How to See a Concert in Seattle When You’re Under 21
An underage person's guide to going out in the city 🎸
July 18, 2022
Seattle has a reputation for its music. (You know grunge? Gen X won’t let you forget it.) The city is blessed by a historic music scene and venues like Neumos and The Showbox, but so many of the city’s shows are restricted to people 21 and older. Which can fucking suck for underage music fans. This is true for bands, too. Getting booked as a young artist can be tricky. You can sometimes play 21+ venues, but you can’t go to your own show. (Some notable young folks killing it in the scene: THEM, Mr. Dinkles, Mirabai Kukathas, Teen Vamp Army, Talaya., and so many more.)
But! BUT! As someone who’s not 21 and has gone to live music shows around Seattle since I was 14, I’m here to confirm you can still see the best bands even when you can’t legally drink.
Here’s a quick guide to some of Seattle’s venues that regularly host all-ages shows. Read it, study it, then go witness your fav artist dazzle.
The Vera Project
305 Harrison St
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The Vera Project has a policy of “Always All Ages.” Created in 2001 despite Seattle’s “draconian” teen dance ordinance, this venue has grown from a DIY space to a venerable institution with a long-standing history of prioritizing young voices in Seattle. It’s moved locations a couple of times but landed in its current home in Seattle Center about fifteen years ago.
There are tons of shows at the Vera Project—from touring punk bands like Destroy Boys and Mannequin Pussy to the melodic indie rock of Horse Jumper of Love to comedy shows like Risk! The mix is eclectic. You can watch a local musician play their first show or see indie icons like Sloppy Jane. Vera hosts lots of community events and committees, and its space has a screenprinting studio, an art gallery, and a recording studio. They currently host Ground Zero Radio in their recording studio and always have opportunities and programs to get involved in. They even have a zine library open to the public.
Looking to volunteer? Please do! Be a part of the musical glue that holds this scene together. When you volunteer at Vera, the staff emphasizes having you involved in the show’s run. Go to a volunteer orientation and fill out an application.
427 Eastlake Ave E
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This iconic DIY venue, known for its “ask a punk to find out the details” vibe, has been taken over by the Vera Project, which sounds good for all involved.
The Black Lodge has been around since 2008 and was one of Seattle’s best venues to see a grimy, trashy punk show. During the pandemic, the venue struggled to keep its finances afloat, and that’s when the Vera Project stepped in. They’re ensuring that the building is up to safety codes, including installing a second emergency exit, a new sound system, and creating free to low-cost practice spaces for community members. Expect it to reopen sometime in winter 2022. The moment it does, chances are you’ll see me bumping heads with someone in a sweaty mosh pit. Come say hi and open up the pit!
1510 11th Ave
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This popular space opened in 2004 as Lucky Dog Espresso and over the years changed its name to Cafe Racer and moved to its current location in Capitol Hill after being located in Roosevelt.
Racer opened its doors back up to the public in 2021 in its new two-story Capitol Hill space previously occupied by Barça. Going into the building, you can tell the space was made for Racer. It’s big but cozy, centrally located, and they have portraits of artists on the walls. They also host a radio station! Cafe Racer Radio spotlights new and notable Seattle artists like Parisalexa and Aj Suede.
The venue is generally great for all ages music, but one thing to know is that at 10 pm they have to kick out all underage people. While that’s a bummer, on the bright side they serve a mean grilled cheese.
Fremont Abbey Arts
4272 Fremont Ave N
Fremont Abbey Arts began in 2005, hosting a couple of little shows each month. Now, they host hundreds of events every year. Their main location is housed in a Fremont church built in 1914, but unlike the Supreme Court, they have a very strong separation of religion within their organization. They also hold shows at St Mark’s Episcopal Cathedral on Capitol Hill, Ballard Homestead, Washington Hall, and The Auditorium.
Most of Fremont Abbey’s shows are seated, providing a much calmer vibe than the previous venues. Some notable artists who have performed at the space include Maya Marie, Mary Lambert, Cloud Cult, and, like, a very long list of other artists. The organization is always open to volunteers (applications here), and they don’t turn people away due to lack of funds.
Skylark Cafe & Club
3803 Delridge Way SW
Punk music at a cafe? It happens at the Skylark Cafe.
Back in 2021, I saw Mr. Dinkles, Queen Chimera, and King Sheim play here. I saw a lot of kids get introduced to a good old-fashioned mosh pit at this show. It was fucking great. The crowd was packed and waiting to get their energy out by becoming one with the pit. West Seattle may have gotten its bridge taken away, but its musical spirit is alive and thriving.
A bonus: You can also get some great bar food here. They have fresh house-made pickles, and their Philly Cheesesteak melts in your mouth. I’m told it’s all cooked from scratch. They also have a variety of smoked meats available just for you. They also have engineering services available and a list of band promotional resources (here).
This venue is also all ages until 10 pm, just like Cafe Racer.
Also Check Out
Lots of Seattle venues are sometimes all ages, such as:
📍 The Crocodile: 2505 1st Ave
📍 Madame Lou’s: 2505 1st Ave
📍 Neumos: 925 E Pike St
📍 Showbox: 1426 1st Ave + 1700 1st Ave S
📍 WaMu: 800 Occidental Ave S
📍 The Neptune: 1303 NE 45th St
📍 The Paramount: 911 Pine St
📍 The Moore: 1932 2nd Ave
Tons of shows happen at record stores such as Georgetown Records, under bridges, at skateparks, at people’s houses, and anywhere else you could think of. Without spaces like these, I would not be the insufferable music nerd I am today.
Sofia writes about music, art, and vintage fashion for publications around Seattle. They are the co-founder of the Ra Ra Rebel zine and play shows around town with their riot grrrl band.