Many cities have aspirations for live music bars, but only few cities have the substantial amount of traffic to actually keep them. Is it the fact that we are not used to live music anymore on a regular drinking night? Are we numbed by electronic music? Or is it just not top of mind anymore and too much of a search for it?

As a big fan of many sorts of live music -yes that’s right, not the kind of tunes blasting from big ass speakers that makes us putting our arms in the air and perform repeated autistic dance moves- I enjoy to visit those typical dark and alternative venues where bands get the crowd in a certain ecstasy (without the dope), that pre-recorded music could never establish (well again, without the dope).

Next to the big concert halls like the Heineken Music Hall and the Ziggo Dome, Amsterdam’s most popular and renowned concert hall is  the Paradiso. This former church probably has one of the best acoustics you ever heard and housed the greatest artists in the world. And with alternative concert halls like the Melkweg and Bitterzoet, Amsterdam offers broad possibilities for concerts of any taste.

But to be honest, whether you are a tourist in Amsterdam or a local resident, a night out is often a spontaneous happening and so most of the times you find the concert to be sold out. Therefore, the best live music bars in Amsterdam where you don’t need any tickets for:

Bourbon Street

This small Blues club near the Leidseplein offers performances of Blues, Latin, Reggae and Fusion bands. It requires a 5 euro entry fee for the whole night and the crowd is fairly international. Like always with live bands, you need a bit of luck who you encounter, but I can honestly say I had some of the best nights in my life here!

 Jazz cafe Alto

Just around the corner from Bourbon Street you can find one the very few authentic Jazz cafe’s of the Netherlands. This dark and narrow bar offers Jazz formations from many styles and makes you feel like being thrown back in time. A must visit for real jazz fans.

Cotton Club

This place doesn’t offer daily concerts like many of the others, but is well worth a visit for a lazy brown-bar jazz feel. Situated at the Nieuwmarkt it is closest option for when you are living or staying near the central station or red-light-district. Come on Saturday if you want to be sure there’s a live band playing.

North Sea Jazz Club / Pizza Pazzani

This more stand-up Jazz club is owned by the North Sea Jazz Festival and offers slightly more renowned bands then the other ones. During dinner concerts you can have a relaxed sit back and enjoy the show, but on the good nights you can definitely lift some feet here! Next door neighbor and Pizza restaurant Pazzani offers nice Jazz sessions during the winter and Thursday night jam sessions throughout the year. When you happen to be Amsterdam West, for sure something you should drop by.

The Waterhole

If you are into dark, grungy rock clubs (which I am), then this is the place you want to visit. With every day live performances you can be lucky to encounter top of the bill rock music or unfortunate off key bullshit. But one thing is for sure, you never leave sober. Situated near the Leidseplein, opposite of trendy night clubs Jimmy Woo and The Social Club.