Live music venues are a must for Orange County. The culturally diverse area has churned out unforgettable musical acts and entire genres of new music. Surf rock sounds from Los Angeles legends like Dick Dale and the Beach Boys gave new life to the Orange County surf scene. In the 1970s, the punk movement birthed iconic bands like Agent Orange, The Vandals, and probably the most classic of OC bands – Social Distortion. The 1990s gave us music legends like the Offspring and No Doubt. Recent success stories like Avenged Sevenfold from Huntington Beach prove that Orange County is still a musical powerhouse. Whether you’re looking to catch some of Orange County’s local acts or big bands from all over the country, check these Orange County live music venues for your next concert experience.
This small-scale venue with big sound is the perfect place to see both big names and up-and-comers. Recently, Panic! At the Disco performed two sold out pop up shows here with just two days’ notice. The upcoming calendar features a variety of music including the Dickies, The Distillers, The Breeders, KRS-One, Wiz Khalifa, and MGMT. The Observatory is a large room for bigger shows with a few tables available for reservation in the rear of the venue. The remaining area is standing room only. The Constellation Room is a small room with an intimate setting and no permanent seating. Check the website for venue information and upcoming events. – 3503 South Harbor Boulevard, Santa Ana
The House of Blues is an old standard, and the Anaheim venue has moved to a new location. They still offer good food and good music on a grand scale. They have daily happy hour during the week, karaoke with a live band, and the World Famous Gospel Brunch on select Sundays. There are multiple venues here so multiple shows and events often take place at the same time. The Foundation Room hosts events like Local Vocals and Hip-Hop Night, while larger concerts take place in another area. The House of Blues calendar features a variety of musical talent including ZZ Top, Dashboard Confessional, Blackalicious, Scotty McCreery, New Found Glory, and Dita Von Teese’s Burlesque Review. Check the House of Blues website for upcoming events and prices and to make a reservation. – 400 West Disney Way #337, Anaheim
Every summer, the Pacific Amphitheatre at the Orange County Fairgrounds in Costa Mesa kicks off their summer concert series. Opened in July 1983, Barry Manilow was the first to perform on stage here. The Pacific Amphitheater is surprisingly large, with seating for over 8,000 concert-goers. In comparison, the Greek Theatre in Los Angeles seats just under 6,000. The 2018 Summer Series is packed full of legendary performers, including comedians Steve Martin and Martin Short with many exciting performances happening during the annual Orange County Fair. Musical guests offer something for everyone with sounds from classic rock to country to reggae. Big names include the Psychedelic Furs, Rebelution, the Pacific Symphony, El Fantasma, Rick Springfield, Frankie Valli, Kool & The Gang, Earth, Wind, & Fire, Willie Nelson, Brett Eldredge, and Hunter Hayes. The Summer Concert Series runs from July 4th (Includes fireworks during the show) through August 18th. Check the events calendar to order tickets to a hot summer show. – 88 Fair Drive, Costa Mesa
It was a sad day in Orange County when the popular outdoor music venue Irvine Meadows Amphitheatre (also known as Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre) closed in the Fall of 2016 after 35 years of music. The legendary venue hosted festivals like Lollapalooza and KROQ’s Weenie Roast. Iconic bands from The Grateful Dead and Bob Dylan to No Doubt and The Dave Matthews Band graced the stage. Gwen Stefani and Young the Giant closed out farewell season on October 30, 2016 with plans for developers to demolish the site to build more housing. Sigh. A new venue is now upon us: The Five Point Amphitheatre, located near the Great Park in Irvine. The new Amphitheatre has 6,500 fold down seats, plus room for up to 5,500 more in lawn areas. The 2018 event calendar is shaping up nicely to include performances from Poison, Chicago and REO Speedwagon, Kevin Hart, Slightly Stoopid, Pentatonix, Counting Crows, Lady Antebellum, Rob Zombie, Rascal Flatts, and many more. Time will tell if Five Point will become the icon that Irvine Meadows is, but having a large scale live music venue in Orange County gives us hope, and we’re thankful we didn’t have to wait too long for the doors to open. Check the concert calendar to see what’s happening. – 14800 Chinon Avenue, Irvine
Garden Amp is located on Main Street in Garden Grove, next to Village Green Park. The all-ages, open-air multipurpose venue features a 600-seat amphitheater and a space called the Locker Room that accommodates 150. Garden Amp was voted best venue for live music for OC Weekly’s Best Of issue in 2018. The venue hosts a variety of concerts and events like The Swap and 80’s and 90’s tribute shows. Warpedpalooza: 90s vs. Y2K, Through The Roots, and Nothing Fest are a few of the events held here. Popular artists like Strung Out and Stephen Marley also take the stage here. – 12762 Main Street, Garden Grove
The world famous Doll Hut in Anaheim is a legend in the Orange County Music scene. The bar and music venue is over 100 years old and was originally a private residence turned truckstop cafe on the side of the 5 freeway. The venue became the Doll Hut when it was purchased in 1957. The small venue has been owned by promoters Linda Jemison and Mike (Big Mac) McGarvey and features live music and plenty of beer seven days a week. While a variety of genres have graced the Doll Hut stage, it is especially popular with punk bands and audiences. In fact, they host a Punk Rock Karaoke night and you can still see TSOL play here. – 107 S. Adams Street, Anaheim
Restaurants and Bars With Live Music
In addition to the larger, more popular music venues, many bars and restaurants in OC also feature live music from local and travelling bands and musicians. Here are a few Orange County locations to check out:
Chain Reaction – 1652 W. Lincoln Avenue, Anaheim – Small music venue for local bands, tribute shows, and up and comers.
Juke Joint – 735 N. Anaheim Blvd., Anaheim – One of Anaheim’s oldest original bars, Juke Joint is open seven days a week, 365 days a year with over 50 beers on tap and live music on stage. Must be 21 and over here.
Old Crow Smokehouse – 21022 Pacific Coast Hwy, Huntington Beach – Old Crow Smokehouse features barbecue by the beach and a line up of country bands with no cover charge every Friday and Saturday night. Located at Pacific City.
The Ranch Saloon – 1025 E. Ball Road, Anaheim – Located in Anaheim, The Ranch Saloon (next to The Ranch Restaurant) is a popular upscale venue for live country music and dancing with two bars, seating, dance floor, dance lessons, and more.
Slidebar – 122 E. Commonwealth Ave, Fullerton – Slidebar Rock-N-Roll Kitchen celebrates good food and good music, paying homage to the musical history of Orange County. Slidebar features musical guests from a variety of genres.
Wayfarer – 843 W. 19th Street, Costa Mesa – Wayfarer is a small venue in Costa Mesa that features a variety of musical guests including country, rock, reggae, and tribute bands.