The Portland Arms is the best place in Cambridge to see exciting new bandsHagglePhotos/Flickr

One of the best things about Cambridge is its music scene. From jazz and classical to popular music, there is truly something for everyone. What is difficult is navigating this sprawling landscape. With so many concerts, societies and opportunities, it can be hard knowing where to start. If you’re a fresher – or even if it’s your fourth year here – and you want to get involved in the Cambridge music scene, you’ve come to the right place. This guide will help you keep track of events, join music societies and even form a band.

Staying up to date

The CMP Hub contains an up-to-date list of events across the

Other than Varsity’s Music section, which goes without saying, the best places to discover upcoming events are social media (make sure to follow music societies, venues and ents teams and join Facebook groups like “Live Music in and around Cambridge”), websites like and Cambridge Jams & Open Mics, and the Centre for Music Performance Online Hub. The CMP Hub can be accessed using your Raven log-in and contains an up-to-date list of events across the University. It’s also worth keeping an eye out for posters around the town and asking your muso friends!

Regular events

The best music venues in Cambridge

The Portland Arms: During the day, The Portland Arms is a cosy pub filled with board games and arcade machines. At night, however, its backroom becomes an intimate music venue hosting some of the country’s most exciting new indie bands.

The Corn Exchange is the best place to see major artists in CambridgeRichTea, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Tall Trees: From the outside, Tall Trees doesn’t look like much. However, its nature-themed decor gives it a magical atmosphere and the breadth of its roster – from jazz to folk and rock’n’roll – guarantees it a key role in the Cambridge music scene.

Cambridge Corn Exchange: Situated in central Cambridge, the Corn Exchange hosts not only plays and comedy shows but major bands and artists. This term, for example, you could see Dylan, McFly and Scouting for Girls.

Cambridge Junction: Out by the train station, Cambridge Junction is a massive warehouse containing a theatre, a learning centre and a performance space. Recent concerts have included Sarah Jarosz, Ezra Furman and a daytime rave.

Hidden Rooms: In the basement of the unusual Greek-temple looking building on Jesus Lane, home to the Pitt Club and Kibou, is Hidden Rooms: a cocktail bar that is the jazz epicentre of Cambridge.  

The Blue Moon: Slightly further into the residential areas of Cambridge than most students venture (i.e. 15 minutes from the centre), The Blue Moon is a large pub that welcomes both local and more well-known artists to its small stage.

The Blue Moon is a large pub that welcomes both local and more well-known artists to its small stageKim Fyson/Geograph

La Raza: On Thursday, Friday and Saturday evenings, this cocktail bar in central Cambridge hosts local DJs and bands as well as a monthly Cambridge Funk Jam.

The Six Six Bar: Six Six is Cambridge’s home of rock’n’roll. Located on East Road, the bar achieves a suitably grungy aesthetic through a red-brick exterior, wood-panelled interior and metallic stage. Upcoming shows include a pop punk tribute night, SOULWEAVER and Trampolene.

Thrive: Across the road is Thrive, Cambridge’s vegan coffee house. In addition to being a cosy and sustainable cafe, Thrive hosts comedy nights and acoustic concerts including the album launches of many local artists.

West Road Concert Hall: Part of the Music Faculty, West Road Concert Hall can be found on Sidgewick Site next to the UL. This atmospheric auditorium is large enough to welcome the Cambridge Symphony Orchestra and is where CMP and Camerata Musica events are usually held.

Music societies

Cambridge is home to innumerable music societies. Some are for genres like Hip Hop Society, Alternative Music Society and Indian Classical Music Society. Others are for specific artists like Taylor Swift. There are ensembles ranging from Brass Band to Gamelan Society as well as college-based music societies. A full list can be found on the SU website and CMP Hub. Make sure you visit Freshers’ Fair to learn more about them and keep reading Varsity where we will be showcasing the most interesting and overlooked societies.


Mountain View

‘A big mistake?’: the Freshers forming a band over WhatsApp

Forming a band

CMP runs a programme that matches up individuals wanting to form a band so keep an eye out for them at Freshers’ Fair. Or you can do what I did, which was to use my college’s WhatsApp group to find band members!

Hiring equipment and finding practice rooms

The CMP Hub contains an inventory of all the equipment available to hire in Cambridge. However, if it’s classical instruments you’re after, you’re better visiting the Music Faculty website or Your college’s music society should also be able to help with hiring equipment and finding practice rooms.

Getting gigs

The Singing Binman is one of Cambridge's more unusual buskersBen Keating/Geograph

The great thing about Cambridge is that you don’t need a licence for busking. For indoor gigs, the best people to email are ents teams and college bar committees. There are also open mic nights and battle of the bands, while CMP and music genre societies often organise gigs. Every November, there is a huge event where you can audition for all the May Balls. June Events usually hold their auditions in Lent Term.

As you can see, there is a lot going on in Cambridge if you know where to find it. While it was impossible to be comprehensive, I hope this guide helps you decide where to start your Cambridge musical journey.