The Sounds of Carson City: Where to Find Live Local Music

By Bryan Akerley

There’s a riot going on in Northern Nevada. Or maybe it’s a revolution.


Just this week our area has been host to legendary soul-funk band The Family Stone (with founding Sly & The Family Stone members Jerry Martini and Greg Errico) as well as The Revolution, Prince’s unstoppable backing band famous for Purple Rain, in Carson City and Reno respectively.


Then last month, the great Kenny Loggins graced the stage at Minden’s Carson Valley Inn, and last year, funk superstars Tower of Power headlined Cafe at Adele’s Concert Under the Stars!


These classic musicians are playing some of the most fun and lively venues in Northern Nevada — I’m not talking about the massive event centers of Reno or the stadium amphitheaters of South Lake Tahoe. Instead, these are the smaller, more intimate places to have a craft beverage, eat some fresh and delicious food, listen to some tunes and then get up and dance just feet away from the legendary acts.


And the best part? The Carson City area is full of these types of venues, not just the ones that feature seasoned musicians, but also the types that put on open mic nights and give some fantastic local talent a stage and a microphone. It’s just all about knowing where to look and when to go!

Don’t be upset you missed The Family Stone — The Brewery Arts Center has a full calendar of weekend outdoor concerts. All are well-known touring musicians playing folk, jazz, funk, soul and rock, and all are free. You’re right in the middle of the historic west side of downtown Carson City, under the trees and the nighttime stars, it’s one of the most beautiful places to catch some live music. The venue has a bar with dining options as well. Photo at left: Brewery Arts Center Facebook


How about looking out for Carson City’s own rising stars? There’s an open mic night every Friday evening at A to Zen. Here you have an eclectic thrift store true to Carson City’s eccentric nature, filled with recycled records and musical instruments. But head to the back of the store, where there’s an enclave with an elevated stage and a few chairs. On any given Friday, that stage could be host to a jazz quartet, a singer-guitarist playing original songs or even a slam poet — the best part is that you never know what you’re going to get! Photo at right: A to Zen Facebook


Or check back in with Comma Coffee, where any weekend evening or early afternoon may be filled with an unknown local musician plucking guitar strings and crooning a classic folk tune. What was once home to Carson City’s most prominent monthly open mic night is now giving hour-long sets to the great local talents who used to play that open mic. It’s the perfect place to relax with a cup of coffee and have a conversation with a friend, all sound-tracked by some lovely live music. Plus, perhaps Comma’s longest running musical event is the Mile High Jazz Band concert once a month, a consistently excellent night of big band swing.

For a livelier (and boozier) evening of music, you’ll want to head to Casino Fandango. Almost every weekend there’s a band plugged into the amps on the casino floor’s main stage. These acts are all about crowd pleasing. Weave through the flashing lights and ringing bells of the slots and sit up close with a martini or pint of beer to hear these bands tackle the classic rock radio hits and Southern rock favorites you know by heart. I’m sure you’ll find yourself singing along. And dancing, too.


Last, of course, is Bob McFadden Plaza. It acts as a combination of each of these venues, with an outdoor amphitheater-like stage and standing room that makes for the best place to dance when a rocking cover band is tearing through its set. And its proximity to Bella Fiore Wines and The Fox Pub means you’re not far from amazing food, beer and wine, or maybe just a place to kick back and experience the music from afar. As I’ve written here before, Carson City has many outdoor block party-style concerts throughout the summer right here at McFadden Plaza, so get there early for dinner and catch the incredible sunset before the party starts. Photo at left: Carson City Pix Facebook


These are Carson City’s live music standouts, but I could go on and on. And that’s what’s so great about live music in this area, that you could walk right into any random bar or coffee shop and stumble upon something special and uniquely Northern Nevadan. So there’s much more where these came from, but for now, find some free time and discover more of what Carson City’s culture has to offer!

For other events, check out our Daytime, Nightlife and Community pages.


About the Author Bryan Akerley
Bryan was born and raised in Northern Nevada and is a graduate of the University of Nevada, Reno. When he’s not writing, he’s keeping up with pop culture as a lover of movies, TV, music and books or out exploring the area through its restaurants, bars and nightlife. Then he’ll unwind by playing the drums or piano or spending time with his corgi, Teddy.