Monday, July 10th, 2017
10 Hoppin’ Music Venues in Bellingham and Whatcom County
Lorraine Wilde

Whether you love rock, hip-hop, jazz, blues, soul, folk, or classical, Whatcom County has it covered any night of the week with a variety of live music venues. You can dance, bang your head, or sit and enjoy a savory snack and a drink, this list of my favorite venues will sate any music-lover’s quest to see the best of what Bellingham and Whatcom County have to offer. For practical reasons, music venues tend to cluster near the business districts along the I-5 corridor.

Although I couldn’t include them all, these are the venues I attend regularly that provide phenomenal opportunities to see both local and touring artists as they share their craft.

1) The Wild Buffalo House of Music

Also known as The Buffalo, this venue offers perhaps the widest variety of music in town including reggae, hip-hop, funk, soul, and electronic to name a few. The cover ranges from free for open mic and monthly Free Funk Friday up to $20 for some nationally-recognized touring artists. The sound system is good and loud and there is ample space on the dance floor. “Balcony” seats offer the best view and make you feel like you’re sittin’ in with the band. Local bands get their chance here but co-owner Craig Jewell also has the connections to bring in big names visiting the Pacific Northwest. In the past couple of years we’ve had visits from Snoop Dogg, Primus drummer Tim Alexander and the late, great legend Bernie Worrell.

The Wild Buffalo House of Music

208 W. Holly Street

Bellingham, WA 98225

360-746-8733

www.wildbuffalo.net

B.o.b. performed on July 2, 2017 to a sold out show at the Wild Buffalo. Photo by Connor Jalbert.

2) Mount Baker Theatre

The Mount Baker Theatre is a sumptuous 1500-seat venue. It provides a grand stage for cultural music performances as well as international touring favorites. Music highlights for 2017-2018 will include: Sawyer Brown, A Night with Janis Joplin, The Simon & Garfunkel Story, Shemekia Copeland & Matt Andersen, Michael Kaeshammer, Béla Fleck & Abigail Washburn, Rosanne Cash with John Leventhal, Peter Yarrow, Dailey & Vincent. Ticket prices are generally higher than the other venues but offer a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

Open since 1927 and listed on the register of National Historic Places since 1978, the Mount Baker Theatre is also home to the Whatcom Symphony Orchestra and at least one young female ghost named Judy.

 

Mount Baker Theatre

104 North Commercial Street

Bellingham, WA 98225

360-734-6080

www.mountbakertheatre.com 

The Whatcom Symphony Orchestra is the resident orchestra at Bellingham’s historic Mount Baker Theatre. Most concerts draw close to 1300 people and often sell out the theatre’s capacity of 1500. Credit: Whatcom Symphony

3) The Green Frog

This Bellingham staple has an industrial vibe, a medium-sized dance floor and quality sound. The Frog has a history of visits from some national music legends as well as a dedication to locals. They recently upgraded their lighting system making photography and show quality even better. The performers often include folk, string band, and blues artists. I recently saw on a Wednesday night, the Cajun/Creole band from Lafayette, LA, The Revelers, whose Grammy-nominated members have appeared on Treme and the Hank Williams biopic, I Saw the Light.

There is a substantial deck out back where the house-smoked BBQ is tended by owner James Hardesty. Patrons can play stringed instruments hung throughout the venue and enjoy great local beers, a wide variety of whiskey, or their famous grilled cheese sandwiches. My favorite is the Elvis: peanut butter, bacon and banana grilled on thick sourdough bread to perfection. (All of their grilled cheese’s are a must-try, and their bbq that’s smoked on their back deck is even more to-die-for.)

Babycakes sharing their originals and soul, funk and R & B covers at the Green Frog. Photo from The Green Frog.

The Green Frog

1015 North State Street

Bellingham, WA 98225

www.acoustictavern.com

DJ Yogoman mixing soul and fun records for Soul Nights at The Green Frog. Photo from the Green Frog.

4) Boundary Bay Brewery and Bistro

Across the street from the Farmers Market, this kid-friendly bistro offers award-winning beer brewed on-site, an outdoor deck and beer garden plus the new Mountain Room. Concerts are outdoor in the summer and in the bar when the weather doesn’t cooperate. They are partial to Americana, folk, and bluegrass but also blues-rock and other genres, with both local and touring bands. The food hasn’t changed much over the years, but that’s because it’s always great. My favorites since 1995 are the Yam AleChiladas and The Great Northwest Pizza.

Boundary Bay Brewing hosts the celebration for the volunteers that helped with Stringband Jamboree with live music and a packed beer garden.

Boundary Bay Brewery and Bistro

1107 Railroad Avenue

Bellingham, WA 98225

360-647-5593

www.bbaybrewery.com

Boundary Bay Brewing also hosts a variety of DJ dance parties in their beer garden as well.

5) Shakedown

The Shakedown is just finishing a recent remodel connecting the venue to the quieter Racket Bar and Pinball Lounge with 18 vintage pinball tables. They recently reconfigured and upgraded their sound system making more room on the dance floor for the occasional mosh or slamdance. The sound on the main floor is good and loud. Affordable drink prices, savory comfort food and a cover from free to $15 makes this place a favorite with local rock bands and patrons alike.

Shakedown

1212 North State Street

Bellingham, WA 98225

360-778-1067

www.shakedownbellingham.com

6) Make.Shift Art Space

Local musicians are part of the core of this all-ages DIY non-profit art and music venue. The music variety is as wide as the interests of Bellingham’s musicians and every dollar raised supports local artists. The Make.Shift is also home local artist studio space, Bellingham’s Local Music Library and the community radio station, KZAX, 94.9 and Online.

Make.Shift Art Space

306 Flora Street

Bellingham, WA 98225

360-389-3569

www.makeshiftproject.com

7) Honey Moon Mead & Cider

Built in an historic warehouse on the alley behind Pepper Sisters restaurant, the Honey Moon is an all-ages venue for local singer/songwriters as well as a variety of bands including Latin fusion, Irish fiddle and cello, country, and Appalachian tunes. The venue is intimate so you feel like you know the band by the end of the show. Their additional outdoor seating is great in good weather. In addition to local music and the occasional out of towner, they love to host poetry events as well. The venue has been locally-owned since it opened in 2005. They make their mead and cider on-site and offer simple snacks. Entry to this hip hole-in-the-wall is in the alley.

 

Honey Moon Mead and Cider hosts many local artists and their out-of-town friends. Photo by Murphy Evans.

Honey Moon Mead & Cider

1053 North State Street Alley

Bellingham, WA 98225

360-734-0728

www.honeymoonmeads.com

8) Kulshan Brewery

Kulshan’s  State Street location is kid-friendly in their outdoor seating area and offers plenty of locally-brewed beer and live music, especially Americana, Irish, and folk. Some of the area’s best food trucks park right out front or you can bring your own food from off-site. I ride my bicycle to this venue to play darts and appreciate the relaxed atmosphere.

Kulshan Brewing Company

2238 James Street

Bellingham, WA 98225

360-389-5348

www.kulshanbrewery.com

 

9) The Swillery Whiskeybar

The Swillery is also a favorite with local rock bands because there is no stage. Performers play among the audience making the concert atmosphere electric. Musicians love being among the crowd.

The Swillery Whiskeybar

118 W. Holly Street

Bellingham, WA 98225

www.facebook.com/swillery.whiskeybar

Deadly d hip hop Bellingham Whatcom Tourism Wild Buffalo Swillery Shakedown

Bellingham-based hip-hop group Deadly D performs at The Swillery, The Shakedown and The Wild Buffalo. This shot by Brad Fisher is at the Buffalo.

 

10) The Main Street Bar & Grill

The Main Street is a good old American bar. They like good local rock music and offer comfort food and drinks that satisfy. They have a new sound system and a great dance floor making this a great stop in Ferndale, to the north of Bellingham, just off I-5.

The Main Street Bar & Grill

Ferndale Bellingham Whatcom County tourism Mr. feelgood Main street bar

Mr. Feelgood and the Firm Believers at The Main Street Bar and Grill in Ferndale, WA.

2005 Main Street

Ferndale, WA 98248

360-312-9162

https://www.discoverferndale.com/venue/main-street-bar-grill/

 

This is just a splash of the great live music available in Whatcom County.  So if we’ve missed some gems off the beaten track, please let us know in the comments below. I’m sure fellow travelers will appreciate it.

For more fun things to do see the full list of Lorraine’s articles.

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About the Author:

Lorraine Wilde has immersed herself in so many of Whatcom County’s vibrant communities over the past 25 years. Owner and Marketing Strategist for Wilde World Communications, Lorraine has connected with locals as a writer, actor, scientist, teacher, filmmaker, singer, and mom. Lorraine has performed improv and staged works in several of Whatcom County’s theatres and she is active in the Bellingham Film community. She is also a big supporter of the local music community. When she has a spare second, its spent with her children outside on a sailboat, a trail, or exploring a new adventure.