Atlanta holds a world of possibilities for live music. The city is known for its influence in hip-hop, but it also has an incredible rock and alternative scene that attracts huge artists to unique concert venues with amazing architecture and history:
The Masquerade has played host to alternative musicians since it was established in 1989, presenting a diverse range of rock, alternative, indie, electronic, metal, punk and hip hop artists.
The Masquerade’s three stages are split into Heaven, Hell, and Purgatory, a design that fit well into the venue’s previous three-level Dupree’s Excelsior Mill location. After 27 years at that location, the venue moved to its current location in Kenny’s Alley at Underground Atlanta. The three indoor venues, still keeping with their Heaven, Hell, and Purgatory themes, can accommodate 300 – 1,000 people and are connected by an open-air brick courtyard.
The Tabernacle got its start as a concert venue during the 1996 Olympics as a House of Blues club, but for the 100 years before that, it was a church.
Dr. Len G. Broughton bought this property on Luckie Street in 1906 for his Baptist Church, and the local press began referring to it as Broughton’s Tabernacle. The church’s over 3,000 member congregation dwindled by the 1980’s and the building lay vacant until the Centennial Olympic Games. This partnership only lasted until the end of the Olympics, but the space was later picked up in 1998 and renamed to Tabernacle. Live Nation now owns the iconic venue that continues to present huge artists across genres, from rock to hip hop and even comedy acts.
The space is huge, seating up to 2,600 people, with a lower level for selling merchandise, the main level with the stage backed by organ pipers and standing-room floor, and the upper level with balcony seating. And there are bars just about everywhere.
Built in the 1930’s, the Buckhead Theatre began its life as a movie theater and has remained central to Buckhead nightlife throughout the years. In the 1990’s, the cinema became a concert venue under the name of Coca-Cola Roxy until closing in 2008 (you’ll find the brand new Coca-Cola Roxy at the new Brave’s Stadium now). The venue reopened in 2010 after renovations as the Buckhead Theatre, paying homage to its predecessors with an Art Deco style front lobby, complete with leather couches and a marble bar, in addition to updated lighting and sound systems.
The theatre seats 2,500 people in its orchestra and balcony. It puts on a variety of performances from its 8,000 square foot stage, including concerts, lectures, comedy acts, and Broadway plays.
Chastain Park Amphitheatre
The Chastain Park Amphitheatre, opened in 1944, is considered “Atlanta’s Oldest Outdoor Music Venue.” It sits in the middle of a neighborhood of fancy houses, some of which have a good view into the amphitheater and most of which I’m sure have installed soundproof windows by now. But the residents do get some reprieve from the noise as the amphitheater only hosts concerts during the summer months.
The venue seats 6,900 people, mostly by reserved seats and some by general admission lawn seating. The aisles are nice and wide, so there’s plenty of walking room and you don’t have to stand up to let people pass or worry about someone spilling their drink on you. Chastain Park Amphitheatre puts on shows ranging from symphony to rock.
Variety Playhouse in Little Five Points opened in 1940 as a move theater. Like other movie houses in Atlanta, Variety Playhouse closed in the ’60s and sat untouched for years before being saved from demolition. The venue got its rebirth as a stage for live performances, first sketches, then orchestra, and now live music.
Variety Playhouse still has the same character as a movie theater. Comfy red theater seating is set up in the middle (worth paying extra for). In front of the stage is left open for the pit, and the sides of the auditorium are left open for standing room. The venue can seat 1,100 people. There is a bar in the lobby and upstairs in the balcony. The balcony also has a way bigger women’s restroom, seriously, do not wait for the downstairs bathroom, just go upstairs.
The Fox Theatre
The Fox Theatre was built in the late 1920’s for Atlanta’s Shriners organization who took inspiration for the ornate mosque-style building from the Far East. The elaborate design became too costly for the organization, so they sold the building to William Fox, a movie mogul with an empire of “movie palaces” all over the country. The Fox has made its way through the Great Depression, bankruptcy, and near-demolition and has come out the other side as an Atlanta landmark, hosting concerts, Broadway shows, comedians, and movies.
The building’s exterior, Grand Salon, mezzanine Gentlemen’s Lounge, and lower Ladies Lounge are all decorated with an Islamic theme, while the Egyptian Ballroom, mezzanine Ladies Lounge, and lower Gentlemen’s Lounge have an Egyptian theme. The 4,665-seat auditorium is set under an Arabian night sky, complete with flickering stars and passing clouds, and is my favorite architectural feature.
What’s your favorite concert venue in Atlanta! Let me know in the comments below!