There are plenty of places to listen to live music in Sarasota FL, any night of the week. The area attracts many talented musicians and venues are plentiful and diverse. From beach bar cafes on Siesta Key to downtown cookouts and dances, farmers markets and theaters, you’re sure to find favorite places to return to each year or week.
A nice aspect of Sarasota nightlife is that it attracts people of all ages and is very casual and relaxed, making it comfortable to go out with a group, with a friend, or alone. Many places are also smoke-free. Here are a few to try the next time you’d rather spend the night enjoying live music than another DVD!
Mattison’s City Grille is the epicenter of downtown Sarasota’s nightlife. It is located on the corner of Main Street and Lemon Avenue and is a covered open-air restaurant with a large bar area and a small dance floor. There is a different live band every night, and the quality is exceptional. If you like to dance, try Saturday nights when TC and The Troublemakers rock the place with southern rock, slow romantic songs and rock and roll standards. Thursday nights are fun with The Venturas, whose diverse repertoire includes jazz, blues, soul, country and swing, with soulful lead singer Ally Couch wowing the crowd with her alternately soulful, rock and blues vocals. Since Mattison’s City Grille is outdoors, smoking isn’t a big deal if you prefer to be smoke-free.
A popular destination for the late-night dessert and wine crowd is Sarasota Vineyards, a wine-tasting bar and cafe on Main Street just east of Lemon Avenue that hosts live music on Friday and Saturday nights. Take note of when Al Fuller and Gary Davis harmonize there. It’s guaranteed to be a friendly crowd, and the duo plays many of their favorite songs from the ’70s, as well as originals. Music at Sarasota Vineyards is usually from 8:00 pm to 11:00 pm Non-smoking.
A relatively new spot for the younger set is The Box Social, whose decor is reminiscent of Greenwich Village cafes in the 1960s. With clever graffiti artwork on the walls, comfy sofas, tables and chairs, and a bar, The Box Social offers live music from young and old musicians several nights a week. On Wednesday nights, check out the invitational jam hosted by guitar virtuoso Jimi Gee. You never know who you’ll see, and the chemistry is interesting when musicians you’ve never met get together to play in this comfortable cafe. The Box Social is on Main Street, just east of Lemon Avenue. On Saturday nights, there is a small additional charge of $5 to listen to the band. Non smoking.
FACING SARASOTA BAY
Marina Jack is a spacious restaurant that hugs the edge of the yacht harbor in Sarasota’s Bayfront Park, at the west end of Main Street, in downtown sarasota. On the lower level, open to the expansive view of the boats and sunsets, there is a bar with many tables and a spacious dance floor. Lots of live music on Marina Jack. For example, Sunday afternoons will never be boring again, once you’ve danced with Democracy, an energetic and popular reggae band that plays there on Sunday afternoons from 4:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. No need. of a dancing couple. They all get down on the floor and have fun.
Sarasota‘s Bayfront Park is anchored at one end by Marina Jack and on the other by O’Leary’s Tiki Bar. Located along the edge of the waterfront, with rowboats and crashing waves as a backdrop, by O’Leary features live music in its outdoor seating area every afternoon and evening. Look for John Howard there, sometimes alone, sometimes with John Howard’s band. His set list is full of rock, folk-rock, and blues favorites, as well as some excellent originals.
HILLVIEW STREET, SOUTH SIDE VILLAGE
Located across the street from the Sarasota Memorial Hospital parking lot, between Tamiami Trail and Osprey Avenue, Hillview Street is lined with restaurants and nightspots. Tea 5 o’clock club offers loud music and dancing, and smoking is allowed. On Monday nights from 8:30 pm to 12:00 pm, Al Fuller’s Blues Jam at the 5 o’clock club it’s a dynamic mix of local professionals and semi-professional musicians who share the stage to rock the place with blues and rock ‘n roll tunes. The dance floor offers the elegant to the casual, the high-step ones to the gently swaying ones. Dance alone or say yes if you want to spin around with a partner. There is less smoke to go through if you arrive earlier in the evening.
New York, New York It is a piano bar/restaurant that opened on Hillview Street last year. Has live piano entertainment five nights a week, 6-9 p.m.
A new branch of Gecko’s, a family friendly pub, will be opening soon on Hillview Street. It is unclear at this time if there will be live music at geckos. Libby’s Restauranton S. Osprey Avenue, just south of Hillview Street, is very popular for indoor and outdoor dining, as is by Sam Snead Restaurant, on the corner of Hillview Street and S. Osprey Avenue.
SIESTA KEY VILLAGE
This is SarasotaIt is a fun and original beach town, and it is full of bars and restaurants, ideal for families and full of music. Just walking down Ocean Blvd in Siesta Key Villageyou will see and hear a different musician playing live music in each one. SKOB (Siesta Key Oyster Bar), Gilligan’s, The Hub Baja Grille, The Beach Club, Blu Smoke and Blase Cafe offer live music. Kettle of Fish is a local band favorite with an extensive song list and great harmonies. There’s reggae in by gilligan Sundays in the afternoon.
VILLAGE OF THE GULF GATE
Just southeast of the intersection of Tamiami Trail (Hwy 41) and Stickney Point Road is an old business district behind the Sarasota Pavilion, which is a destination for Sarasota nightlife. The two thoroughfares that see most of the action are Gateway Avenue and Superior Avenue, both running perpendicular to gulf gate Drive.
On Gateway Avenue, The Irish Rover offers music seven nights a week, along with hearty pub grub. Along with plenty of solid traditional Irish music (and stellar performances on multiple instruments by Irish Rover owner Paul Duffy), there are some interesting shows on other nights. For example, Thursday nights feature The Instigators, a Reggae/World Music reunion band that was popular in Sarasota in the 1980s and recently got back together. On Tuesdays, be sure to check out the Michael Kach Group, made up of musicians with stellar talents on keyboard, guitar and drums, and resumes that include touring with Dickey Betts and the Allman Brothers Band. On Sunday nights, prepare to be amazed by the talent of Juvenocracy, a jazz band made up of high school students. Seasoned adult professionals cannot compare to some of these children.
Other live music destinations worth exploring include JR’s Old packing house coffee (just east of Cattlemen Road, on Old Packinghouse Road), where you can enjoy comfort food alongside blues and rock bands six nights a week. The show starts at 7pm, but get there earlier if you want a table and faster service. Tea Old packing house coffee It’s Old Florida, for sure.