Looking for live music? 32 places to find it in Central Kentucky (many for free)

By Matt Wickstrom, Kentucky.com
Photos by Alex Slitz

Al's Bar, COVID-19, live music
Robby Cosenza, left, and Joshua Wright, both members of the house band Thirsty Boots, perform on the patio at Al’s Bar in Lexington, Ky., on Wednesday, Oct. 14, 2020. Alex Slitz ASLITZ@HERALD-LEADER.COM

While many businesses, including independent live music venues, continue to struggle to survive amid the COVID-19 pandemic, some Central Kentucky bars, clubs and restaurants are getting back in the game, pivoting during the pandemic to adapt their spaces for safe and socially distant live music.

From parking lot shows at The Burl to the country-western confines of Austin City Saloon and hybrid indoor and outdoor digs at Acorns on the former site of the Mount Sterling Country Club, get the scoop on all of the venues nearby currently serving up live music below.

OUTDOOR

  • Al’s Bar has just recently begun to test the waters of live music on its back patio and next door at Al’s Sidecar, mostly with the bar’s “house band” Thirsty Boots, comprised of Bear Medicine’s Joshua Wright and journeyman percussionist Robbie Cosenza. The bar has room to safely seat 30 patrons. No cover charge is required, but donations to the artist are encouraged upon entry. Currently Al’s has live music on Wednesday and Saturday nights, with the possibility of expanding in the future. The bar also has an indoor music space but doesn’t plan to utilize it until after the pandemic, according to co-owner Tim Small. 601 North Limestone. Facebook.com/AlsBarLexington.
  • The Burl has been hosting live music on Friday, Saturday and (sometimes) Sunday evenings since mid-July in addition to trivia nights on Wednesday and movie nights on Thursday. For concerts, tickets are sold by the table, which can seat up to six people each at $60 and up depending on the artist. About 50 tables are up for grabs for each event for a total capacity near 300. Food is also available on site from The Burl Food and Kismet. 375 Thompson Road. TheBurlKy.com.
  • Proud Mary BBQ hosts music with no cover charge five nights a week from Wednesday-Sunday at its beach-like setting along the Kentucky River. You can literally feel the sand between your toes as you dance along. The restaurant’s outdoor space has a socially distanced capacity of 600, providing ample space to enjoy music with family and friends in a safe, open-air environment. 9079 Old Richmond Road. ProudMaryBBQ.com.
  • Talon Winery has live music every Friday from 6-9 p.m. and Saturday 4-7 p.m. through October with no cover. In November, music will be Saturday only. Music is performed from an expansive patio and green space with a limited number of picnic tables available to spread out. Attendees are encouraged to bring their own chairs, blankets and food to enjoy with cheese, wine and crackers available for purchase on site. 7086 Tates Creek Road. TalonWine.com.
  • Wildcat Willy’s Distillery, which opened in December 2019 in Winchester, hosts live music with no cover on Tuesday and Thursday evenings starting around 6 p.m. on its outdoor patio and garden equipped with heaters for fall outdoor dining and listening. The Distillery, which has the capacity to safely seat 40 on the patio, also features food and drink specials on these nights. 31 East Broadway Street, Winchester. WildcatWillysDistillery.com.

INDOOR

  • Austin City Saloon has an indoor capacity of 150 with live music three or four times per week including a live recording of radio program “Overtones” hosted by Renee Collins Cobb on WLXU 93.9 FM and open mic on Thursday nights. Unless specified otherwise there’s no cover charge to enjoy the northside honky tonk bar’s music. 2350 Woodhill Drive. AustinCitySaloon.com.
  • Creaux, a New Orleans-inspired cocktail bar in the former Table Three Ten building downtown, has live music from 7-10 p.m. every Friday and Saturday night with a $5 cover charge and room to safely seat 42 people. 310 West Short Street. CreauxLex.com.
  • Henry Clay’s Public House has live music for no cover every night Tuesday through Saturday inside the bar, which can safely seat 50 patrons. 112 North Upper Street. HenryClaysPublicHouse.com.

HYBRID

  • Abettor Brewing Company in Winchester has live music for no cover three nights a week including an open mic hosted by Liz Frazier of The Ox-Eyed Daisies on Tuesdays and other events every Friday from 7-10 p.m. and Sunday from 4-7 p.m. Music is performed from a patio in front of the brewery that features pull-up garage doors, offering a total capacity of 60 inside and out. 301 West Lexington Avenue, Winchester. ABettorBeer.com.
  • Acorns, a multi-purpose event space on the site of the former Mount Sterling Country Club, is currently completing a 7,000-square-foot open-air pavilion atop a 12,000-square-foot deck with two stages after being acquired by Jim Smith in January. The 175-acre property currently hosts live music 6-8 times a month with room to seat 100 in the 6,000-square-foot Chenault House and 500 outside on their lakefront pavilion. 1223 Camargo Road, Mount Sterling. Facebook.com/EventsAtAcorns.
  • Azur, the restaurant spearheaded by executive chef Jeremy Ashby, serves up live music for patrons for no cover on Friday and Saturday evenings along with the occasional special event on other nights. Azur’s patio seats 100 people socially distanced, with French doors opening up the inside of the restaurant to another 60. 3070 Lakecrest Circle, Suite 550. AzurRestaurant.com.
  • Banners has scaled back its live music during the pandemic, previously every Friday and Saturday, to now only a few shows scattered throughout each month with no cover, according to owner Ryan McGuffin. Shows are performed both inside, where up to 100 patrons can safely fit, and out on the venue’s patio, where there’s room for 75 socially distanced patrons. 3650 Boston Road, Suite 196. BannersLex.com.
  • Brewed, a coffee shop, restaurant and bar that opened in June, hosts a mix of indoor and outdoor concerts regularly three nights per week for no cover (unless otherwise stated) with room to seat 55 people inside and 100 people outside. A large retractable garage door allows for an open air environment even inside the building in addition to lawn space outside for people to spread out on with blankets or lawn chairs. Music includes a hip-hop and R&B open mic on Sundays, an acoustic and comedic open mic on Wednesdays and the Cane Run Bluegrass Band on Thursdays along with a bluegrass jam that anyone can come and take part in on the first Monday of every month. 124 Malabu Drive. BrewedCo.com.
  • Brick Oven Pizzeria Pub & Grill, a Southside sports bar currently in the middle of a rebrand from Pub & Grill, according to owner Tim Kolenda, hosts live music from Matt Green every Tuesday for no cover starting at 6 p.m.. The pub hosts music on its patio, where there’s a capacity of 60, when the weather allows and inside when it doesn’t, where 75 people can safely be seated. 4379 Old Harrodsburg Road. Facebook.com/PubGrillLexingtonKy.
  • JGumbosLex hosts live music with no cover on its secluded patio space on Lexington’s north side on Friday nights to a max crowd of 30. However, once weather forces them indoors, owner Robbie Morgan says she plans to move the music inside of the Cajun restaurant, which has a socially distanced capacity of 24 people. 808 North Limestone, Suite 1. JGumbosLex.com.
  • Paddy Wagon Irish Pub in Richmond has room inside to seat 65 with space for another 80 on a patio out back when it hosts live music every Friday, Saturday and occasionally Thursday night for a $5 cover. 150 East Main Street, Richmond. RichmondPaddyWagon.com.
  • Slainte Public House, a quaint Irish-themed pub in Georgetown, has been hosting live music outside on its patio all summer but will soon be moving festivities indoors for the winter into an upstairs room that can safely hold 15-20 patrons. Music is held every Friday and Saturday with the occasional show on Thursdays and Sundays. There’s been no cover for shows so far, but owner Matt Nunn anticipates that may change when music moves inside for the winter in order to help sustain the events. 320 East Main Street, Georgetown. Facebook.com/SlaintePublicHouse.
  • The Stave, a modern Southern restaurant on the Kentucky Bourbon Trail, has music on Friday and Saturday nights for no cover outside atop its treehouse bungalow with room to seat 30 with room for more on the lawn below. Once the weather turns cold music will move inside a heated, screened-in and walled off porch where there’s a capacity for 50. 5711 McCracken Pike, Frankfort. TheStaveKentucky.com.
  • The Twisted Cork hosts live music without a cover charge every night Monday-Thursday and Saturday evenings moving between their intimate indoor confines seating 25 and their even more cozy outdoor patio seating 18. The wine shop also has weekly trivia nights on Fridays and an open mic on Sundays sponsored by Listen Locally. 3344 Partner Place. Facebook.com/TwistedCorkLex.
  • Wildside Winery in Versailles has both indoor and outdoor setups for music on their 30 acre compound. The winery has hosted several drive-in style concerts throughout the summer and fall with as many as 101 cars on hand for a show with room for plenty more, according to owner Elisha Holt, all with their own 15 foot space to spread out with six additional feet between each site. Wildside hosts music four to five times per month, with some events free to attend and others requiring tickets. They also have a vast beer inventory to go with their fresh sangria. 5500 Troy Pike, Versailles. WildsideWinery.com.

MORE MUSIC

Other Central Kentucky venues continuing to host live music through the pandemic in some capacity include:

  • Jean Farris Winery & Bistro, 6825 Old Richmond Road. JeanFarris.com.
  • J Render’s Southern Table & Bar, 3191 Beaumont Centre Circle. JRendersBBQ.com.
  • Richmond Beer House, 218 South Porter Drive, Richmond. RBHBeer.com.

This story was originally published in the Lexington Herald-Leader and at Kentucky.com. Please consider subscribing to them here.

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