We get it. You're the sort of fan for whom music ended with Sinatra. But that doesn't mean you can't have a good night on the town. The Treasure Valley is home to plenty of swanky joints that serve tunes as sweet and smooth as martinis.
The downtown crowd can hit up Chandlers Steakhouse (981 W. Grove St., Boise) and partake in first-class eats, candles, white tablecloths and swinging tunes seven nights a week. The bar has a rotating cast of house musicians like Kevin Kirk, Sally Tibbs and Steve Eaton but also features touring jazz players sitting in for the night or doing temporary residencies.
If downtowners want someplace a little more dressed down, they can hit up Pengilly's Saloon (513 W. Main St., Boise), where the old–timey style of the bar and one-foot stage give the weekly jazz session the feel of seeing music in your living room. More than just jazz, Pengilly's also features acoustic and old-timey music, as well as a wide selection of fine cocktails.
Getting out of downtown, twice-weekly blues jams are held just two exits up the freeway at Jo's Sunshine Lounge (1115 N. Curtis Road, Boise), perhaps the most ironically named joint in Boise. Besides the open-stage nights organized by the Boise Blues Society, Jo's features live blues every night it's open.
A little further out, the Blue Door Cafe (3300 W. State St., Eagle) features world-class jazz six nights a week in a large revue-style club atmosphere. The house band, The Blue Door Four, includes two Grammy-nominated artists and a rotating cast of touring soloists. The Blue Door also serves a full menu and is the only local venue where junior jazzkateers are welcome to listen or play.
With all those venues to choose from, the fedora-capped and spat-shod cool cats have no reason to be glum and every reason to be blue.
Cool kids who gripe that a geographically isolated B-sized market like Boise isn't the place to see buzz-bin worthy tunes from fancy-lads and ladies with creative haircuts are dead wrong. To get from bigger markets like Denver or Salt Lake City to the oh-so-fashionable West Coast, those fancy-bands gotta stop here for gas, and unless they're planning on hocking their vintage keytars, that means they'll probably be playing a show to pay for it.
The most likely place to see a band like that in its natural habitat is Boise's longest-running alt-rock venue: Neurolux (111 N. 11th St., Boise). It's a dark, smoky, hipster cave where the drinks are as strong as the regulars' opinions on music, and the walls are as black as their lungs. Rock the jukebox, play some ping pong and catch live sets from some of the best local and national rock bands on the club circuit before everyone finds out who they are and you'll have to pay $50 to see them in a stadium.
Thirsty bohemians out for a night on the town would do well to stop by The Red Room (1519 W. Main St., Boise). The space was originally the legendary Crazy Horse, a stage that's hosted bands like Nirvana and Green Day before anyone cared who they were. Recently redecorated with dark red walls and a large selection of velvet paintings, The Red Room now hosts too wide a variety of live music to catalog, as well as renegade art galleries, burlesque shows and karaoke with a live house band.
Though it serves only beer and wine and it lacks the fog of cigarette smoke, tunes that kill with their cutting edge can also be found at Visual Arts Collective (3638 Osage St., Garden City). It's a large converted warehouse multi-use gallery and performance space in Garden City. The lighting is good, the sound is great and in between bands, you can check out the rotating selection of art on the walls. The space also hosts independent theater performances and occasionally functions as a micro-cinema, showing a selection of cult classics and underground masterpieces.
Downtown and down tempo is Reef (105 S. Sixth St., Boise), a second-story tiki lounge with a rooftop bar that features a wide selection of touring and local musicians, spanning genres from acoustic, world and lounge to some of the biggest names in underground hip-hop.
However those are all bars. Kids and undergrads looking to expand their musical horizons are out of luck unless they head down to the Record Exchange (1105 W. Idaho St., Boise) to catch one of its regular afternoon in-store performances, which are generally from bands scheduled to play a bigger venue that night. Check the band, get them to sign your record, and if you're old enough, buy a ticket for the full show that night. If not, Neurolux has some great oversized front windows.
Fortunately, the underage crowd has yet another outlet for live music, The Venue (523 W. Broad St., Boise), Boise's only alcohol-free rock venue. The mid-sized club space shares a building with Boise Weekly, sports a large stage and dance floor, and generally hosts the sorts of hardcore and screamo bands that inspire kids to pick up guitars and their parents to plug their ears. It's also the best place to see underage rockers honing their skills.
With that many choices for hip new tunes, the only Boiseans who can't see great music are the ones who straight up refuse.
Joe Six Pack
If it isn't obvious by the plethora of shirtless dudes on motorcycles, Boise is a town that knows how to rock. And that means there's no shortage of joints where the music is loud and the whisky is cheap.
Without doubt the loudest venue in Boise is the Knitting Factory (416 S. Ninth St., Boise). With a capacity of nearly 1,000 and a booking network that brings in everyone from up-and-coming bands to legendary artists like The Smashing Pumpkins and Glenn Danzig, the ballroom-sized space in BODO is Boise's marquis venue. Though it features two bars, most shows are all-ages.
Classing it up a little bit is The Bouquet (1010 W. Main St., Boise), a large, hardwood saloon that looks straight out of the Old West. The large stage and dance floor feature local and national rock and Americana acts in an atmosphere that feels classy without being pretentious.
For those who want things a little more eclectic, there's Liquid Lounge (405 S. Eighth St., Ste. 110, Boise) in BODO. Across the alley from Knitting Factory, Liquid is decorated in neon and sheet metal, featuring cheap drinks and live music from local reggae and jam bands. It's also the home of Punk Mondays. There's never a cover but always a hangover.
For rockers who want things a little more working class, there's Tom Grainey's (109 S. Sixth St., Boise), a high-ceilinged no-BS pub. It features a mid-sized stage on the main floor for bands to rock on weekdays. It's loud, in your face and most importantly: cheap. But on weekends, a second bar and performance space opens downstairs that apes the sweaty anarchy of a basement show every weekend with live music from local and touring bands.
The Sixth and Main area is still a scene though and not everyone is into it. Rockers still have options with The Shredder (430 S. 10th St., Boise). The converted warehouse catty-corner across Myrtle Street from BODO features a skateboard ramp, old-skool video games and some of the loudest music on planet Earth. It's the place to see metal, hardcore and punk acts from all over the valley and the world.
So if you're looking for a motorcycle destination, you have plenty of choices. A word of warning though: You may not need a shirt to ride but you will need one to go inside.