We all know there is nothing better than watching one of your favourite musicians or bands perform live. It is also no secret that Cape Town is home to a plethora of gifted virtuosos. The only problem — where in Cape Town do these musicians perform? Luckily for you, we have compiled a guide to some of the best live music locations in Cape Town. Whether you’re a metalhead, have a taste for jazz, or hip-hop and R&B is your jam, here are some venues that never fail to impress with their noteworthy lineups and contagious atmospheres. 

The Armchair Theatre

Face Jackson performing at The Armchair Theatre, Observatory, Cape Town
[Face Jackson performing at The Armchair Theatre, Observatory, Cape Town. PHOTO: Pierre-Louis Bredenkamp]

Located on Lower Main Road in Observatory, The Armchair Theatre (Armchair) has established itself as a must-play venue for an array of artists. Since its opening in 1998,  Armchair has been a popular venue for a wide variety of performances and events ranging from live music, comedians, film festivals, plays and exhibitions. Recently, Armchair has reclaimed their status in the Cape Town live music scene by providing a platform for up-and-coming local musicians as well as celebrated established names in local music. In the past year, Armchair has hosted the acclaimed alternative rock band The Narrow, emerging mumble rapper Angie oeh and death metal band The Fallen Prophets. If there is one thing Armchair can provide, it’s variety.

According to Karel Bester, frontman of Karel Bester & Die Kraaines Band, what he enjoys about Armchair is that it really is for everyone. “It’s a safe space to come and have a jam. It doesn’t matter what your type of tunes are. Everyone is welcome,” he says.

Die Kraaines Band opened for The Narrow at Armchair. “It was quite an experience. I remember being younger and just going to the shows and rocking out so being able to open for them with my band for our first gig was pretty fucking cool.” 

As a photographer and Armchair frequenter, James Browning loves the fact that they have an outside area — one that’s nice and secluded. “It’s not a balcony. But it’s also covered. So you really get the best of both worlds in terms of great breezy ventilation, and big open space,” he says. “In terms of shows, I like the stage area. It has a tasteful amount of raise to it. That helps things be elevated but not distant. And the area itself is nice and intimate. It’s got just enough space,” James adds.

The House of Machines

The crowd watching Moskitos perform at The House of Machines, Cape Town
[The crowd watching Moskitos perform at The House of Machines, Cape Town. PHOTO: Pierre-Louis Bredenkamp]

The House of Machines is an internationally recognised live music venue with locations across Africa, Japan, the United States and China. Live music, high-quality cocktails, hand-crafted beers, flavourful coffee, and timeless clothes are all part of the House of Machines package. The Cape Town location, on Shortmarket Street, is no different. Similar to The Armchair Theatre, House of Machines does not stick solely to one genre of music. In 2022 they hosted artists such as psychedelic rock band Moskitos, and South African rapper Jack Parow.

We asked Moskitos, who recently played at House of Machines, says playing the recent Jim Beam Welcome Sessions there was amazing. “When the venue gets packed it feels intimate, but also raw and volatile — exactly what we love in any show. Davide [Rossi] and all the staff are legends. We will definitely be back soon for another round.”  

Selective Live

Kila G and band performing at Selective Live, Cape Town
[Kila G and band performing at Selective Live, Cape Town. PHOTO: Sourced/Selective Live]

Selective Live, located in Gardens, prides itself in being an afro-centric live music venue at a time when these are few and far between. When entering Selective Live, you can expect to hear acts with soulful jazzy tunes, poetic lyricism and smooth R&B in their sets. However, this venue does not discriminate; its doors are open to any artist or musician. 

“In a time when explorative, afro-centric live music in Cape Town faced a decline in availability and patrons, we realised that most consumers struggled to find spaces of comfort, and enjoyment of live music, says Adon Geel, co-founder of Selective Live. 


Adon adds that The Selective Live team — made up of researchers and artists — had been organising and hosting multiple musical events that included bits of comedy, film, photography in the city of Cape Town and beyond. “We have developed a strong strategy aimed at translating our offering into a homely product. Selective Live has become an art hub for artists. We are here for them,” he adds.

The Blue Room

Trumpeter at The Blue Room, Cape Town
[Trumpeter at The Blue Room, Cape Town. PHOTO: Sourced/The Blue Room]

On Bree, one of Cape Town’s most cultured streets, The Blue Room is the perfect hub for jazz musicians and fanatics alike. Jazz and blues are honoured in Grub & Vine’s Blue Room, a live music and cocktail lounge. Chef Patron Matt Manning of Grub & Vine partnered with legendary jazz musician Buddy Wells to open a lounge with a state-of-the-art recording studio, where you can occasionally catch musicians in the midst of their creative process. Indie soul artist, Luh’ra, recently performed at The Blue Room as well as the Ndumiso Nxele Sextet.

“It’s a beautiful and very intimate space. It’s a place where you can really communicate with the crowd because it’s built with the stage as the centrepiece of the venue,” says Robert Sam-Kputu, a The Blue Room patron. “When it comes to being able to enjoy live music, they’re not too big, but you can really engage with the people based on how it is designed,” he adds. 

According to Luh’ra, The Blue Room is a great place to experience music for those who really love and appreciate music — especially jazz. “I also love that it is the old Red Bull Studios. The front part of the studio is now a venue and they’re also running the back part as a studio as well as a rehearsal space. So it’s really great that that space, which was such a cultural landmark for Cape Town and the music scene for so many years, is still being used for music in some capacity,” she says.

Evol

Champion Trees performing at Evol, Cape Town
[Champion Trees performing at Evol, Cape Town. PHOTO: Pierre-Louis Bredenkamp]

In the heart of the Cape Town city centre lies this hidden nightclub. Evol has been a turning point for up-and-coming local bands and musicians, with the Evol-team being adept in providing a platform for local bands to showcase their craft. Despite the small performance space, Evol turns their stage into a prime live music location. When they aren’t hosting events which feature the best of Cape Town’s DJ’s, they open their doors to alternative rock and indie music lovers — even the occasional hip-hop or R&B act.

The fact that this charming nightclub is divided into three sections is one of its best aspects. Evol guests may freely roam the venue, which features a variety of different areas, including a stage, a dance floor, a sitting space, and a room with six pool tables. In 2022, Evol has given the stage to a variety of local bands, such as Champion Trees, Hartleyvale, Elle E, and many more.

Café Roux

Prime Circle performing at Cafe Roux, Cape Town
[Prime Circle performing at Cafe Roux, Cape Town. PHOTO: Caminey K]

Just below Chapman’s Peak in Noordhoek, you can find the legendary Café Roux. What started as a humble family business in 2006 has blossomed into one of South Africa’s most popular restaurants and live music venues — hosting some of the country’s most celebrated musicians and comedians. Live music and comedy acts in an intimate environment aren’t the only things to look forward to at café Roux; the venue also routinely plays thought-provoking films and organises inspirational talks on subjects like health and wellness, travel and exploration, philosophy, and consciousness. 

In the past month, Café Roux has hosted Werner Bekker’s “Wrong Side of 20” EP Launch as well as the esteemed Charles Mingus Tribute Ensemble.

District

Elle E performing at District, Cape Town
[Elle E performing at District, Cape Town. PHOTO: Mia Jane Truter]

District, aptly located in Cape Town’s District Six, is a prominent South African venue that any band would be thrilled to play. Before becoming District, this location was known as The Assembly, a venue integral to the local music scene — which District has continued. Over the past four to five months, District’s Thursday band nights, hosted by Josh O’Bree of Foulplay, have established themselves as a staple of Cape Town’s live music scene. District is one of the few places that can fit audiences of 300 to 400 people due to the way it was designed and what it was originally used for — making it a musician’s dream venue. 

The most recent band night at District featured South African legends, Springbok Nude Girls. Alongside them was multi-genre band Face Jackson and the garage rock group, Black Lung

Josh O’Bree, founder of Foulplay which books and manages Thursday band nights at District, says they definitely have something special with District as a venue — looking at how the Springbok Nude Girls gig went. “Just seeing how people came together for that on a Thursday. I know it was an amazing lineup, but on a Thursday, in the middle of the month, I wasn’t expecting that many people and the turnout was great. The vibe was insane. And yeah, just all around great energy,” he adds. 

“[With] all the other venues around Cape Town, each venue provides something that is completely different and unique to that venue, which is nice, because then no one’s really competing in terms of a shared experience that is the same,” he says, “So I think the music scene is now in a place where there’s a great symbiotic relationship between all these venues.”

Author

It’s a good thing I’m better at my job than I am at driving. Otherwise, we’d all be in big trouble. On the note of things I enjoy more than driving, the local music scene is very dear to my heart — put me in a crowd in front of a band instead of behind the steering wheel any day of the week.