We all love live music, and thanks to the addition of the Leeds Arena, we’re spoilt every couple of weeks when a megastar comes to play in the north’s finest city (officially).
But what if you don’t fancy the £45 ticket? The Arena is great, but there’s something quite wonderful about an intimate little gig in one of Leeds’ coolest bars. There’s something for everyone, so check out a smattering of our favourite hotspots for live music in Leeds watering holes.
— Oporto (@Oportobar) April 20, 2015
Kicking off our guide to Leeds’ best live music bars is Oporto, an achingly cool little Call Lane bar that puts live music at the very forefront of its appeal. The bar was founded over 15 years ago by Ged Feltham, who had his own tastes in mind when making his dream a reality: “I had one clear aim, to create a bar in Leeds that I wanted to drink and hang-out in, luckily others wanted to do the same!” That they do. Check it out on a Monday when they throw on their ever-popular ‘Gaslight Club’, a hushed evening of acoustic loveliness set to candlelight.
Oporto, 33 Call Lane, Leeds LS1 7BT, 0113 245 4444 – more info
Belgrave Music Hall & Canteen
— Belgrave Music Hall (@Belgrave_Leeds) April 8, 2015
It feels like the Belgrave is making it into every one of our bar guides right now, and there’s good reason for that, because part of its brilliance is in its immense versatility. From food feasts to yoga convents, it does it all, and right up there are their hugely popular regular live music gigs and festivals. Located at the head of the vibrant Northern Quarter, The Belgrave prides itself on its responsibility to provide a platform for fledgling performers, and in such a cool setting, it’s well worth a visit.
Belgrave Music Hall & Canteen, 1A Cross Belgrave Street, Leeds, LS2 8JP, 0113 234 6160 – more info
Tickets on sale now! pic.twitter.com/mD6wSlhMwL
— Futuresound Events (@FSELeeds) March 30, 2016
Based on the border of the city centre and student country, The Library is a popular hangout for all sorts of folk, not least purveyors of live music and reasonably priced booze. Their famous 360 Fridays throw up a weekly assortment of the finest local bands and artists, and Saturday nights are usually pretty live music-based, too. The kicker? It’s often free entry.
The Library, 229 Woodhouse Ln, LS2 3AP, 0113 244 0794 – more info
— Korks Wine Bar (@KorksWineBar) April 16, 2015
Fancy a change of pace while satisfying your live music craving? Take a step out of the hustle and bustle of Leeds city centre and into Otley. The charming market town boasts a string of wine bars and ale pubs many cities would envy, one of which is Korks, a sleek bar that showcases local music talent every bit as fine as the alcohol on offer. This is the very best of all things ‘New Yorkshire’.
Korks, 40 Bondgate, Otley LS21 1AD, 01943 462020 – more info
Live music tonight from @NormantonStreet
Free Entry/Doors 9:30/Band 10:00
Soul vocals/jazzy guitars/hip-hop beats pic.twitter.com/DZAm4pL8ze
— Smokestack Leeds (@SmokestackLeeds) May 27, 2015
Smokestack is a devilishly smart cocktail and late night bar that doubles up as a top drawer live music venue for Loiners with a taste for all things bluesy / funky / jazzy and reggae. For a midweek session, every Wednesday Smokestack provides live funk in the form of their Sugar Sessions night, alongside a smattering of other live events across the calendar.
Smokestack, 159 Lower Briggate, LS1 6LY, 0113 245 2222 – more info
The Duck and Drake
— Duck & Drake (@DucknDrakeLeeds) June 6, 2015
It’s not too long ago that the Duck and Drake was in a state of complete disrepair. Rescued by visionary bar owner and music fan Simon Colgan in 2009, the pub has fast become an absolute godsend for live music dwellers the city over. Unlike some of the bars on this list, it’s completely no frills, with the feel of an old school boozer the shell around some of the finest draught ales in the city. Blues is the name of the game here, and the ‘wall of fame’ mural is a joy to behold in itself.
The Duck and Drake, 43 Kirkgate, LS2 7DR, 0113 245 5432 – more info
The Library has long been a favourite of Leeds’ live music fraternity. Standing proudly in Hyde Park studentville, it’s constantly awash with folk taking advantage of a range of offers on food and drink, but it’s when they throw down the live music that the place comes alive. Every Friday brings round the ‘360 Club’, where the brightest lights of Leeds’ music scene are given the platform to shine. No genre is off limits, either, with everything from indie, rock, funk, electro-pop, electronic, folk, jazz and even hip hop in the back catalogue.
The Library, 229 Woodhouse Lane, LS2 3AP, 0113 244 0794 – more info
Just across from The Library sits The Packhorse. Distance is just about the only thing the two pubs are close together in however, as the pub has much more of a ‘boozer’ feel than its student-laden near neighbour. Technically it is a stop off on the world famous ‘Otley Run’ bar crawl, but when the sweaty upstairs concert room is filled with thumping rock music – that’s when the magic happens.
The Packhorse, 208 Woodhouse Lane, 0113 245 3980 – more info
Nation of Shopkeepers
— NationOfShopkeepers (@shopkeepers) June 6, 2015
The coolest name for a bar ever? Quite possibly. It’s got the rep to live up to it, too, and when the amps are turned on, ‘Nation’ really comes into its own. It’s got a quirky and relaxed vibe, all set in a renovated Grade II listed building, which in itself is pretty bloody cool. Every now and again they stick on some tunes in the courtyard, too, which is a proper bonus.
Nation of Shopkeepers, 27-37 Cookridge Street, LS2 3AG, 0113 203 1831 – more info
Irish bars aren’t for everyone, granted, but if Guinness, a loud and friendly atmosphere along with chantable Irish and folk music sounds right up your alley, then O’Neills is the place to be every Friday and Saturday night. The George Street boozer is a sure fire thing for a good time, and with live bands such as The Despoilers on the rota, the music is bang on, too.
O’Neills, 26 Great George Street, LS1 3DL, 0113 244 0810 – more info
Main image courtesy of Oporto