Having spawned acts such as Portishead, Roni Size and Massive Attack, Bristol has a well-deserved reputation for an incredibly varied, thriving live music scene. From musical legends playing in iconic concert halls, to bluegrass twanging under Banksy-decorated walls, Bristol has something for all music lovers. The city is also host to an eclectic selection of music festivals that take place all year-round. So grab your dancing shoes and take your pick from 2018’s musical line-up: 

Music festivals| Classical Music | Family music Nightlife | Regular live music | Iconic venues | Music-themed attractions | One-off gigs | Church music 

Music festivals 

1. Immerse yourself in the twangly-jangly string sounds of the 10th annual Bristol Bluegrass Festival at the Folk House (2-3 March) at The Folk House Café

2. Go on a toe-tapping journey with Bristol International Jazz and Blues Festival at Colston Hall  (15-18 March). From swing to funk, bebop to blues, Gypsy jazz to gospel, soul to rock ‘n roll, the festival never fails to surprise and delight music lovers. 

group shot

Image - Bristol International Jazz and Blues Festival

3. Practise your Lindy Hop and learn circus skills at the same time! From stilts and aerial trapeze to juggling to clowning, all at Bristol Swing Festival at Trinity Centre (30 Mar-2 April). 

4. Check out grass-roots talent at Bristol Folk Festival. Upcoming gigs will take place at Bristol Folk House (March 23 and April 28) and Colston Hall (March 25). 

5. Dust off your dancing shoes and garnish yourself with glitter for Love Saves The Day (26-27 May). This year’s headliners are Fatboy Slim and Sampha.  

6. Turn up the beet, at VegfestUK Bristol (26-27 May). As well as talks, cookery demos, catering stalls, comedians, magicians and a club night staged indoors, the festival will feature leading dance DJ Judge Jules and a blues lounge. Good chives only!

7. Hear the stars of tomorrow in intimate spaces across Bristol at Dot to Dot Festival (26 May).  

8. For a weekend packed with adrenalin head to nearby Shepton Mallet for the NASS Festival at Royal Bath & West Showground (5-8 July) combining the world’s best in Drum and Bass, Dance, Hip Hop and Grime  music plus high octane action sports skateboarding and BMX. 

9. Don your most fabulous outfit for the wonderfully colourful Bristol Pride Festival (6-15 July). The week culminates in a massive outdoor community arts and music festival which has seen the likes of Busted, Sophie Ellis-Bextor and Kelis headline.  

Pride

Image - Bristol Pride Festival, credit Paul Box

10. Head to the Harbourside for annual dance, music and arts maritime extravaganza, Bristol Harbour Festival (20-22 July), one of the country's largest FREE  festivals. 

11. Rock the night away with cider in hand at a series of open-air, Harbourside gigs - Bristol Sounds (June). Past festivals have featured big-name acts George Ezra, Manic Street Preachers, Bonobo, British Sea Power and Craig David. 

12. Get nostalgic and sing your socks off to the best of the 80s at retro music festival,  Let’s Rock Bristol!  (2 June), at its new location on The Downs

13. Get your air guitars out for a new series of outdoor concerts spanning the summer at St Philips Gate. The Skyline Series will see UB40 (23 June), Bananarama (22 July), Future Islands (20 July), James Arthur (24 Aug), Texas and Imelda May (31 Aug), Garbage (7 Sept) and The The (9 Sept) taking to the stage. There will also be a unique food village containing the finest local street food purveyors and innovative pop up restaurateurs.

14. Hit Grillstock in July for a weekend of finger lickin’ food, foot-stomping music and a hillbilly hoedown.  

15. Frolic with all the family in a field overlooking Chew Magna lake at Valley Fest (3-5 Aug). Be sure to sign up for the gourmet organic Midnight Feast and giant communal picnic in advance - deeelish.

16. Get involved with vibrant community festival Redfest (4 Aug). Expect family activities, live music, DJs, art, dance and film. 

17. Head to  Ashton Court Estate  for the  40th Bristol International Balloon Festival (9-12 August), one of the most famous events in the Bristol calendar. Be wowed by night glows set to music (Thursday and Saturday evening), fireworks and lots more family fun.  

balloon fiesta

Image - Bristol International Balloon Fiesta, credit Paul Box

18. Yeee-haawwww! Venture into America's heartland for barn-storming live country music at Bristol’s Americana Weekend -  a collaboration between Colston Hall and St George’s, featuring home-grown and US artists. 

19. Set your sights on a sizzling line up- the third instalment of The Downs Festival (1 Sept) is set to be the biggest yet. Past year’s headliners include Massive Attack, Elbow, Primal Scream, Skepta, Seasick Steve, Roni Size and Groove Armada. 

20. End the summer festival line up with two-day dance party, Tokyo World (22-23 Sept). Last year’s live acts and DJ sets included  Basement Jaxx, Faithless, Jungle, and Artful Dodger. 

Massive attack Downs Festival

Image - Massive Attack, The Downs Festival

Classical music 

21. The new-look St George's Bristol launches in spring with an exciting new programme featuring a varied selection of classical and world music sounds. 

22. Experience  the greatest and best-loved classical works of all time at Colston Hall during Bristol International Classical Season (until June 2018): Four Seasons, The New World, Pathetique, Fantastique, plus lots more. 

23. Feel like you’re part of the action watching well-loved Hollywood blockbusters like Jaws, Indiana Jones and Beauty and the Beast on a giant screen, accompanied by a huge orchestra performing their magical scores at Colston Hall

Colston hall

Image - Colston Hall

Family music 

24.   Grab the family and dance up a storm in a secret crypt at St John on the Wall! Led by a professional DJ, there’ll also be music-based crafts if you need a break from all the moving and shaking (15 Feb). 

25. Rave with your kids at Junior Jungle - Old Market Assembly. Get down to Phat beats, pop bubbles, have your faces painted and party the morning away (17 Feb)! 

26. Young children will love joining marvellous musicians from the Bristol Ensemble for MiniBeats to learn more about sections of an orchestra and have a go at playing the instruments themselves (25 March).

27. Embark on three days of fun with the kids at the  Hoo-Ha! Festival at Colston Hall  which takes place in August. Previous festivals  have included interactive shows, a Rollerdisco, junior jungle rave and lots more. 

Colston hall hoo ha

Image - Hoo-Ha! Festival at Colston Hall

Nightlife 

28. Discover bangin’ Drum and Bass DJs in converted skate park Motion - named 19th best nightclub in the world. A uniquely Bristolian place to party. 

29. Students will love  Park Street and The Triangle  with lively bars like Mbargo and late-night club nights at Lizard Lounge, just across the road. 

30. Head to  Stokes Croft and Gloucester Road  to check out the city’s alternative scene and Bristol institution, Lakota. 

31. Eat noodles, listen to bands and party into the early hours at Mr Wolf’s - a harbinger of up-and-coming talent and unique performers, including DJs, live graffiti artists, burlesque and more.   

32. Dance the night away on Bristol’s iconic boat night club, Thekla

33. Party hard at dance super clubs like  SWX  and Przym. 

34. Explore Bristol’s flourishing LGBTQ+ scene. The mix of traditional venues and successful independent nights, combine to make Bristol a UK-leading city for LGBTQ+ culture.  

Thekla

Image - Thekla, credit Theo Cottle

Regular live music 

35. Turn up and enjoy the sounds of the south at The Old Duke on King Street, world-famous for its live jazz. 

36. Tap along to free gigs from home-grown and touring musicians from all genres of music, seven days a week at The Canteen. Anything from hypnotic Malian music to Austrian country rock to ‘Old Weird English Blues’! Street art legend Banksy’sMild Mild West’ is right outside. 

37. Hang out at no-frills, down-to-earth, The Fleece for live music seven days a week. Big name bands that have graced its stage include Oasis, Queens of the Stone Age, Radiohead, White Stripes and The Wurzels.  

38. After the theatre wraps at Old Market Assembly, live music and merriment reign! Get jazzy on a Monday, swing dance on a Wednesday or dance wildly to hip hop and funk soul on the weekend. 

39. Bop along to live music at The Anson Rooms, located in the University of Bristol’s Student’s Union.

40. Celebrate the best of Bristol and the South West in waterside venue,  No.1 Harbourside. Expect the cream of the city’s live music scene and top touring acts including new folk, jazz, funk, hip-hop and dance. 

41. Throw some shapes at O2 Academy Bristol - Annie Mac presents, One Nation, Bedlam and Sidewinder are all regulars, alongside resident club night Ramshackle - Bristol’s notorious weekly rave. Faithless, Gorillaz, DJ Shadow, Elbow, Kendrick Lamar, Foals, Arcade Fire, Amy Winehouse and Kings of Leon have all performed at O2 Academy Bristol over the years. 

o2 academy

Image - O2 Academy Bristol

42. Catch a live music, open mic, live art or DJ night every night of the week at The Bristol Fringe in Clifton.

43. Head to historic Bristol pub, the Stag and Hounds in Old Market to see bands such as Bristol's own Heavy Lungs (recognised as one of NME's '5 truly brilliant new artists from Bristol that you need in your life'), 16 March.

44. See the next big thing in an intimate location at 19th century pub, The Louisiana. Indie and folk music-inclined, it has some big names under its belt – Muse, Kings of Leon, Coldplay and Elbow have all played here.  

45. Experience 'enthralling and unpredictable' Bristol-based live electronic band Scalping, named as one of NME's '5 truly brilliant new artists from Bristol that you need in your life'. The band will be be supporting HMLTD at The Station (11 May).

46. Bob up and down to bands on another historic converted boat, The Grain Barge. The Hold Bar hosts a variety of events including live music and open mic nights.

Grain Barge

Image - Grain Barge

Iconic venues 

47. Keep an eye on goings-on at the South West’s premier concert venue, Colston Hall. It begins its multi-million pound transformation in summer 2018 and will host off-site events during this period. 

48. Experience the incredible acoustics of one of the country’s finest concert halls, decommissioned church, St George's Bristol

49. Get your groove on at street-art-encrusted Lakota, part of Bristol’s nightlife for 25 years. Drum and bass and dub-step DJs rock the galleries several nights a week with the odd techno, house or psy-trance night. 

50. Descend into the underbelly of Thekla’s floating hulk (once a German sea-faring vessel and now one of Bristol’s oldest and best music venues) for everything from house music to break beats, indie, guitar and a great crowd.  

51. Lose yourself in the fantastic atmosphere at converted church, Trinity, which also acts as a major cultural hub for East Bristol. 

St Georges

Image - St George's Bristol (before the renovation work)

Music-themed Attractions 

52. Delight in 360˚ psychedelic visuals while listening to Pink Floyd’s Wish You Were Here album in the UK’s first 3D Planetarium at We The Curious (16 Jan -20 Feb). 

53. Share your memories of musical experiences in the city to help inform the Bristol Music exhibition at M Shed (19 May-23 Sept). Hear stories contributed by people from all over the city and discover the history of music in Bristol with its host of internationally influential musicians, infamous venues and multitude of sounds. 

54. Hear The Script (14 June), Paul Heaton and Jacqui Abbott (15 June), Paloma Faith (16 June) and George Ezra (17 June) in a magical woodland setting at Forest Live: Westonbirt, The National Arboretum.  

55. Sing your heart out in the audience at Bristol Hippodrome – upcoming musicals this year include Wicked, Hairspray, Shrek, Madagascar, Cilla, ABBA Mania and The Bowie Experience

Wicked

Image - Helen Woolf as Glinda in Wicked at Bristol Hippodrome, credit Matt Crockett

One-off gigs 

56. Treat your ears to one of the most popular Barbershop and A Cappella acts in the world, Signature, at The Victoria Rooms (17 Feb), a striking city landmark that is part of the University of Bristol

57. Transport yourself back in time listening to Medieval and Elizabethan live music in Berkeley Castle’s Great Hall with Pease Pottage (3 June). 

58. Listen to folk at The New Room – John Wesley’s Chapel with upcoming concerts taking place on 22 February and 8 March

59. Dance with meaning at Arnos Vale Cemetery’s Death Disco, to be held in a Victorian Mortuary Chapel. This event is part of their  Life, Death (& the Rest) festival (22-25 Feb). 

Anglican chapel arnos vale

Image - Anglican Chapel, Arnos Vale Cemetery

Church music 

60. Add a little music to your day and take a moment to reflect with Bristol Cathedral’s lunchtime recital series. Performers this season include organists, pianists, saxophonists, cellists and singers. 

61. Take a day trip to Wells from Bristol and time your visit to hear the world-famous Wells Cathedral choir at Evensong (5.15pm Monday-Saturday, 3pm Sunday). 

62. Discover the longest running band in the South West, The Blue Notes. Resident at Bristol’s famous Old Duke pub for over 20 years, the Blue Notes now play every Wednesday at the Undercroft, St Mary Redcliffe Church

63. Check out concert listings for St James Priory and St Stephen’s Church who also  host a diverse programme of music nights. 

64. Come Christmastime, look out for traditional carols by candlelight at one of the city's Church’s Christmas services.  

Bristol cathedral choir

Image - Bristol Cathedral Carols by Candelight

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