Canned music is fine, good, passable even for a weekend out on the town but much like canned tuna or those mini corns that come in a can—trivia fact: they’re called cornichons—sometimes you just want the fresh stuff.
Well, we get it and we’re here for you with the top six places in Newport Beach to hear music so live, it’ll make you feel alive and then it’ll make you want to request The Bee Gee’s 1977 hit, “Stayin’ Alive,” because even if the band can’t play it, at least they’ll know where your head’s at that night.
- The Blue Beet
107 21st St. Pl., Newport Beach, CA 92663
The Vibe: Dark, narrow and vaguely reminiscent of a 1920s-style saloon, The Blue Beet is unlike any other establishment in Newport. Why? Because beyond its long, arc-shaped bar, you’ll find a stage, and on that stage you’ll find impressively talented bands that perform almost every single night of the week, every month of every year. The bar’s saloon-ish ambience is owed in part to a man named Henry Stark who in 1912 traveled to Cripple Creek, CO to purchase a back bar from a gold rush-style saloon and had the whole thing installed right onto the end of his very own Newport Beach place, once called “Stark’s” today called “The Blue Beet.”
The Jams: Eclectic musicality reigns all year ‘round at The Blue Beet, where you can expect to hear anything from an entire three-hour set of 80s rock ’n’ roll covers on a packed Saturday night in summer to a singer from France warbling her way through jazz standards during the winter with nothing but an upright bass and her whispery, romantic accent to keep you warm.
- Billy’s At The Beach
2751 West Coast Hwy., Newport Beach, CA 92663
The Vibe: Tropical Tiki bar meets upscale Newport Beach seafood restaurant at Billy’s At The Beach, a neighborhood favorite with bluesy music to listen to and delicious food to nosh on while sitting right beside Newport Bay. Literally. With panoramic water views, eating at Billy’s feels like you’re eating on a moored boat near a faraway tropical isle, exotic tunes playing in the background as slow waves outside your window churn.
The Jams: Newport Beach jazz and reggae bands like Tropical Blue, Rabbi Blue, The Reef Brothers and Chris & Autumn entertain crowds on all days of the week. (But specifically, Monday 7 p.m. – 10 p.m., Tuesday and Wednesday 6 p.m. to 9 p.m, Thursday 7 – 10 p.m., Friday and Saturday 8 p.m. – 11 p.m. and Sunday 3 p.m. to 6 p.m.)
- The Village Inn
127 Marine Ave., Newport Beach, CA 92662
The Vibe: Spacious, bed-and-breakfast-y (it’s a word) and with décor that’s inviting and approachable, The Village Inn allows diners the opportunity to feast on food crafted by Executive Chef Victor Sandoval while tapping their toes to live music six days of the week. (Sorry, no performances on Monday.)
The Jams: Musical acts range from acoustic solo guitarists to three-piece bands to a group called “Monkey Fingers,” so there’s that.
- Alta Coffee Co.
506 31st St., Newport Beach, CA 92663
The Vibe: Alta Coffee Co. is one of the few sit-down coffee shops in Newport Beach with both indoor hang-out space and a generously sized outdoor patio. For years, Alta has retained its status as Newport’s premier café (and fantastic Sunday brunch option) because the coffee is hot in the winter, cool in the summer and the food is tasty and surprisingly varied; Alta offers everything from homemade English currant scones to buckwheat pancakes to chicken curry pita sandwiches. But first, coffee. At Alta, coffees are roasted every morning in small batches to ensure freshness and always made from certified organic beans. Adding to Alta’s caffeinated charm? Live music, which is served several times each month; the schedule of events is adorably written on a chalkboard by the front counter. Dare we say it as proponents of the West Coast lifestyle but sitting at Alta sipping on a bold Americano while listening to a folksy guitar player do her thing gives this unique coffee joint a distinctly Downtown Brooklyn-esque edge … and we don’t mind one bit.
The Jams: Though live music is arguably sparser here than at other locations on this list, when Alta does have entertainment, it’s worth the wait. Their “Outlaws of Folk Music Series” has proven to be one of the more popular offerings by the coffee co. while “On A Lark” is their well-attended Saturday night event featuring lively Celtic tunes. The café also hosts an open mic night once per month, so if you’re ever in the mood to put your very own singer-songwriter skills to the test, this is your chance to shine.
- A&O Kitchen + Bar
1221 West Coast Hwy., Newport Beach, CA 92663
The Vibe: There’s a fancy “+” in the title of this restaurant so you know it must be très chic. And once inside, A&O Kitchen + Bar lives up to the hype. (In case anyone asks and you want to feel in the know, “A&O” stands for “Anchors and Oceans.”) With epicurean master Executive Chef Rachel Haggstrom at the helm of the kitchen, sophisticated shared plates and inventive craft cocktails abound at this trendy gastropub located inside the Balbao Bay Resort. Beyond the grub, A&O also scores big on design; reclaimed barn wood covers its walls, en vogue communal tables (made from live edge wood) fill its dining space and an iron-clad bar boasts incredible bay views.
The Jams: Live music echoes throughout the shabby-chic wooden walls of the A&O Kitchen + Bar on Thursdays from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. and Friday through Saturday 8 p.m. until 11 p.m. Expect to be wowed by the local talent A&O books, including: Michael Jade, Lucas Marx and Alex “Fame” Collister.
- Muldoon’s Irish Pub
202 Newport Center Dr, Newport Beach, CA 92660
The Vibe: Muldoon’s Irish Pub comes in four parts: two pub spaces, an outdoor patio and an Irish-inspired dining room encircled by finely crafted oak walls and adorned with hand-painted Irish proverbs on the ceiling. As luck of the Irish would have it, these spaces all face one another so when the live music plays, you can hear it from whichever dining/drinking spot you choose. Can you say cèad mìle fàilte? That’s Irish Gaelic for “a hundred thousand welcomes,” which is exactly how you’ll feel in this cozy Newport Beach pub.
The Jams: Channel the true spirit of the Irish with lively music every Thursday starting at 8 p.m., Friday and Saturday at 9 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m. (Another band taking the stage on Sunday at 6 p.m.)
By: Melissa Marni