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Looking at the top five places for live music in Saint Louis

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Saint Louis has a hot music scene, but you may not know the best places in town for watching live music, for jamming out and having a good time without worrying about expenses or a dress code. Hint: it's not a giant stadium or auditorium, and it won't be anywhere that runs you 100 bucks for a ticket that isn't even very good. It's places where the drinks run cold, the dance floor is always busy, and the music is as eclectic and diverse as Saint Louis itself.

Anyone can take you to a show at the Scottrade Center or Chaifetz Arena. They're fine facilities all the same, don't get me wrong. But when it comes to exploring what the city has to offer, you can do so much better. Here are five spots in Saint Louis where catching a show is a must.

I could have named so many more great places in Saint Louis, but five is a good place to start. What other rocking locales would you add to the list?

The Pageant in the Delmar Loop at night
The Pageant in the Delmar Loop at night Paul Sableman / Flickr

The Pageant in the Delmar Loop at night

5. Delmar Loop: The Loop is the quintessential pride of Delmar, a vibrant commercial district filled up and down with restaurants, shops, and entertainment galore. One could easily make an entire day exploring the Loop, whether its spent buying geek crafts at Star Clipper, drinking bubble tea at St. Louis Bubble Tea, or visiting one of the many art galleries open to the public.

But the music is certainly alive and well in Delmar, from the famous memorabilia-covered walls of Blueberry Hill where rock and roller Chuck Berry calls home to the nightlife at the Pageant that has housed many a sold out show. There's also COCA - Center of Creative Arts, where Saint Louis both entertains and educates the public. And did I mention a lot of places have free Wi-Fi?

Street view of Peabody Opera House
Street view of Peabody Opera House David Herholz / Flickr

Street view of Peabody Opera House

4. Peabody Opera House: Anybody who is anybody, pardon the expression, comes to perform at the Peabody Opera House on Market Street, formerly the Kiel Opera House. Major operatic and musical companies do. Artists like Lorde, Pentatonix, and B.B. King have Peabody in their sights for upcoming dates. Comedians and musicals alike have called Peabody home for several nights on end.

What is it about the Peabody Opera House that makes it so irresistible to so many groups? It could be its long history of entertaining Saint Louis, all the way back to 1934. Then again, it could be that the Peabody is a gorgeous building inside and out with incredibly detailed golden architecture to die for and a monster stage meant for the most spectacular of scenes. One thing is for sure: when Peabody Opera House puts on a show, it always demands attention.

An Under Cover Weekend at the Firebird
An Under Cover Weekend at the Firebird Tyson Blanquart / Flickr

An Under Cover Weekend at the Firebird

3. Firebird: The Firebird on Olive Street brands itself as "Saint Louis' rock music venue", which takes some serious cajones, especially in a city where rock bands are being formed every day. Luckily, the Firebird often proves its own reputation on a regular basis, building its status as one of the places to go for a live rock show in the city. The only complaint I have is that they don't update their website often enough, but their Twitter and Facebook are active enough to excuse the dust on their home page.

There's a show practically every night at the Firebird and the tickets are maddeningly affordable. It's certainly an intimate space and the floor fills up fast, but the kinds of acts that the Firebird attracts is worth the tight fit. If it's a Saturday night and the Firebird is open, you can't go wrong stopping in and catching whatever band is on stage. Just don't throw too many wild elbows when the crowd starts moshing.

The Bottle Rockets at Off Broadway
The Bottle Rockets at Off Broadway Abby Gillardi / Flickr

The Bottle Rockets at Off Broadway

2. Off Broadway: New York City has Broadway. Saint Louis has Off Broadway. Located in Historic Cherokee Lemp District, Off Broadway proudly bills itself as the "best sound in town" according to its Twitter page, with "nobody more than 40' from the stage", promising visitors that their experience with the night's act will certainly be up close and personal. Nothing pretentious about this.

What will you find at Off Broadway? Music, music, music. There's garage rock, soul, alt country, folk, Appalachian dance, bluegrass - but above all, guitars. Loads and loads of guitars. And nearly every night at Off Broadway is a night where someone is on stage performing, so there's no dearth of live talent in Soulard. It doesn't cost much to spend a night rocking out at Off Broadway, but make sure you buy your tickets in advance; shows have a habit of selling out quickly.

Entrance to Schlafly Tap Room
Entrance to Schlafly Tap Room Matthew Hurst / Flickr

Entrance to Schlafly Tap Room

1. The Schlafly Tap Room: If one of you can think of a better live music experience in Saint Louis that combines beer and jams, let me know, because I certainly could not come up with one. Schlafly has been a local fixture for over twenty years, with its brew sold in restaurants and stores all over the area. The Tap Room on Locust Street has been open for business since 1991 and was the first brewpub to open in the state since the Prohibition era.

So what makes the Tap Room number one on this list? Besides the beer, that is? They have live shows every Friday, Saturday and Sunday night and the music is always loud and raucous. Like the Firebird, it can be quiet a close quarters affair, although the stage area for the Tap Room is relatively smaller. And the shows are free of charge! Having said that, you should probably (read: definitely) buy at least one beer and some food while you're there. It is a restaurant, after all!