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Live Music

Music has the power to liven up bars without transforming them into nightclubs, which is perfect for those of us who want to throw back a few without getting crazy on the dance floor.

At Surfer, the Bar, Turtle Bay’s casual bar and supremely intimate concert venue, overlooking the waves at the eponymous reef break, weekly karaoke nights (Sundays), Hawaiian Music Mondays, Kanikapila (Tuesdays) and special events keep the themes traditional and the music fresh. What better way to make friends than by drunkenly belting out “I Got You Babe” with a stranger, or finding out your neighbor also plays a Gibson ES-175D? Jam on! Every seat is close to the stage–it only takes 200 people to sell it out–so you’re sure to make a soul connection with musicians such as Switchfoot, John Cruz and Jack Johnson.

Above Hank’s Café in Chinatown, you’ll find live jazz Tue.–Sat. at The Dragon Upstairs, a red-bathed swanky joint full of Chinese-inspired art and décor. Regular performers include VIVO, Satomi Yarimizo and the Chris Yeh Quartet. There is a $5 cover when musicians perform, but as one of the only clubs to host Vietnamese singers every week (on Sunday), they deserve some credit.

For more jazz, head to Jazz Minds (but walk fast, unless you don’t mind being seen near a bunch of strip clubs). The lounge, with its staggered-brick walls and ‘70s-style furniture, offers couches to lounge and relax on, while you sip your specialty drinks, drafts and bottles, liquors and wines (most under $10) and groove to the smooth sounds of every jazz sub-genre you can think of. We should warn you: Be prepared to meet the two-drink minimum . . .trust us on that one.

Surfer the Bar, 57-091 Kamehameha Hwy., Kahuku, [turtlebaysurf.com], 293-6000, open daily at 6pm, happy hour 6–7pm
The Dragon Upstairs, 1038 Nuuanu Ave., [thedragonupstairs.com], 526-1411, live music Tue.–Sun.
Jazz Minds Art & Café, 1661 Kapiolani Blvd., [honolulujazzclub.com], 945-0800, live music Mon.–Sat., 9pm–2am, $5–$15 cover, two drink minimum