No matter your economic status, cultural background or country of residence, you probably appreciate a good tune. Indeed, few aspects of human expression are more universal than music.
The downside to music’s universality: There’s a lot of it. Everywhere. Even with a lifetime to travel, it’s hopeless to expect to cover every single musical bucket list destination on the planet. In five lifetimes, you’d still barely scratch the surface.
That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try to experience as much of the world’s musical variety as possible. If you’re willing to invest the time and money necessary, these nine musical bucket list destinations are all within your reach.
Nashville is unquestionably one of America’s best music cities. Contrary to popular belief, it’s not all about country music either.
Sure, the Grand Ole Opry exerts a gravitational pull unlike any single music landmark in the eastern half of the United States, but Nashville’s vibrant live music culture supports a gaggle of sub-genres and niche scenes—many of which have nothing to do with honky tonk.
If you seek a respite from the overproduced pop-country that saturates airwaves across America, check out Layla’s and the Station Inn, both world-class venues focusing exclusively on authentic bluegrass. June visitors should try to score tickets to the ever-popular Bonnaroo festival, held in nearby Manchester, Tennessee. And any time of year is a good time for a side trip to nearby Memphis, home to Graceland—Elvis Presley’s ancestral home.
- Dubai (Autism Rocks Arena)
Dubai is better known for soaring skyscrapers, man-made islands and impossibly glitzy malls. But its citizens are also eager to get down—at least, if you know where to look.
The city’s best place to look is arguably Autism Rocks Arena, a massive venue that attracts some of the biggest names in pop, rock and hip-hop. Sponsored by Autism Rocks, an innovative charity founded by local philanthropist Sanjay Shah, Autism Rocks Arena is currently housed in a temporary space not far from Dubai’s international airport.
When the permanent space opens in 2018, it’ll have room for more than 20,000 guests and boast a slew of family-friendly amenities. Unlike most of the other venues on this list, it’ll also support a good cause (no, “rocking” doesn’t count as a good cause). Since its inception, Autism Rocks has already raised hundreds of thousands of pounds for autism research by U.K.-based researchers.
- New Orleans
New Orleans is the beating heart of Cajun culture, a leftover from the days when the French controlled huge swathes of the American interior and used New Orleans as their warm-water port of choice. Its musical heritage couldn’t be more eclectic: Hybrid variants of traditional Cajun music, like swamp pop and Zydeco, mingle with jazz, blues and Southern hip-hop on the humid air. If you have time, take a side trip into the bayous of southern Louisiana, where the music plays much as it did two centuries ago.
London is perhaps the world’s best-rounded music city. It’s hard to choose a favourite from so many points of interest, but ever-popular Abbey Road Studios of course needs no introduction. You might have to wait your turn to goose-step your way across its namesake street as the Fab Four did all those years ago, but the indelible photographic evidence of your presence there will more than make up for the wait.
Cleveland, Ohio, is the de facto Athens of rock ’n’ roll. That’s largely due to the presence of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, a temple to the art. The Hall, as it’s known locally, does a great job of embracing the genre’s global roots. And, if you time your visit right, you might just rub shoulders with an inductee or two.
Held in an otherwise undistinguished corner of Somerset each year, Glastonbury Festival is perhaps the world’s best-known music festival. It’s five days of mayhem and magic in the muddy, druggy fields. Not for the faint of heart, perhaps, but also not to be missed by those with any claim to musical fandom.
Better known as the Motor City, Detroit was the ancestral heart of the American auto industry and remains an important industrial centre.
Less known is Detroit’s vital contribution to 20th-century popular music. Successive waves of migrants from the American South, Eastern Europe, and the Middle East brought a throng of musical influences that produced distinctive strains of jazz, garage rock and (most notably) the famous Motown sound. A good portion of the 20th century’s top R&B artists hailed from Detroit, many out of the famous Hitsville U.S.A. shop, and their imprint remains on the Motor City today.
Austin, Texas, has a convincing claim to its oft-repeated title: “live music capital of America.” It’s hard to pigeonhole an “Austin sound,” and that’s actually part of this quirky city’s charm: Spend an evening strolling down Sixth Street, Austin’s live-music epicentre (and unabashedly raucous pub district) and you’ll hear two dozen different styles of music emanating from two dozen rooftops or open-air stages.
Another nice aspect to Austin is its sheer dynamism. With all respect to certain indispensable American music cities that have seen better days (see: Detroit, Cleveland), Austin is enjoying a decade-long boom fueled by the region’s vital tech and consumer staples industries. You’re just as likely to visit Austin for business as for pleasure, giving the lie to the city’s semi-official slogan, “Keep Austin weird.”
- Las Vegas
One might scoff at the idea of visiting Las Vegas to absorb true musical culture—indeed, the city heaps a healthy dose of glitz and inauthenticity on virtually everything it does.
But it’s also incontrovertible that Las Vegas attracts some of the world’s biggest musical acts—no matter when you visit, you’re likely to encounter someone with a platinum record. And, for electronic music fans, there’s no bigger ticket than the annual Electric Daisy Carnival, the world’s largest EDM dance party.