Baltimore’s musical appeal spans a range of tastes, from classical and jazz, to pop, hip-hop, and punk. While touring international rock acts pack the city’s stadiums, music fans can catch shows by up-and-coming homegrown bands in smaller venues around the city.
Baltimore is the birthplace of artists as stylistically diverse as Frank Zappa, Philip Glass, and Divine, and bands including Animal Collective, Beach House, and Future Islands have all emerged from its vibrant music scene. Perhaps the city’s most-beloved daughter, however, is Billie Holiday who grew up in the Fell’s Point area. There, you’ll find a statue of the jazz chanteuse and number of murals in her honor, so you can pay respects to Baltimore’s musical legacy before checking out its current scene.
Ram’s Head Live! at Power Point Live!
Just west of Fell’s Point, in the Inner Harbor area, Ram’s Head Live! is located within the sprawling Power Point Live! complex. The venue is home to five bars and three levels, two of which have zig-zagging balconies offering multiple viewing points – a setup that earned the locale a place on Consequence of Sound’s list of Greatest American Music Venues. Ram’s Head’s calendar features a solid lineup of acts, ranging from Queens of the Stone Age to tribute bands.
Royal Farms Arena
Still in the Inner Harbor, the 14,000-capacity Royal Farms Arena is where you’ll catch the biggest names in the current music scene – as well as a few legendary acts of a certain vintage. Recent years have seen the likes of Beyoncé, Bruce Springsteen, the Rolling Stones, and Journey grace the stage of Baltimore’s biggest entertainment venue. Even better, it’s just a 10-minute walk to Hilton Baltimore.
You can get a great view of the Inner Harbor while watching a show at the waterfront MECU Pavilion (still often referred to by its former name, Pier Six Pavilion). Given the harsh winter climate in Baltimore, the 4,400-capacity outdoor pavilion is understandably mostly used as a summer concert venue, and has attracted a diverse and multigenerational array of artists, from Steely Dan, to Mary J. Blige, and FKA Twigs. It’s also within an easy distance of the Pier 5 Hotel Baltimore, so you can stroll home after the evening’s festivities.
Up in the Charles Village, the intimate surroundings of Ottobar belie the standard of acts that have performed here. The fact that the rock club has hosted the likes of The White Stripes and Yeah Yeah Yeahs is proof that if you catch a show here, there’s a good chance you’ll b able to say you saw the next big thing before they got big. But live music is not all that Ottobar has got going on. On any night of the week, you can head upstairs to the club space, which hosts dance parties, comedy nights, film screenings, and karaoke.
There’s an intimate and genuinely warm vibe at longtime Federal Hill performance space 8×10. The bi-level venue hosts a diverse mix of acts and shows a commitment to emerging musicians by inviting them to play their open mic and “five bands for $5” nights – so you never know who you might discover here. Come early for some tasty drink specials.
Joseph Meyerhoff Symphony Hall
As home to the Peabody Institute, the oldest conservatory in the United States, Baltimore has a classical musical pedigree that rivals any other US city – and it has the resident orchestra to prove it. Based in the Joseph Meyerhoff Symphony Hall in Mount Vernon, the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra enjoys a reputation as one of the most important orchestras in the United States. The symphony performs more than 100 concerts each year, from classical to holiday and family events, and the hall itself is less than a mile from the Home2 Suites by Hilton Baltimore Downtown and the Embassy Suites by Hilton Baltimore Inner Harbor.