Basketball road trip Kansas City … great music fills the air

So, if you find yourself in town for one of the many basketball tourneys in the next weeks, and need a respite from the squeaky-sneakers-on-wooden-courts, you may want to check out some of the venues with good tunes.

The Blue RoomThe Blue Room

Night club, Live music, Jazz

This dimly lit and yes – blue – spot is the place to experience the best in local and international jazz. The ghost of Charlie Parker still remains at the Blue Room. The walls are covered with photos from the history of KC Jazz legends, and the hollow glass tabletops hold a collection of commemorative pieces, that include pictures, instruments and records from the 1920s and 1930s. A must stop for all jazz lovers.

Jammin’ at the Gem: Monterey Jazz Festival 55th Anniversary Tour
March 23, 2013 8:30 pm –
March 23, 2013 10:30 pm

1616 E 18th St
Kansas City, MO
(816) 474-2929

The Cigar Box

Old school lounge singer

Anthony Bourdain recently visited this trashy Vegas-like bar that features a faux-tapestry print behind the bar of a naked woman smoking a cigar. Located next door to a strip club, big hair and deep cleavage rule the day as the bartenders serve up cocktails to men wearing track suits.

Be sure to catch the musical stylings of the “voice and the man,” Al Latta, a lounge singer who does his thing Tuesdays through Saturdays. He has a loyal fan base and according to the menu, “you won’t like it, you’ll love it”. To help lubricate the experience, they have a 2-for-1 happy hour Monday through Fridays.

1519 Grand
Kansas City, MO

Davey's Uptown Rambler

Davey’s Uptown Ramblers Club

Live Music

Not to be confused with Dave’s Stagecoach, this honky-tonk with the great neon sign has seen a wide variety of country, rockabilly and folk. And you can get a Schlitz in the can for a whopping $1.50.

3402 Main Street
Kansas City, MO
(816) 753-1909
Calendar of music –

The Drum Room

Drum Room

Night Club, American cuisine, Jazz

Inside the Hilton President Hotel resides a hidden gem. The Drum Room is a critically acclaimed restaurant and lounge that has been in the heart of downtown for over 50 years. Sleek, modern lines mixed with rustic, natural textures make it a place that’s truly soulful. Relax with a drink in the lounge, nosh on “urban comfort food” or enjoy live entertainment on Friday and Saturday evenings.

1335 Baltimore Avenue
Kansas City, MO
(816) 303-1686



Bar/Tavern, Live music, Bikers, Souvenirs

Voted Kansas City’s best blues bar 4 years in a row, this funky, gritty live music joint is literally just across the tracks in the East Bottoms. So close to the tracks in fact, that the train whistles sometimes override the music.

Behind a Harley chopper shop, Knuckleheads is the place for blues enthusiasts looking for big-name acts such as Guitar Shorty, James McMurtry and Bob Schneider. Sit outside, enjoy a cold one and listen to some amazing sounds. It can be hard to find, buried among the industrial area near the Isle of Capri Casino.

2715 Rochester St
Kansas City, MO
(816) 483-1456

Mutual Musicians Foundation

Mutual Musicians Foundation

Live music, Jazz

One of Kansas City’s best kept secrets! Jazz has been played continuously here since 1930 when Local 627 moved into the building, making it the longest running jazz spot in the United States and in the world.

Sure, going for a traditional show is great – but if you really want a true taste of KC Jazz – show up between 1 am and 5 am on any Saturday or Sunday for the impromptu jam session. Musicians from all over the city show up after their regular gigs to kick back and play. They have food as well as a full bar!

The Foundation bred numerous nationally renowned bands and a legion of talented soloists who revolutionized American jazz, including such luminaries as Count Basie, Jay McShann, Charlie Parker, Lester Young, Andy Kirk, Jimmy Rushing, Big Joe Turner, Hot Lips Page, Mary Lou Williams, and Buck Clayton…you can still feel their presence when you walk in.

These musicians belonged to Local 627 of the American Federation of Musicians. Established in 1917, Local 627, then known as the “Colored Musicians Union,” operated as a social center and as a way to air grievances against unfair practices by booking agents and band leaders.

It was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1981 as “a site possessing national significance in commemorating the history of the United States of America.”

(parts of this story come from their website.)

1823 Highland Avenue
Kansas City, MO
(816) 471-5212

The Phoenix

The Phoenix

Night Club, American cuisine, Jazz

This jazz club/restaurant has a very dark and cozy vibe with live music playing most every night but Sundays.

The corner of downtown Kansas City where the Phoenix now sits was once part of the Garment District in 1888. The Phoenix was there from the start, beginning as a somewhat shady hotel that was rumored to be more of a bordello than a hotel. On the first floor, there was a speak-easy saloon owned by restauranteur, Frank Valerius, and on the second floor was a “hotel” owned by Mrs. Linna Laws.

  • Monday – Open Jam
  • Friday nights – Lonnie McFadden
  • Saturday nights – Tim Whitmer

302 West 8th Street 
Kansas City, MO
(816) 221-5299


Record Bar

Live music, Pizza

The Record Bar has live music 7 nights a week, with weekday happy hour sessions. Wednesdays feature singer songwriters Bob Walkenhorst, Jeff Porter of The Rainmakers, and Norm Dahlor of The Elders fame. A bonus for the worker bees – the show starts at 7.

Plus, they have some pretty darn good food. I love their pizzas, but the burgers, wraps and pasta are good, too. Then there’s the “Bartender’s Brunch” from noon til 5 every Sunday, complete with a Bloody Mary bar (make it as hot as you want!)

1020 Westport Road
Kansas City, MO


Uptown Theater

Live music

I admit, I have a bias against arena concerts. Vibe is too impersonal, drinks are too expensive. The Uptown Theater satisfies the need for an intimate music experience in a very cool, over the top, rococo-meets-Italian-renaissance architecture space. Great bands have graced their stages, including John Hiatt, Elvis Costello, the Pogues, and Wilco, to name a few.

Open January 27, 1928, the Uptown was the created by the Austrian-born designer of “atmospheric theaters,” John Ebersen. His trademark, the atmospheric theater was created to replicate a romantic outdoor Mediterranean Courtyard complete with a nighttime sky ceiling with twinkling stars, clouds and mechanical flying birds.

In 1939, the Uptown copyrighted “FragraTone,” which added olfactory pleasure to the entertainment experience by funneling fragrances into the ventilation system. (Forget about it, John Waters, the Uptown had smell-o-vision first.) For good reasons, we can’t smell the bands today.

3700 Broadway Street
Kansas City, MO
(816) 753-8665