and decorated with a retro Chinese theme. The venue has since been given a makeover, but this owner-run and -operated labor of love provides an unforgettable musical experience that keeps people coming back.

20. The Showbox β€” Seattle, WA

This legendary venue celebrated its 75th anniversary in 2014 and has hosted an impressive and eclectic mix of music icons since 1939 including Pearl Jam, Prince, and Muddy Waters.

Have a favorite venue that didn't make the list? Let us know in the comments below!

Additional facts for The Frequency (#10) and High Noon Saloon (#11) from venue staff.

These venues stand for keeping rock alive. Dr. Martens wants to know what you stand for.