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When it comes to live music, atmosphere is key. There’s nothing like seeing your favorite band while surrounded by fans. These concert venues however, take the experience to a whole new level. Here are our six top suggestions for totally unique (and weird) places to catch a concert.

RELATED: America’s best vintage drive-in movie theaters

A natural rock formation

Red Rocks Amphitheater in Morrison, Colorado is a gigantic outdoor concert venue built seamlessly into natural rock formations about 30 minutes outside of Denver. From above, Red Rocks looks almost like a giant crater, but the circular rock arrangement creates natural acoustics and serves as a stunning backdrop for performers. The space has been used as a gathering place throughout history, starting as early as 1906 with the Ute tribe, who called it “The Garden of the Angels.” The venue’s unique history and beautiful landscape have made it a favorite location for music videos and concert recordings, including some by John Denver, U2 and, famously, Jethro Tull. Interesting fact: The latter event incited the “Riot at Red Rocks in 1971,” when thousands of ticket-less fans showed up and then attempted to charge their way into the venue.

An abandoned steel mill

SteelStacks in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania looks like the backdrop to a post-apocalyptic steampunk movie. It also has a pretty cool origin story. The Bethlehem Steel Mill once employed more than 10,000 workers, supplying steel that built bridges and skyscrapers across America. When the mill closed in 1955, rather than abandon their main source of industry, the town came together to turn the plant into an arts center. SteelStacks’ arts campus now hosts more than 1,000 shows and 8 festivals annually. The town’s sense of community, combined with SteelStacks’ stunning backdrop, create an atmosphere that shouldn’t be missed.

ALSO: Book your trip and your concert tickets all in one place—CheapTickets even has tickets to sold out shows!

A decommissioned cargo ship

That’s right. The Thekla in the Mud Dock area of Bristol, United Kingdom is an actual former cargo ship now serving as a floating nightclub and moored concert venue. Thekla was built in Germany in 1958, and served as a commercial shipping vessel before running aground in Gatesend, Norfolk. For seven years Thekla sat vacant and rusted, before being renovated and sent back into service, this time as an entertainment vessel. Renamed The Old Profanity Showboat, she featured jazz, theater, comedy and cabaret shows. Today, she’s the Thekla once again and hosts performers like Franz Ferdinand, Pete Doherty and X Ambassadors.

A Wild West movie set

In 1946, a group of film producers built a Wild West movie set called Pioneertown in California. Production designers outfitted Pioneertown‘s “Main Street” with a replica bank, saloon, chapel and cantina. The location got a lot of work, appearing in more than 50 films, including Warner Baxter’s The Cisco Kid. In 1972, Pioneertown became home to Pappy & Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace, a self-described “honky tonk tavern” and music venue. Notable performers have included Paul McCartney, Queens Of The Stone Age and The Arctic Monkeys. Robert Plant once famously stopped by for a surprise show. Pappy & Harriet’s has also been credited with being a main source of tourism in the area. A SXSW-produced documentary claimed Pappy & Harriet’s Hollywood history and unique atmosphere “sings life into an otherwise deserted California ghost town” although Pioneertown is currently experiencing a tourism renaissance.     

A cave

Flickr CC: Harrison Walter

Measuring 32 miles long, Cumberland Caverns in McMinnville, Tennessee is the second largest cave in Tennessee and also one of the ten largest in America. Located 333 feet under McMinnville, Tennessee, the caverns are home to Bluegrass Underground, a monthly concert series produced by PBS.  Stunning acoustics and an other-worldly environment make Cumberland Caverns a one-of-a-kind experience. Staff even encourage concert goers to explore the massive cavern before the show. If you get lost, don’t panic—just follow the sound of screaming fans.  

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Tagged: California, City, Destinations, Family, Festivals, Flights, International, Music, Seasonal, Tips & advice

Jesse Betend

Jesse Betend

Jesse is a writer and radio producer in Chicago. He is the Executive Producer for the embarrassing storytelling podcast "We Still Like You" and writes for the Chicago Sun-Times.
Jesse Betend

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