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An Ohio State guide as to where to go to hear live music in Columbus

You've heard of the LC Pavilion and Nationwide Arena, but we take a critical look at some of the must visit music venues in Ohio's capital city.

An Ohio State staple.
An Ohio State staple.

As the debates have raged on about the top pizza and non-pizza restaurants near Ohio State's campus, one thing is for certain: people are passionate about their food. The discussions were fantastic. It was great to see such strong opinions on something as trivial as where to eat near Ohio State. So, this led us to seek out another topic in which people hold in such high regard: music.

Where are the best places to hear live music in Columbus? Don't worry, Ohio State campus area denizens and Land-Grant Holy Land faithful, we've got you covered:

A&R Music Bar

Located on Neil Avenue in the Arena District of downtown Columbus, A&R Bar is nestled in between Huntington Park (home of the Columbus Clippers) and Lifestyles Communities Pavilion. According to the website, the "A&R" in A&R Music Bar has two meanings: Artist and Repertoire as well as Art and Rock. A&R Music Bar is a fantastic place to see up-and-coming artists trying to make a name for themselves, but also a spot where you can see nationally-established artists as well. Also, the sound has improved over the last several years, so A&R is dedicated to making your experience the best it can possibly be. One of the things that makes A&R Music Bar such a desirable destination is the location. Not only is it within a hundred feet of Huntington Park, the LC, and Nationwide Arena, but A&R is just a 5-10 minute walk from the heart of Columbus nightlife: Park Street. We highly recommend this place for an awesome experience.

Newport Music Hall

If the fact that the Newport is located directly next door to Chipotle and just across High Street from the new and impressive Ohio Union isn't enough to make you want to go here, then let us give you some other reasons. Newport Music Hall is the longest continually running rock club in the nation. The building that the Newport is in was originally opened in 1923 as a movie theatre and later became Newport Music Hall in 1984. Like A&R Bar, the Newport hosts up-and-coming acts, but has also hosted some giants in the music industry (usually before they are super famous). Some of these artists/bands include The Black Keys, The Killers, Kid Cudi, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Kings of Leon, and several others. The Newport is always a great time. From the crowd, to the performers, to the venue itself, you can never go wrong with attending a concert at the Newport, a true Columbus institution.


Skully's Music-Diner is located just south of 5th avenue on High Street in the Short North. Although many patrons head to Skully's for the concerts, the food is certainly another reason to swing by, as they crank out some pretty great diner food. On top of that, they have happy hour every Monday-Saturday 4-8PM. Skully's is mainly known for the performances of up-and-coming artists -- typically in the hip-hop, rock, and techno scenes -- but they also host nationally-recognized artists from time to time. What makes this place pretty cool is the fact that local artists have gotten to open up for the headliners.If you want to grab a bite to eat with you tunes, Skully's is worth a visit.

Rumba Cafe

Rumba Cafe, located on Summit Street just south of Hudson Street, is another fantastic, and underrated, venue for live music in Columbus. Being that Rumba is just a mile or so from Ohio State's campus, it makes for the perfect way to start your evening before heading out into the night. Rumba Cafe features indie acts that are trying to make a name for themselves. They host a variety of acts, but they also have regulars that perform on a weekly basis. For example, The Hoodoo Soul Band performs at Rumba every Sunday night at 10PM, for one of the biggest parties in town. Unlike some of the other venues on this list, you're not going to find nationally-established artists performing here, but it's really a cool place to watch live music being performed by some talented, passionate artists trying to burst their way on to the music scene. Plus, no national acts mean cheap covers! If you're looking to step outside of the box, check out Rumba.

Woodlands Tavern

Another live music favorite in Columbus is Woodlands Tavern in Grandview. Like the other joints on this list, Woodlands is in a prime location. For those of you who haven't been to Grandview, is has that small town, local feel to it -- while being in the heart of the largest city in Ohio. On Mondays, Woodlands Tavern hosts what they call "Monday Funday,"which is $2 drafts all night after 4PM. Also, Wednesday nights are the "Open Mic" nights at Woodlands Tavern, where you can see some great talents trying to make a name for themselves. You might remember Woodlands by their old name, The Thirsty Ear, which was the prime location to catch blues music. Woodlands brings in a variety of genres, while still maintaining that neighborhood bar feel.

We realize that there are a plethora of live music establishments in Columbus, and obviously, we aren't able to list them all. But, if you feel we made an error in omitting one of your favorites, let us know which and where in the comment section below.