Shanghai's top live music venues

Feel the beat just the way you like it at these top music venues

Photograph: courtesy Modern Sky Lab
In a city as big and lively as Shanghai, it’s easy to get paralysed by options when deciding where to go out. This is especially the case when it comes to music – an area that can get divisive. But no matter if you’re a metalhead who’s dating a jazz loyalist, Shanghai has a wealth of different venues and atmospheres to cater to your listening needs. Here are some of the best places to experience live music performances in Shanghai for anyone on the genre-spectrum.

Yuyintang

The city’s staple music dive, Yuyintang has served as a landing pad for independent artists for over a decade. With a confined standing room-only floor, the venue has a reputation for rowdiness and gigs that get up close and personal. Both established and undiscovered bands have found a home here. The venue features primarily rock, folk and metal acts but is not a purist.

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851 Kaixuan Lu

Yuyintang Park

A second, slightly bigger iteration of the long-running Shanghai livehouse, Yuyintang Park opened last summer a plectrum’s throw from Zhongshan Park. It has the same eclectic music policy of its elder sibling and a similarly cosy, community feel to the main performance area.

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1398 Yuyuan Lu

Modern Sky Lab

Modern Sky Lab, the brainchild of long-running Beijing label and festival organiser Modern Sky, is a multipurpose performance space that switches between club nights and live music gigs. The space is located on the third floor of a shopping mall – given the Modern Sky label’s commercial leanings, perhaps this is unsurprising – and the venue comes with an adjacent shop selling band merch and records. With an official capacity of 1,200, it can be hard to fill at times, but when it’s jumping, it’s an impressive space.

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188 Ruihong Lu, near Tianhong Lu

Lofas

Lofas (Life Of Fun And Sustainability) is a strangely named small-sized livehouse located near Longhua, toward the West Bund. It’s another shopping mall venue, but comes with a late-night, darkroom feel. It’s still finding its feet a little, especially since splitting with the JZ group’s On Stage brand, but if it can maintain a recent streak of strong Chinese rapper bookings it could become a regular hip hop haunt.

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230 Ruiping Lu

Heyday

This upmarket jazz lounge brings the 1930s jazz aesthetic into the 21st century with a striking vintage decor, classy cocktails and nightly jazz performances. Inside, retro and modern atmospheres bleed together in the best way; sleek blue sofas encircle a few steel tables and an immersive ground floor stage. The waiters wear tuxedos and the waitresses are dressed in traditional Chinese qipao. The cocktail menu features barrel-aged mixes that complement the music, which comes via a mix of locally based and internationally touring artists.

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50 Taian LuOnline booking

Shake

Brought to you by the same people as Heyday, Shake is another live music venue that puts as much effort into the sound and aesthetic as the food and drink. Whereas Heyday is a more sultry jazz bar, Shake is a lively funk and soul-focused joint that comes complete with a glossy ’60s-style interior. Performers are mostly Shanghai-based expats, while the venue regularly holds theme nights dedicated to certain greats (Stevie Wonder, Prince, Beyoncé) or beloved eras.

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46 Maoming Nan LuOnline booking

Harley's Underground

Located beside Xujiahui metro station, Harley’s has a long, albeit it patchy, history on Shanghai’s live music scene. Despite rumours of its impending demise (rumours that have been categorically denied by its management team), since its heavy renovation in 2016 the basement joint has been enjoying a renaissance of sorts. Half glorified sports bar, half mini-livehouse, the bookings at Harley’s can be a little erratic, but when you catch it on a good night, it’s a great place to check out local and touring Chinese bands.

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265 Nandan Dong Lu

JZ Club

One of Shanghai’s best-known live music brands – courtesy of its long-running festival – JZ brings a grandiose jazz club feel to the depths of Found 158. Large red booths, burgundy walls and soft lighting provide the infrastructure for a lavish evening – with minimum spends for certain tables to match. The space has doubled in capacity since leaving its previous location on Fuxing Lu, but it still features many of the same names from Shanghai’s jazz scene.

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158 Julu Lu

Wooden Box

If you’re looking for a laidback, cosy spot that justifies going out after a long workday, Wooden Box café near Nanjing Xi Lu is your light in the dark. An offshoot of JZ Club with a penchant for bluegrass, folk and gypsy music, you can catch live performances most days, beginning in the early evening.

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9 Qinghai Lu

MAO Livehouse

The second coming of MAO Livehouse in Shanghai, this Tianzifang-adjacent venue divides gig-goers. On the one hand, it’s a good size and convenient to get to for downtown fans; on the other the bar can be a frustrating experience and the sound quality can be patchy at best. Another venue that has an ‘eclectic’ booking policy, you could easily come across pop, electronica, disco, metal, alt-rock or folk depending on which night you turn up on. It hosts both international and domestic acts, but you’re best off checking the listings before rocking up.

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308 Chongqing Nan Lu

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