I've recently noticed a lot of new places have opened offering live music in Pretoria. Many of the regular places had become stale with the same 6 bands playing in a loop from one to the next. Many local musicians, myself included, had felt that the alternative music scene was ultimately doomed with some of the most successful bands, some with 20 years experience, playing the same dirty bar venue as the garage band that started last weekend.
I'm quite grateful for the year away from Pretoria, perhaps when you're surrounded by the familiar all the time it's hard to notice all the amazing things emerging in your city. Yesterday I was lucky enough to visit Thrashers Skate Park, an iconic venue for music and skateboarding in South Africa since 1996. This place is full of history and legendary stories, some including those successful artists and how this was a starting venue for them once upon a time. Apparently it was even part of a church's grounds before returning to roots fully refurbished.
I'm returning now to enjoy the music scene with a fresh set of eyes, a fresh set of people and if you're looking for some awesome places that are about the music more than the party I have some ideas for you.
One of the best places in Pretoria hands down. If you love theatre and classical music this places is a gem. Always something going on and they do allow solo artists and some bands to play here too if it would interest their audience. Not too many people know about this one although recently it has grown in popularity. They often have international musicians visit and it's definitely worth booking a ticket to see a show here for any special occasion.
Another venue that's a little more upmarket. This is usually a restaurant with the occasional live performance. I've heard they've had some really popular musicians feature an evening here but even special events such as Christmas or Valentine's Day have live music usually in the acoustic and adult contemporary vein.
One of the best places in Gauteng for larger, outdoor concerts or festivals. Recently watched Seether perform here and it was big enough for a larger, professional stage set-up and all the regular stalls. I can't attest for the bathrooms here though as I didn't even see them. However this is a popular park in Johannesburg for families and many of the concerts here, although more rock or metal, are family friendly and during the daytime. It's a great venue to here these great South African acts outside of a dark, dingy, crowded bar.
Pretoria Botanical Gardens
A special venue in Pretoria. There is often a big crowd that attends the show here. Again this is a family-friendly daytime venue to enjoy the music in the beautiful weather of South Africa. I've attended international shows here with amazing crowd-artist interaction as well as larger South African rock shows with a smaller set-up but similar atmosphere. Very intimate but also a great venue to explore as there are bathrooms, a restaurant and of course, the exquisite gardens themselves.
Rumours Rock City
The only bar-type venue on this list, Rumours lounge used to be a terrible venue with sound issues, multiple weird stages, cliquey crowds and it felt more like every other crummy venue to feature live music. It's recently undergone massive renovations and featured some amazing acts in the last two years. I have yet to visit to experience the atmosphere but I have heard nothing but good things and they don't just feature the same types of music or bands over and over, which is saying something.
For now these are the alternative music venues in and around Pretoria and Johannesburg. All the venues feature a wide variety of music and a friendly atmosphere. Each venue attracts a different type of audience but most of them are family friendly apart from Rumours which I still believe is 18 and over. Concerts or evenings at all of the venues vary greatly in price and so does the kind of food, drinks or vibe you will get so I recommend checking all of them out and getting immersed in all of the wonderful local music.