Nick Hoover

As you walk into the dorms, you’ve probably got that crazy idea that many before have dreamed of –  “I want to get into a band.” 

Trust me, you’re not alone. 

Following this guide might be the difference between playing downtown on a bench and selling platinum albums.


Where to find other musicians

If playing as loud as you can isn’t attracting anyone, a few of these sources might get you hooked up with some other musicians

The Mustang Daily Classifieds are free for students and an easy way to let people know that you’re looking to jam.

Another option is to pick up a New Times or visit their Web site at They have a special classified section called “The Music Box” where you can regularly find people searching for bands, or bands searching for people.

Finally, try visiting Two Dogs Coffee at 1017 Monterey Street in downtown San Luis Obispo. They have an open mic night you can participate in and allow others to catch a glimpse of what you’re trying to start.


Where to buy that shiny new Les Paul … or other instrument

There comes a time when every guitar player wants to upgrade from that classical guitar that your dad had back when he started college in 1965.  These shops should upgrade your gear nicely, and for a good price.

Grand Performance, at 3195 South Higuera, is SLO’s all encompassing music shop.  They have a great selection of guitars, basses, amps and other instruments to get you going.  They also rent sound equipment for shows.

Central Coast Music, at 450 Morro Bay Blvd., is located in Morro Bay and has a fantastic array of used instruments for those musicians on a budget.  Also check here for unique items that you might have difficulty finding elsewhere.

Drum Circuit, at 280 Higuera Street in San Luis Obispo, is the place to go if you need a new drum kit, or just a few sticks. Other SLO music shops don’t carry the amount of percussion gear that this place offers.  Lessons are available as well.

Lightning Joe’s,  in The Village of Arroyo Grande, offers more advanced equipment and a greater selection of amplifiers for guitar players.


Places to jam

If you’re getting tired of rockin’ out in your buddy’s garage, it might be time to take your tunes public. These venues are in order of size and level of playing skill.

First, try out Cal Poly’s University Union. That’s right, you can rock out with your professor – well, maybe not.   Check with ASI for booking information. Bands play every Thursday at 11 a.m. at UU Hour.  Worried about a thin crowd?  Don’t.  Classes aren’t normally scheduled for that time, so every student passing by will be sure to hear your sound whether they like it or not. 

Nautical Bean, at 11560 Los Osos Valley Road in San Luis Obispo, is great for acoustic performances or small gigs.  Located in the Laguna Shopping Center, this is a great place to launch your musical career.

Cisco’s, at 78-G Higuera Street, is a smaller venue, but has a great creekside atmosphere. More of a quiet or acoustic setup than a hardcore drop-D searing guitar solo spot.

Or, why not play a set at San Luis Obispo’s Farmers’ Market? What could be better than hundreds of people walking down the streets of SLO on Thursday evening?  Plenty of people to play for, and lots of space.  Check with the Downtown Association early, as booking a gig can be tough with other competition looking for a spot.

There is also the Frog and Peach Pub, at 728 Higuera Street, which is the spot for live music in SLO because of its intimate setting.  If you’ve got a funk or reggae sound to your music, this is the venue for you. Be sure to bring your “A” game because Frog and Peach is no stranger to fantastic bands.  Word on the street is that the stack of demo CD’s from bands trying to book a gig at the Pub is piled high.

Then there’s SLO Brew, at 1119 Garden Street, which is one of the largest venues for live music in SLO.  The venue has two bars, one upstairs and the other downstairs, with a huge sound system ready for the bigger bands who can draw in a crowd. Watch out, though, because Papa Roach, A Perfect Circle and other bands that you hear on the radio have passed through SLO Brew at one point in their careers.


Final words:

Need some advice?  Talk to bands who have gigs around town.  They can point you in the right direction.  Also, check out competitions. Grand Performance has a yearly guitar competition hosted at The Graduate.

Also, for the drummers out there, The Drum Circuit has an annual drum competition at The Graduate as well. If you want to smoke some older guys who think they’ve got their tapping and arpeggios on lockdown, this is the place to battle like Mad Max in the thunderdome.

If you think playing a party is going to be the ticket to success, be weary. SLOPD and the Cal Poly Police Department issue stiff fines for parties with bands, which is illegal without a permit.

For an entry-level gig, the high school touring circuit is always wide open. Contact local schools to see if they host bands during lunch. This’ll give you a chance at trying your live setup with a bunch of screaming 16-year-olds who think Kelly Clarkson and Ashlee Simpson really tear it up.

If you want to up your game, wash away that ego and go get some lessons! Grand Performance and The Drum Circuit both offer lessons from guys who can probably play 10 times better than you can.

Last but not least, the Internet is your friend. Posting your music online is the best way to get your music out there. Check out and add your tracks to a band page.

Good luck! Don’t say the Mustang Daily never sent you packing with the tools for success.

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