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Finding The Rhythm of Live Music In Newport Beach

October 12, 2015

There is just nothing better than sipping a cocktail in a lovely setting, and listening to live music. It is a heavenly blend of magic as I sway to the beat of the music and relax into a blissful trance. I have combed the local hot spots and prepared my “list of favorites”. There are a handful (quite literally) that offer live music seven nights a week. That comes as a surprise to many! And yes, there are many other locations that offer live or DJ’s on select evenings. Just to make it easy, I have prepared a complete schedule on each and every one of these locations, including days of the week and times. Consider printing out the schedule and carry it in your car, or purse, so you have it handy when looking for a nearby spot to enjoy a live music venue with that perfect ambiance.

Live Music Seven Days a Week

Billy’s At the Beach
This marina view spot offers that “aloha spirit” of Hawaii right here in Newport. We have the palm trees, dramatic sunsets and the water views. Add the island musical sounds, and a tropical drink, you are transported instantly. There are cozy booths, an outdoor patio and of course, the bar. Billy’s offers a mix of performers from rock, to easy-listening and, my favorite, the tropical sounds of the islands.

Blue Beet
Located on that funny little half-street known as 21st Street on the Newport Peninsula, this bar has been known during the last 87 years either as “Stark’s” or “Sid’s Blue Beet”. In 1912 a man named Henry Stark opened a saloon and went to Cripple Creek, Colorado to purchase the back bar from an authentic gold rush-style saloon and installed it in his Newport saloon. After Henry Stark died, his son-in-law, Bert Oquist ran the place until Sid Soffer came along during the mid-60s and bought it. He renamed it “Sid’s Blue Beet” and it became an immediate smash hit. Current owner Steve Lewis has brought his son, Scott, in as a partner and together they have continued the tradition of a lively bar scene (and a rooftop deck). Live music and dancing (featuring high-energy local bands) are more popular than ever. Craft beers dominate the tap handles, with new beers offered each month. The web site has a very good schedule of acts so guests can plan accordingly.

Bayside Restaurant
This is one of my all-time favorite spots. The food is delicious, the happy hour is superb, the dining room is artful, and the staff is just flat-out friendly. With live music every night of the week, I am always pleased when I walk through the door. The music varies from contemporary solo piano, to quartet, duo jazz and R&B styles. And they also have live music during the Sunday Brunch which makes this my “go to” celebration spot.

Mastro’s Ocean Club
Tucked away in the Crystal Cove Shopping Center is an elegant lounge and restaurant along PCH. As guests round the corner to the lounge area, they are awestruck by the dramatic bar with multi-colored bottles back lit and a gigantic tree offering an indoor/outdoor feel. This offers some of the best “people watching” in town. With a synergistic piano and vocal duo, the melodies are a joy to listen to, and available every night of the week.

Port Restaurant
Nightly jazz, acoustic guitar, top 40’s and pop/rock music is offered in the dining room. An adjacent bar offers additional seating. For a complete schedule of artists visit their web site.

Other Venues Offering Live Music/DJ’s On Select Nights
Please refer to the complete schedule for musical performers, dates and times.

Resort Venues
The Island Hotel has two venues offering music on select nights and weekends at the Aqua Lounge (guest DJ’s) & Oak Grill (individual acoustical musicians on Tuesday and Wednesday evenings out by the fire pit conversation area). This happens to be one of my favorite spots to meet up with girlfriends and swap our stories. At The Resort at Pelican Hill there are two venues (with distant ocean views) that are open to the public. One is at Pelican Grill (also the 19th hole for golfers) and the Great Room Social Lounge in the main lobby. At the Balboa Bay Resort, A & O Lounge offers music on the weekends. There is ample lounge seating, a wrap-around bar, and welcoming fire pits on the terrace overlooking the bay. A very romantic spot!

Balboa Peninsula
21 Oceanfront Restaurant is red leather booths with an old-school vibe. Just what I enjoy—a bit of history with my cocktail. And the bar faces directly out over the sand with the ocean beyond. Spectacular sunsets are to be had here, and with music six nights a week–I am so in. Tell Ryan and Tony I sent you! And there is also Alta Coffee & Restaurant featuring an eclectic range of talent–from songwriter’s evenings to folk and down home sing-alongs.

Newport Beach and Corona del Mar

Just steps from Billy’s, along PCH, is a returning restaurant darling, the Ritz Prime Seafood, and they are smartly offering music six nights a week. A mixture of talent graces the bar area– ranging from a solo pianist to a male/female duo, singing tunes from the 1960’s to contemporary and a pleasant mix of current top 40 music.

Some of the best views can be had at the marina and Back Bay Bistro (located at Newport Dunes). Thursday evenings they have a very well-known talent playing a number of instruments and singing his heart out. Another spot that has a lovely dockside inlet view is SOL Cocina. This restaurant has a bar and lounge area where the musical talent is tucked in the corner. There is a narrow patio beyond that offering some peek-a-boo views of the water. For the music, think Gypsy Kings tribute band, and whether it’s a group or an individual on deck playing, it is exceptional music. I really do not want to leave when I am there. Tommy Bahama Island Grille is located in the Corona del Mar Shopping Plaza, and once inside or on the patio, it is a lovely island-inspired setting with steel drums and the soft whispers of the Caribbean.

There are a few “old school” restaurants with quite a local following. Quiet Woman, is a charming restaurant where half the space is the dining room and the other half is dedicated to the bar and lounge area. The tiered salad-tray is very popular as are the steaks and baked potatoes. The music is very lively five nights a week, and seems to ramp up as the evening tick-tocks into the later hours. The Village Inn has a small stage and a very active calendar of talent. Guests can enjoy dinner at a table, at the bar, or just sip and listen to the music. This is one of the few places on Balboa Island with activity past 8pm. Muldoon’s Irish Pub is on the west side of Fashion Island and has been there for very long time. The patio is welcoming with a huge tree shading the terrace, however stepping inside one might think you have been transported to Dublin. It is a charming setting and the music is primarily Irish in its origin. And in charming Corona del Mar, Sidedoor Gastropub (At Five Crowns Restaurant) has Sunday brunch, and on most Sunday’s they have a DJ spinning tunes from noon to 3:00pm.

Last, but certainly not least, is one of my favorite spots. This is the place to see and be seen. FIG & OLIVE is elegance beyond compare. The garden terrace features a fireplace, large trees with white lights in the evenings, and a distinctive California Riviera vibe. They are featuring a DJ on the weekends, and each Sunday in the afternoon. I would not be surprise if we see more musical venues here, as it is just the perfect spot.

For a complete schedule for musical performers, dates and times click here.

Written by Deirdre Michalski

Deirdre Michalski is a travel and culinary writer covering topics near and far. You can read more about her adventures on her web site www.TastesAndTravel.com

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