A Guide to Live Music in Belfast
Moving to Belfast? Wondering where you’re going to get your fix of gigs? Look no further as Fourth year student Kathryn shares her guide to Belfast’s music scene.
Named a UNESCO City of Music in 2021, Belfast has long been making its name as a place where music artists can grow and thrive. From your international faves selling packed-out shows, to the intimate pub gigs, or the next big thing, the city has it all. I’ve attended my fair share of concerts around the city, and find Belfast to be a fun and safe place for great, music filled nights out! Starting small and getting bigger, here’s what to expect.
Many of the student bars in the area have a great line-up of music acts throughout the week, as well as fun events. The Jeggy Nettle, located on Stranmillis, is a casual local pub with talented acts performing from 10pm every evening (expect for Tuesdays, which is Quiz night.) Regular acts include student band the Firestarters, and mellow acoustic performers.
For something more traditional, be sure to check out The Points on your way down into the city centre, where they host traditional Irish music 7 nights a week! Talented local acts make a lively and fun soundtrack to a pint with friends here, and be sure to catch their Irish dancers on the weekend. The Points is also the perfect place to get involved with music yourself, running free Bodhran (an Irish drum) lessons on a Tuesday night.
Kathryn and her friend Sarah
At long last, the reopening of Belfast’s favourite student music venue is upon us. Located in the new One Elmwood Student Centre and Students’ Union, Mandela Hall is about to take on a whole new chapter in its history as a music institution. In the past, notable acts performing have included Radiohead, Mumford and Sons, Ed Sheeran U2, and more.
With the doors reopening, Belfast is being treated to acts such as Kevin McAleer’s comedy show and local-buskers-turned-everyone’s-favourite cover band Anna’s Number. As a plus, it’s a venue that is super easy to access when you live in the university area- safe to say I’m counting down the days until I get to return.
Empire Music Hall
Also close to campus with its location on Botanic Avenue, the Empire Music Hall is a great place which showcases the talent of local artists, as well as holding its well known comedy night, The Empire Laughs Back. I’ve been to see one of my favourite Irish bands, The Academic, on tour here and think it’s a great size of venue- intimate, but with enough people that there is a buzz about the place. Upcoming acts this term include everything from country singer Russell Dickerson to pop rock band Beach Bunny - so truly something for everyone!
A popular nightclub as well as concert venue, Limelight 1 can hold up to 1000 people for a gig- making it a popular place to perform. Recent acts have included such as Sigala, Kevin Hart, Scouting for Girls and more. Limelight is the perfect place to dance the night away to your favourite band, and often a ticket to the show allows you into the nightclub after, to keep that concert high going.
With a busy autumn line up already including acts like folk duo Hudson Taylor, indie band Wet Leg and Janet Devlin, Limelight continues to prove that it's one of the best nights out in Belfast, for music and beyond.
With an always varied concert line up stretching from orchestras to rock bands (did you know Led Zeppelin played Stairway to Heaven for the first time ever in this venue?), the Ulster Hall has been a part of Belfast’s music scene for 150 years.
I have fond memories of queueing up to see my favourite pop punk band All Time Low from as young as 14, and the concert venue has grown up alongside me, now hosting acts like Mitski, Passenger and Beabadoobee. The ever-impressive Ulster Orchestra also host regular concerts here, which are well worth a night out!
Does anything beat that feeling of getting tickets for a top gig?
With a capacity of 10,000, the SSE Arena is Belfast’s biggest concert venue, and welcomes huge crowds in to see international acts perform. This venue always provides an amazing atmosphere, full of fans screaming along the lyrics to acts like the 1975 or 5 Seconds of summer.
Notable upcoming performances include George Ezra, The Vamps, Westlife and even Elton John. Or if concerts aren’t your thing? The Belfast Giants play regular matches when the arena floor becomes an ice hockey rink, which makes for a night of wholesome fun.
The SSE Arena is Belfast's biggest indoor venue
Lastly, thousands flock each summer to Belfast’s outdoor music festivals. For the past several years, Belsonic, running in Ormeau Park each June, has attracted big name stars for electric outdoor concerts- the line-up this year including Picture This, Dermot Kennedy, Iron Maiden and Calvin Harris. Come rain or shine, these concerts are often a highlight of Belfast’s gig line up, marking the true beginning of summer in the city.
Belsonic is a fantastic outdoor festival attracting international stars
The summer festival scene also expanded this summer, with a series of concerts held in Botanic Gardens, where fans flocked to this new venue for performances from Tom Jones and James Blunt. Keep your eyes peeled for announcements on the 2023 line-ups!
Truly, there is music everywhere you look in Belfast- and with the combination of being only a short journey away from big music venues in Dublin as well, us music-lovers will never be short of gigs to attend during our university years.
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Medicine| Undergraduate Student | Lisburn, NI
I’m a 21 year old student originally from Lisburn and starting my fourth year of Medicine at Queen's in September- I love my degree because its combines caring for people, learning fascinating things and working as a team. When I’m not busy surviving placement and exams, you can find me in one of Belfast’s great coffee shops with a friend, going to concerts to get my fix of live music, or curling up to read a book with a carefully curated Spotify playlist on in the background!