10 Best Venues for Live Music in Ann Arbor and Ypsi

Current consistently features reviews, interviews and concert announcements for local bands, musicians, and songwriters each month in our print edition, as well as online. This MUSIC GUIDE is meant to acquaint readers with 10 unique venues, some of which you might not have visited yet, and other spots you might not have been aware were regularly hosting live music.

A music scene is only as healthy as its accumulated venues—regional artists/musicians need a site, a physical location, where they can engage with an audience. The internet permits us seemingly limitless access to MP3s of songs or JPEGs of visual art, creating a risk of a diminished appreciation for the experience of music and the performing arts. We’re taking the opportunity, with this Guide to allow you to find, meet and listen to local artists “IRL” (in real life), live, and in the moment.

So if you’re curious to encounter more bands from the music scene, start immersing yourself by just showing up to any of these venues and checking out whoever’s up on stage that night. Of course, lots of local music fans will know the staples, but we’ve got 10 additional notable spots.

Now, go explore!

#1 | Grove Studios

Grove Studios is an LLC Partnership initiative founded in 2016 by three local musicians and championed by a diverse collective of community members that are eager to establish a supportive and nurturing habitat for musicians, artists and creatives who need, and could utilize, an opportune space to further hone their craft. Setting up shop at 884 Railroad St in Ypsilanti (the same complex where VGKids’ production facility is located, and who initiated the now bygone SPUR Studios arts collective), Grove has since grown into being “sort of a musician and creative clubhouse and gallery space,” said co-founding member Erich Friebel. Grove “wants to build a creative community where everyone has a sense of responsibility and shared fate to make it a living, working entity,” said Friebel.

Grove originally started at a property on Michigan Ave where they had co-op style rehearsal spaces and hosted pop-up live music events in partnership with Music & Arts Guild. Since moving to the new spot, they have established a collaboration with Riverside Arts Center to host monthly themed live music and arts showcases with lineups that underline the diversity of inventive and dynamic performers of all mediums. Grove’s Live at RAC is hosted on the fourth Saturday of every month at Riverside Arts Center’s Off Center Gallery.

Friebel said that Grove is planning to host open house style weekend and weeknight events that invite bands and other creatives into the space to tour/test out different spaces. One primary goal remains: to grow Grove into a “resource for learning and services to help artists grow their creative business.” If you’re in a band, you can find more info on Grove via their Facebook page, Instagram and website.

Grove Studios | 884 Railroad St, Ypsilanti
734-985-0838 | grovestudios.space

Riverside Arts Center | 76 N Huron St, Ypsilanti
734-480-2787 | riversidearts.org

#2 | Ziggy’s

Occupying the former dwelling of Ypsi’s all-arts community space Lampshade, Ziggy’s has taken on filling a void in the Ann Arbor/Ypsilanti music scene. Co-owners David and Jo Jeffries are working to give a home to artists and fans of the avant-garde, while still remaining inclusive to all genres whether it be Hip-hop, Folk, Jazz, and everything in between. The space is built around supporting musicians via a listening environment in contrast to many bars that have music serving as a backdrop. Come in and enjoy an espresso, delicious piece of pie, or an alcoholic beverage; but when a performance begins, expect the focus to be on the music rather than conversation. Adding to the unique vibe of the room is a colorful decor, with brick walls featuring large portraits of pop-culture idols like David Bowie, a screen projecting old school Sega games, and a retro pinball machine.

Having had only a soft opening (the venue just recently acquired their liquor license), for less than a year, Ziggy’s has already played host to world-renowned musicians like bassist Michael Formanek, and has become a regular spot for local improvising legends to explore new projects. Notably, it is one of very few local platforms for serious up and coming artists from the U-M Department of Jazz & Improvisation to stretch out and perform on a regular basis.

206 W Michigan Ave, Ypsilanti
734-221-3961 | ziggysypsi.com

#3 | Ann Arbor Distilling Co.

Step into Ann Arbor Distilling Co’s unassuming tasting room and you might be reminded of a Greenwich Village bar; the warmth of a Jazz trio filling the room and an elegant cocktail menu featuring house-made spirits. Tucked away in a tree-lined neighborhood just outside of downtown on Felch St, the Distilling Company provides a welcome alternative to Ann Arbor’s larger venues. Their Tiny Corner Concert series features both local and touring musicians, specifically highlighting strip down sets by singer/songwriters, jazz ensembles, and indie/alternative groups.

The staff at A2 Distilling credits the local community with helping to create and sustain the small, unique venue. They also garner inspiration from the space to influence the creation of their cocktails and spirits. The company stays true to the community in more than just its appreciation for musical talent; all of their spirits use ingredients sourced from Michigan farms. Although it may have the feel of Greenwich Village, all of the elements of A2 Distilling come together to sing Ann Arbor, Michigan.

220 Felch St, Ann Arbor
734-882-2169 | annarbordistilling.com

#4 | Bona Sera Underground

Bona Sera, located on the corner of Washington and Michigan Ave. in Ypsilanti, is the brick and mortar fruition of a community-bolstering “underground” supper club that operated for several years raising funds for causes and nonprofits around Ypsilanti before opening up the doors of a permanent space in 2012. Art exhibitions are regularly on display upstairs for those dining on offerings like flatbread pizza, shrimp and grits, and some excellent vegetarian/vegan fare, but downstairs is where the loud parties get started.

Bona Sera’s “Underground” is a bar and performance space that hosts special events, often live music, on a monthly basis. It’s always the place to be during the “First Fridays” art walk events downtown (on the 1st Friday of each month). But beyond DJ dance parties, they host events put on by Friends W/Benefits, Guilty Pleasures Burlesque and more. It’s also been home to the annual Mittenfest Music Festival (benefiting 826Michigan) for three consecutive years.

200 W Michigan Ave, Ypsilanti
734-340-6335 | bonaserarestaurant.com

#5 | Kerrytown Concert House

KCH takes it standard of excellence seriously. Venture into the historical Kerrytown house-turned concert venue and discover some of the finest music in Classical, Jazz, Avant-Garde, and Cabaret. Founded in 1984, KCH has established a reputation as a beautiful listening room, attracting international and national touring artists, as well as providing a stage for local talent.

415 N Fourth Ave, Ann Arbor
734-769-2999 | kerrytownconcerthouse.com

#6 | Cultivate Coffee & Tap House

To cultivate is to enrich; it is to harvest and develop and grow—and that’s essentially what this Ypsilanti space does for a live music experience. Located in a former auto electric shop in Depot Town, Cultivate is a non-profit organization committed to using business for social good. The renovated space with a beer garden that seats more than 100 and features 12 raised donation garden beds, combines the charms of a coffee house, a brewery, and a concert venue, affecting an exceedingly welcoming vibe and a more intimate listening experience for audiences (they have Songwriter Sundays, DJ nights, and jazz artists throughout their monthly calendar).

“We strive for Cultivate to be a place for EVERYONE,” said Jenny Jones, Cultivate’s music manager. “I feel at home and cared for at Cultivate. The foundation being the management and staff, then the regulars, patrons, and visitors make us who we are. But then you add music and musicians who support the goals and mission of our space to bring about change and benefit the community, and it makes for an incredible mix.”

Cultivate Director of Community Bekah Wallace believes that using their space and energy toward partnering with local non-profits is a way to gather people together to push toward a greater cause. Cultivate presents their 2nd annual Sundays In The Garden series: a 10-week free concert series featuring local musicians, Michigan brewers, and a non-profit benefiting organization each week. (Through September, Sundays at 6pm).

307 N River St, Ypsilanti
734-249-8993 | cultivateypsi.org

#7 | Old Town Tavern

Walk into Old Town Tavern any Wednesday night and you’ll hear the best of Ann Arbor’s Jazz scene, with a wide rotation of high-calibur musicians. Duos, trios, and even quartets nestle into the corner in front of the daily specials, contributing to an unpretentious, casual vibe that makes it easy to enjoy great music and a beer. The bar also features folk musicians every Sunday, making it a downtown local music staple.

122 W Liberty Rd, Ann Arbor
734-662-9291 | oldtownaa.com

#8 | Club Above

This “Club” is “Above” Ann Arbor’s Heidelberg Restaurant. With sleek blue lighting affecting a super cool ambiance, this venue somehow feels intimate and spacious at the same time—with surprisingly great acoustics that accommodate regular performances from artists ranging from indie-rock to EDM to jazz. And you’ll regularly encounter not just established artists, but those on the rise. But it’s not just a hotspot for the local music scene—they also host private events, like U-M date nights & formals, birthday parties, and special fundraisers, and you can find stand-up comedians every Tuesday. It is designed like a perfect get away, with a lounge by the stairs, a dance floor by the stage, and a distinctively curved bar.

215 N Main St, Ann Arbor

#9 | Dolores

The front of the building simply reads 6 S. Washington. Strolling through downtown Ypsi, this new spot for local music would be easy to miss. That’s why we want to give you the heads up about Dolores, an exciting new Mexican restaurant and bar featuring live Jazz every Sunday night. Find a seat in the elegantly transformed former Elbow Room, perhaps with the assistance of owner Andrew Epstein (co-proprietor with wife Marcela Rubio), a dedicated supporter of live music, an aspect of the restaurant he is passionate about building.

6 S Washington, Ypsilanti
734-904-9402 | instagram.com/dolores.ypsi

#10 | W. Cross Station Bar & Grill

On Cross St, just southeast of the EMU campus, this is always a reliable spot for all things rock. But that includes indie-rock, hard rock, ska, punk, rootsy Americana, riffs, twangs, vocals, drums…the whole sh’bang. They’ve got great local music showcases on Tuesdays, the always lively Funk Open Jams on Wednesdays with Funkwagon and then electronic music on Thursday’s.

While you’ll consistently catch live music (3-4 bands on typical weekend bills), W. Cross Station is also a hangout spot–with a menu that’s usually got some tasty items like wings, tacos, and sliders. There’s also a jukebox, a pool table, and 64 different retro arcade games. And the performance space is separated into its own room, with a soundsystem and a slick lighting rig. You may have know this spot as its former name, Crossroads–but update your social calendars, it’s now W. Cross Station.

517 W Cross St, Ypsilanti
734-340-2694 | wcrossstation.com

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