For years, Jacksonville has played host to a thriving music scene and culture. From big names to local talent, the city has made music a priority across all genres and styles. From a grungy warehouse where Nirvana once performed for $10, to a classic theater that saw a historic performance by Elvis, Jacksonville’s music halls are laced with history and infamy. While some staples have closed their doors, other venues have opened up or restructured to fill their voids. Here are some of the city’s most iconic venues.
- The St. Augustine Amphitheatre is a 16-acre section of Anastasia Park that was refurbished back in 2002. Resting just over the Bridge of Lions the amphitheater can hold up to 4,100 concertgoers, making it a popular destination for bigger names in the area.
Notable acts: The Beach Boys and Weezer
- The Armory Building was a multipurpose venue that served the military first and entertainment next. National Guard troops trained there, but it also played host to sporting events, social events and concerts. Just months before Janis Joplin died, 6,000 concertgoers lined every inch of the hall with blankets to see her perform.
Notable acts: Ray Charles and Janis Joplin
- The Florida Theatre has hosted four generations of events in the Jacksonville area. The venue is a historic landmark in downtown with a nostalgic atmosphere, complete with vintage seating and twinkling lights. Elvis Presley even played his first-ever indoor show at this venue, with a local judge in attendance to assure that his hip-swinging was kept to a minimum. This venue is truly a one-of-a-kind concert experience!
Notable acts: Elvis Presley and Willie Nelson
- Burro Bar is a dive bar located in the Elbow district of downtown Jacksonville that houses almost as much live music as it does craft beer. Its founders dreamed of a place where they could enjoy local tunes and local brews and then made it happen. National up-and-coming artists, as well as local favorites, take the stage almost nightly.
The Milk Bar
- The Milk Bar was a cult favorite for locals who grew up loving ‘90s punk, grunge and hip-hop. The basement, which used to be located in downtown Jacksonville, closed its doors after 12 years back in 2002, but is still notoriously known as one of the greatest music venues in Jacksonville. Dubbed the “CBGB’s of the South,” the club was all-ages and stayed open until 4 a.m. Sublime and Limp Bizkit played there before they became recognized national acts.
Notable acts: The Pixies, Ice T
- Jack Rabbits is a small venue located on the outskirts of San Marco that plays host to anything from indie rock to ska to punk and metal bands. The venue features an expansive room with a lone stage to give concertgoers an intimate setting where they can enjoy the tunes and get as close to the performers as possible.
Notable acts: Sea Wolf, Swans and Speedy Ortiz
- Freebird Live is a testament to one of music’s greats. Freebird was built in honor of Lynyrd Skynyrd frontman and Jacksonville-native, Ronnie VanZant. The atmosphere inside the club is unparalleled. It is a hotspot for energetic performances and lively, excited crowds that fill up the two stories of the club and the wraparound balcony. It’s easily one of Jacksonville’s best and most memorable concert experiences.
Notable acts: Local Natives, of Montreal
- The newly renovated Underbelly is a huge venue in downtown Jacksonville’s Elbow District. Once an underground speakeasy, the venue now plays host to a variety of local artists and national acts. The brick structure has a big-city vibe with local character!
Notable acts: Cica Survive, Say Anything
- Also located in downtown, 1904 Music Hall is a historic music landmark that has been in Jacksonville for over a century. The venue boasts a large stage and amazing sound system, along with an extensive beer and wine menu. Concertgoers can enjoy the show inside or from the outdoor courtyard.
Notable acts: Lettuce
- Murray Hill Theatre is a faith-based music venue that boasts an alcohol- and smoke-free environment for concertgoers. The venue is standing-room only and can fit about 700 occupants. The theater is owned by Murray Hill Ministries, a non-profit Christian organization that seeks unique ways to spread the word of Jesus Christ.
- Einstein a Go Go was legendary nightclub located in Jacksonville Beach and was a breeding ground for the subculture music scene in the ‘80s and ‘90s. It was an all-ages dance club with a record store right next door so music lovers could get everything they needed from one place. Misfits recall that it is the one place that felt like home.
Notable acts: Nirvana and Sonic Youth
- If you’re a country fan, then Mavericks at the Landing is probably already your favorite venue in town. When it isn’t hosting national acts, it’s throwing weekly line-dance lessons for country music lovers. Don your cowboy hats and boots and take a ride on the mechanical bull!
Notable acts: Young the Giant and Corey Smith
- The Ponte Vedra Concert Hall is the area’s newest up-and-coming concert venue. Once an old church, the hall has been refurbished into an intimate concert setting with a penchant for booking acoustic shows. In the short time it has been open, the hall has already seen some huge names from the indie music scene. The upstairs section of the venue is still undergoing renovations, and will open up 400 more seats when finished.
Notable acts: Iron & Wine, Neutral Milk Hotel
- Gator Bowl: It may have been a football stadium first, but it’s the venue The Beatles performed at second! The world’s most famous band took the stage in 1964, despite hurricane force winds outside. The band also used the stadium as a place to recognize civil rights, as the band demanded the crowd not be segregated during the show despite race riots that were frequenting the city at the time.
Notable acts: The Beatles, the Rolling Stones and The Who