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RVA Music

The five best places to see music for free in Richmond


by Kate Vinnedge

Photo by Will Fisher


Richmond is undoubtedly burgeoning with amazing music venues and equally fantastic musicians, groups, and bands to play in them. It’s always the highlight of your week to see someone play at venues like The Camel, The Broadberry, or The National, but sometimes, we’ve spent what would pay the cover charge on a handful of King of Pops earlier that day, or we just want to save some cash.

There are a bunch of places in Richmond that offer great listening experiences with great amenities, and as an added bonus, they’re free. Here are the top (in no particular order) 5.

Champion Brewing RVA

As someone who used to spend a lot of time attempting to get out of downtown during rush hour, I only just visited Champion Brewing for the first time a couple months ago to see a free show featuring Night Idea, Colin Phils, Alright, and Deer Eat Birds.

It’s a great spot - right in the center of everything at 401 E. Grace, its two story windows and three story ceiling harken to the architecture of gothic cathedrals - but the clean and modern lines provide an invigorating atmosphere, and the beer is the direct opposite of something to spit at. The second story indoor balcony breaks up the sound, creating much better acoustics than you’d expect from a space replete with hard surfaces, and the stage is the perfect size and height to give that intimate feel unachievable in larger venues.

Hardywood Park Craft Brewery

If it’s summer (or spring, or fall), and it’s Thursday night, it’s Hardywood Food Truck Night. Not only does this event have the delicious offerings of Arroz and Gelati Celesti (to name a few, sorry to everyone I left out! There’s just too many to list!) but quite often, will host a band or two to serenade the crowd with live music.

I’ve been to a lot of Hardywood’s Food Truck Nights, and I’m always pleasantly surprised by the variation of genres that will play here - everything from folk to metal.

Cary St. Cafe - Monday Nights

A staple of the Fan since 1995, Cary St. Cafe has live music every night. They serve every meal of the day until almost two in the morning, and have free shows every Monday night. From jam bands to bluegrass and burgers to pizza, this place caters to a wide range of tastes - both for your palate and ears. 

Garden Grove

Garden Grove Brewing and Urban Winery is another Cary Street gem - this time smack dab in the middle of Carytown. Offering a wide array of events from trivia and comedy to game nights and live music, Garden Grove hosts a wonderful selection of brews and wine in a modern-but-retro, urban-but-rustic setting created from a mix of reclaimed wood and stark corrugated metal.

If you’re looking for something to do March 2nd, Garden grove is hosting Space Koy, Evan Button, and Rocksteady for free. Make sure to check out their events, there’s something new going on almost every single night!

Gallery 5

At the edge of Jackson Ward and Broad Street is Gallery 5 - a favorite spot of mine to visit on First Fridays. As a repurposed and renovated old school firehouse, the building itself is actually very conducive to crowds - and the airy gallery with lofty ceilings upstairs can be a great reprieve from the classic dark and crowded music venue bar combo that Richmonders know and love.

I haven’t been to a single First Friday and not stopped by Gallery 5 - and every time, there’s live music.


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