Many of the innumerable bars in the city regularly offer live music events for every taste. Spread all around the city centre and surroundings, these places regularly host concerts and jam sessions. However, some of them remain relatively unknown still. Here are some music bars you should definitely know.
De Zolder (which is The Attic in Dutch) seems to live up to its musical reputation. There is an open reggae jam session every Tuesday which has been running for fifteen years now and a blues jam on Thursdays which began eight years and a half ago. Live bands which play rock or heavy metal take over the stage on Saturdays. Moreover, the bar hosts the Pleuropsonic, some sort of counterpart of Eurosonic, at the beginning of January and hip hop nights once every three months. ‘People describe the atmosphere as late sixties or seventies’, says current owner Michael. According to him, it’s a place where you can smoke, drink and have a nice time. There is no stage, so the band and the audience are always on the same level. Although the building itself is way older, 28 August 2017 will be the De Zolder’s 30th birthday.
Address: Papengang 3-A
LE PETIT THÉÂTRE
Sharon and René, the welcoming couple in charge of Le Petit Théâtre, say that the bar’s main idea is to ‘offer a nice stage to show that jazz music, especially vocal jazz, can be interesting for people who think it is a complicated style and that it can actually be very, very nice’. Frequency of music nights can vary, but customers are sure to find a band playing onstage usually twice a week. For example, the jam sessions on Saturday feature a mini concert by an invited guest and an open session right afterwards. The music styles you are likely to find are all somehow jazz related: folk, fado, classical, Americana, bebop and more. Also, the stage boasts a piano, drums, amplifiers and good sound, so the musicians are equipped with the necessary material to play and sometimes they also get something to eat. The building also houses a cooking workshop (House of Cooking) and a restaurant. The main goal is to be environmentally friendly, which is achieved by serving sustainable beer, using recycled furniture and ‘deciding daily what to cook and thinking in seasons to not stress nature too much’, Sharon explains.
Address: Turfsingel 18-20
The Crown is located at a spot where all the pubs that were there before, used to close down after six months or so. ‘But I’m very stubborn’, says Osman, the current owner. So far, the bar is up and running since 2013. ‘We can say we are the international pub of the city’, claims Osman. The decoration, resulting from teamwork, makes that idea visible with signs from all over the world. The intention, therefore, is to make The Crown a welcoming place to everyone. Music-wise, the venue offers jazz on Mondays, rock on Fridays and jam sessions and open mics on Saturdays. Overall, Osman says that people mainly visit the place because of the hospitality, the cleanliness and the nice, international staff, such as Dana (Hungary) and Sarah (Germany), who have some interesting and funny stories to tell.
Address: Gedempte Zuiderdiep 2
‘A lot of people don’t know that the word pub is short for public house’, Eva, one of the current owners of O’Ceallaigh, informs us. Pubs like these are meant to gather people of all ages, ranging from eight to eighty. The intention is to create a pleasant atmosphere: ‘Any Irish people coming here say this is home from home and that’s the biggest compliment we can get.’ Since its successful opening back on 27 February, 1993, the purpose of this bar has been to go back to the core of traditional Irish music. That is why The Freelancers, the house band, play very often. However, O’Ceallaigh sometimes offers bluegrass or a little bit of punk and rock. ‘We started the singer/songwriter thing a long time ago in Groningen, providing the artists with a stage to perform’, Eva states. Of course, Guinness and Murphy’s beers are served here, along with cider and 36 different types of whisky. Feeling hungry? ‘We don’t really serve food, but we do have Irish stew.’
Address: Gedempte Kattendiep 13
PODIUM DE SPIEGHEL
‘The live performances are what make this bar stand out, as it has a great stage with good lighting and good sound’, Hubert points out. He is currently in charge of Podium de Spieghel. This bar in Peperstraat is the one with the saxophone-shaped neon sign on the front. Reopened this August after a short intermission in its thirty years of history, the venue hosts talent nights on Thursdays, jazz on Fridays and popular bands (reggae, funk, etc.) on Saturdays. The wide variety of music styles ‘breathes new life into the bar’, Hubert emphasizes. Not your cup of tea? Podium de Spieghel mutates into the electronic-oriented Subsonic on Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights. ‘It is a nice symbiosis, because it draws different kinds of crowds’, the owner states. Of course, there is a wide range of common beers and some good whiskies too to quench the customers’ thirst.
Address: Peperstraat 11
Though it has been a café since 1972, De Smederij used to be the place where a blacksmith worked in (the old oven is still visible at the spot where the coffee machine stands nowadays). The former owner of the bar, a jazz musician himself, started the jazz music nights which have been taking place every Tuesday for 25 years now. The first concert starts at 22:30, often followed up by a session that kicks off at 00:00. Apart from that, dinners have been served in De Smederij ever since the late eighties. The menu is varied, containing organic meat, numerous vegetarian dishes and a wide range of beers, some of them organic or gluten-free. Owner Marion describes the bar as ‘a place where you can have a normal, fine dinner for a nice price’, stressing that its relaxed and friendly atmosphere makes it look like’ a second home’.
Address: Tuinstraat 2
KROEG VAN KLAAS
The decoration is a good example of this bar’s longevity: big signs of all kinds of beers and beverages, old and new, have been collected and displayed all around the venue since Kroeg van Klaas (Klaas’ Bar in Dutch) opened its doors to the public 44 years ago. ‘It is important to keep some old stories, it is good for the mental culture’, says Ismael, who has been in charge of organizing the African jam sessions every Sunday for three years now. ‘The atmosphere is beautiful, people come together to have fun and chill’, he points out. Thus, the reason of the sessions is to create a space suitable for all ages (some people bring their families) and provide the attendants with the chance to ‘taste’ some African food. However, there are more live music events during weekends, including styles such as jazz, blues or reggae. Moreover, bartenders in Kroeg van Klaas are known to be friendly and open towards everybody.
Address: Oosterweg 26
IL SOLE IN CANTINA
Open every Saturday for eighteen years, this underground place (literally) run by Leo and Davide serves as a meeting point for musicians and people who care about music. Everything kind of music that with quality is welcome: ‘If you would like to try some new stuff and see how the audience reacts, this is the place’, says Leo, ‘We try to get all kinds of bands, even if they are new and weird for us’. However, they like to stress that this place is only open to ‘good people and good energy’, as it is a space for ‘union and friendliness’. ‘It’s a gathering place for the whole world; there is people from The Netherlands, Italy, Spain, Brazil, Germany, Portugal, Greece and many more countries’, states Davide. Overall, the atmosphere when the bands are playing is said to be beautiful, generating a very peace and love environment, with a very open-minded audience, ready to follow wherever the band is taking them.
Address: Haddingestraat 16
Photos: Víctor Candela (c)