Whether you love rock, hip-hop, jazz, blues, soul, folk, or classical Bellingham and Whatcom County has you 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.
Explore the best of what Bellingham and Whatcom County has to offer and learn why so many music lover’s keep coming back.
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 or $30 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 few years, we’ve had visits from George Clinton, Snoop Dogg, Primus drummer Tim Alexander and the late, great legend Bernie Worrell.
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 2019-2020 season include: Sweet Honey in the Rock, The Gatlin Brothers, Steep Canyon Rangers, Pink Martini, Chris Botti and The Wailin’ Jennys. 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 Bellingham Symphony Orchestra and at least one ghost named Judy.
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 Mountain Room for special events.
Boundary’s concerts are outdoors 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.
In the evenings you can hear piano in the bar Monday through Wednesday, a tradition that has been going on for at least the last 15 years.
Three local musicians provide a wide variety of their favorite tunes from across the last century. Whether you love old show tunes and Gershwin, early rock and roll or blues, or some modern rock/pop tunes, you’ll dine in style at Boundary Bay over some old school Steinway barroom piano. Its upbeat, fun and recognizable.
My friend Aaron Guest has been playing Wednesday nights for the past ten years. He said he tries to learn at least one new song per week, meaning his catalog of tunes is well over 100. He and the other piano players try to accommodate requests when they can.
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.
The Shakedown, a head-banging, mosh-loving music venue, is conveniently connected to the quieter Racket Bar and Pinball Lounge with 14 vintage pinball tables. The Shakedown dance floor is ample and the sound on the main floor is good and loud. Affordable drink prices, savory comfort food like authentic Philly cheese steak and falafel, and an affordable cover from free to $15 makes this place a favorite with local rock bands and patrons alike.
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 to local artist studio space, Bellingham’s Local Music Library and the community radio station, KZAX, 94.9 and Online. You can tour artists studios and stroll through the gallery at the First Friday Art Walk at the beginning of each month. Many musicians get their start here and its a fun, safe place to spend an evening with my teens.
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. They host Irish & Folk Mondays. The venue is intimate so you feel like you know the band by the end of the show. Their 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.
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. The band plays outside when the weather allows and cozies up inside the rest of the year. 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.
Stones Throw is a local favorite in Historic Fairhaven. They often have events going on at their brewpub, like trivia, block parties and more. But you can also catch some wonderful live music at 7:00 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday.
In the nicer months, you can see a rock or string band performance when they close the street to create a beer garden party. When the weather forces us inside, the band gets smaller—two or three piece—and moves to the tap room. A variety of food trucks complement their locally-made brews. Trucks vary depending on the day of the week. The outdoor seating area is dog- and child-friendly when the weather allows.
9. The Main Street Bar & Grill
The Main Street is a good old American bar. They like local rock music and offer comfort food and drinks that satisfy. They have a solid sound system and a great dance floor making this a must stop in Ferndale, to the north of Bellingham, just off I-5.