Bellingham has a long, rich history of producing and showcasing live music. More than a few regional bands have cut their teeth in Bellingham's bars before going on to varying levels of fame and fortune. Though the scene has changed over the years, and venues have come and gone, a vibrant live music scene still remains among a handful of Bellingham bars and pubs. While there are a few all-ages halls with occasional shows, like Western's Viking Union, I am not including them. That's because I avoid all-ages shows whenever possible. All kids and no beer makes Rob a dull boy. So then this list, as usual, includes only those venues that I deem worthy of praise, adulation and literary attention.
The Nightlight Lounge: First, and probably finest, the Nightlight is among the newest of Bellingham's live music venues. The Nightlight was built just a few years ago, and incorporates modern equipment and acoustical engineering with beautiful woodwork and innovative local art. Laid out into several rooms, the Nightlight features pool tables, a VIP area, and two bars, with the stage at the center. Priding itself on hosting the biggest names in town, the Nightlight presents commercially successful talent, as well as the best of the local up-and-comers. It's basement location gives it a hip, big-city feel that really sets it apart. 211 E Chestnut St Bellingham, WA 98225 (360) 778-3240
12/10 Uncool update: The Nightlight has since shut down. However, it is currently listed for sale and, hopefully, will be back in business soon. For now, the Wild Buffalo (see below) has taken over most of the live music that the Nightlight once featured.
The Green Frog Acoustic Tavern: Eschewing brevity, both in its name and beer menu, the Green Frog is a tiny, glorious, hole-in-the-wall type of place on the edge of downtown Bellingham's commercial corridor. Dog friendly and littered with peanut shells, the Green Frog has nightly live music and one of the longest lists of micro-brews in town. In fact, other than the actual brew pubs, the Green Frog, whose beer-loving owner scours the Earth in search of the finest brews, has THE most unique and varied menus around. Even as a self-proclaimed beer-snob, I commonly find myself staring blankly at the lengthy and ever-changing list of exotic brews having NO idea what to ask for, either because I've never heard of them, or because there are just too many choices. Either way, that's a good kind of problem to have. Oh...the music! I forgot! They have live music most of the time. Usually of the not-quite-ready-for-prime-time variety...in a good way. Whether eclectic, exotic or just plain strange, the musicians at the Green Frog are right there in your face. With only about 800 total square feet, the "stage" takes up most of the open space not already used up by the tables and bar, so it gets pretty cozy. Again, in a good way. 902 N. State St. #104 Bellingham, WA 98225 (360)756-1213
Uncool update #2: The Green Frog, too, has shut its doors. I'm leaving it posted in the hopes that it might return someday soon...
The Wild Buffalo: Known primarily for showcasing regional blues, reggae and folk-rock artists, the Wild Buffalo has been a staple of the Bellingham music scene for several years. They've got great, high ceilings, old wood floors with plenty of room for dancing...or just flailing around in slow motion, which is probably more accurate. There is an excellent range of regional micro-brews on tap, as well as a full bar, and a few pool tables. The Wild Buffalo is the kind of place you can take a group and be pretty much certain that everyone will be happy. They recently came under new management and have absorbed much of the live music once promoted by the Nightlight. 208 W Holly St Bellingham, WA 98225 (360) 312-3684
Boundary Bay Brewery: Though famous mainly for its fantastic beer, Boundary is also a great place for live music, especially during the Summer, when the outdoor stage and beer garden are open. The beer garden is an absolute staple in the Summers. Settled into a recessed, vacant lot between two brick buildings, with a terraced wall on one side, it has the feel of a small amphitheater, accented with glowing lights, intricate landscaping and a view of downtown Bellingham to the West. The bands are always lively-usually folksy, bluegrass or reggae influenced. In the colder months they have smaller folk and jazz acts in the bar... 1107 Railroad Ave Bellingham, WA 98225 (360) 647-5593
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