All students and community members quickly come to learn that SLO is pulsating with music. It takes no time at all to notice all the ways in which music is celebrated here and embraced with great fervor.
Passerbyers with headphones on quietly jam out to their playlists as they walk the streets of downtown. Enthusiasts with various musical talents come together to start their own bands, while concert venues on a Friday night are teaming with excited crowds ready to hear their favorite artists.
Local coffee shops, breweries and even vintage clothing stores are turning their spaces into makeshift stages to provide opportunities for up-and-coming bands to get their names out and connect with their community.
On Cal Poly’s campus, you might hear music spilling out of dorm rooms as students meet and connect during quick jam sessions or weekly band practices. Walking around in between classes, or in the hours of a slow weekend afternoon, you can see students sprawled out on the lawn, taking in the sun and getting lost in song as they strum their guitars, alone or in a group.
And as the weekends roll around and the Farmers’ Market takes over Higuera Street on Thursday nights, the town of San Luis Obispo truly comes alive.
The music scene of SLO is everywhere, and it’s a space for everyone.
However, with shows and events marked on the calendar in great abundance, it can be confusing or daunting to know where to look to find these upcoming gigs, especially if you are new to the school or town.
But in an effort to keep the growing community of music lovers in SLO inclusive and ensure everyone is in the know, the resources one can use to discover approaching concerts, house shows and events are everywhere.
How to find live music events
Social media accounts, such as @sloscene and @slo.underground on Instagram, are dedicated to sharing and reposting flyers of upcoming house shows and local concerts in and around SLO. Following these accounts will ensure your mid-study scrolling will result in finding new events to add to your weekend ventures, and may even muster up enough inspiration needed to put down the phone and finish the homework.
Checking the websites and following the Instagram accounts of concert venues, such as Fremont Theater (@fremontslo) and SLO Brew Rock (@slobrewlive), will also keep you updated on bands coming to town.
In the past year, performers from all around the world graced the stages of these venues, including big-name acts such as Patti Smith and Stephen Marley, as well as smaller California-based bands like Mapache, Sunroom and Drugdealer, and even the Australian psychedelic rock band Babe Rainbow.
Another great way to become familiar with the music scene of SLO is to become familiar with the shops, restaurants and small businesses of the town, as many of them host live musical events.
Downtown coffee shops, such as Linnaea’s Cafe, provide customers with not only drinks, food and a quiet place to study, but also a plethora of live entertainment in the evenings. There are events lined up for the upcoming months, including Jazz and Open Mic nights and poetry readings. In a similar fashion, Libertine Brewing Company, which has locations in downtown SLO, Morro Bay and Avila, hosts performers and provides live events.
Vintage stores, like A Satellite of Love (@asatelliteoflove on Instagram), play their part in organizing and hosting live performances. In the evenings of scheduled shows, a makeshift stage is created and chairs are lined out the shop and through the store’s giant doors, as the community of SLO filters in to listen to different musicians amongst the store’s selection of vintage clothing, jewelry, records and books.
With the town booming with musicians and local performers, attending SLO’s weekly Farmers’ Market on Higuera Street every Thursday from 6-9 p.m. is another great way to discover new bands.
IMUA, an R&B, Neo-soul band based out of SLO, is just one band that frequents the market, filling the evening air with smooth vocals accompanied by the melodic sounds of the keys and guitars as people walk around eating food and buying local produce.
With local bands and musicians playing everywhere around town, engaging oneself in the music is easy. The more time you spend in SLO and the more shows and live events you frequent, the more familiar you will become with the local scene.
After seeing flyers posted around campus or your favorite SLO-based band on social media, you’ll soon be jamming out to songs surrounded by friends and other local artists, as sweat is dripping and arms are flying. You’ll look around and be welcomed by a hundred other smiling faces doing the same thing as you: letting loose in the high energy and liberating feeling that is produced nowhere other than in the room of a house show.
In this element, with lively energy booming and sonic melodies vibrating all around, meeting and connecting with others becomes a natural and effortless feat.
What do local bands have to say?
To the local San Luis Obispo indie rock band earthship, performing at house shows and seeing the high energy and personal connections fostered there is unbeatable.
“Everyone is having a good time being themselves and we always feel that energy coming back to us,” the band said in an Instagram DM. “There’s nothing better than that, it just feels like we’re hanging out with all our friends.”
SLO’s tight-knit community of music lovers has fostered special connections that are felt by both the audience and the performers. For SLO-based band Honeyboys, house shows in SLO are hard to beat.
Having performed at numerous shows outside the Central Coast, “the difference is palpable,” the band said.
“While playing for new audiences is exciting, the sense of community and connection we feel in SLO is something that can’t be replicated anywhere else,” Honeyboys said.
The small but personal setting of someone’s living room is what many believe gives house shows their unique and distinct feel.
“A 40-person crowd in a small room where everyone is in touch with the music is just as energetic and far more personal than a 500-person crowd at a theater,” local band Plywood Love said.
While large concert venues provide their own thrilling experiences, the small spaces imbue connections like no other, as audience members and performers fuse as one with the lack of a real barrier or stage.
“You, along with everyone else present, have a unique investment and interest in the music you’re listening to,” Plywood Love said.
As local band Kiwi Kannibal put it, “You start seeing the same faces at shows, and that’s what really fosters a sense of community.”
The Honeyboys, earthship, Kiwi Kannibal and Plywood Love all encourage students looking to immerse themselves in SLO’s music scene or start a band of their own to simply put themselves out there.
Going to a show alone is not an uncommon thing, and typically, one will leave having gained new friends or reconnected with old ones. Similarly, while thoughts of starting a band can feel daunting if you don’t know any other musical people, there are always going to be others in the same boat.
As classroom doors reopen for the new fall semester, so will the doors of concert venues.
Local band Suburban Dropout will be hosting an EP release festival at the SLO Veterans Memorial Hall on Sept. 29, which will feature other distinguished bands of the town, such as Couch Dog, Plywood Love and Repeater.
With more and more shows beginning to pop up as new and returning students settle in SLO, the energy and passion for music they bring to town will only enliven the music scene more. As an ever-growing community that feeds off fresh perspectives, talents and interests, SLO’s thriving music scene is rewarding to be a part of. For there is nothing to lose, only endless memories to be made and mosh pits to let loose in.