36 of America’s Best Independent Music Venues on Surviving and What’s Next

It’s been so long since most of us have been to a live show that even the scuzziest black hole of a bathroom sounds inviting right now. Musicians, ever-resourceful, have found workarounds during the pandemic with livestreams and distanced outdoor concerts, but the spaces themselves are important. Maybe it’s the community of listeners you find there, or the booker whose taste you trust enough to show up without even checking who’s playing. Maybe it’s the impeccable live sound, or the bartender’s heavy pour, or the raggedly charming atmosphere that would send less dedicated patrons out the door.

Live music as we know it would not exist without these weird, wonderful places and the tireless people who operate them. But as businesses that depend on being able to pack lots of people together into the same room, scrappy smaller venues have faced a particularly difficult path through the pandemic, and may have many more months of hardship ahead thanks to unpredictable reopening rules and unreliable government assistance...

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