Latvians are a musical people and are often credited with regaining their independence via a ‘singing revolution’ when thousands of people demonstrated against the Soviet regime by peacefully singing patriotic songs. This is after all the land of the massive song festival held every five years where 30,000 participants sing in unison dressed in folk costumes. Latvia is the birthplace of conductor Andris Nelsons of the Boston Symphony Orchestra and opera stars Inese Galante, Elīna Garnča and Kristine Opolais as well as violinist Gidon Kremer, but also of iconic 1980s rock bands like Līvi, Pērkons and Jumprava that sang songs of freedom to a nation stuck behind the Iron Curtain. Given all this, it comes as no surprise that Riga has no shortage of live music venues, so here then are some of our favourites.
In Old Riga the logical place to start is Peldu iela, which is not only nightlife central, but also home to two great live music clubs. Folkklubs Ala Pagrabs offers free live music nearly every day of the week and you can usually hear anything from Latvian folk and world music to blues, jazz and even local rock. It also offers a great selection of Latvian food and drink. Just across the street is Trompete (The Trumpet) where, not surprisingly, you can listen to free jazz and blues music while enjoying a fine wine and refined international cuisine. In the heart of Old Riga you’ll find Moonshine, a two-story temple dedicated to rock ‘n’ roll, rockabilly and the blues. Free live music can be heard just about every evening on the ground-floor Pin Up Garage, while larger acts play the main stage upstairs (tickets can be bought at the door). You can also get your fill of American-style food like steaks and burgers as well as beers and huge, over-the-top cocktails. The nearby Egle summer terrace also offers free live music every day (May - September) on the small stage and larger free acts on its main stage (reserve a table). The alternative bar Depo also offers regular concerts by punk rock, ska and metal bands for a small fee.
There are also plenty of options in Riga’s city centre including the self-styled KKC Culture Centre is a hipster haven home to live concerts by experimental musicians, jazz acts, rappers and DJs and is a great place to see a show outdoors for only a few euros. Drinks are plentiful and snacks and salads can also be had.
Finally, there are also some great seasonal options farther afield. During the summer months you can take in free live open-air concerts at the Kalnciems Quarter on the other side of the river every Thursday evening at 19:00. Food, drink and great ambience are guaranteed. If, however, you’d like to spend time with Riga's hipsters, drop by the garden of the C.K. von Stritzky Villa for a new concert every Wednesday at 19:00 until September. Expect anything from local rock and folk to world music.