by Mike “Mikey Beats” Beltran

For music lovers, San Diego’s music scene holds various venue options for any musical tastes. Good music is good music, but most people either prefer live acts or DJs and therefore, for this article, we will say San Diego is separated into two different scenes: the live music scene and the DJ scene. Yes, there are venues that cater to both tastes but let’s keep it simple. Speaking of simplicity, we will also focus only on venues from North County, south to downtown, west to the beach and as far east as North Park.

The live music scene starts out being all-ages, which Soma Live has dominated since the ’90s. Its first location was in a building long gone in downtown, the second spot (which is now Wholesale Flowers & Supplies) was on Metro Street in Linda Vista, and the current venue is the old Mann Theaters next to the Sports Arena. Len Paul has been the father of the all-ages scene, raising many bands off of his Soma side stage, onto the main stage and out the door to sell out arenas across the nation.

Options in San Diego for a music lover upon turning 21 are multiplied with a bar/club scene dominated by The Casbah, Belly Up Tavern, House of Blues and now added to that list The Observatory in North Park. Of course, there are the bigger concert venues such as Sleep Train Amphitheater and all the arenas, but let’s just focus on the smaller spots.

If you are downtown you can catch a live act playing country and rock pop at the Tin Roof or at Moonshine Flats. If you are into jazz, you can find tight combos at Prohibition Lounge. Just up Banker’s Hill on 4th Avenue you can check out The Balboa (formerly the Tin Can), which presents a wide assortment of music. Keep going up 4th, hit a right on University and you will come to The Merrow, the only live venue in Hillcrest. Keep going east on University and you will come into North Park, where you can find a variety of music to choose from between Bar Pink and Seven Grand. In the beach area, Ocean Beach has Winstons, Gallagher’s and Mother’s Saloon all featuring reggae, acoustic and rock acts nightly. Pop over the Ingraham Street Bridge to Pacific Beach and catch the same beach vibes at 710 Beach Club. For North County you have some pretty good live music options with The Jumping Turtle in San Marcos featuring bands on Friday and Saturday nights and, of course, Boar Cross’n has a solid rotation of local bands on Saturday nights in Carlsbad.


Here is a list of five acts currently playing the local circuit worth catching at places where you can enjoy a beer within 10 feet of the stage.

The Young Wild  //
The evolution of San Diego rock has created ultra talented The Young Wild, a band whose synth driven soulful rock ‘n’ roll turns heads and produces smiles. Bryan B. William lays dreamy vocals with catchy lyrics over hooky guitar leads, uplifting synth stabs, complementary bass lines and driving drums. These guys will be out at this year’s Oysterfest on June 13.

The Palace Ballroom  //
In case you didn’t notice, we here at 4L Magazine love these guys! Timothy Joseph is a rocker to the core as well as one of the most ambitious and driven individuals in the local music scene with his local radio show on 94.9 FM from 9 p.m. to midnight Sundays. On May 15, The Palace Ballroom drop their next album, but you don’t have to wait until then to hear these much-anticipated tracks. They have decided to release each song in the order they appear on the record to the public one at a time by filming and editing music videos being released every Sunday until May. The record was recorded live, in one take, at vocalist/guitarist Joseph’s own Phaser Control Studio.

22 Kings  //
There is something about two people harmonizing perfectly that really brings a tear to the eye. While listening to Sam Bybee and Sandi King sing together live, expect waterfalls. Longtime friends and music lovers, Bybee and King join in an acoustic setting complete with a kick drum and a tambourine. With the look and style of band members you may see at a heavy metal show, 22 Kings’ musical style is contradictory, with soft melodies, engaging choruses and hooks that keep you listening for more. These are two of the hardest working acoustic musicians in town and if they are not on the road, you can catch them locally at Lestat’s, Hooleys, Sycamore Den and up in Fallbrook at Pala Mesa Resort.

Rebecca Jade and the Cold Fact  //
Rebecca Jade came on the scene with tons of exposure as being part of the former house band at Anthology. Since then she has not stopped playing music. The self-titled album by her latest group, Rebecca Jade and the Cold Fact, won 2014 Album of the Year at the San Diego Music Awards, which carried them with steady momentum into 2015. Their smooth jazz, R&B and neo soul can be heard at various venues around town such as The Onyx Room and Seven Grand, and the band opens up this year’s Oysterfest on June 13.

The Verigolds  //
When you press play for the first time on a band that you have never heard before, you never know what to expect. That is the marvel in discovering new talent in a local music scene. If you get the chance, press play on The Verigolds because you will be instantly swept away to the ’60s surf and psychedelic rock era, complete with face paint, keyboards and mystic guitar rifts. You need to catch this live show rotating in and out of their OB neighborhood’s local live venue Winstons or they even make it down to the legendary Casbah.

The DJ scene is everywhere in San Diego, with almost every bar and club having a DJ at least once a week. The most common format in the city is what is called Open Format, where the DJ plays tracks from any genre, hopefully pulling it off smoothly and making the cash register sing. As of now the top clubs in downtown are Fluxx and Parq, which serve massively overpriced drinks to clubgoers looking to fist pump and twerk their ways into the pants of other patrons. From the ashes of the longstanding Stingaree will rise Omnia, which is owned by the Vegas-born Hakkasan Group that is pouring into the San Diego club bottle service scene with resident world renowned EDM producers/DJs such as Afrojack, Martin Garrix and Armin van Buuren.

If you cannot stand the downtown club scene, South Park is up the hill with Whistle Stop, a great place to catch DJs spinning various non-mainstream music. North Park is up the street, where you can catch hip-hop sets and house music at such bars as U31, The Office, Bar Pink, West Coast Tavern and True North. The beach area has so many nightlife options, but Pacific Beach is the best when it comes to Open Format DJs, who spin at Tavern at the Beach, Thrusters Lounge, PB Shore Club, The Local and my favorite place for local house music, the Duck Dive. (There is also Firehouse, which closed for renovations but is reopening soon.) Saddle Bar in Solana Beach features a solid lineup of DJs, and up the freeway in Encinitas you have The Saloon, Shelter and D Street Bar & Grill.


For what it is worth, here is a list of DJs who I love to check out when I am not spinning myself:

Scooter   //

Scooter is an Open Format DJ and San Diego club staple since the late ’90s. In his DJ sets you can hear smooth transitions, cross fader knuckle karate and his God like voice commanding you to throw your hands up. Scooter is the people’s DJ mixing in remix after remix of current pop hits, electronic music and old-school classics. Due to Scooter’s rigorous national touring schedule, he can only be found playing in San Diego once or twice a month, usually at Sidebar or Fluxx. You can also catch him with his musical life partner Lavelle performing a high energy, big room house, 2×4 duo at clubs and festivals worldwide.

Lovelife  //

Lovelife isn’t just a bunch of DJs or a promotions crew, Lovelife is a movement created by Jimbo James and Dadon, two soulful kids whose main purpose in life is to spread the love of music. Lovelife parties invite all like-minded individuals who want to dance freely and appreciate soulful music out to their events booked a couple times a year. The genres of music featured at these events are deep, disco and tech house, where you can find a vibe that is super positive and uplifting. If you want your Lovelife fix sooner than waiting months for one of their parties, they created Music is 4 Lovers, which has monthly residences and one offs on random Thursdays at Analog Bar in the Gaslamp and also in Tijuana at WhereHouse.

Artistic  //

If you are involved in the San Diego music scene, you have met Artistic. Everyone knows and loves Art and if you don’t, you are the one with the problem. Artistic holds down the hip-hop scene here in San Diego and can be found at any one of his hip hop nightly residencies: Thursdays at Analog Bar and the first Fridays of the month at Bar Pink. He has another party that he throws called “Motown Mondays” at Bar Pink every first, third and fifth Monday of the month. If you have a bad case of the Mondays, there is no better cure than track selections of Motown’s greatest by Artistic. He was also named Best Club DJ of 2014 at the San Diego Music Awards. This dude does work!

Erick Diaz   //

Erick Diaz has been involved with house music in San Diego since his crate-digging days at Siesta Records. He plays pretty much everything that gets categorized under the “house” umbrella, and he sometimes digs into deep house, garage and big room. Some of his residencies include Fluxx, Bassmnt, Bang Bang and Dive Day Club, and he recently opened the main stage at CRSSD Festival. He has a much anticipated music collaboration with local born and bred producer DJ Saber, with remixes already available on their Soundcloud. If there is a pool party where you get a chance to see both these kids play together this summer, go!

Gabe Vega  //

Gabe is a DJ’s DJ, playing tunes other DJs get envious of because they can’t play them in their sets at their genre-specific venues. He’s won countless San Diego Music Awards for Best Club DJ and plays regularly all over the county at spots like Whistle Stop, The Office and U31. He holds down a weekly residency at Shelter in Encinitas, where his playlists consist of house music and nu-disco.