There’s something magical about listening to live music at 7,000 feet, surrounded by majestic mountains and stunning skies. Whether you’re in a Western bar that’s steeped in character, a fantastical, otherworldly setting or outside, beneath the twinkling stars, live music just sounds better at a high elevation. Add in a local craft beer or two or a salty margarita and the songs sound even richer. Yes, the city is known as a vibrant arts center and culinary capital, but Santa Fe’s music scene is happening, too, with renowned local and international bands and solo acts playing almost every night of the week. You could wander the city and follow the sounds to discover some excellent hot spots, but why not check out our guide to some of the best live music venues in Santa Fe?
Craft beer, live music and the great outdoors all go together pretty darn well, and that’s why The Bridge at Santa Fe Brewing Co. is one of Santa Fe’s top spots for concerts. When you’re out in the open air, watching the sunset and listening to fine tunes, life can feel grand. The mountain views on on side and the award-winning brewery on the other only enhance your experience. This venue can hold 1,000 people, so the big-concert vibe is never really too big for the big bands that play here. Let’s not forget to talk about the beer, produced by New Mexico’s first craft brewery, which opened 30 years ago. Santa Fe Brewing Co.’s flagship, seasonal and barrel-aged sours are so good they’re sold around the country. The Happy Camper IPA describes exactly how you’ll feel standing at The Bridge, enjoying a pint of refreshing beer and listening to music that moves you.
In 1993, the Cowgirl Hall of Fame opened for business, serving BBQ and other hearty fare, along with some serious helpings of music. The Hall of Fame part of the name was dropped later, giving way to Cowgirl BBQ. No matter the name, this restaurant/music venue is justly world-famous. In warm weather months, musicians and bands play on the outdoor patio and in cold weather, the music moves inside, where there’s less room to dance but that never stops anyone. People from all walks of life crowd the festive patio and the small stage of the inside bar to enjoy famous margaritas, delicious BBQ, and a range of music as wide as the open sky. And there’s never any cover.
Hilton Buffalo Thunder
You never know who you might catch onstage at Hilton Buffalo Thunder, Santa Fe’s premiere entertainment venue. From a tribute concert to The Doors, Bob Seger or The Eagles to Santa Fe ComicCon, a three-day comedy fest featuring actors, comic book artists, entertainers and others, and a world-class car show, Buffalo Thunder keeps Santa Fe’s entertainment scene vibrant and intriguing. You’ll also find fun events like the Santa Fe Rock, Gem & Mineral Show, the annual Margarita Festival and Necro Nomic Con, a paranormal and extra-terrestrial convention with ghost tours, readings and more.
La Fiesta Lounge
Tucked inside the historic La Fonda on the Plaza, La Fiesta Lounge at La Fonda is Santa Fe’s gathering spot for live music, signature margaritas and martinis and regional cuisine. Any night of the week brings local musicians offering great entertainment in a vibrant atmosphere, where you’ll meet locals and visitors alike. From the music of local legend Bill Hearne and his trio to the soulful Latin sounds of the Nacha Mendez Trio, the lilting songs of Matthew Andrae and many other musical genres, the performances in La Fiesta Lounge have been known to bring people to their feet to dance the night away.
Located within the designer environs of the historic adobe motel El Rey Court, La Reina is a popular watering hole that serves coffee in the AM and signature cocktails in the PM. Named one of the Top 9 Mezcal Bars in the U.S. by Thrillist, it isn’t hard to figure out what the specialty of the house is. Touring acts are an almost continuous presence on Wednesday nights, playing everything from soul shaking blues and alternative folk, to a Southwest country and everything in between. Emulating the countercultural art scene of the 60s and 70s, the minimalist interiors make it seem much more spacious than it actually is, but when the music is right, it can be one of the best places in town for a casual, cozy evening.
The astounding multiverse of Meow Wolf includes a dreamy music venue inside the “House of Eternal Return.” The space may be intimate, but the setting is mind-bending, a stage placed deep inside the interactive installation created by a artist collective that’s become world-famous. Named one of the best small-music venues in the country by Yelp in 2017, Meow Wolf has drawn eclectic performers from around the world. No two concerts are alike, and musicians and bands enjoy playing in this fantastical venue as much as crowds enjoy listening to them. It’s a spellbinding experience, just like exploring Meow Wolf.
Mine Shaft Tavern
Belly up to the bar in Madrid’s historic Mine Shaft Tavern for an experience that has endured through the decades. Since 1946, crowds have been gathering at this funky roadhouse for live music, melodrama performances and classic New Mexico roadhouse cuisine. Today’s menu includes the award-winning MadChile Burger, made with roasted Hatch Green Chile and a battered and fried Hatch Chile along with aged cheddar and chipotle Dijonnaise on a brioche bun. But you couldn’t go wrong with the BBQ pork or brisket sandwich, enchilada plate and mac’n’cheese. Live music from local and touring musicians and bands takes center stage every weekend and frequently on weekdays inside the tavern and outside at the Cantina. Special events happen in the Engine House Theatre, such as a Steampunk Spectacular and the Madrid Film Festival, and concerts and other events take place in the outside amphitheater.
Social Kitchen + Bar
Located inside the Sage Hotel in the heart of Santa Fe, across from the Railyard District, Social Kitchen + Bar dishes up south by southwest comfort cuisine, alongside music by regional favorites. Boards, bowls, baskets and blue plates share the menu with oversized cocktails, local tap beers and unique wines, all reasonably priced. With such weekly themed nights as Crash Karaoke (Sundays), 90s Night (Mondays), Nacho Party (Wednesdays), and LGBT “Plus Plus” Night (Thursdays), the fun is continuous. Currently local alt country band Second Chances have a regular spot on Friday nights, while DJ D-Monic spins your favorite tunes on Saturday nights, but you can catch other local acts from time to time, by keeping an eye on their calendar.
Northern New Mexico’s newest casino, Tesuque Casino offers live music every night of the week. Local musicians take the stage in the lounge area as well as in the 4,0000 square-foot performance space with state-of-the-art technology. The schedule includes longtime popular bands and musicians playing everything from Country to Rock. When hunger strikes, you can savor burgers, sandwiches, salads and more from the Cottonwood Kitchen. Specialties include Drunken Pork Chop, bourbon brined and grilled, spinach, cheese or chicken enchiladas and herb-encrusted, slow-roasted prime rib.
Tiny’s Restaurant & Lounge
Tiny’s Restaurant & Lounge is a Santa Fe treasure, offering live music just about every day of the week. For more than 65 years, this family-owned spot has served up great New Mexican fare along with toe-tapping music from local musicians, singer/songwriters and bands playing just about every musical genre. Considered the city’s best place for karaoke, Tiny’s offers more than 30 varieties of beer that you can enjoy at the bar or in the dining area, where up to 90 guests can gather to savor Frito pie, chile rellenos, rib-eye steaks and other classic regional dishes. In warm weather, an outdoor patio can accommodate up to 50 people. On top of all that, Tiny’s displays one of the largest decanter collections in the Southwest. Stop in for the tunes and the tempting food and you’ll quickly see why The Daily Meal chose Tiny’s as the Best Bar in New Mexico.
Tumbleroot Brewery & Distillery
Established in 2018 with a combined brewery and distillery production space and a wide variety of beer, spirits and liquers, Tumbleroot Brewery & Distillery quickly made a name for itself as the place to grab an award-winning beer, while listening to the best music Santa Fe has to offer. The taproom has become a community hub, with an expansive courtyard and a large indoor venue with a stage and a dance floor where locals and visitors dance the night away. Nationally touring acts are intermixed with local legends, pretty much every night of the week, though it’s always a good idea to check the website calendar to find out what’s being offered. Hungry? The kitchen offers up a selection of salads, sandwiches and grazing plates, perfectly suited to the grab a quick bite crowd.
This article was posted by Cheryl Fallstead