Small Venues Define our Local Music Scene

By Carlee Griffin


I spent my teenagers years all over Bradenton, Sarasota, St. Petersburg, and even Tampa just trying to catch the next show. I, like so many others, grew up in small music venues all over my little Floridian hometown stretch. Going to a show meant an opportunity to discover new subcultures, make new friends, and hear something completely new and exciting. The music business is absolutely thriving, but it’s still difficult to find a dedicated venue in our area.

Small music venues and clubs are essential for musicians and the surrounding community alike. Having a dedicated space for music allows for artists to truly hone their craft. Playing live for one's own peers is a crucial step in fine-tuning performance and style before hitting big stages and playing for the masses. It’s in these small to mid-sized performance spaces that artists and fans connect in the most genuine and meaningful of ways. Big name music festivals and superdome shows will always have their place, but for me? Nothing beats being up close and personal.

Here in the Bradenton + SRQ area, there is a significant lack of spots to check out new music. Despite a steady increase in population and tourism, our town has watched stage after stage shut down. Classic spots like Aces and Kelly’s Live have unceremoniously boarded up their doors. This isn’t a problem unique to our town, either - our neighbors on the 600 block of St. Petersburg know all too well how fast a whole subculture can be priced out of their home base. It’s becoming clear just how crucial it is to cultivate and support live music right here in our backyard.

Fortunately, today brings some especially good news for the small to mid sized venue scene: Joyland is reopening this Saturday on February 9th! Joyland has been a long time contributor to the musical heritage of Bradenton. Over the last 20+ years, they have maintained a place for country musicians from near and wide to come perform for us in the Manatee area. Joyland perfectly represents a venue that caters to the fans and musical talents alike.

So, what can we as live music listeners do to support our scene? It may seem obvious but the best way to ensure that local music stays thriving is to go to a show! There are still a few great opportunities to check out the next big thing here in town. Bars and beach houses alike - such as Decoy Ducks on Anna Maria Island and McCabe’s in Downtown Bradenton- have done us a great service by letting bands set up and jam all night. The city has made it clear they support the arts by building the Riverwalk Pavilion and allowing great events like Main Street Live in downtown Bradenton and Music on Main in Lakewood Ranch. It’s a smart move on our city’s part - these venues increase city branding, foster a proud community identity, and boost our local economy. Cities with solid music scenes often attract tourist and make the area more residentially appealing.

We here at Indie Jones have dedicated ourselves to helping our music community grow and find new spaces to bring fresh music to our community. We love to see a band booked at a venue of any size, but we hold a special place in our hearts for the small stages. That’s why we focus so much on bringing you music wherever we can. Check out our events here to see what's coming up right here in your town!

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