7 Places for Free Music in San Diego

The first few months of the year are always tough. The welcomed rest and relaxation of the holidays are typically accompanied by ridiculous amounts of cash flying out of your bank account.

Sadly, recalibrating finances at the start of a new calendar means putting things like buying concert tickets on hold.

But if you know where to look, plenty of places in San Diego host quality live music that won’t cost you a thing. Note: While the music is free, it is highly encouraged to order drinks/food (where applicable) and tip both servers and musicians.

Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego

MCASD’s old Thursday Night Thing (TNT) has morphed into Downtown At Sundown — a free event that happens from 5-8 p.m. every third Thursday at the Kettner location. In addition to free admission and DJ sets from The Roots Factory, patrons can enjoy free museum tours, a pop-up book truck and reading area, drink specials at Stone Brewing and Flight Path (both next door), and local performing arts groups. Check out the next one on Feb. 18.

1100 Kettner Blvd., downtown. mcasd.org

Whistle Stop Bar

This popular neighborhood watering hole features something going on almost every night of the week. Catch a great no-cover live show with the soulful sounds of Whistle Stop faves The Amandas on Feb 5.2236 Fern St., South Park. whistlestopbar.com


The eco-friendly outdoor space is hosting its Thursday Night Market from 6-10 p.m. tonight. The semi-regular event is all ages, pet friendly and free. Seattle-based singer/songwriter Valley Maker (Austin Crane) will be on hand to perform before heading out on a U.S. tour in February. There will also be food, full bars with craft drinks, and hand-selected craft vendors.

1102 Market St., East Village. quartyardsd.com/home

San Diego Public Library

Sure, it tends to be classical music, but the new central library’s free concert series is a great way to spend a Sunday afternoon. And if you can make it on March 13, you’ll get a great show from multiple San Diego Music Award-winner Gilbert Castellanos and his Latin Jazz Quintet.

330 Park Blvd., downtown. sandiego.gov/public-library

Henry’s Pub

DJs typically dominate the entertainment roster at Henry’s, but on Tuesdays, it’s rockabilly and swing dancing with live music from Big City Dawgs.

618 Fifth Ave., Gaslamp District. henryspub.com

Panama 66

An extension of the San Diego Museum of Art, this outdoor space sits adjacent to the museum’s sculpture gardens and offers free live music on many nights of the week. January closes out with performances from the lovely vocalist Miss Erika Davies on Jan. 29 and the rock/blues of The Bedbreakers on Jan. 30.

1450 El Prado, Balboa Park. panama66.blogspot.com

Riviera Supper Club

This East County DIY steakhouse and bar features live music in the Turquoise Room three or four nights a week. Catch crooning trumpeter Jason Hanna and Friends on Feb. 3, Beatle aficionados the Baja Bugs on Feb. 6, and singer/guitarist Israel Maldonado on Feb. 18.

7777 University Ave., La Mesa. rivierasupperclub.com

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