Where to go for live music in New York City


Where to go for live music in New York City

Hold the MSG (as in Madison Square Garden). We've rounded up the Big Apple's lesser-known music spots.

Adam Hurly

BY Adam Hurly18 March 2017

Glastonbury, Coachella and Fuji Rock only come around once a year, but every night in New York is practically a music festival. Check the calendars of your favourite musicians – in NYC, it’s not a question of if they will be playing a gig, it’s a matter of when. We’ve already waxed lyrical about New York boutique hotels until our typing fingers hurt; now it’s the music venues’ turn. We’ve skipped the biggies like Madison Square Garden, Barclays Center, Radio City, the Met, Carnegie Hall, the Apollo, BAM, and the Beacon Theater, and gone straight to the intimate and offbeat insider favourites. Here are 10 Big Apple hotspots to keep on your paint-the-town red radar.

C’mon Everybody
This Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn venue opened in 2015 and instantly solved central Brooklyn’s dearth of live music. Grab a drink in the main bar, cosy up in the side lounge, or head back to the performance space for some of the city’s best soul, funk, synth and DJ dance parties. As more creative folk migrate from Williamsburg, expect copycat venues to pop up by the blockload; this one is their mold, though.

Mercury Lounge
For less than 10 bucks, the cool kids go to Mercury Lounge to see their favourite acts before they blow up. Were you there when Sam Smith sang? Or Sky Ferreira? Or the Strokes? Everyone starts somewhere, and odds are that they’ll make one of their first stops at this Lower East Side venue.

54 Below bar, New York, NY

54 Below
Broadway’s brightest stars do solo gigs at 54 Below in the heart of Manhattan’s Theater District. Grab dinner and drinks at this cabaret supperclub with a Modern American menu and cocktails straight from the Golden Age, while watching these banner names – plus some on-the-rise talents – belt out famous show tunes and original arrangements.

Knitting Factory
The Knitting Factory helps preserve Williamsburg’s grit, even as high rises clutter the once-industrial waterfront. Come here for rock, folk and grunge, in addition to drinks at the front bar. Plus, there’s a rotating lineup of comedians on Sundays – you may even catch a surprise appearance by a Saturday Night Live star.

Marie’s Crisis
This West Village hang is more bar than concert venue, but the piano is never lonely and the patrons are never quiet. Marie’s Crisis is the unofficial after-party spot for Broadway’s biggest names, so expect memorable sing-alongs, ad hoc karaoke (with nothing amateur about it), and a dozen stories to regale your friends with back home.

6 Joe’s Pub
Many private music-industry events are held at this charmingly small table-service venue tucked into NoHo’s Public Theater, and you can understand why: the performer can see the whites of your eyes from the stage. It’s as though you’ve paid for a personal serenade. Adele, Prince, Emmylou Harris, Amy Winehouse, Leonard Cohen and a host of other crooning luminaries have all eyeballed the audience from Joe’s stage, as have the cream of NYC’s comic talent.

7 The Bitter End
The city’s ‘oldest rock club’ doesn’t just play rock. It’s also host to some of the world’s best country, folk, pop, blues and jazz. This intimate venue has lent its microphones to the legendary likes of Neil Diamond, Joan Baez, Stevie Wonder, Lady Gaga and Bob Dylan.

Webster Hall, New York, NY

8-10 Webster Hall, Bowery Ballroom and Music Hall of Williamsburg
Like Earth, Wind & Fire, these three belong together. The latter two – with a capacity around 550 each – are owned by The Bowery Presents, which also runs Mercury Lounge, the overcrowded Terminal 5, and the lovely Rough Trade. Webster Hall is the biggest, with a 1,500-person ballroom capacity. However, all share the same headliner-bagging allure. If someone isn’t mainstream enough to sell out Madison Square Garden – say, Hozier, Kelis, RAC, Tinashe or Charli XCX – then these are the places where they’ll show up. You’ll likely get an intimate, standing-room-only show with a performer at the sweet spot between peak-of-their-powers and green-behind-the-ears.