York may not be as well-recognised for its music scene as neighbouring Northern cities Manchester, Leeds, and Sheffield, but live music still plays a huge part in the city’s culture. With an eclectic mix of independent venues, York attracts up-and-coming artists looking for their big break, meaning you can often have a great night out without breaking the bank.
Here’s a guide to live music in York, including the best music venues, famous artists from the city, and up-and-coming artists to look out for.
The best York music venues
York might not be the place to watch your favourite musician play to a packed-out arena, but what it does – intimate and independent venues – it does very well. These are the best music venues in York.
Fibbers has been a mainstay of the York music scene for almost 30 years (as of 2021). In that time, over a million fans have seen thousands of bands play a variety of different genres. Artists to have played at Fibbers in their early days include the likes of The Killers and Biffy Clyro, so who knows which future stars will play here soon. It isn’t all about the big stars, though; the venue plays host to a variety of local artists looking to state their name in the music business.
As the name suggests, this venue can be found in the basement of York’s City Screen Cinema. As intimate as venues get, The Basement has fans just a few metres away from the act, which can range from musicians to comedians to cabaret. Almost all genre of music is covered here, and tickets are cheap, which makes it a great way to take a punt and listen to something a little bit different.
With a capacity of 2,000, York Barbican is York’s largest music and arts venue, so you can expect more of a ‘stadium’ feel here. It hosts comedy, musicals, and live music – the latter including the likes of Morrissey, Paolo Nutini, and Paloma Faith. So, if you’re interested in only seeing the biggest acts play in York, the Barbican will be your best bet.
The Fulford Arms
Decades ago, it wasn’t uncommon for most local pubs to hold live music events on a regular basis. The Fulford Arms is a throwback to those times, as it doesn’t just serve up a good pint with a friendly atmosphere, but also hosts musicians from all over the country. From emerging artists to local legends, the intimate venue is known for inviting a wide range of musicians and genres, so it’s a great place to listen to something new.
A working men’s club turned music venue, The Crescent is owned by two brothers with a passion for York’s music scene. The result is an inclusive and alternative venue for everyone of all music tastes. With two separate rooms – one for 100 fans and another for 250 – The Crescent can hold small and medium sized gigs, attracting artists of all different levels.
Famous musicians and bands from York
Considering its inspiring history and culture, it’s no surprise York has borne many famous musicians and bands. From Elliot Minor to The Smoke, these are some of the most influential:
- Elliot Minor
- Trevor Watts
- Asking Alexandria
- The Batfish Boys
- The Seahorses
- Mostly Autumn
- Glamour of the Kill
- Shed Seven
- The Thrillseekers
- Rick Witter & The Dukes
- The Smoke
Up-and-coming York bands
If York’s music scene is known for anything, it’s for giving up-and-coming talent a chance to shine. These are some of the best local bands you can expect to hear more about in the future.
With their debut single, ‘Too Much for Lucy’, hitting over 140,000 plays on Spotify at the time of writing, many are tipping Flooded for big things. They’ve already played gigs at the likes of The Fulford Arms and are regularly releasing new music, so make sure you keep an eye out for their next gigs.
The Vedettes best summed up their musical style by saying they: “take the energy of post-punk revival of the 2000s” with a bit of “Brit-pop swagger”. They’ve already headlined at many of York’s most famous and intimate venues, with more to come.
Serotones have several songs which have racked up over 10,000 plays on Spotify, with ‘Into the Sky’ reaching 22,000 at the time of writing. They’ve headlined gigs at the famous Fibbers, and with new music incoming you can be sure they’ll headline a few more.
Nominated for the Yorkshire Gig Guides Outstanding Emerging Artist awards, Violet Contours are well on their way to becoming one of York’s biggest acts. Their track ‘Electric Bodies’ has over 32,000 plays on Spotify at the time of writing, so expect to see them in some of York’s biggest venues in the future.
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