Okay so you’ve found the best takeaway pizza joint and know where the closest Tesco’s is for emergency paracetamol but when it comes to live music – and loving it – it can be difficult to know where to start when you’ve just moved to a new city. So we decided to round up our thinking caps and put together a Bristol music guide for new students, including the best venues, the best shops and where to meet people who love the stuff that you do.

01. Go to shows, but don’t pay a booking fee for tickets

(c) DICE

Gigs are the best place to meet like-minded folks and whilst your student loan will hopefully just about cover you for the shows you’re dying to go to, there’s no harm in saving a couple of quid here and there. Luckily, DICE have been around in Bristol for a little while and allow you to book tickets without the booking fee. They cover most of the venues in the city so you’ll definitely find something you’re into. What’s more, the tickets go straight to your phone so there’s none of that getting to the venue and realising you’ve left them at home business. Download it here.

02. Learn a new skill

(c) Bristol Women in Music
(c) Bristol Women in Music

Bristol is bursting with loads of classes and groups that you can get involved with. Bristol Women in Music for example, is an organisation that aims to raise awareness of the roles and accomplishments of women in – you guessed it – music. They’ve also started their ‘Mix Nights’ classes, which allows women to learn how to DJ in a fun and non-patronising environment. Not only could you learn something new but you could make some new pals.

03. Seek out nights with a difference

(c) Paul Samuel White

You’ll be bombarded with the usual club-night flyers but if that’s not really your thing, Bristol offers up some of the most bespoke and inclusive evenings you’ll have the pleasure of witnessing. Thorny is one of our favourites; a performance art evening that includes everything from stand-up to lip synching to some of best local acts around, they’ve welcomed the likes of Oliver Wilde and Wenonah in the past. Plus, glitter is always encouraged and that’s never a bad thing.

04. Go shopping

(c) Jon Riley
(c) Jon Riley

Bristol has a couple of great record stores. Firstly, there’s Rise which is located on Park Row and boasts a massive collection of classic, contemporary and local releases. There’s also a cafe downstairs, where the shop regularly hosts both literary and musical in-stores. The staff are super friendly too and are always around for a chat. Secondly, there’s newbie Friendly Records which is based in Bedminster. Owner Tom opened the shop only a few months ago but the little place has already amassed a big following thanks to its second-hand selections and popular in-stores.

05. Know where to grab a bite before a gig

(c) Wriggle

You’ve just finished classes for the day and have to rush to a gig in town, finding that you don’t have time to rustle up something in your kitchen. No worries because Wriggle’s got your back. It’s an ace app that has daily deals, letting you save cash monies on some of the best local eats in town. Previous delicious steals have included Bagel Boy, Tuk Tuck, Biblos and the Beer Emporium. Download it here.

06. Head out to open-mic nights

(c) Mr Wolf's
(c) Mr Wolf’s

Want to start a band? The best place – apart from shows and FB groups – is open mic nights and luckily for you, Bristol is bursting with them. Mr Wolf’s are renowned for their open mic nights, which welcome newbies as well as established acts. Usually taking place on Wednesday nights you can find more info on their Facebook page.

07. Get to know the venues

(c) Last Resort

There’s a lot of venues to get your head around in Bristol and lucky for you, quite a few of them will cater to specific tastes and/or put on free shows. The Exchange, for example, hosts Last Resort – a free entry pop punk and emo-bangers club night. Start the Bus regularly hosts free gigs, giving you the chance to check out some great artists – such as Colleen Green or The Parrots – for absolutely nothing in return. Check out our listings to get a feel for what each venue has to offer.

08. Go to a music-themed pub quiz

(c) The Christmas Steps

If you’re not really in the mood for a gig and can’t really afford to go shopping. The Christmas Steps hosts the weekly Crack Magazine music quiz where you’ll definitely find like-minded pals over a pint. With rounds ranging from ‘Drake or Nick Drake’ to ‘Deal or No Deal (the Kim Deal kind)’, it’s one of the best quizzes around. Plus, their food and beers are on-point.

09. Get to know the local labels

(c) Breakfast Records

Bristol has a bunch of DIY-led labels, that put out some of the best local and national talent around. Our favourites include Art is Hard, ChiverinBreakfast Records and of course, Howling Owl. Get liking them on Facebook, get following them on Twitter and keep up to date with what they’re up to. It’s great to get to know these kind of people, not just for the networking side of things but mostly because you’ll come across some hidden Bristol gems.

10. Read Bristol Live Magazine

(c) Mike Massaro

Okay, this one’s a given – namely because we’re the best local music mag to ever grace your presence – but we also review local acts, chat to international pop stars and include info for recording studios and rehearsal spaces, which will definitely come in handy along the line. Plus, there’s a huge listings section at the back (and online) where you can browse some of the best upcoming gigs. You’ll find us in most pubs, cafes, shops and venues, with new issues hitting the street towards the end of each month. Read our past issues right here.

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Check out episode one of the Howling Owl documentary series below.