Orlando's music and nightlife scene is grinding into expansion

Switchfoot plays the House of Blues
Switchfoot plays the House of Blues Photo by Ian Suarez

There’s a lot of evolution and expansion underway in the venue scene over the last 12 months, but it’s been more of a long-view grind than big flashy openings. Newer/rebranded spaces like Soundbar, Veranda Live, Celine and Iron Cow are maintaining their steady momentum of live music in an ever more competitive environment. Grumpy’s Underground Lounge popped up out of nowhere next to Uncle Lou’s and is working in tandem with its neighbor to keep a little dirt under the increasingly well-manicured nails of Mills 50. Will’s Pub reconfigured their whole interior arrangement in March, Geek Easy is upping its game exponentially for putting on concerts that look and sound great, and Stonewall in Parramore is doing the same, proving themselves to be crucial pieces of Orlando’s live music puzzle. And while we’re at it, a special shout out to Whiskey Lou’s; after 50 years in the hooch-slinging game they’re low-key poised to become a garage-punk hotspot.

Addition Financial Arena

12777 N. Gemini Blvd., 407-823-6006, cfearena.com

The former CFE Arena, just rebranded Addition Financial, is more than just a student venue: It seats roughly 10,000 and hosts pop, rock and hip-hop, as well as comedy and other events. It's a welcome connection between UCF and the broader show-going populace of the city.

Amway Center

400 W. Church St., 407-440-7000, amwaycenter.com

Elton John, Travis Scott and Fall Out Boy have all made the Amway a tour stop – not to mention a red-hot selection of young Latin music superstars – and this big-league arena is also home to the Magic and the Solar Bears, only a few steps from downtown.

The Beacham

46 N. Orange Ave., 407-246-1419, thebeacham.com

The downtown concert venue provides a much-needed home for larger-scale shows in the center of the city – think Kurt Vile, Neko Case or Playboi Carti. The open floor provides multiple pathways to edge your way up to the front, though good luck navigating tightly packed crowds.

Blue Bamboo Center for the Arts

1905 Kentucky Ave., Winter Park, 407-636-9951, bluebambooartcenter.com

Triple-threat performance space/art gallery/recording studio hosts the full sonic spectrum of jazz, classical and world music, as well as theater and literary events.


22 S. Magnolia Ave., 407-801-7005, celineorlando.com

Downtown Orlando nightspot is a great destination for dancing and now also hosts a red-hot swath of touring hip-hop, EDM, drum & bass and techno heavy-hitters.

CityWalk at Universal

6000 Universal Studios Plaza, 407-363-8000, universalorlando.com

This no-cover complex of bars and clubs tucked away within the Universal Studios sprawl offers plenty of opportunity for a little more grownup-oriented fun outside the province of Harry Potter at Rising Star, the Groove, the Red Coconut Club and more.

The Falcon

819 E. Washington St., 407-423-3060, thefalconbar.com

Intimate bar and impromptu venue has been anchoring Thornton Park for a few years now and has increasingly been providing a comfy home for underground shows of the electronic or full-band type; that's in addition to an already bustling calendar of open mic and comedy nights.

The Geek Easy

114 S. Semoran Blvd., Winter Park, 321-972-8207, mygeekeasy.com

What started as a backroom speakeasy-style bar attached to A Comic Shop has grown bigger independently as a state-of-the-art live music hive, a perfect fostering ground for the nerdcore music scene and more.

Gilt Nightclub

740 Bennett Road, 407-504-7699, giltnightclub.com

The lushly renovated, 10-bar, dual-dancefloor nightclub Gilt is a significant upgrade from a previous incarnation as the Roxy, so put on your essential attire and check out DJs like Ookay and hip-hop royalty like Young Thug.

Grumpy's Underground Lounge

1018 N. Mills Ave., 407-237-9180, facebook.com/grumpysunderground

New Mills 50 hole-in-the-wall next door to the ultimate hole-in-the-wall that is Uncle Lou's is becoming a DIY hotspot in its own right, while also hosting weekly acoustic jams and karaoke nights.

Hard Rock Live

6050 Universal Blvd., 407-351-5483, hardrock.com/live

Venture deep into the heart of Universal's CityWalk entertainment complex for entertainment that straddles big-time (Ministry), nostalgic (Buddy Guy) and outside-the-lines (6lack) all at once.

The Haven Lounge

6700 Aloma Ave., 407-673-2712, thehavenrocks.com

The musical menu on offer at this roomy Winter Park club is loud, heavy, metal and that's pretty much it. A perfect landing spot for distortion that's a little too big for the likes of Lou's. Top-shelf sound and lights, too.

Henao Contemporary Center

5601 Edgewater Drive, 407-272-0317, henaocenter.com

Sprawling arts center a short trip down Edgewater has played host to myriad arts events, sure, but they've also put on shows by cutting-edge collectives like Colours of the Culture and Ugly Orange.

House of Blues

1490 E. Buena Vista Drive, 407-934-2583, hob.com

Shows may start on the early side, but that's really the only overt sign that this concert venue is nestled in the Disney Springs adult playground. Expect to see anything from Dropkick Murphys to ZZ Top's Billy F. Gibbons. The sightlines and sound system are recommended.

Independent Bar

70 N. Orange Ave., 407-839-0457, facebook.com/independentbarorlando

Downtown's I-Bar is the destination of choice for those who want a little something more indie from their nightclub adventures. Don't worry, though, the dancefloor is spacious and multiple bars will melt away hesitations to dance on said floors.

Iron Cow

2438 E. Robinson St., facebook.com/ironcowcafe

Milk District space steered by the people behind Sandwich Bar is an expanded space for live music (To Live and Shave in LA, Nels Cline) and deep-cut club nights, further enticing the curious with a full food and drinks menu.

Parliament House

410 N. Orange Blossom Trail, 407-425-7571, parliamenthouse.com

Veteran gay nightclub and resort hosts a nonstop cavalcade of drag shows, cabaret and even theatrical performances, though arguably the main attraction is the packed dance floor.

The Plaza Live

425 N. Bumby Ave., 407-228-1220, plazaliveorlando.com

This Milk District mainstay is run in partnership with the Orlando Philharmonic, hosting shows by the Phil's smaller ensembles plus a wide-ranging slate of '80s icons, guitar legends and comics. And John Waters.

The Social

54 N. Orange Ave., 407-246-1419, thesocial.org

Mainstay downtown venue is the very definition of "intimate"; most nights this small room is packed to the gills with the devoted, straining to get as close as possible to their favorite touring artist.


37 W. Pine St., facebook.com/soundbar.orl

Rebranded, retooled and under new management, Soundbar (formerly Backbooth) pulls off the deft balancing act of hosting late-night themed dance nights alongside earlier, all-ages-friendly shows with everyone from Nickelus F to Deicide to Cupcakke.

Southern Nights

375 S. Bumby Ave., 407-412-5039 facebook.com/ southernnightsorlando

Longstanding LGBTQ+ dance shangri-la has been holding it down for years with a strong calendar of drag shows and dance nights. And the crowds keep pouring in.

Stardust Video and Coffee

1842 E. Winter Park Road, 407-623-3393, stardustie.com

This Audubon Park eatery/bar also plays host to a wide array of leftfield music events – recently ranging from hardcore punk to synth-pop to indie-folk.

Stonewall Bar

741 W. Church St., 407-373-0888, stonewallorlando.com

Two-story Parramore gay nightclub is not only home to the fabulously chilling drag family Black Haus, but also hosts an adventurous slate of live underground sounds (courtesy of former Spacebar booker Tommy Mot and comrades).

Tanqueray's Bar

100 S. Orange Ave., 407-649-8540, facebook.com/ tanqueraysbar

Premier smoky downstairs dive whose generous booking policy provides an entry point for locals to downtown. The likes of Leisure Chief and Ancient Sun have held unofficial residencies there.

Timucua Arts

2000 S. Summerlin Ave., 407-595-2713, timucua.com

A truly unique live music experience. Tucked away in an unassuming South Orlando neighborhood, the big white house (which is in fact a home) offers incredible natural acoustics, a near cathedral-like setting and an adventurous event slate.

Uncle Lou's Entertainment Hall

1016 N. Mills Ave., 407-898-0009

For better or for whatever, there is nowhere else like Uncle Lou's in the City Beautiful. A close-quarters, gritty staging area for DIY music both local and national, where (almost) anything goes.

The Veranda Live

111 N. Summerlin Ave., 407-408-6804, theverandalive.com

New outdoor venue in Thornton Park presents a few intriguing twists on the concertgoing experience: shows are free, and start and end early in a bucolic outdoor setting. So far they've hosted acts ranging from Pylon Reenactment Project to Slim Jim Phantom.

Wall Street Plaza

27 Wall St., 407-849-1532, wallstplaza.net

Seven clubs congregate on one entire block of prime downtown real estate given over to the Wall Street complex, a nightly magnet for anybody ready for some drinking and mingling. Weekends are delightful madness.

Whiskey Lou's Lounge

121 N. Bumby Ave., 407-896-2593, facebook.com/whiskeylous

This Milk District watering hole has been serving 'em strong and cheap for 50 years and is now getting a second wind as a music venue for bands on the grittier side. Expect things to get raucous.

Will's Pub

1042 N. Mills Ave., willspub.org

The Will's/Lil' Indies/Dirty Laundry compound is an essential component of both local scene-building and providing a stage to touring acts of all adventurous stripes. The event calendar reads like a genre collage, and that's a very good thing. And they've just done a revamp of the whole bar, so go take a fresh look!

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