Pump up the volume!
Hey music lover - there's loads of great gig venues in Oxon and Bucks. You're never to old to bumrush the moshpit after all. You ready?
Sometimes turning the SONOS up to 11 just doesn’t cut it. If you’re craving live music, here’s the Muddy edit of the best gig venues in our locale, covering everything from jazz to folk to to pop to indie rock and beyond. I didn’t have space to include every pub with a PA system but if I’ve missed anywhere especially rocking, do let me know in the comment box below. See you down the front!
Muddy’s top pick – Sandy’s Piano Bar, Oxford
Jazz hands at the ready! Bringing some old-school glamour to Oxford’s bar scene, Sandy’s combines killer cocktails with a truly grown-up, twinkling, late-night atmosphere, thanks to the grand piano that’s in action every day, dominating the lower ground floor of this cosy venue. A roll-call of talented musicians, be they the house band or special guests, will play your requests. Or you can simply order yourself another champagne cocktail from the knowledgeable bar staff and soak up the atmosphere. As well as one of the best cocktail selections in the city, there’s also an impressive wine list and generous sharing platters of cold meat, olives and delicious gooey cheese to soak up all that booze. Try not to plan too much for the following morning as Sandy’s is difficult to leave – it’s the kind of place you fall out of at 2am. Author Clover Stroud
Spin Jazz, Oxford
More Oxford jazz? You got it. Spin Jazz is atmospheric– think alleyway entrance off the high street and candlelit tables and was voted ‘Best UK Live Jazz’ in the 2012 Parliamentary Jazz Awards. The last time I went there, Nigel Kennedy was playing a secret late night gig, giving it some Hendrix on his violin, so they really do pull in the big names. It was one of the best gigs of my life, never seen anything like it! Muddy Founder, Hero Brown
O2 Academy, Oxford
It’s a corporate behemoth these days but Muddy’s Kerry spent her teenage years hanging around this legendary (and in those days legendarily grubby) Oxford indie venue, known variously as The Co-Op Hall, The Venue and The Zodiac. Local rock gods Radiohead filmed the video for Creep here and later paid for a refurbishment programme and the bookings today are still resolutely indie rock, with both Nineties’ heritage bands and new hotshots. Dead Kennedys, Gomez, Villagers, Courtney Barnett, Gruff Rhys and Cast are all plugging in the coming months. Associate Editor Kerry Potter
Also worth checking out…
The Stables, Wavendon, Milton Keynes
Jazz genius Dame Cleo Laine and her late husband Sir John Dankworth created The Stables in the outbuildings on their rural property with a vision to engage the widest range of people with music in all its diversity, including pop, rock, jazz, classical and roots. How lovely is that? The main auditorium is intimate, seating less than 500 people, with imminent bookings including The Levellers, The Drifters, Joan Armatrading, Eliza Carthy and Newton Faulkner.
Dukes, Princes Risborough, Bucks
This cute little wine bar punches above its weight when it comes to live music, with shows on Thurs, Fri and Sat nights. Soundtrack your Sauvignon sipping with blues, country or folk, either in the cosy bar or outside in the courtyard. Keep an eye on their Insta for details.
Dukes, Aylesbury, Bucks
Not to be confused with Dukes in Risborough, this is one of the market town’s few live music venues. Use it or lose it, I say. There’s a mix of DJ nights (heavy on ska, soul and rare groove), tribute bands (Wrong Jovi deserve a Grammy for that name), aspiring local student musicians and original touring live acts. There’s a huge mix of genres so something for everyone.
Also Known As, Banbury, Oxon
A little hidden gem for you in Banbury. I’ve heard great things on the grapevine about this little lounge bar and music venue. The owner is a former furniture designer, which explains the quirky interior (think old wardrobes as doors and and rowing boat seating). The venue has great style and its stage has been graced by the likes of The Hoosiers, Jess Glynne and a mix of up-and-coming talent. Friday nights is live music night – check their Facebook page for details.
Claytons Marlow, Bucks
This former Muddy Award winner for Best Bar is known for its brilliant club nights, with such DJ luminaries as Norman Jay regularly in the house. They also do live music on a Thursday. Soul and jazz outfit The Chameleon Band are on stage next Thursdays, with acoustic folk singer Holly Morwenna on 19 July. And free entry means more money for booze!
The Botanist, Marlow, Bucks
More Marlow music? No problem – once you’ve done Claytons you can then head down to The Botanist. The town centre chichi cocktail bar puts on live music every darn day, usually acoustic and low-key so you can still easily chat over Aperol spritzes. There’s a live music bingo night the last Sunday of every month and a musical soundtrack to the Bottomless Brunch at weekends.