10 Dubai places to catch live music
“Where can I catch live music?” is one of the more commonly asked questions for newcomers to Dubai. For too long the answer was to wait for the latest megagroup to stop by en route to Asia or Australia and pay several hundred dirhams for a patch of grass 75 yards from the front of the stage. As Dubai has grown, however, so has the array of places where bands have been given the opportunity to perform – both covers of classics and their own material. Here are a few options with enough variation to cater to the varied tastes of this vibrant city.
Jazz @ Pizza Express
Where: Laguna tower, Jumeirah Lakes Towers
Which kind of music? Jazz
This list kicks off with one of Dubai’s newest live music venues. Already a well-known restaurant chain, Pizza Express added a Jazz club to deliver live music most nights of the week. Some of the highlights include the week-ending Thursday sessions, resident band The Afif Brothers on Fridays and an open mic night every Tuesday. Following on from the brand’s Soho roots, this venue really hits the right notes with a retro decor that suits its underground location.
Hard Rock Cafe
Where: Festival Boulevard, Festival City
Which kind of music? Rock, pop
What began as a Sheikh Zayed Road landmark in the mid-1990s, Hard Rock Café has since relocated to Festival City and retains the loud and lively atmosphere – this is a place for bawdy fun for post-work drinks. The music here boasts one unique feature – you can sing for your supper. If you’re feeling confident enough, take to the stage and take up the mic, and if enough people enjoy you (or feel sorry for you,) your dinner is free.
Where: Dubai World Trade Centre
Which kind of music? Blues, jazz
The Blue Bar is a haven for aficionados of jazz, and every Monday Salha fronts her band for some superior standards that suits the smoky but subtle ambience. The bar itself offers cigars and a choice of whiskeys that can almost make you believe you’re in an entirely different city. The happy hour’s not bad either.
Where: Bonnington (Jumeirah Lakes Towers) and DWTC
Which kind of music? Rock, pop, folk
The second Irish themed pub on the list is fully based around the best of the food, sport and music that the Emerald Isle has to offer. The ingredients are largely the same: simple but well-cooked and hearty food, a great atmosphere and a regular array of outstanding bands – and even stand-up comedy. Irish band Picturehouse recently played at all three McGettigans in the UAE.
Crown and Lion
Where: Byblos Hotel, Tecom
Which kind of music? Contemporary, covers
There probably isn’t a more British experience to be found anywhere in Dubai. Sport on TV, authentic pub grub, dartboards and a clientele that might have just parachuted in from an outer suburb of London, it has become an fabulously unpolished expat haven. Most nights now have an accomplished live band, the latest incarnation of which trots out a decent selection of contemporary covers and the odd face-melting rock classic.
Where: Majestic Hotel, Bur Dubai
Which kind of music? Varied
Another long standing Dubai favourite, the Music Room offers an eclectic variety of bands performing throughout the week. If you’ve ever picked up a guitar in Dubai, there’s a strong chance to taken to the stage here, playing to a lively crowd well oiled by the three-hour happy hour. Good value, great fun.
Where: Le Meridien Mina Seyahi Beach Resort
Which kind of music? Crowd Pleasing
Probably the first place you’ll hear about in any nightlife conversation involving Dubai, Barasti describes itself as “having it all” – a tagline that might not be as hyperbolic as it first seems. Undoubtedly boasting one of the best locations in Dubai, the range of locations within Barasti itself makes it a favourite for both residents and tourists. The Thursday night music here caters to the crowd – songs to make you dance, sing and stay for another round.
Where: Ramee Rose Hotel, Tecom
Which kind of music? Rock based, classics
If there is a place that divides opinions as much as Rock Bottom, we are yet to find it. What can’t be argued, though, is this institution’s commitment to live music, with a variety of bands pumping out superior bar-room fare to get everyone on the dancefloor. Drinks can be ordered from the dance floor, and although you never know whether entrance will be free or AED100, if you want a no frills laugh with your friends, this could just be the place.
Where: Novotel, Barsha
Which kind of music? Jazz
As the name suggests, Southern American specialties are served up en masse at Cravin’ Cajun. From Louisiana crab cakes to chicken waffles, which I can verify as authentic having lived in Georgia, the menu sticks to what it knows best and does it well. The music here is just as authentic. Smooth jazz and American standards from the house band make up the roster, delivering a musical accompaniment every bit as smoky as the barbecue sauce.