You’ve just arrived in Bristol, said ciao to mum and dad; time to go into town and check out the live music. That is, when your hangover from last night’s freshers party shifts. From electronic to jazz, and everything in between, Bristol offers everything from multi-level venues, to concert halls, to small intimate stages, and a boat.

peace at the louisina
Peace tearing The Fleece apart last year

You read right, a boat, but more on that later. All you have to remember is our golden rule: Park Street and the Hippodrome are your best friends. Get lost, head there and you’ll be reunited with your allies faster than Bear Grylls through Millets with an endless cash supply.

The Louisiana

Despite not being as sizeable as bigger venues like the O2 or Colston Hall, The Louisiana still put on one hell of a show. With a main stage and cellar venue for acoustic sessions, there’s a lot to be discovered here. Bands such as The White Stripes, Muse and Kings of Leon have all played here, and there’s plenty of up and coming acts passing regularly through. Found in the heart of the waterfront, this is a great location for great music. Just please don’t go yelling about how you knew these guys before they were mainstream.

Please.

The Fleece

A bit of a hidden gem. Much like The Louisiana, the Fleece represents the Bristol music scene nicely – a great venue with a lot of character. Sure, it’s seen bands like Oasis, Amy Winehouse, and Queens of the Stone Age through it’s doors, but the Fleece breathes new music. It may not be the biggest venue, but it does have some great events; their regular all-dayers are not to be missed!

Mr Wolf’s

DJ’s rejoice, or whoop, or whatever people much cooler than myself do – Wolfs is one of the top places in Bristol for DJ’s. Open 7 days a week, they typically start the night with some good ol’ live music, but this is the place to be if you’re looking to discover new DJ’s on your night out.

Tuesday is 2-4-1 day on their famous noodles. Forget Wagamamas!

Start the Bus

Housing possibly the smallest stage I’ve ever played on (although a 7 piece band rarely finds a truly accommodating stage) this charming diner has a fantastic atmosphere on any night of the week. It’s usually packed to the rafters with interesting people of some sort and puts on a great variety of acts. This is a great venue to go if you’re up for a nice drink and maybe a dance later on in the evening. It pretty much backs onto Mr Wolfs, so there’s plenty to get involved with in all directions!

The Exchange

Bristol’s newest venue that punches well up there; in their short history (opening early 2013) The Exchange has hosted The 1975, Four Tet and Bristol’s own The Brilliant Corners.

With two floors, live music basically ever weekday night and weekend club nights, there’s always something going on at The Exchange. Although a fair distance from trusted old Park Street, it’s close to Cabot Circus, so there’s still plenty of reference points to help get you around.

Thekla

The famous Thekla has appeared in Skins, and was voted NME’s ‘Best Small Venue’ 2011 AND 2012. Oh, and IT’S A BOAT! A gig or club night on a boat may not seem all that big a deal, but once you get to Thekla, you’re hooked and anchored, captaining your own quest for new music. Ok, so boat puns aside, this place rocks – it’s the boat…that rocks. Right seriously, boat puns aside, this is no Ibiza boat party where the music is typical rubbish. It’s gritty, intense, packed and flat out. The list of bands that have played here goes on forever, but Jake Bugg, Florence and the Machine, and Kula Shaker (to name a few) have all played in the hull.

They’ve also got some of the best club nights that Bristol has to offer, including the famous Thursday night indie-fest Pressure.

Oh, and yes, they do play ‘I’m on a boat’ on a regular basis.

By James White