Top five places to see live music for free in Glasgow

As the UK’s first UNESCO City of Music, it’s easy to stumble upon the sounds of the city at one of the many pubs and venues which offer live music - for free! - every day of the week.

And when it comes to traditional music in Scotland, Donald Shaw is one of the country’s best known artists. A founding member of the Celtic supergroup Capercaillie and Creative Producer of Glasgow’s acclaimed annual folk, roots and world music festival - Celtic Connections - Donald has dedicated his life to music.


Donald Shaw

13 Jan 2020
10 minute read

Here, we share Donald's top five favourite places to see live music for free in Glasgow.

1. The Ben Nevis Bar

Music Session at the Ben Nevis BarTraditional Music Session at The Ben Nevis Bar

For the past 20 years, The Ben Nevis Bar in Finnieston has been a real hub for traditional music in Glasgow – hosting live music sessions every Wednesday, Thursday and Sunday night from 9pm onwards. Often the musicians include students from the highly praised Traditional Music course at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland along with prominent musicians from the touring scene. Treacherous Orchestra, the cross-over folk fusion band, came together from sessions at this bar and now regularly perform sold-out shows during Celtic Connections.

Often affectionately referred to as ‘The Ben’, get yourself along and enjoy some great music – all for the price of a pint!

2. Machair

Machair – meaning a grassy coastal plain in Scottish Gaelic – is a new session bar on Great Western Road that is (for now!) a bit off the beaten track. The music on offer is likely to be more reflective with musicians exploring old-time Americana music and folk song. It’s also a great spot to support emerging talent in the traditional music scene.

3. The Hebridean

If you’re looking for some live music on a Thursday or Friday night, head to The Hebridean in the west of the city for some great traditional tunes in a cosy pub atmosphere. Owned by Chef Nico Simeone (of Six by Nico and 111 by Nico), this pub-come-restaurant also offers a tasty looking menu.

4. BLOC+

BLOC+ is a favoured bar in the city centre – it’s a down-to-earth, independent venue, which also runs its very own small record label. They host free, live music seven nights a week across a range of musical genres – including everything from DJs to rock.

Monday nights are a particular favourite of Donald's, with performances of acoustic tunes from talented singer-songwriters.

5. Danny Kyle Open Stage

Danny Kyle Open Stage at Celtic ConnectionsDanny Kyle Open Stage. Image credit: Celtic Connections

Every year throughout Celtic Connections, new musical talent is given a platform during the Danny Kyle Open Stage at the Glasgow Royal Concert Hall. A free event which takes place almost daily throughout the festival, it’s a great way to discover and support future stars of the traditional music world. In fact, artists such as Karine Polwart and RURA performed here when they were first starting out.

It’s named after Scottish folk singer Danny Kyle, who was a passionate supporter of traditional music. The Danny Kyle Open Stage showcase concert takes place on the final night of the festival, selecting six of the best acts from all the emerging talent to have the chance to play at Celtic Connections the following year.

Celtic Connections 2020 takes place from January 16 – February 2, with the Danny Kyle Open Stage at 5pm daily from January 19. 


So there you have it, five places to enjoy live music in Glasgow for free the next time you’re here. Why not discover more about the city’s music scene, or plan your visit to this year’s Celtic Connections festival.