There are more places in Evansville that have live music than I thought before I started working on this article. When I set out to do this I believed I was in for a quick, easy venue hop before making my final decision on the top five and that would be that. What I got was a four month journey to places I never thought I’d set foot in and quite a few surprises.
Now, before I dish out the awards, I want to clarify that places like Roberts Stadium and The Centre were not included for obvious reasons. I went to bars for the most part, as that is where we find our live music in this town. Based on my experience at each venue I “graded” them using four categories. I took into account the diversity of bands on the line-up, the overall atmosphere of the place, the sound quality, and the quality of the bartenders and waitstaff. I used a five-point scale for each and added the numbers to see who came out on top. So, read ‘em and weep. Here are my top five picks for live music venues in Evansville.
Number five: Cafe Arazu
I had never before been to this adorable little spot in downtown Newburgh, but I was instantly taken in. The patio outside is the perfect place to take in some music with your meal or a drink. The waitstaff was courteous, the ambience was ideal, and it was overall a very pleasant experience. As much as I loved it, there were drawbacks. The location and the fact that it’s a cafe prevent them from having too much in the way of diversity for music. It’s very much an acoustic solo or duo venue, but that’s ok. Another drawback was my drink was not what I expected. I find that sometimes with little places like that it’s all frill and no substance when it comes to the food and drinks. Maybe I caught them on an off night? But the atmosphere of the place was so great that I will definitely be back. And, since it’s a cafe, I could bring along my under-21 friend. There are so few places for 18-20 year olds to go for live music that I was glad for this place.
Number four: Smitty’s Little Tavern
I love this place. There was even a time when I performed here every Wednesday night. But, I feel like the diversity of bands has fallen off in the past few years. The atmosphere is unbeatable: pressed tin ceiling, hardwood floors, the long bar with a mirror behind it, the patio, and the big, open room that helps the place feel less crowded that it really is. Did I mention the patio? The bartenders at Smitty’s are also fantastic. And they have some of the lowest drink prices in town. But, as I mentioned, the diversity of performers has fallen away. It seems to be all blues, country and acoustic gigs these days. If I’m wrong, call me out, but the line-up there is the only thing that kept this bar from being number one.
Number three: Hoosier’s Lounge
No, you’re not hallucinating. Hoosier’s Lounge is actually a really fun place to go for live music. They have a huge variety of bands coming from all over the country, and the drinks are great. But, they do have higher prices than other places in town. The atmosphere is nice with good lighting. But some days I just can’t get over the fact that it sits in the middle of a large pavilion and the only thing marking the bar area is a three-foot railing. But if you can get over that then it’s sure to be a good time. The stage and sound system are fantastic, and this place also boasts a large dance floor that makes me smile. Head down on a Sunday night to hear Bob Minnette and the Swing Cats while watching the local swing-dancing group twirling around the dance floor. And if you think these guys are all members of the over sixty club then think again. This place has the widest range of age groups in town, and a little something for everyone. Thus, it has earned its place as the number three place to take in live music.
Number two: Deerhead Tavern
If you don’t know this place then either you’re not from around here or you live in a cave. The Deerhead has been a fixture for most of Evansville’s history and boasts some of the best live music around. That is certainly no secret. The bands that play here are amazing and come from a wide range of styles and genres. From rock to country to blues to jazz to funk, they’ve got it. And the bartenders and waitstaff are some of the best. The food is life-changing (my favorite pizza in Evansville) and the drinks are cheap. There’s never a cover charge. True, they increase the price of drinks when the band starts, but they were so cheap to begin with that you don’t even care or notice. Another huge plus in my book is the back room where those under 21 can take in the music. While it’s not the best view, it’s a great place to listen. Now, the drawback to this place is the size. It’s so tiny. And it’s almost always full of people. If I could take everything wonderful about the Deerhead and put it in a building twice as big I would. But, alas it is what it is. But we still love the Deerhead, and we all know it’s not the size that counts, it’s how you use it.
Number one: Lamasco Bar and Grill
I did not pick this place as number one, it picked itself. Or rather, Amy picked it. There is absolutely no other bar in the tri-state with as much diversity of music as Lamasco. None. Amy has had everyone from reggae to rock-a-billy and everything in between. Ska, funk, rock, americana, jam bands, even a beat-boxer, and the list goes on and on. Bottom line: we love this place. The full menu is reason enough to love this place. Did I mention they serve breakfast? And of course we can’t leave out Jessica Nuffer, the best bartender in town. Now, the one tiny draw-back? Size. Evansville has a lot of really great old buildings with a fabulous ambience. But unfortunately those buildings are all teeny-tiny. But I have to give credit to Amy for doing the best she can with what she’s got in that department. Knocking out the center wall has made an enormous difference. And the patio is great, too. For a great night out in Evansville you simply can’t beat this place. The music is incredible, the food and drinks are fantastic, and the atmosphere is so comfortable you’ll want to come back for more every weekend.
While these picks are my opinion, I stand by them. There are a lot of good places to go in Evansville for live music and I’ve visited them all. I’ll be following up this article with a review of each place I went to on my journey for the best, so stay tuned. And in the meantime, go visit these venues if you’ve never been. They are all great and deserve our patronage. I never again want to hear Evansvillians complaining about how there’s nothing to do. There’s lots. I just gave you some choices. Now get off your butt and go have fun.