Rocking Out In The Queen City Exploring Burlington Music Venues

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Hey there music lovers, are you tired of the same old routine of watching musicians perform on your TV screens or listening to their records at home? Do you wish you could immerse yourself in the live music experience and feel the energy of the crowd around you? If that’s the case, then this article is just for you! Today, we’ll be taking a deep dive into the world of Burlington’s music venues; exploring the different types of venues, the type of genre they host, and what makes each one special. So, buckle up and get ready to discover the hottest spots in town for music enthusiasts.

By the end of this article, you’ll have a complete rundown of the best venues in Burlington and what they offer. Whether you’re a fan of jazz or indie rock, we’ll have something for everyone. You’ll get a comprehensive guide on how to find the ideal venue, what factors to consider, and what to expect when you get there. Say goodbye to boring weekends and hello to the vibrant music scene on offer in Burlington.

We understand how frustrating it can be to not know where to go to enjoy a live music performance, or to end up at a venue that doesn’t meet your expectations. That’s why we’ve compiled a list of the top-rated music venues in Burlington, complete with descriptions of their ambiance, size, performance styles, and ticket prices. You can rest easy knowing that every recommendation has been tried and tested by music enthusiasts and is guaranteed to provide an unforgettable experience. So, let’s dive in and discover the best music venues Burlington has to offer!

Number 1: Higher Ground Music Venue

Higher Ground is the premier music venue in Burlington and is recognized as one of the best music venues in the country. It is located in South Burlington and has a capacity of 600 people, making it a popular destination for both local and touring musicians.

Venue Overview

Higher Ground has a long history in Burlington, opening in 1998 and hosting a variety of shows and events since then. The venue features two separate rooms, the Ballroom and the Showcase Lounge, which allows for multiple events to take place at the same time.

The Ballroom is the larger of the two rooms and has a standing capacity of 700 people. It features a large stage, state-of-the-art sound system, and lighting equipment. The Ballroom is typically used for larger acts and shows.

The Showcase Lounge is the smaller of the two rooms and has a standing capacity of 250 people. It features a smaller stage but still has top-notch sound and lighting equipment. This room is typically used for smaller acts and shows, providing a more intimate atmosphere.

Both the Ballroom and Showcase Lounge offer a full bar and food menu for patrons.

Pros and Cons

Pros Cons
Top-notch sound and lighting equipment Can be expensive for certain shows
Two separate rooms for different events Location may be inconvenient for some
Full bar and food menu Capacity limitations for larger acts

Real World Example

One of the most iconic shows to take place at Higher Ground was when Phish performed a three-night run at the venue in 1998. The band had already achieved national success and was returning to their hometown of Burlington for a series of shows.

The three shows sold out quickly, and fans camped out in front of Higher Ground for days to secure their spot at the shows. The performances have since become legendary and are considered some of the best shows in Phish’s history.


Overall, Higher Ground is a must-visit venue for music lovers in Burlington. Its top-notch sound and lighting equipment, along with its multiple rooms and full bar and food menu, make it a great destination for any type of show or event. While it may be more expensive for certain shows and may have capacity limitations for larger acts, the history and reputation of the venue make it a go-to spot for live music in Burlington.

The History of Burlington Music Scene

Burlington, Vermont, is a small city with a rich history of music. Burlington has always been a city that is open to diversity, and different music genres have thrived in the city. The Burlington music scene has seen significant changes over the years, with new venues popping up and old ones being shuttered. In this subsection, we will explore the history of Burlington’s music scene.

The Roots of Burlington Music Scene

Burlington’s music scene began in the 1960s when college students began organizing small concerts and jam sessions. Burlington has always been a college town, and music was a big part of the student culture. Students would organize concerts in their dorms, and many local bands would perform for free. The city’s downtown area had a few bars and clubs that hosted local musicians but had limited space.

One of the most critical events that helped put Burlington on the map was the creation of the Higher Ground venue. Higher Ground opened in 1998 and quickly became the go-to venue for touring acts performing in Vermont. Higher Ground attracted major acts such as Ben Harper, Ani DiFranco, and the Red Hot Chili Peppers during its early years.

Evolution of Venues in Burlington

Over the years, Burlington has seen a lot of changes in its music venues. The music scene has grown, and many venues have come and gone. The following are some of the notable changes in Burlington’s music scene:

  • Higher Ground: Higher Ground opened in 1998 and quickly became the go-to venue for touring acts performing in Vermont. Over the years, Higher Ground expanded, adding a smaller club room and a ballroom, which increased the number of acts it could host.
  • Nectar’s: Nectar’s is one of Burlington’s oldest venues, having opened in 1975. Nectar’s is a small club that has a rich history of hosting local musicians. The Phish, one of the most famous jam bands in the world, got its start playing at Nectar’s in the 1980s.
  • Club Metronome: Club Metronome opened in the early 1990s and quickly became popular with the college crowd. Club Metronome has a smaller capacity than Higher Ground or Nectar’s, but it has hosted many notable acts over the years, such as Yo La Tengo and They Might Be Giants.
  • The Monkey House: The Monkey House is a small club located in Winooski, a town adjacent to Burlington. It has become known for hosting local acts and up-and-coming national acts. The Monkey House has a capacity of around 100 people, which gives it an intimate atmosphere.
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Impact of touring acts on Burlington’s Music Scene

The arrival of touring acts in Burlington has had a significant impact on the city’s music scene over the years. Touring acts bring in more people to the city, which expands the music scene. However, the growing popularity of Burlington as a music destination presents challenges for the city. The following are some of the impacts of touring acts on Burlington’s music scene:

  • Increased competition among venues: The popularity of Burlington as a music destination has led to more venues opening up over the years. This has increased competition among venues for acts, and it has become essential for venues to differentiate themselves.
  • Rising concert ticket prices: As the number of touring acts coming to Burlington has increased, so have the ticket prices. Ticket prices have become prohibitively expensive for some locals, which has led some to seek out smaller venues that host local acts.
  • Increase in Hotel Bookings: Touring acts bring in more people to the city, and this has led to a rise in hotel bookings. Hotels near concert venues have benefited the most, and many have increased their prices during busy seasons to take advantage of the demand.
Pros Cons Comparisons
Expands the music scene in Burlington Ticket prices become prohibitively expensive for some locals Visiting bigger venues vs. local venues
Increase in profits for hotels near concert venues Increased competition among venues Watching popular acts vs. local acts

In conclusion, Burlington is a small city with a rich history of music. The music scene in Burlington has seen significant changes over the years, with new venues popping up and old ones closing. The arrival of touring acts in Burlington has had a significant impact on the city’s music scene. Burlington has always been a city that is open to diversity, and different music genres have thrived in the city.

Best Practices for Sound Check at Burlington Music Venues

Sound check is crucial to the success of any live music performance. It ensures that the sound and lighting are working properly and that the musicians are happy with their sound. Here are some of the best practices for sound check at Burlington music venues.

Timing is Key

Timing is the most important factor when it comes to sound check. It needs to happen early enough so that the sound engineer has time to fix any problems, but not so early that the musicians aren’t ready to perform yet. As a general rule, sound check should take place at least two hours before the performance, but this can vary depending on the size and complexity of the show.

Check the Equipment

Before sound check begins, it’s important to check that all the equipment is working properly. This includes microphones, amplifiers, monitors, and any other gear needed for the performance. It’s also a good idea to make sure there are extra batteries and cables on hand in case of emergencies.

Communication is Vital

Communication between the musicians and the sound engineer is critical during sound check. The musicians need to be clear about what they want to hear in their monitors, and the sound engineer needs to be able to make adjustments based on their feedback. It’s also important for the musicians to communicate with each other during the check to ensure that everyone is on the same page.

Test Each Instrument and Voice

During sound check, each instrument should be tested individually, along with the vocals. This allows the sound engineer to adjust the levels and EQ for each instrument and voice, making sure that everything is balanced and sounding its best. It’s also important to check the overall balance of the sound, ensuring that no one instrument or voice is overpowering the others.

Do a Full Run-Through

After each individual instrument has been tested, it’s important to do a full run-through of the performance. This allows the musicians to get a sense of the overall sound, and the sound engineer to fine-tune any issues that arise. It also helps the musicians get comfortable with the venue and their sound, which can lead to a better performance overall.

Pros and Cons of Sound Check

Sound check, when done properly, can lead to a successful performance. However, there are some pros and cons to consider:

Pros Cons
Ensures balanced sound Can take up valuable time
Allows for adjustments before the performance Can be disrupted by external factors (e.g. noise from other events)
Helps musicians get comfortable with the venue Requires cooperation and communication between musicians and sound engineer

Real World Example

The Burlington music scene is known for its vibrant community and diverse venues. One of the most popular venues is Higher Ground, which hosts over 300 shows each year. Sound check is an integral part of their production process, and they have a dedicated sound team that works closely with the musicians to ensure that everything sounds great. Their equipment is state-of-the-art, and they have multiple soundboards and monitor systems to accommodate even the most complex performances.

In conclusion, sound check is a critical part of any live music performance, and following these best practices can help ensure a successful show. Timing, communication, and testing each instrument and voice are key factors, as well as doing a full run-through of the performance. While there are pros and cons to sound check, it can ultimately lead to a better overall experience for the musicians and the audience.

How to Navigate the Burlington Music Venues as a New Musician

The Burlington music scene is thriving, and the city boasts a wide range of venues that offer fantastic opportunities for musicians. Whether you’re a seasoned professional or a newcomer to the music industry, you’ll find plenty of options to choose from when it comes to performing in Burlington. In this article, we’ll provide you with valuable tips on how to navigate Burlington music venues as a new musician.

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1. Finding the Right Venue

Finding the right venue to perform your music can be overwhelming, especially if you’re unfamiliar with Burlington. However, with some research, you’ll be able to identify the right venue that suits your music style and helps you gather a fan following.

  • Research your options: Visit different venue websites, read reviews, and ask other musicians about what venues they prefer in Burlington.
  • Network: Attend open mics, talk to other artists, and promoters.
  • Royalty fees: Some venues pay for song royalties, while others don’t. Make sure to find out how the venue policies regarding royalty fees.
  • Location: Choose a venue that’s easily accessible for your audience and yourself.

2. Building Relationships with Venues

As a new musician, it’s essential to build relationships with venues. Building relationships with players can help you book more gigs and get better performance opportunities.

  • Attend open mics: Open mics are excellent opportunities to showcase your talent and network with other musicians.
  • Promote shows: Bring a good crowd by promoting the show and encouraging festival-goers to attend your gig.
  • Be Professional: Be timely in your communication with venue managers
  • Know Venue guidelines: All the venues have different rules, always familiarize yourself with each venue’s guidelines before arriving.

3. Avoiding Scams

The music industry sees its fair share of scams, and Burlington is no exception. Being vigilant about scams is crucial to protecting, improving and growing your music career.

  • Do your due diligence: Research the venue offering the gig to ensure that they are legit and host authentic events.
  • Money Talks: Never pay to play. Scams often come in the form of pay-to-play gigs. This is a red flag, so always avoid gigs where you’re asked to pay upfront fees.
  • Payment Policy: Be clear on the payment plan and how it will be made.

4. Promotion and Performance

Promotion and performance are both crucial aspects to consider when booking new gigs as a musician. Building a brand and marketing your events is a significant part of your career.

Burlington has become increasingly accessible with many different options when it comes to promotions.

Pros Cons
  • Online Promotional tools
  • Different Media outlet opportunities
  • Social media promotion makes it easier and affordable.
  • Blog and news outlets Ads
  • Expensive advertising cost on some media outlets
  • TIme-intensive task
  • Timing is a Hurdle
  • Create a brand: Every artist has their unique style of music. Create a brand that’s truly yours to help you stand out in Burlington’s music scene.
  • Social media promotion: Use different social media platforms to your advantage- It’s inexpensive and highly effective.
  • Get fans involved: Always keep your fans up to date with your upcoming shows.
  • Be Professional: Always be timely, communicate and respond artistically


Navigating Burlington’s music scene isn’t easy, but it’s an excellent way to establish a music career. Do your research, build relationships with venues, and be vigilant when it comes to scams. Once you’ve found the right venue, focus on building your profile, reaching out to fans, and performing your music to the best of your abilities. With hard work, perseverance, and an authentic connection with your fans and venues, Burlington can be a great place to kickstart your music career.

The Future of Burlington Music Venues Post-COVID-19 Era

The COVID-19 pandemic has forced many Burlington music venues to close their doors temporarily, causing serious concerns about the future of the local music scene. However, as the world adjusts to the new normal post-COVID-19 era, music venues in Burlington are beginning to find ways to stay relevant and provide a platform for local talents. Here are some of the ways that music venues are adapting to the new normal.

Adopting Online Performances

The pandemic has forced music venues to explore the online arena, and this may be an essential tool post-COVID-19. Music venues are now streaming live performances, hosting virtual events, and offering online music lessons. Online performances and events have the potential to reach a broader audience and provide musicians with more opportunities to showcase their talent.

  • Pros: Increased audience reach, provides an opportunity to showcase local talent.
  • Cons: Lack of social interaction, lower revenue generation.

Music venues that have taken advantage of the online platform have experienced tremendous success. In April 2020, Higher Ground, a popular local venue, hosted a virtual concert series called “Higher Ground Presents: Live From The Drive-In” where musicians performed from the roof of a local parking garage while audience members watched from their cars. The concert series was widely successful and received positive feedback from enthusiasts.

However, adopting online performances has its downside. Lack of social interaction, one of the primary reasons why people visit music venues, may negatively impact the experience. Nevertheless, music venues must explore creative ways to enhance social interaction during online performances.

West Coast Drive Tour Concept

The West Coast Drive concept is a tour that many music venues might want to consider post-COVID-19. The concept involves driving a tour bus from state to state to perform in different music venues. Due to the pandemic, the concept can be modified to adhere to social distancing guidelines.

  • Pros: Unique experience for bands and audiences, opportunity to perform in different locations across the country.
  • Cons: Costly for bands, challenging to adhere to social distancing guidelines.

The West Coast Drive Concept allows musicians to showcase their talent in different states and creates a unique experience for audiences. Furthermore, it provides bands with an opportunity to broaden their fan base and promote their music.

However, the concept requires significant financial investment, which might not be feasible for some bands. Also, managing social distancing guidelines in different states can be challenging.

Diversifying Revenue Streams

Diversifying revenue sources is crucial for the sustainability of music venues in the post-COVID-19 era. Music venues can consider selling merchandise, renting their space for weddings, events, or film shoots, and providing music lessons.

  • Pros: generates additional revenue, offers a broader range of services to the community.
  • Cons: May cause diversification that might affect the venues’ core brand identity.

Higher Ground, one of the most prominent music venues in Burlington, diversified its revenue streams by selling custom merchandise and becoming a wedding venue. This diversification helped the venue generate additional revenue streams and kept the business afloat during the pandemic.

However, too much diversification may negatively impact the core brand identity of music venues. Music venues that are planning to diversify must ensure that the new services align with their core brand identity.

Outdoor Music Festivals

Outdoor music festivals may be instrumental in reviving the music scene post-COVID-19. Although not every music venue has the space to host a music festival, collaborating with other local businesses or hosting pop up events can be a viable option.

  • Pros: promotes local tourism, generates more revenue, and broadens the audience’s reach.
  • Cons: Costly to organize, requires licenses and permits.
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The Burlington Discover Jazz Festival, an annual event held in June in Burlington, is an example of a successful outdoor music festival. The festival attracts tourists from all over the world and has a significant economic impact on the local music scene.

However, organizing outdoor music festivals can be costly and requires permits and licenses. Music venues planning to host music festivals must ensure that the expenses and revenue balance in favor of the business.

Reviving and Supporting the Local Music Scene

The pandemic has negatively impacted the local music scene. As music venues attempt to recover post-COVID-19, it is essential to recognize the impact that musicians have on the community and provide adequate support. Supporting the local music scene can involve hosting charity concerts or partnering with local organizations.

  • Pros: Promotes community involvement, strengthens community ties.
  • Cons: None.

The Vermont Independent Music Initiative, an organization that aims to connect Vermont musicians with opportunities, is an example of a local organization supporting local musicians. Furthermore, many music venues in Burlington have hosted charity concerts to support various causes.

In conclusion, the post-COVID-19 era presents both challenges and opportunities for music venues. The key to survival lies in adopting new approaches, diversifying revenue streams, and supporting local musicians while adhering to social distancing guidelines. By adopting innovative and creative strategies, music venues can stay relevant, support their communities, and provide a platform for local talents.

FAQs – Burlington Music Venues

What are the most popular music venues in Burlington?

Some of the most popular music venues in Burlington are Higher Ground, The Monkey House, and Signal Kitchen. Higher Ground is a larger venue that hosts musicians of all genres, while The Monkey House is more of a dive bar that features local indie bands. Signal Kitchen is a smaller venue that focuses on electronic and experimental music.

What type of music do Burlington venues typically host?

Burlington venues typically host a variety of music genres, including indie rock, electronic, folk, jazz, and hip hop. However, some venues may specialize in a certain genre.

What is the age requirement for attending Burlington music venues?

The age requirement for attending Burlington music venues varies depending on the venue. Some venues, such as Higher Ground, allow all ages to attend, while others require attendees to be at least 18 or 21 years old.

Do Burlington music venues serve food and drinks?

Yes, most Burlington music venues serve food and drinks. Some venues have a full kitchen and menu, while others may have a smaller selection of snacks and drinks. It’s important to check the venue’s website or call ahead to confirm their food and drink offerings.

Do Burlington music venues have seating?

Most Burlington music venues have standing room only, but some may have a limited amount of seating available. It’s best to check the venue’s website or call ahead to verify their seating options.

What is the parking situation like at Burlington music venues?

The parking situation at Burlington music venues varies depending on the venue’s location. Some venues have their own parking lots, while others may have street parking or nearby parking garages. It’s important to check the venue’s website or call ahead for parking information.

Are tickets required for Burlington music venues?

Yes, tickets are typically required for Burlington music venues. Tickets can be purchased online or at the venue’s box office, if available.

What are the ticket prices for Burlington music venues?

The ticket prices for Burlington music venues vary depending on the artist, venue, and seating options. It’s best to check the venue’s website or ticketing platform for pricing information.

Can I buy tickets at the door for Burlington music venues?

It depends on the venue and the event. Some venues may have tickets available at the door, but it’s best to check ahead to ensure availability. It’s also important to note that buying tickets at the door may be more expensive than buying them in advance.

Do Burlington music venues have any special events or promotions?

Yes, many Burlington music venues have special events and promotions. Some venues may host open mic nights or trivia nights, while others may have drink specials or discounted tickets. It’s best to check the venue’s website or social media pages for information on their events and promotions.


If you’re a music lover in Burlington, you’re in luck! The city has a variety of music venues that cater to different genres and tastes. From larger venues like Higher Ground to more intimate settings like Signal Kitchen, there’s something for everyone. Just be sure to check the venue’s age requirements, food and drink offerings, and parking options before you go. And don’t forget to keep an eye out for special events and promotions! After catching a show, why not explore some of the other entertainment and dining options in Burlington? From art galleries to craft breweries, there’s always something to do in this vibrant city. Thanks for reading, and be sure to check out some of our other articles for more Burlington recommendations!