Culture + Style

Get the Blues: 4 Soulful Bars That Keep Orlando Howling

Lil Indies (Photo: Rafael Tongol)

Although Orlando is more widely recognized for launching pop stars and boy bands than for cultivating deep underground music scenes, the history of this city’s most soulful sound is richer than a first glance conveys. Back in the 1960s, Orlando and neighboring Sanford generated an authentic blues climate that led to the creation of King Snake Records, a national blues label that thrived for 20 years, launched the career of Root Boy Slim and attracted legendary performers like Noble “Thin Man” Watts, James Taylor and Johnny Winter.

That spirit is still present in the area, as reflected across both Orlando’s tourist zones and our most authentic cross sections of the city’s underground in popular downtown clubs, hip neighborhoods like Mills 50, historic day-trip locales like Sanford, as well as in its premier venues like the Plaza Live. Here’s where you can encounter Orlando’s most soulful side.

B.B. King’s Blues Club

orlando-underground-sound-bb-kings-blues-club.jpgB.B. King’s Blues Club (Photo: Rafael Tongol)

Although technically in tourist town, the award-winning soul, funk and blues performed nightly at B.B. King’s shouldn’t be snubbed. Whether your flavor is blues, soul, rock or a fusion of all three, the charged (though shiny and streamlined) atmosphere makes you feel like you’ve landed in the birthplace of the blues and not the center of Central Florida.

Tanqueray’s

orlando-underground-sound-tanquerays.jpgTanqueray’s (Photo: Rafael Tongol)

In a basement in the heart of downtown, professional musicians unleash authentic jams and classic covers of blues, blues rock and country blues nightly. Orlando’s most dedicated performers inhabit this club and imbue it with the kind of soul downtown would sorely lack without it.

Ten Pints of Truth at Lil Indies

orlando-underground-sound-lil-indies-002.jpg

Lil Indies (Photo: Rafael Tongol)

The Legendary JC’s frontman, Eugene Snowden, leads a gritty soulful all-nighter with his skilled trio or quartet, which is always comprised of some of the city’s best professional musicians. Frequent guest appearances and emotional performances guaranteed.

The Plaza Live

orlando-underground-sound-the-plaza.jpgThe Plaza Live (Photo: Rafael Tongol)

Booking international and national blues acts, the Plaza Live’s calendar is essential for blues fans in the area who don’t want to miss out on legends like Leon Russell and current artists like Tab Benoit. It’s a beautiful concert hall frequently noted for boasting the area’s best sound.