The Grand Strand is loaded with live music theaters and concert halls and sometimes going out to a major show can be expensive, but not if you know where to go to see some of the top local and regional acts play for free. While shows at the Alabama Theatre and Carolina Opry or concerts at the House of Blues or the Palace Theatre can potentially put a dent in your tight vacation budget, there are several restaurants and bars that host local bands with no cover charge. Here are five of Compass Cove guests' favorite hot spots for free live music:
The Boathouse: Located on the Intracoastal Waterway beneath the Highway 501 Bridge, this dockside restaurant/bar sees guests arrive by land and water to catch some of the best local, regional and national acts on its outdoor stage. In addition to free shows on the indoor stage throughout the week, The Boathouse holds its Summer Concert Series every Sunday afternoon. See big names like Cowboy Mouth (June 19), Edwin McCain (July 24) and Luke Combs (July 31) for free while you relax on the lawn or take a dip in the Intracoastal Waterway.
Bourbon Street: Some of the best in local and regional music is being played in this unassuming restaurant/bar in a strip mall on the north side of town. The New Orleans-themed cafe is a hub for good music, usually with no cover charge unless a big name happens to make a stop. In fact, the popular Brad Long Band will play at Bourbon Street as part of the after-party for the Carolina Country Music Festival. But this isn't a country bar — you can find roots, rock, reggae and more behind Bourbon Street's door, with live music set for four nights a week.
The Bowery: This downtown dive — a historic honky-tonk on the Grand Strand — continues to crank out good times and great music six nights a week. Country music powerhouse Alabama served as the house band at The Bowery back in the 1970s, and the bar has continued to draw talented country musicians to the Myrtle Beach Boardwalk. There is typically a cover charge to see the shows, but here's a little-known locals' tip: Text the word “Bowery” to 41411 and receive free admission.
Murrells Inlet MarshWalk: Take a trip to the South Strand, take a short stroll down the Murrells Inlet MarshWalk, and take to the dance floor for a full lineup of live music. Featuring a dozen restaurants and bars spanning the length of the waterfront walkway, the MarshWalk can be counted on for live music at its various venues nearly any night. Check out the sounds of classic rock at the Dead Dog Saloon, reggae at Bubba's Love Shack, country at Drunken Jack's and modern music at Wahoo's — all within a half-mile stretch. If none of the acts at these establishments strikes your fancy, try the outdoor deck at the Hot Fish Club just down the main drag of Murrells Inlet.
Ocean Drive: If you enjoy beach music and love to dance the night away, head north to the Horseshoe in downtown North Myrtle Beach. In addition to the weekly free Thursday night concert series on the outdoor stage for Music on Main, the surrounding area of Ocean Drive and Main Street features several clubs that host live music on a regular basis. The O-D Lounge, Spanish Galleon and Fat Harold's are known for hosting beach-music bands, and the nearby Pirate's Cove welcomes a wide variety of acts to the stage.
After a fun night of free live music and good times, return to your vacation getaway at Compass Cove to enjoy some peace, tranquility and silence. The sounds of crashing waves provide a relaxing rhythm that will likely be music to your ears after a night out on the town.