Bushwick

17 Meadow St
Brooklyn, NY 11206
(718) 383-3815

12 Jefferson St
Brooklyn, NY 11206

12 Grattan St
Brooklyn, NY 11206
718 366-6311
Hours: Mon-Fri Open 4p, Sat-Sun Open 2p
Subway: L to Morgan
pineboxrockshop.com

Written by: Emily Niewendorp

The October 2010 opening of Pine Box Rock Shop, by proprietors Heather and Jeff Rush, is a welcoming addition to the Morgan stop on the L train. This cluster of warehouses, and cobblestone streets is a playground for artists and entrepreneurs. It lacks the cliche trends and commercialism you see in Williamsburg, and is removed from the frenzy of Manhattan.

Pine Box is a former casket factoy, lined partially floor to ceiling with stained pallet boards, creating a signature look that is clean and unassuming. The long wooden bar incases ticket stubs in its clear top and provides seating along the entire length of the room. Seating for groups is nestled in the back, where a nearby ramp leads up to the live music room.

The music room is under construction with plans to present a full schedule in Spring/Summer. Heather and Jeff, both long-time musicians claim, “We’ll be the first band to play on our stage.” Heather and Jeff are prioritizing the details, such as: the room’s layout for attractive visual and sonic experiences, live recordings, quality gear, an elevated platform, and for the drummers: Jeff says, “We are probably going to have a fairly pimped out house drum-set.” Count on discovering music that sounds good in the room, with a focus on local acts. Heather rounds their intentions out well: “What I hope will happen is that people will be willing to come here even though it’s a smaller showroom and expect to see better shows.”

Heather and Jeff, who relocated from Seattle several years ago, have added many personal touches to the bar. The tap beer list is excellent for those who love flavorful microbrews, ales and stouts. Pinebox is also a vegan bar; Jeff clarifies: “I don’t think it means much of anything to most people, but to vegans it’s awesome that it exists.”

Williamsburg

200 North 14th St
Brooklyn, New York 11211
718-387-3585
thegutterbrooklyn.com

“The Gutter” in Brooklyn’s Williamsburg neighborhood is so-named for its 8 bowling lanes, not for its clientele (although it does give off a faux dive-bar vibe). The large bar area is sandwiched by the bowling lanes on one side, and the Backroom on the other. The Backroom is a performance area, but is also available for private functions. The bar has a wide variety of beers on tap and all priced very reasonably.

174 Bedford Ave
Brooklyn, NY 11211
718-782-8717
charlestonbarbrooklyn.com

Williamsburg’s oldest bar—The Charleston—invites with its large retro-styled bar room. Hang out, have some drinks and enjoy the southern kitchen. Past graffiti sprayed brick walls and 1950s diner booths the bar leads you to its musical heart: the basement space, which houses great live rock, metal and indie-rock music, six days a week.

484 Union Avenue
Brooklyn, NY 11211
718-609-0484
Hours: Mon-Fri 5p-4a, Sat-Sun 1p-4a
Subway: L,G to Lorimer/Metropolitan
union-pool.com
myspace.com/unionpool

Written by: Emily Niewendorp

Union Pool is a long-time popular, neighborhood bar that buzzes with humanity without feeling crowded. Small-looking from its exterior, it actually provides several areas for hanging out, a beautiful music room, and well-thought-out music scheduling.

The stage is an attractive jewel-box style theater, fronted by a large dance floor of which people do not hesitate to take advantage. Union Pool’s other spaces include: a main bar with aqua-colored walls and a DJ booth, and the patio area, which is outfitted with benches, lounge chairs and a little botanical pool and water fountain. A taco truck from which tasty midnight snacks are dispensed sells amazing tamales and more.

Union Pool has always nurtured community and band relations. Its long-time employees and bartenders are also artists and musicians who promote and connect the venue with great musicians. Bands at Union Pool are fed by the house, and the cover at the music room’s door and band merchandise sales go to the musicians and sound person. Maintaining these standards is important to Union Pool management under the philosophy: “The band has a hard enough time as it is.”

The room draws bands who are on the verge of playing larger Brooklyn and Manhattan rooms; acoustic musicians, indie bands, touring national acts, secret shows, private one-offs and tapings. Well-known bands that have played at Union Pool are Cat Power and TV on the Radio. Shows at Union Pool are often at-capacity, signaling one of the final, intimate-sized shows for the band on its way up. The venue does not try to follow trends, but strives to provide stimulating, original, quality music.

Union Pool offers music five to seven nights a week. Reverend Vince Anderson plays two sets for his devotees at 11 p.m. every Monday. Free shows are usually offered every other Tuesday. On Friday and Saturday nights DJs play after the bands—there are occasional DJ parties as well; and summer-time brings Sunday evening shows, as well as free Saturday afternoon shows on the patio, from 3 – 8 p.m.

HISTORY

Back in the ’70s, Union Pool was a concrete warehouse for pool and exterminator supplies. The building went dormant for 15 years, until it opened as a bar in 2000. Music came to Union Pool still a few years later. On the outskirts of the Bedford Avenue art scene at that time, the venue’s first shows were raw and punk in nature, and could only offer performers a ramshackle stage and PA system.

Around 2006, the space was upgraded, adding a back patio, the music room’s bar and a proper sound system. The venue began to focus on low-key, local country and folk music, with the occasional trendy show brought in by outside promoters, such as Todd P. When current manager, Sage, came on board he expanded the music program beyond two or three shows a week. The venue also experimented with more music styles, and built on what worked best sonically within the space. In the spring of 2010, the music room was sound-proofed to heighten sound quality and counter noise complaints from neighbors. The Brooklyn Queens Expressway runs right past the venue, but the traffic noise does nothing to disrupt enjoyment of the music—it actually helps buffer the noise impact, as well as provide an easy access for patrons.

As Williamsburg has developed, Union Pool has become the epicenter of the area. It is between two major train stops and train lines and in a thriving young, artistic neighborhood.

66 N 6th St
Brooklyn, NY 11211
718-486-5400
Hours: Music times vary
Subway: L to Bedford
musichallofwilliamsburg.com

Written by: Rachel Antonio

In 2007, the former North 6 music venue followed in the footsteps of its surrounding neighbors and experienced a major transition. From a low-key local music space attracting surprisingly notorious musicians, the new Bowery Presents Music Hall of Williamsburg has become a premier music venue and a major Brooklyn hot spot.

Don’t let the trendy kids standing outside distract you; the crowds here are eclectic, casual, and respectful. Patrons whoop and scream at their favorite artists and dance in their allotted space, all the while somehow holding onto their beer without spilling a drop.

The venue’s interior maintains a fresh look and feel, with its high ceiling, exposed-brick walls, hardwood floors, and wrought iron barricades. Although the space reads as cool and modern, it is nonetheless welcoming and comforting. It features two bars, a main standing room with elevated sides and a mezzanine with a few circular tables and chairs.

It is a venue for national acts, which often have great local talent opening for them. Indie bands grace the stage often. One headline tour consisted of Harper Blynn, Cray Brothers, and Greg Laswell, however, many other genres fill the venue’s calendar: Mates of State, Kelis, Deer Tick, Elizabeth & The Catapult, The Honey Brothers, Aimee Mann, Dan Zanes and Friends, Matisyahu and more.

Williamsburg has always been characterized by its free-for-all vibe, hence quirky, fun moments are a part of the culture at Music Hall of Williamsburg. Pete Harper, musician and founder of the local Brooklyn band Harper Blynn, once taunted the crowd right before the band broke out in an all-male rendition of Beyonce’s “Halo,” by saying: “If you can’t dance to this, you’re never going to have sex again!”

361 Metropolitan Ave
Brooklyn, NY 11211
347-529-6696
Hours: Mon-Fri 5p-4a, Sat-Sun 12p-4a
Subway: L,G to Lorimer/Metropolitan or L to Bedford
bk.knittingfactory.com

Written by: Daniel Morrow

Brooklyn Bowl, is a carnival in a stately barn. Its bright red entrance, in an alley between the venue and neighboring Brooklyn Brewery, gives a hint of the atmosphere inside. The venue is one gigantic space—its performance area, Blue Ribbon restaurant and bowling alley partitioned off by countless half-walls and walkways.

The venue is a luxurious playground and a brilliant addition to Williamsburg’s scene. In the large foyer/lounge, patrons relax and dine in the company of a towering shelf of old-fashioned punch down dolls from carnival games. A fortune teller hovering over the ATM and carnival hands painted on the darkly, stained walls that point to in-venue destinations add a fun, eerie vibe. The main bar around the corner replicates a water-shooting gallery.

When you step down onto the performance floor, the live show grabs your attention. This area  is enclosed by half-walls separating it from the 16-lane bowling alley. Its tall stage and light show become the main focus. To top it off, video feeds project the performance onto large screens that hang throughout the venue.

Many music genres are presented at Brooklyn Bowl. DJs play after the shows and there are party and DJ nights; Questlove, from The Roots, spins weekly. After performing, musicians can relax in a new private deck built above the green room or enjoy a meal and go bowling.

Brooklyn Bowl is a certified green venue, containing the first green bowling alley in the world. Beers are available only on tap—from local breweries—and bike racks outside have room for 30+ capacity. Many other aspects contribute to the green business as well. The owner, Peter Shapiro, says, “It all was a pretty big gamble, but it looks like it has worked.”

The restaurant is open until 2 a.m. weekdays and 4 a.m. weekends. The Blue Ribbon “bowling alley” style menu offers salads, fried chicken, burgers, sandwiches, entrees and shakes.

HISTORY

Peter Shapiro was bitten by the live music bug during his proprietorship of legendary Wetlands Preserve rock venue, from 1996 – 2001. Peter says, “After it closed I was really eager…, but wanted to let Wetlands rest and do a venue a little differently.”

For years he looked around Manhattan and Brooklyn with new partner and former Wetlands manager, Charley Ryan. Wanting a venue that was different than the typical rectangular-shaped room, the men took a gamble on a combo of 3 things: music, food and bowling. A large space was needed for these ideas, which they discovered in 61 Wythe Ave. when they were walking the streets one day. This building, an iron works foundry dating back to 1881, was now a gutted warehouse with no electricity or plumbing, but an amazing shell and bones. The endeavor developed and the space evolved into the impressive performance venue, bowling alley and restaurant that it is now.

Brooklyn Bowl opened in July 2009 with several key events putting the club on the music scene radar. A Jelly pool party with Dan Deacon, Deerhunter & No Age was rained out and moved to Brooklyn Bowl weeks before the venue was even planning to have shows. Additionally, numerous artists came out to support and promote the venue; artists that got their start at Wetlands, such as Blues Travelers, Rage Against the Machine, Pearl Jam, The Roots and Dave Mathews Band. SoulLive, an acid band, had a 10-night run, with many guests.

There is a panorama of activity going on upon entering 23,000-sq. ft. Brooklyn Bowl. “The vertigo of so much going on can hopefully make you forget about your real life,” says owner Peter Shapiro.

61 Wythe Avenue
Brooklyn, NY 11211
718-963-3369
Hours: Open Mon-Fri 6p, Sat-Sun 12p
Subway: L to Bedford, G to Nassau
brooklynbowl.com

Written by: Emily Niewendorp

Brooklyn Bowl, is a carnival in a stately barn. Its bright red entrance, in an alley between the venue and neighboring Brooklyn Brewery, gives a hint of the atmosphere inside. The venue is one gigantic space—its performance area, Blue Ribbon restaurant and bowling alley partitioned off by countless half-walls and walkways.

The venue is a luxurious playground and a brilliant addition to Williamsburg’s scene. In the large foyer/lounge, patrons relax and dine in the company of a towering shelf of old-fashioned punch down dolls from carnival games. A fortune teller hovering over the ATM and carnival hands painted on the darkly, stained walls that point to in-venue destinations add a fun, eerie vibe. The main bar around the corner replicates a water-shooting gallery.

When you step down onto the performance floor, the live show grabs your attention. This area  is enclosed by half-walls separating it from the 16-lane bowling alley. Its tall stage and light show become the main focus. To top it off, video feeds project the performance onto large screens that hang throughout the venue.

Many music genres are presented at Brooklyn Bowl. DJs play after the shows and there are party and DJ nights; Questlove, from The Roots, spins weekly. After performing, musicians can relax in a new private deck built above the green room or enjoy a meal and go bowling.

Brooklyn Bowl is a certified green venue, containing the first green bowling alley in the world. Beers are available only on tap—from local breweries—and bike racks outside have room for 30+ capacity. Many other aspects contribute to the green business as well. The owner, Peter Shapiro, says, “It all was a pretty big gamble, but it looks like it has worked.”

The restaurant is open until 2 a.m. weekdays and 4 a.m. weekends. The Blue Ribbon “bowling alley” style menu offers salads, fried chicken, burgers, sandwiches, entrees and shakes.

HISTORY

Peter Shapiro was bitten by the live music bug during his proprietorship of legendary Wetlands Preserve rock venue, from 1996 – 2001. Peter says, “After it closed I was really eager…, but wanted to let Wetlands rest and do a venue a little differently.”

For years he looked around Manhattan and Brooklyn with new partner and former Wetlands manager, Charley Ryan. Wanting a venue that was different than the typical rectangular-shaped room, the men took a gamble on a combo of 3 things: music, food and bowling. A large space was needed for these ideas, which they discovered in 61 Wythe Ave. when they were walking the streets one day. This building, an iron works foundry dating back to 1881, was now a gutted warehouse with no electricity or plumbing, but an amazing shell and bones. The endeavor developed and the space evolved into the impressive performance venue, bowling alley and restaurant that it is now.

Brooklyn Bowl opened in July 2009 with several key events putting the club on the music scene radar. A Jelly pool party with Dan Deacon, Deerhunter & No Age was rained out and moved to Brooklyn Bowl weeks before the venue was even planning to have shows. Additionally, numerous artists came out to support and promote the venue; artists that got their start at Wetlands, such as Blues Travelers, Rage Against the Machine, Pearl Jam, The Roots and Dave Mathews Band. SoulLive, an acid band, had a 10-night run, with many guests.

There is a panorama of activity going on upon entering 23,000-sq. ft. Brooklyn Bowl. “The vertigo of so much going on can hopefully make you forget about your real life,” says owner Peter Shapiro.

GreenPoint

1041 Manhattan Ave
New York, NY 11222
718-383-9699
tommystavern.com

Tommy’s Tavern is a live music bar with inexpensive drinks and a do-it-yourself vibe. A big pool table, pinball machine and live musical acts of local rock, cover and metal bands entertain the locals. Bands play three to four nights a week in the small stage-less back room.

557 Manhattan Ave
Brooklyn, NY 11222
718-383-5333
Hours: Open 5p Daily
Subway: L to Beford or G to Nassau
barmatchless.com

Written by: Jen Meola

From the signage outside you would think you were entering an auto body shop, but inside Bar Matchless you’ll discover a cool indie rock bar where the locals hang out and emerging bands from all over New York play. 

Bar Matchless is a live music venue that supports the Brooklyn music scene. On any given night you can wander in off the streets of Greenpoint to check out a live show in the back room. The stage is high, allowing you to see the band performing wherever you’re standing in the narrow room. A small bar is conveniently located in the back corner.

Upon entering the front bar you’re enveloped in a chill atmosphere with low lighting and comfy red booths. The DJ mixes it up on the turntables and bodies responds in rhythm. If you need fresh air after dancing, step outside onto the patio and cool down. Additional activities include: working your way down the 16-tap beer list during Tuesdays’ two-for-one drink special, or rocking out during “Heavy Metal Parking Lot Karaoke” on Wednesday nights.

Bar Matchless is a great neighborhood place to grab a few drinks and a casual bite. The full kitchen offers a variety of dishes and is open until 3 a.m.

ParkSlope

702 Union Street
Brooklyn, NY 11215
718-638-4400
Hours: Music: 8p-12mid, Bar: Sun-Thu Open 4p, Fri-Sat Open 12p
Subway: R to Union St or F to 4th Ave
unionhallny.com

Written by: Emily Niewendorp

Union Hall goes above and beyond the call of duty in the personality category. The venue’s secret, social-club feel permeates the upstairs bar/lounge and extends downstairs to the glassed-in stuffed bird display in the music room. The ground floor bar is decked out in large bookshelves, dark woodworking, rich-colored furniture, and textured wallpaper. Furniture arrangements section off the room, creating a cozy, sink-yourself-in ambience.

The venue is both a curious destination place for people all over the city and a neighborhood hang-out for loyal customers. Indie music is most common, from rock to singer-songwriter, although the venue is open to all kinds of music. Downstairs the crowd gives special attention to the music, which is sometimes a nice surprise for both musicians and newcomers. This energy is even more prevalent because of the small size of the room. Union Hall highlights musicians that believe in the craft and are making a name for themselves, but also those that enjoy sharing an incredible experience with the audience.

Musicians take notice of Union Hall’s appreciation toward musicians. The  general manager Kevin says: “We happened to be lucky enough to get an artist named Andrew Bird to play and it was kind of a secret show. I think he was coming into town to do something much bigger and I think Jack [booker at the time] knew him or his management. And he came to play kind of a practice show to a small audience…stage wise he is very talented, he’s got a lot going on. And he really enjoyed the venue himself, so it was nice to have…he became a fan of us.”

The bar serves burgers and small dishes. There are two popular bocce ball courts, multi-level corners where groups settle, and a large pull-down screen for sports and films.

HISTORY

Union Hall was developed to provide something specific and new for the surrounding community. The space had been vacant for quite some time before the building’s owner found the folks at Union Hall, who agreed it was important to impact the community in a positive way. Favorable word spread quickly on the street attesting to the venue’s musical success. This has given the impression of a venue established long before 2007, but such is not the case.

In 2007, Union Hall was opened, inspired by the venue’s sister bar, Floyd, NY, a neighborhood bar in Brooklyn Heights. Kevin Avanzato was hired to help build Union Hall and being music lovers, the owners and Kevin decided to utilize the new two-floor space by including live music. A cabinet shop beforehand, the entire interior was renovated and designed to represent Union Hall’s private club feel. The bookshelves and bocce ball courts were built and the walls were plaster finished. Time was spent in antique stores salvaging and picking out particularly large paintings. Books were bought by the foot from The Strand Bookstore in Manhattan and some were donated as well: one woman gifted her entire 1960s edition of Encyclopedia Britannica to Union Hall instead of throwing it away.


Through the opening process, relationships were developed and Kevin was asked to stay on as general manager of the venue. Musically, Kevin and the owners had not developed a vision for Union Hall. For the first three years, Jack MacFadden was hired to program the room full time. Through his connections, Jack drew great talent, understood how to best use the space and its assets and from there, the venue blew up to the popular, well-supported place it is today.

249 4th Avenue
Brooklyn, New York 11215
718-230-5740
Hours: Sun-Wed 5p-2a, Thu-Sat 5p-4a
Subway: D,N,R to Union St
therockshopny.com

Written by: Daniel Morrow

“No frills, no product placement, just good sounding music,” says The Rock Shop’s manager, Brian Hakenrider. This ethos is establishing The Rock Shop as quite the local hot spot. The venue is run by people with an established pedigree in the New York music environment, who have worked at well-known clubs in Manhattan.

The Rock Shop has smartly created its own Brooklyn personalilty. A look at the ground floor performance room reveals an intimate space, with a tall stage and comfortable sofas surrounding a large standing area. Its intimate confines give the venue a real, palpable energy. The room has also been acoustically treated so that, for sound and vibe, it is a quality place for up-and-coming bands to play and build a following.

Although national touring acts and regionally renowned bands play here, it is local bands that fill the majority of the evening slots, giving the venue a distinct neighborhood flavor. The community spirit is adding greatly to The Rock Shop’s appeal, but the venue’s popularity can also be attributed to the many other attractions it has to offer. Brian describes the place as “a one-stop shop: music, sports and a great place to hang out.”

There are 10 flat-screen TVs mounted around the venue and a quality jukebox. The upstairs is equipped with a pool table, dartboard and non-stop televised sports. There is also a wonderful roof-top deck encased by bamboo shoots. Bands are already claiming this area as the venue’s green room!

Indie rock music is The Rock Shop’s mainstay. There are plans for occasional jazz shows and even comedy acts. The versatility of the venue allows it to morph naturally from sports bar to music venue to comedy club to late night hang-out. It is this fresh and open approach that makes The Rock Shop both a cool place to hang out and a respected music venue for local and touring bands.

376 9th Street
Brooklyn, NY 11215
347-422-0248
Hours: Open 5p Daily
Subway: F to 7th Ave
barbesbrooklyn.com

Written by: Dmitry Iyudin

In an intimate back room at Barbès a globe-spanning blend of eclectic music is set amongst French flair.  The live music varies from ragtime and opera to Eastern European Gypsy flavored funk. This bare-bones neighborhood bar located in the heart of Park Slope is owned by two Brooklyn musicians—both originally from France—and draws a lovely, literate crowd.

Inside the venue, tin-ceilings and low light create perfect ambiance for a romantic rendezvous or a stimulating evening out with friends. A great selection of reasonably priced wines adds to the experience. Proximity to bustling 5th and 7th Avenues, and local culinary favorites such as Sidecar and Blue Ribbon, make this a perfect spot for an aperitif or a night cap.

Every first Sunday of the month Barbès features readings by prominent authors such as Paul Auster and Chuck Klosterman. On Monday the performance area is turned into a makeshift movie theater for screenings of independent features, animation and classics from around the world. Admission is free to both.

Gowanus

168 7th St
Brooklyn, NY 11215
ibeambrooklyn.com

Ibeam Music Studio’s classes and events offer instruction for students and professional musicians, rehearsal and recital rental space, membership opportunities, and an informal performance space—perfect for small gatherings. Performance proposals are accepted, as well as, submissions for the many performance series curated by the staff.

622 Degraw Street
Brooklyn, NY 11217
Hours: Open for Events, Sun-Thu 8p-12a, Fri-Sat 8p-4a
Subway: 2,3,4,5,B,D,N,Q to Atlantic/Pacific St or R to Union St
littlefieldnyc.com

Written by: Emily Niewendorp

Littlefield’s beginnings embody life in the 21st century: an eco-friendly, live-music venture purchases a warehouse from an out-of-business plastic bag distributor, with the transaction initiated over Craigslist. Meet Littlefield, an oasis destination in Gowanus, the industrial, up-and-coming Brooklyn neighborhood situated between Park Slope and Carroll Gardens.

As an eco-friendly venue creatively transformed out of a warehouse environment, everything in Littlefield was chosen for its recyclable and aesthetic qualities. Green ivy along its outside walls greets patrons as they enter the front patio. This patio area was cut out of the building to create outdoor space between the street and the venue. The storefront of glass and steel leads into the bar and art gallery, which is sometimes separated from the music room beyond by a large rolling wall. This massive wall contains collections of rotating art. Most pieces in the venue are salvaged; the bar and tabletops were fashioned from old bowling alley lanes from an Elks Lodge. The bar is lined with reclaimed stainless steel, and light fixtures from Build It Green in Long Island City, Queens add further ambience by creating a starry-night effect. One of the coolest alterations from the warehouse’s original structure is the scalloped walls, made from recycled truck tires. Not only do these walls add personality, but they improve the room’s sound quality as well.

Part of the challenge for Littlefield is attracting patrons from the minimal amount of foot traffic on the block and establishing the venue as a neighborhood hangout. Julie and Scott work to nurture the local community by reciprocating business with their neighboring proprietors. Local arts, music and cultural centers are flourishing and many are getting involved in Littlefield’s music programming. Neighborhood bands and individuals can curate their own shows, creating one-genre bills.

Currently, Littlefield is open only on days that have a show scheduled. Performance types in this warehouse space include: indie rock; hip-hop; reggae; dance parties—with the large wall rolled back; film screenings; art exhibits; opera; fashion shows and comedy. “The feel is so different from night to night, and the crowds are so different, but, you see people come back when a genre comes back.” says Julie, Littlefield’s co-owner.

Catering to both the art and the music world, Littlefield is finding its niche in Brooklyn. With its dedicated owners and staff, and an ongoing effort to provide consistent sound quality, Littlefield can truly be a multi-functioning and multi-genre venue.

The bar encourages imbibers to try new concoctions. Check out Littlefield’s specialty cocktails list, the high-end national microbrews and the bio-dynamic wines.

HISTORY

In May 2009, owners Julie and Scott opened Littlefield after years of involvement in various music scenes across the country and one fateful trip to Oslo, Norway. Julie says:

“…we took a trip to Oslo to visit Scott’s relatives and we heard this music. We followed it into this industrial neighborhood, where warehouses were tagged with beautiful artwork and we found this tiny club called Blå. It was on the canal, with an outdoor bar and we thought, ‘How wonderful to have found this little gem just by passing and hearing the music.’”

Despite opening Littlefield in the aftermath of the 2008 recession, Julie and Scott believe that their excitement is worth the risks and stress involved. “We try to put all the positive things into our place. Basically, if you build something you should love every part of it,” Julie says.

149 7th Street
Brooklyn, NY 11215
718-643-6510
Hours: Mon-Fri 5p-4a, Sat-Sun 5p-4a
Subway: F,G,R to 4th Ave
thebellhouseny.com

Written by: Nick D’Amore

Set amid the boxy utilitarian buildings at the end of a block in the Gowanus section of Park Slope, is perhaps the brightest spot of the borough’s burgeoning music scene: The Bell House. Converted from a 1920s printing press warehouse to a spacious and welcoming venue, this hot spot has retained its antique charm, while using a sparse decor to mimic its surroundings.

The Bell House was conceived by the same folks who established the great Union Hall in Park Slope and Floyd, NY in Brooklyn Heights. It is easily one of the top music venues in Brooklyn and, perhaps, the entire city. The music room, located in the back of the venue, is well suited as a multi-purpose space and a glance at the venue’s calendar of events is evidence of the venue’s versatility and the disparate groups of people who can enjoy events there together.

Keep an eye out for nights of large-scale trivia, burlesque shows, ping-pong tournaments or a viewing of the television season finale of Mad Men. Whisk away the tables and chairs and there is ample standing room for rock shows, DJ dance parties and shows featuring established artists that inevitable pack the place, such as: Jonathan Richmond, Roky Erickson, Nick Lowe, or John Oates—of Hall & Oates. Some of the more memorable events in The Bell House’s brief history include The Thermals’ performance, the many LOST viewing parties of NBC’s hit TV show, the reunion of New York hardcore legends, Agnostic Front, and a fundraiser for Haiti, following its disastrous earthquake. Heather Dunsmoor, who books the club, says she focuses on events that can fill the spacious room, but, “We’re open to anything as long as there is public interest in it.”

Music events at the The Bell House are particularly satisfying, due in part to the room’s good acoustics. The 25-foot wooden arched ceiling guarantees stellar live sound. Excellent sightlines also play an integral role in the appeal. Contrary to most music venues, where the stage is positioned at the far end of a rectangular space, the 450 square-foot stage at the The Bell House is along a side wall, creating a room more wide than long. This allows for an intimacy between the audience and the performer, despite the room’s large size.

The Bell House staff is also focused on providing the performers themselves with an optimum experience at the venue. They work to make each event as fun and stress-free as possible for the acts booked, whether by providing great sound or fulfilling a rider request. “We’ve always been very aware of artists needs and we try every day to make sure performers walk away with a great experience. As long as they’re happy, we’re happy,” Heather says.

The front bar is a laidback area where patrons can enjoy a break from the crowd, a quality pint or cocktail, and relax and converse on comfortable couches and chairs. Both the music room and the front bar/lounge serve primarily local and independent beers and interesting cocktail creations, such as: Surfer Rosa, Pinkerton and Mellow Gold. Also, there is a limited, but intriguing food selection at the Bell House, such as cheeses, and various meat and vegetarian pies.

Similar to the complementary venues that have sprung up around Brooklyn in the recent years, The Bell House strives to be an active and positive component to their surrounding neighborhood.

RedHook

34 Van Dyke St
Brooklyn, NY 11231
718-246-8050
Hours: Open 11a Daily
Transportation: A, C, F to Jay St/Borough Hall—then Bus B61 to Red Hook or F, G to Carroll St—then, $6 Cab
http://www.sunnysredhook.com/

34 Van Dyke St
Brooklyn, NY 11231
718-246-8050
Hours: Open 11a Daily
Transportation: A, C, F to Jay St/Borough Hall—then Bus B61 to Red Hook or F, G to Carroll St—then, $6 Cab

315 Columbia St
Brooklyn, NY 11231
718-395-3214
Hours: Tue-Fri 2p-2a, Sat-Sun 12p-2a
Subway: F, G to Carroll
http://www.jalopytavern.biz/

320 Van Brunt St
Brooklyn, NY 11231
718-797-4892
Hours: Mon-Fri 4p-4a, Sat-Sun 2p-4a
Transportation: A,C,F to Jay St/Borough Hall—then Bus B61 to Red Hook or F,G to Carroll St—then, $6 Cab
redhookbaitandtackle.com

Written by: Heather McCown

Tired of staring at the pigeons on your fire escape? Then head down to Bait & Tackle to enjoy the natural, and not so natural, fauna of Brooklyn. Opened around 2004, this bar took up residence where a real bait shop operated for years. The current owners assimilated the prior identity of the space to create a live music venue that is truly comfortable and unique.

From the stuffed game, antler horns and assorted fishing and hunting paraphernalia hanging from the walls, to the beautiful natural wood bar top, B & T gives no apology for its character. “They don’t try to be hip—they don’t have to…it just is what it is,” says Erin, a former bartender who trims a friend’s hair with a straight-edge between sips of beer.

There are plenty of places to hide in the bar’s camouflage decor, yet Bait & Tackle is also a great place to meet friendly neighbors, discuss local events and commiserate underneath the bucket lamps hanging above the bar. Positioned in Red Hook, where residential blocks meet industrial buildings, the bar feels like a no-man’s land. “People come here to hideout from other areas of Brooklyn,” Erin, states, as she explains how the venue has become a refuge from the hipster scene in other neighborhoods.

The stage area consists of a small space in the center of the room, and lends itself to an ideal setup for acoustic or small acts that don’t mind a stuffed billy goat peering over their shoulders while they are playing. With a full PA system, mixer, and speakers, Bait & Tackle is a great venue to plug-in and play.

This is a come as you are kind of place. Grab a seat on one of the vinyl sofas with a friend, play a game of Buck Hunter, or just rest your feet on the railroad tie at the bar and enjoy the warmth of a good conversation and the sounds of live music.

Dumbo

45 Water St
Brooklyn, NY 11201
(718) 254-8779
Subway: A, C to High St, F to York St

tribeca

22 Warren St (between Broadway & Church St)
New York, NY 10007

*occasional live music featuring Shake Rattle & Roll Dueling Pianos

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199 Chambers Street (between Greenwich & West St, on BMCC campus)
New York, NY 10007
(212) 220-1459

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2 Ave of the Americas
New York, NY 10013
(212) 519-6600

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soho

204 Varick St
New York, NY 10014
212-243-4940
Hours: Mon-Thu, Sun 7p-2a, Fri-Sat 7p-4a
Subway: 1 to Houston St
sobs.com

Written by: Allie Arias

“From its unmusical beginnings as a sandwich shop, SOB’s (Sounds of Brasil) has evolved into one of the city’s premier world music venues. Early performances from Tito Puente and Marc Anthony put this vibrant venue in the minds of people around the world.

“It was thirty years ago that Larry Gold focused on his appreciation for Brazilian music and turned his father’s shop into a live music venue, bringing Afro-Latino Diaspora music to New York City at a time when it wasn’t readily accessible.

 Larry confides that the club is of such a global nature it would thrive in any city with an ethnic population. Folks from Haiti, Brazil, Senegal, India and more gather at SOB’s to celebrate their heritage and mingle with other cultures. SOB’s provides an intimate stage for global talent; from up-and-coming artists looking to familiarize their names with American audiences, to established musicians. Brazilian legend Gilberto Gil played his first USA gig at SOB’s. Another memorable night at the club included the double billing of jazz singers Abbey Lincoln and Betty Carter. Other notable performers have included John Legend, The Fugees, Celia Cruz and Bebel Gilberto.

 SOB’s is also known for its excellent contemporary Latin cuisine, which is infused with a Caribbean flair. The cocktails are potent, but who wouldn’t want to have a stiff caipirinha or mojito while grooving to some Latin beats? SOB’s excels in improvement.

“One of their latest additions is a Bossa Nova Brunch on Sundays, which includes a three-course meal for under $30, with unlimited sangria. Or, stop by on Fridays for a free salsa class before the show!”

Excerpt from:  “FirstLive, New York City.” FirstLive, 2013. iBooks. https://itun.es/us/qce-K.l

GENRE: TYPE: CAPACITY:
World Music, R&B,
Hip-Hop
Mid-Size Club 450
AMBIENCE: DRINKS: HAPPY HR:
Energetic, Intimate,
Upscale
$-$$ N/A
ADMISSION: FOOD: AGE LIMIT:
$10 – $25 Latin, Caribbean 21+

155 Varick St
New York, 10013
212-608-0555
Hours: 11:30a-12mid, Music times vary
Subway: 1 to Houston St or Canal St or C,E to Spring St
citywinery.com/newyork

Written by: Emily Niewendorp

“City Winery brings wine country to the heart of New York City. Opened by Michael Dorf in 2008, the city’s only fully-functional winery integrates music, fine dining, 500 wines and public wine-making capabilities.

 City Winery’s red brick structure stands bright and confident on the corner of Varick and Vandam. Cafe curtains add a rustic charm and the large wooden doors open directly into the thick of the 21,000 square-foot venue. Musicians at all levels say it’s a fancy room. City Winery is at once a performance space, wine-bar and Mediterranean-inspired restaurant. At the bar, true house wines rush from spigots connected to barrels in the cellar.

A winding staircase funnels down to City Winery’s winemaking facilities. Glass walls provide glimpses of the processing and storage rooms for the 220 barrels stored in the cellar. Classes, lectures and events are available to the public, some are exclusive to the winemaking members. Anyone interested in making wine can find a winemaking package to suit him or her at City Winery. Packages range from individual barrels, to shared, corporate and others. Barrel ownership offers a slew of perks, such as exclusive offers and first access to music[…]”

Excerpt from:  “FirstLive, New York City.” FirstLive, 2013. iBooks. https://itun.es/us/qce-K.l

GENRE: TYPE: CAPACITY:
Rock, Pop, Folk Mid-Size Club 327-499
AMBIENCE: DRINKS: HAPPY HR:
Rustic Charm $$-$$$ Mon-Fri 3-6p
ADMISSION: FOOD: AGE LIMIT:
Free-$75 Eclectic American 21+

noho

308 Bowery
New York, 10012
212-614-0505
Hours: Varies by event & workshop
Subway: F to 2nd Ave or 6 to Bleecker St
bowerypoetry.com

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chinatown

277 Church St
New York, NY 10013
212-219-2970
bflat.info

In this posh basement space, take your pick between the Monday night four-piece be-bop band and Wednesday night’s funky trio. An excellent cocktail list and dinner menu blends American, Italian and Asian ingredients, and the low lighting and superb staff create an easy atmosphere for friendly excursions or a first date.

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lowereastside

169 East Broadway
New York, NY 10002
646-833-7199
169barnyc.com

A New Orleans-style dive bar with personality, 169 Bar attracts the curious and the regulars. It promotes: cheap drinks; go-go dancing; DJs who spin ’60s soul-jazz, funk, boo-ga-loo and ’30’s Harlem swing/funk/soul/disco; acoustic Latin, R&B, soul and jazz-funk bands; a pet fish named Jeff; and darts, pool and more. Events typically occur Wed – Sat.

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AMBIENCE: DRINKS: HAPPY HR:
ADMISSION: FOOD: AGE LIMIT:

196 Allen St
New York, NY 10002
212-477-4155
Hours: 6p-4a Daily
Subway: F to 2nd Ave or F,J,M to Delancey St or B,D to Grand St
rockwoodmusichall.com

Written by: Erika Omundson

Rockwood Music Hall initially opened as a small, intimate room with deep red hues, exposed brick, candlelight, three small rows of tables and a grand piano that occupies most of the stage. Named after its owner, Rockwood Music Hall has quickly developed a reputation for impeccable booking of the most talented musicians. With a new act every hour, audience members may come for one specific act, but end up staying for another.  It is a place to discover emerging artists and a place where established artists feel comfortable playing an intimate acoustic set  or joining with other musicians to experiment with new sounds.

Maintaining incredibly high musical standards and quality facilities has resulted in devoted audience-goers and repeat performances by some of most talented musicians from New York and beyond.  The consensus among those who frequent Rockwood Music Hall is that it is the perfect cozy space to sit down, relax, listen to great music and discover new artists such as Julia Darling, Megan Palmer and many others while choosing from an impresive list of wines and imported beers. At the end of the set, they pass a silver bucket to collect tips (a $5 suggested donation) for the bands.

In April 2010, Rockwood Music Hall expanded to a space directly next door and added a second space called Rockwood Music Hall Stage 2.  This new space is more than twice the size of the original Rockwood Music Hall, but manages to maintain much of the charm and intimacy of the original space. Stage 2 includes a catwalk-like baclony whichs adds a slightly grander feel to the new space.

Some of the more well-known artists that have played at Rockwood include: Grace Potter & the Nocturnals, Eli “Paperboy” Reed, Wakey! Wakey!, Chris Thile, Teddy Thompson, Amos Lee, Richard Julian, Jim Campilongo, Brendan James, Elizabeth & the Catapult, James Maddock, Sonya Kitchell, Jamie McLean, and Peter Salett. Bluegrass guitar virtuoso Michael Daves and the experimental jazz great Dred Scott Trio continue to play long-standing Tuesday night residencies at Rockwood.  Several famous artists and actors have made special appearances at Rockwood in guest appearances or under various pseudonyms including Chrissie Hynde, Norah Jones, Sharon Jones, Ari Hest, Rufus Wainwright, Jeremy Sisto and others.

GENRE: TYPE: CAPACITY:
All Small club 50-200
AMBIENCE: DRINKS: HAPPY HR:
Intimate listening
room
$6 N/A
ADMISSION: FOOD: AGE LIMIT:
Free-$20 N/A 21+

158 Ludlow St
New York, NY 10002
212-505-3733
Hours: 3p-4a Daily
Subway: J,M,F to Essex St/Delancey St or F to 2nd Ave
pianosnyc.com

Written by: Sari Henry

Pianos is one of the liveliest music venues in the Lower East Side and it has been since it opened in 2002. The venue’s unique bright-colored schemes, light-hearted decor, full schedule of DJs and live music acts attract crowds night after night.

Pianos appeal is astonishing, yet rightly so: there are always people spilling out its doors, milling around outside and waiting in line for entry. Through the large, front windows, people can be seen laughing, socializing and moving to the DJ’s beats. Inside, the bar has an inviting demeanor of white painted brick and wood beams, with shades of blue highlighting the window frames and the floor. This space is barely large enough to allow for the large amounts of traffic flow, but the surfer photos on the wall, the curvy packed bar and high tables, perfect for sampling from the menu with friends, all induce a congenial tone.

The live room is the driving force at Pianos. It has its own pint-size bar for the ardent music aficionados, who don’t want to miss a beat. Multiple bands play nightly, ranging from indie rock to singer-songwriter. The capabilities for sound are excellent; the speakers are all top notch and the stage is sand-filled to absorb sound and reduce echoing. The colors are bolder and darker in this room pointing attention to the musicians, who can command the small room and be seen by everyone on the surprisingly high stage.

The upstairs area has a slight jungle theme. Some stuffed animals silently watch the room’s activities from an alcove near the stairwell. This 2nd floor space operates as a disco, dance party, karaoke room and second stage for acoustic set-ups, sometimes as many as seven in an afternoon and evening. Low-key in the early evening, it is ideal for a quiet dinner at the bar. Later at night, particularly during special events, it can become a raging dance party.

Pianos’ intentional beach house designs are a much welcomed contrast from the common ‘dark and dirty bar.’ The venue has also fine-tuned its operations, retaining what is a hit among its patrons and benefits the business most. Four-dollar frozen margaritas are a smash at happy hour. Most of the staff are like-minded artists and surfers themselves. And the gastro-pub menu has been narrowed down to the popular items such as burgers, seared tuna salad and sandwiches.

Something interesting is always going on at Pianos. People walking by, look in and think, “I want to go in there.”

HISTORY

Pianos fashioned its name from the previous business’s trade—piano-refurbishing. Before the change-over the shop looked like a piano graveyard with strings, pieces of wood and piano frames lying around. For a short while, Pianos was used as a do-it-yourself performance space, until the live room was built for the bands. Intended to be a multi-room venue, the upstairs floor and its bar/ lounge and smaller playing area was developed a short time later.

Pianos has never attached itself to certain music genres. The venue has had different bookers, but the focus throughout the years has always been on booking bands that draw people, as well as, bands that have potential to attract attention. Developing bands is important to Pianos, as is trying to predict what the next good sound is going to be. The bookers at Pianos are constantly scouting, listening to 100s of submissions each week and reaching out to agents.

GENRE: TYPE: CAPACITY:
Rock, Pop,
Folk, Indie
Small club 150
AMBIENCE: DRINKS: HAPPY HR:
Indie rock club,
showcase venue
$-$$ 3p-7p drinks & food
ADMISSION: FOOD: AGE LIMIT:
Free-$10 American, bar 21+

317 East Houston St
New York, 10002
212-673-6270
Hours: 1p-4a Daily
Subway: F to 2nd Ave
parksidelounge.net

Written by: Sari Henry

Inviting, welcoming, inclusive. Parkside Lounge prides itself on being a place where all different types of people can have a good time. The venue offers performances for every type of taste: music ranging from bluegrass to local indie rock and an open-mic night, and comedy and cabaret shows. The club’s come-as-you-are atmosphere is the result of a seemingly unlikely partnership between Karen Waltermire, known locally for years as the “Blonde Bombshell of Bleecker Street,” and former Parkside bartender, Christopher Lee.

The spirit of Parkside is embodied in its eclectic mix of patrons: locals, tourists, music-lovers, drag queens, stockbrokers and frat boys, who all enjoy Parkside’s distinctive offerings of performances and drink specials—Sunday’s all-day Liquid Brunch, Manhattan Mondays and Tuesday Brewsdays. Some fun side distractions include the foosball game, Pac-Man, board games and a photo booth.

Performances go up in the tiny back room of the bar, which are as distinctive as the crowd itself.  The space is attractive to musicians and fans because it places the monetary responsibility of the show in the hands of the performers: the performers set admission prices and keep the profits from the show. According to guitarist James MacCarthy from Band of Outsiders, he and other musicians enjoy playing Parkside because the amps are good, the back room is cozy and the management is accommodating. What the club may lack in sound quality, it more than makes up for in ambience. Indeed, the bar is often quite crowded, the shoulder-to-shoulder crowd attesting to the popularity of the venue.

HISTORY

Parkside started life in 1908 as an ice house on Allen Street several blocks west. Soon after it became a bar taking its name from the small park near the median on Houston. In 1996, the venue moved to its current location on Houston Street when Karen purchased it from the Gellerman Family. Christopher became a partner in 2009 and his influence is apparent in the venue’s southwest accents. In particular, Christopher believes that the city is in need of better Bloody Marys and that they are far superior in New Orleans and his native Texas. To give the drinks more bite and flavor, Lee concocts Cajun Bloody Marys that feature pickled green beans instead of celery.

GENRE: TYPE: CAPACITY:
Rock, pop, folk,
world, blues, comedy
Small club N/A
AMBIENCE: DRINKS: HAPPY HR:
Neighborhood
dive bar
$-$$ 1p-8p
ADMISSION: FOOD: AGE LIMIT:
Free-$7 N/A 21+

217 Houston St
New York, 10002
212-260-4700
Hours: 6p-3a Daily
Subway: J,M,F to Essex St/Delancey St | F to 2nd Ave
mercuryloungenyc.com

Written by: Brian Thunders

At the crossroads of the Lower East Side, Houston and Essex, stands a former tombstone shop turned rock club, The Mercury Lounge, home to a unique history. Once upon a time it housed the servants to the Astor Mansion and a labyrinth of tunnels below ground connected the two buildings. 

Opened in 1993 by The Bowery Presents, The Mercury Lounge is long established as the premier small-size LES live music venue, catering to New York’s rock and indie scene.

The space is akin to the great NYC rock clubs—a long, wooden bar with lighting that allows you to see and be seen. On any given night you can rub shoulders with the band before they perform. The bar has typical rock-club fare: reasonably priced bottles and tap beers, as well as a full liquor selection.

Past the bar through swinging double doors is the live room, a large space that’s acoustically treated for some of the best sound in NYC. The stage is lit tastefully, without any overly attention grabbing strobes or spots. It is the perfect sized room: you’re never too far from the band, but the place holds a decent amount of people—and gets packed often—so, everyone in the room is there for the same purpose, enjoying the same thing. It adds to the experience. The outer edge of the live room is lined with couches and a server near the entrance will give your drink orders to the bartenders through a cut-out in the wall.

The Mercury Lounge has been host to some of the biggest names in music, including Radiohead, 30 Seconds to Mars, Lou Reed, Joan Jett, Jeff Buckley, The Strokes, Jim Jones, Interpol, Tony Bennett, the Dandy Warhols, Broken Social Scene, The Killers, Lady Gaga, and more.

GENRE: TYPE: CAPACITY:
Rock, pop, indie Showcase room 250
AMBIENCE: DRINKS: HAPPY HR:
Showcase venue $6+ N/A
ADMISSION: FOOD: AGE LIMIT:
$8-$10 N/A 21+

112 Rivington St
New York, NY 10002
212-533-1888
Hours: 7p-4a Daily
Subway: J,M,F to Essex St/Delancey St | F to 2nd Ave
fatbabynyc.com

Written by: Emily Niewendorp

Fat Baby emerged onto the scene in 2005 as a chic, dance spot and (some would argue) dive lounge. The venue’s popularity has grown, via word-of-mouth and blogs, perpetually buzzing with activity, through holidays and rainy weekends alike.

The ground level of Fat Baby boasts a multilevel bar and lounge, decked out with specialty hard-woods and vintage wallpaper. A mezzanine with booths often serves as a VIP area and overlooks the dance floor. The music room downstairs carries a different, more creative atmosphere. The darkly lit room houses a small stage, a few couches, and a small bar with room for dancing. A side entrance for performers gives them a direct means of access and egress from the venue.

The hip, fashion-conscious staff at Fat Baby manage the day-to-day operations, while the booking agents keep the club on the cutting edge of New York’s music scene. Indie rock bands are featured the most, but jazz, funk, soul, and world music artists also crop up from time to time. Each week night, four bands play to neighborhood crowds, while the weekend bridge-and-tunnel patrons get only three bands—to allow for late-night DJ parties.

HISTORY

Co-owner, Rob Shaliman, previously owned a bar on Ludlow St. called Dark Room. He sold his stake in the company, in the hopes of using the capital to fulfill a dream: to own and operate a multi-floored, live music club.

The gentrification upheaval spawned by a real estate boom provided him with an ideal opportunity: a catering company had just vacated some highly coveted, Lower East Side real estate.  Although the architectural framework of the building was sound, the rest of it was completely unsalvageable; the entire space had to be gutted and its layout completely altered to satisfy Rob’s vision of the new place.

An actual baby was the source of inspiration for the venue’s name. Fat Baby’s owner, Rob, and his wife were visiting with a relative and parent of a chubby little child, when his wife made an innocuous request: “Let me hold that fat baby!” From this incident the venue’s name was born.

GENRE: TYPE: CAPACITY:
Rock, pop, indie, DJ Basement 50
AMBIENCE: DRINKS: HAPPY HR:
Hip, fashion-
conscious dive bar
$-$$$,
bottle service
Mon-Fri, 7p-10p
$3 draft & select bottles
ADMISSION: FOOD: AGE LIMIT:
Free-$15 N/A 21+

168 Delancey St
New York, 10002
212-254-9920
Hours: 5p-4a Daily
Subway: J,M,F to Essex St/Delancey St
thedelancey.com

Written by: Daniel Morrow

Located next to the Williamsburg Bridge entrance, The Delancey combines the hipness of Williamsburg, Brooklyn with the dynamic party atmosphere of the Lower East Side.

The Delancey boasts three levels for entertainment. Enter the venue through a long, narrow corridor and walk straight down to the basement where the main performance stage features three to eight bands every night. Or, walk in the ground floor where patrons are entertained by singer-songwriters on a small stage with a well-maintained piano. Ample seating is found in the many curtained-off alcoves, or by the window overlooking the bridge. Alternatively, drinks can be ordered at the roof garden’s bar, while relaxing at the pond, surrounded by greenery.

The Delancey transforms itself for virtually all occasions. Both the ground and basement levels have a DJ for the later parts of each evening, and on Friday and Saturday nights the venue refashions itself into a veritable nightclub. There are Afro-punk themes, weekly burlesque shows and a fetish night once a month.

The stage lighting in the basement is made more dramatic by the room’s otherwise low light levels. Comfortable leather sofas fringe the room and a warm, red glow infuses the space. The crowd stands close to the stage creating an intimate energy. Even on quieter nights the high sound quality gives audience the feel of a much larger space. The in-house sound engineer, Marco, is particular about getting excellent results—as reported by audiences and bands alike. Indie/rock bands take the stage most nights, but the venue maintains a diverse nature with various genres and party nights.

GENRE: TYPE: CAPACITY:
All Basement 100
AMBIENCE: DRINKS: HAPPY HR:
Eclectic multi-level
art bar
$6-$10,
bottle service
$2 off drinks
Sun-Wed 5p-8p
Thu 5p-7p
ADMISSION: FOOD: AGE LIMIT:
Free-$15 Sandwiches, pizza 21+

6 Delancey St
New York, NY 10002
212-533-2111
Hours: Music times vary
Subway: B,D to Grand St | F,J,M to Essex St/Delancey St
boweryballroom.com

Written by: Sarah Oramas

Playing The Bowery Ballroom is a milestone for musicians moving up in their careers; it’s a beacon of indie success. With its high quality sound system, professional team of sound engineers and beautiful setting,  Bowery Ballroom attracts up-and-coming acts, established bands, and those on the cusp of breaking to the next level.

Frank Bango started at The Bowery Ballroom as a bartender when it first opened in 1998, and has worked his way up to become the general manager.  He ascribes the success of the venue to the fact that “it’s always had the same caliber of performances.”

The entrance of the Bowery Ballroom leads down to a basement level lounge that exudes a sense of the grungy, artistic history of the Lower East Side. It’s a hip room with a full bar, plenty of seating and space for socializing before and after the show.

The actual performance space is up a large staircase, lined by performers selling their merchandise. The main floor feels like a restored old time theater with beautifully polished wood floors, long theatrical curtains  and great sight lines.  Top it off with rock venue sound and you get a sense of what you are seeing matters.

There is a second bar at the back of the sizable dance floor, allowing fans to refresh their beverages without having to miss any of the show. The dance floor is flanked on both sides by staircases leading to the balcony, which houses an inset full bar and private booths on either side. Each side of the balcony accommodates six-eight small tables. For those lucky enough to snag a table, they offer a great vantage point for watching a show with a little distance from the main crowd.

GENRE: TYPE: CAPACITY:
Rock, pop, indie Mid-size ballroom 550
AMBIENCE: DRINKS: HAPPY HR:
Restored old-time
theater
$6+ N/A
ADMISSION: FOOD: AGE LIMIT:
$10-$30 N/A 21+

95 Stanton St
New York, NY 10002
212-353-1688
Hours: Mon-Sun 6p-2a, Fri-Sat 6p-4a
Subway: J, M, F to Essex St/Delancey St or F to 2nd Ave

“Arlenes is a longstanding showcase venue that embraces young artists as well as touring and established bands.  The original three owners of Arlene’s Grocery: Dermot Burke, Tony Caffrey, and Shane Doyle, ventured into the ‘wild, wild west’ of the Lower East Side in the mid-’90s, before any other music venue dared. Crime and drugs burdened the LES, yet they believed, risks aside, that the neighborhood would become New York City’s next hip area—and the gamble paid off. Other venues followed Arlene’s lead and the LES birthed a flourishing art and music scene.

The three owners converted the prior business, a bodega called Arlene Grocery, into a live music venue, keeping the store’s original exterior tropical-themed murals and name. Only recently were the designs modified and an ‘apostrophe-s’ added to grammatically correct the venue’s name, although newcomers still mistake Arlene’s for a grocery store.

On Arlene’s historic opening night, 30 people gathered to see poet Allen Ginsberg backed by Lenny K on guitar. The new venue functioned with sparse resources for several months; the sound system was problematic and the sound board lived onstage, a less-than-optimal place for sound control. Busboy and eventual booker[…]”

GENRE: TYPE: CAPACITY:
All Small club 129
AMBIENCE: DRINKS: HAPPY HR:
Neighborhood bar,
showcase venue
$3-$13 Daily 6p-8p, Draft $3-$5
beer and shot $6,
well drinks $4
ADMISSION: FOOD: AGE LIMIT:
$5-$10 N/A 21+

eastvillage

125 East 11th St
New York, NY 10003
212-353-1600
Hours: Doors 8p, Music times vary
Subway: N,Q,R,4,5,6 to Union Square or R to 8th St or 6 to Astor Pl
websterhall.com

Written by: Laura Sherman

The Studio at Webster Hall is a smaller space with a capacity for 300, which opened its doors to up-and-coming artists in 2008. The space is sponsored by retailer Best Buy and has one of the best PA systems for its size. It is equipped with high-end recording equipment, and capabilities for multi-track live recordings of performances in the Grand Ballroom as well as The Studio itself.

The Studio carries on the legacy of the 1950s when Webster Hall was the home of RCA Records. Recently, The Studio teamed up with another icon in music, MTV, to present a digital web cast “Live From The Studio.”  The webcast showcases indie rock acts, including both unsigned and established acts. Trevor Silmser, a co-founder of The Studio, says the partnership “will help establish opportunities for young bands to monetize their music.” The first band to be featured on the web cast was The Drums. Some of the other acts that have performed at The Studio include Keane, Against Me!, Vampire Weekend, Shwayze and many others.

GENRE: TYPE: CAPACITY:
AMBIENCE: DRINKS: HAPPY HR:
ADMISSION: FOOD: AGE LIMIT:

125 East 11th St
New York, NY 10003
212-353-1600
Hours: Music times vary
Subway: N,Q,R,4,5,6 to Union Square or R to 8th St or 6 to Astor Pl
websterhall.com

Written by: Laura Sherman

Webster Hall events are all the rage with music enthusiasts age 18 and up. Going to Webster Hall on the weekend is a sweaty and magical experience; the light shows alone are worth the price of admission.

Webster Hall creates magic on a daily basis. People show up to dance, dressed to impress, and performing there live as a musician is extraordinary.

The club fuses state-of-the-art audio, video and lighting technology, creating a playground for the ultimate party. Webster Hall can cater to groups of 100 to 2,000, with crazed dancing capacity for 1,400 on the Grand Ballroom’s suspended floor system. With 40,000 square feet, split among four floors, and seven event rooms there’s always a lot going on at Webster Hall.

HISTORY

Webster Hall has helped to create history in more ways than simply music. Built in 1886 by Charles Rentz, it was originally used to host society balls and political rallies. It is said that the women’s right to vote was unofficially decided in the Grand Ballroom, and during the prohibition period it was Al Capone’s speakeasy.

During the 1950s, RCA Records became the “acoustical integrity” of the Grand Ballroom at Webster Hall, and the venue became the home of the east coast recording studio. The club was graced by the presence of artists such as Ray Charles, Elvis Presley and Frank Sinatra. In 1980, The Ritz opened at Webster Hall as the famous showcase for emerging rock acts and featured such amazing artists as Tina Turner, Eric Clapton, B.B. King, Sting and Guns ’n’ Roses. After Prince performed on the stage he claimed it was, “The best stage in New York City.” The Ritz relocated in 1986, which allowed Webster Hall to be reborn.

The Ballinger family of Toronto, Canada, rewrote the rulebook on New York City nightlife when it purchased the club in 1990, and restored the name to the original Webster Hall. The venue has gone through several significant changes, but somehow managed to keep most of its original design. The ceiling dates back to 1886, and is Art Deco at its finest. The preserved decor allows your imagination to run free through history. In 2008, the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission designated Webster Hall as a historical landmark. The Ballinger family stays involved with the club on a daily basis, and several of the nighttime managers are family members.

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94 Avenue A
New York, NY 10009
212-253-0036
Hours: 9a-4a Daily
Subway: F to 2nd Ave or L to 1st Ave
sidewalkny.com

Written by: Kyle Benson

Sidewalk is a cafe, bar and music venue,  ideal for exploration and new music experiences. Ben Krieger, the current music handler, likens the spot as, “traditionally, a place where good people get their first gigs.”

Six nights a week, bands of various music styles take to the stage, while on Monday nights a spattering of genres is on display for the infamous open mic, arguable the longest-running in New York. Anybody that sticks around longer than an hour on any given night will see a variety of performances, from unknown duos to Jason Trachtenburg of the Trachtenburg Family Slideshow Players. It is this diverse talent that gives Sidewalk Cafe its magnetism.

HISTORY

Much has changed in the East Village’s Alphabet City over the last three decades, but despite restaurant booms and gentrification, this venue has outlasted many of its neighborhood counterparts.  When it opened in the ’80s, Sidewalk operated solely as a restaurant, but for the past 15 years the back room has become a reputable venue, helping to ignite many notable musicians including Regina Spektor, The Moldy Peaches, Beck and Nellie McKay.

This small, 100-person music space with a humble stage is also responsible for ushering in a new niche genre called antifolk. The story goes that Lach, a local musician, working to break into the West Village folk circuit, had been rejected because his sound was too ‘edgy.’ So, with a classic dose of American ‘screw-off,’ Lach searched for a place where a greater freedom of expression could live. After a short stint in the Lower East Side, he found his home at Sidewalk Cafe. It was here that he cultivated an artist sanctuary for anyone with a song to sing. As the antifolk genre grew, the venue built a semi-annual festival. In February and August of each year, a roster of active regulars and returning participants gather for a week of stomping-ground gigs. Lach resided as the curator for 15 years before stepping down in 2008.

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236 3rd St
New York, NY 10009
212-505-8183
Hours: Wed-Sat 7p-1a, Sun-Tue 7p-11p
Subway: F to 2nd Ave or L to 1st Ave
nuyorican.org

Written by: Sari Henry

The Nuyorican is quite large for a New York City venue. The space has a raised stage, table seating, and a second floor balcony with seats. Food is not available, but they do serve wine, beer, coffee and soft drinks during events. The Cafe is only open when an event is scheduled on the calendar.

Executive director Daniel Gallant describes the Cafe’s vibe as “high energy, yet supportive.” Intended as an outlet for under represented Puerto Rican artists, the Cafe provides a nurturing place for new and established artists—of all ethnic backgrounds. Veteran Beat writers including Allen Ginsberg and William S. Burroughs, as well as poetry impresario Bob Holman have been associated with the Cafe, linking it to enduring bohemian traditions.

The Friday night poetry slam always fills the house. Slams are a sort of tournament in which judges are chosen from the audience and poets compete against each other in three minute slots. There are also open mic nights, at which anyone can perform, and from which slam performers are chosen for future features and slams.

The Cafe also hosts live music performances, ranging from hip hop through singer-songwriter acoustic sets to Latin jazz and Yerbabuena, the Puerto Rican roots style of music.

HISTORY

Nuyorican, a mysterious name to many, is hip short-hand for “New York Puerto Rican,” a designation coined by New York’s post-Beat Puerto Rican writer/poets Miguel Algarin, Pedro Pietri and Miguel Piñero. A gathering of writers started circa 1973 in the apartment of Miguel Algarin as a salon outlet for the East Village literary and spoken word artists. It soon outgrew Miguel’s living room. By 1975 it relocated to an Irish bar called the Sunshine Cafe on East 6th Street, which was christened the Nuyorican Poets Cafe. In 1980 overflow audiences inspired the purchase of Nuyorican’s present building at 236 E. 3rd St. 

The neighborhood has transformed since Miguel et al conceived of their showcase. Due to gentrification many venues and stores have opened shop in the East Village; regardless, up-and-coming spoken word artists from all over the city, and the country, still travel to the Nuyorican Cafe to present their work.

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62 Avenue C
New York, NY 10009
212-375-1500
Hours: 8p-4a Daily
Subway: L to 1st Ave or F to 2nd Ave
nublu.net

Written by: Allie Arias

“This is what the East Village used to be,” is a phrase Nublu’s owner Ilhan Ersahin hears frequently about his quietly removed bar on Avenue C.

The phosphorescent, blue light above the tattered, plastic entryway between 3rd and 4th streets downplays the raw talent inside the unmarked door. The stage is past the bar, near the back of the room, and only slightly elevated. The audience can either sit near the music, or enjoy it from a distance. Seating at the bar is limited, but couches or cool chairs that look like oversized tennis balls are available. At one point or another, dancing is a must, so don’t get too comfortable.

Depending on the night, Nublu offers live psychedelic funk or jazz jams, and DJs spin electronic or samba that encourages even arrhythmic folks to get up and groove. The environment is relaxed and friendly. Ilhan’s motto is “aim locally, think internationally,” which is evident in the East Village regulars and the international clientele that slightly alters the vibe from night to night.

Nublu evolved from simple gatherings of Ilhan and his musician friends, to a home away from home for artists and people from around the world. Nublu represents in Ilhan’s eyes, “the sound of today.”

DJs play a huge role at Nublu. A DJ spins between bands so the music never stops and Ilhan handpicks DJs that are unique in their musical expression. At Nublu, you won’t hear top-40s songs, instead the blends of funk, hip-hop, jazz, soul, Latin and more.

Nublu also has its own record label, so be sure to check out the array of albums and merchandise on the wall behind the bar for sale. Forro In The Dark, Wax Poetic, Hess Is More and 3 Na Massa are a few of the Nublu bands.

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65 St. Marks Place
New York, NY 10003
212-477-5560
Hours: Mon-Thu, Sun 11a-12mid, Fri-Sat 11a-1a
Subway: 6 to Astor Pl | N,R to 8th St
julesbistro.com

Written by: Heather McCown

Jules Bistro is  nestled in the heart of the East Village. For 15 years it has been home to nightly jazz and delicious French cuisine, in a restaurant-style setting.

Jules is part of the Forgeois family of restaurants (others including, Bar Tabac and Cafe Noir), offers frog legs, duck and veal, with the requisite salade Niçoise and steak frites. Don’t be fooled by the excellent dishes; this is a neighborhood spot with a laid-back atmosphere. The white stucco walls contrast with the dark wood of the bar and exposed beam floors, all of which are enhanced by the festive candlelight. Established in 1993, this spot is a haven for those looking for good food, camaraderie and excellent jazz music.

This is also a musician’s joint where acts are scheduled months in advance. Jules paints the palate with a comfortable ambiance of warmth and appreciative patrons, while the musicians provide a complement of rich tones and lilting melodies. “The musician’s get to control the sound of the room,” states bass player Pat Ryan, as the instruments are acoustic or enhanced by small amplifiers. Jerome, one of Jules’ bartenders states, “We try to keep the music at a comfortable level where everyone can talk at the bar or tables,” which are placed within feet of the musicians.

On any particular evening, patrons delight in the excellent music; including, the gypsy swing sounds of the band, Lower East Side Hot Club. Each note seems to playfully mingle with the aromas of food and warm conversation. During interludes, Jerome shaves a delicate morsel of Tête de Moins cheese for those seated at the bar. Jules feels comfortable alone, or with a group. The venue provides a delicious combination of food and drink that is only enhanced by the artistry of the musicians.

GENRE: TYPE: CAPACITY:
Jazz Restaurant 50-75
AMBIENCE: DRINKS: HAPPY HR:
Cozy bistro $7-$12 N/A
ADMISSION: FOOD: AGE LIMIT:
Free French All ages

425 Lafayette St
New York, NY 10003
212-539-8778
Hours: Mon-Sun 6p-2a
Subway: 6 to Astor Pl or N,R to 8th St
joespub.publictheater.org

Written by: Emily Niewendorp

Joe’s Pub is a gift to New York City. An off-shoot of The Public Theater, which is rented from the City of New York for $1 a year, this upscale music venue has become an important outlet for live music shows, and a jumping-off point for new theatrical performances that might then run at The Public.

The music program at Joe’s Pub represents NYC’s diverse citizenry. The mix of genres in the club’s repertoire includes: classical, singer-songwriter, jazz, avant-garde, world music, hip hop and one-person shows. An impressive array of musicians have played Joe’s Pub, including David Byrne, Bono, Elvis Costello, Mos Def, Alicia Keys, Emmylou Harris, David Gray, Amy Winehouse and Fiest—just to name a few.

HISTORY

The Public Theater used to be one of the City’s first libraries: Astor Library, built in 1854. In the mid-1960s, New York Shakespeare Festival founder Joseph Papp discovered the building. It had fallen into disrepair and was close to demolition, when it was preserved under the NYC’s new landmark law. It was the first building saved under the ruling and the City entrusted the renovated building to Papp for the low-priced rental. Papp dedicated the beautiful structure to the people of New York City and all aspects of the theater community. The theater is known for specializing in unconventional performances, which reflect the social and political concerns of the times.

In 1998, Joe’s Pub was converted from office space attached to the side of the main theater building. Initially, the new space was used for musical and play workshops, but it was after these evening events—when the space was turned over to the bar—that it quickly became a hot NYC night club. In 1998, Joe’s Pub offered 200 shows; today, it produces more than 800 shows per year, attended by over 100,000 people annually.

Joe’s Pub is nonprofit organization supported by donor/partner programs rooted from The Public’s first days. The club’s current director Shanta Thake states, “Anyone who has an artistic sensibility can immediately connect to the space. As an artist you walk in and realize this is part of something much bigger.”

GENRE: TYPE: CAPACITY:
All, theater,
musicals, cabaret
Supperclub 150-180
AMBIENCE: DRINKS: HAPPY HR:
Upscale, casual $$-$$$
$12 table min.
N/A
ADMISSION: FOOD: AGE LIMIT:
$12-$25 New American Varies

327 Bowery
New York, 10003
212-228-0228
Hours: 4p-4a Daily
Subway: F to 2nd Ave, 6 to Bleecker St or Astor Place
theboweryelectric.com

Written by: Emily Niewendorp

“New York’s in my blood,” says Jesse Malin. The owner of The Bowery Electric, Jesse supplies the rock ’n’ roll spirit that courses through the club. A big-hearted rocker in his own right, Jesse has toured as a musician since the age of thirteen, as a solo artist and in bands such as Generation D and Heart Attack.

An advocate of any downtown scene, Jesse emphasizes, “Wherever I go in the world I always look for the underground. Where are the artists?” In New York City, Jesse funnels his energy into building a supportive downtown community for rock, punk and indie artists. He owned hard-core, punk venue Coney Island High on St. Mark’s Place (a few blocks NE of The Bowery Electric) in the mid-’90s. Former Coney Island High patrons recall waiting in line outside the club conscious of nearby drug addicts.

The much-loved club closed during its fight for a dancing license under Mayor Rudy Guiliani’s ‘clean up New York’ campaign. Jesse went back to touring, still desiring a rock club.

When Jesse talks, his excitement about being back downtown is evident. NYC’s current popular and polished downtown appearance is a vast contrast from its unrefined condition in the ’90s. The grit and rawness that Jesse remembers remains close, he says—in the reformed CBGBs space down the block and the ever-present homeless population. Regardless of these environmental changes,

The Bowery Electric attracts rock ’n’ roll artists and enthusiasts of all ages, their ‘attitudes’ and big hearts included. Jesse hopes to provide a place where young kids can grow musically, and learn from their elders how to blow off steam in a positive way: “Meeting a guy, meeting a girl—being social impacts people’s lives.”

The building The Bowery Electric occupies supplied electrical parts for many years, followed by the short-lived Remote Lounge. Partnering with one of the lounge’s owners, Jesse and some investors turned the space into a rock ’n’ roll club and kept some of the building’s history in its name. The coolest aspect of The Bowery Electric is the sunken stage and floor. Stone walls and a 19th century vaulted ceiling add to the venue’s old-NY vibe, while the finished wood floors and clean space identify with the neighborhood’s reformation. The smaller room-size limits capacity, but there is no lack of rocking-out under the sidewalk of New York City. Behind the stage, a proper green room and dressing rooms accommodate the bands. In addition, a private space called the Vault Room that features cavernous walls, can be reservered for private parties. The venue’s two floors allow people to wander and not get bored. The chic upstairs bar is lined with mirrors, musicians’ artwork and photographs.

Music at The Bowery Electric focuses loosely around rock ’n’ roll. Jesse encourages bands to play set lengths determined upon the amount of material in their repertoire, rather than squeeze another band into the evening’s line-up. Celebrities, as performers and spectators, pass through The Bowery Electric often. Patti Smith has read poetry and played. Secret shows of well-known artists are common and draw lines of waiting fans, amping up the energy on the block. One hot surprise was a two-hour show by Foxboro Hot Tub, Green Day’s side project. Bill Murray and Joan Jett both attended that event. Frequently, Jesse will perform on his own stage, where his energetic spirit projects throughout the room.

On the weekends, DJs host dance parties that are strictly rock ’n’ roll—no rap or house music. People surprisingly find themselves loosening up on the dance floor, having a great time. The venue attracts patrons of all financial levels and cultures—men in suits, goth chicks, etc.—and features special nights for ages 18 – 21 on occasion.

GENRE: TYPE: CAPACITY:
Rock, pop, punk, DJ Basement club 150
AMBIENCE: DRINKS: HAPPY HR:
Rock n roll spirited $-$$ 5p-9p
ADMISSION: FOOD: AGE LIMIT:
Free-$20 N/A 21+

25 Avenue A
New York, NY 10009
Hours: 8pm-4am
Subway: F to 2nd Ave or Delancey J/M to Delancey
berlinnyc.com

Berlin is a basement rock and roll club, specifically nuwave, synthpop, goth and industrial. It is tantamount to the downtown rock clubs of the ’70s, ’80s and ’90s – Coney Island High, Brownies, Continental, CBGBs, and Don Hills – when the rock scene was clamoring and defining itself.

New York is a tough place and the artists here are the toughest. In the changes New York has seen to its City in the last decades, this venue, opened by Jesse Malin, musician and owner of Bowery Electric and other joints, is loyal to live music and New York grit. Rents are going up and the streets are safer; thank god some artists are doing something about continuing to bring variety to the scene.

The venue does it well: it’s no trash bar. Chandeliers hang over the bar from an arched ceiling of exposed brick. The small room is divided by painted columns; one side is bar and semi-lounge, the other is stage and sound booth. Designed lighting compliments the stage. The sightlines could be horrible, but the room is so intimate it doesn’t matter, and musicians don’t keep to playing only on the stage. The beautiful bartenders might be friendly, but, one thing is for certain, people are there for the music and the good days of f*#@ing rock and roll.

GENRE: TYPE: CAPACITY:
Nu wave/goth rock Basement bar 50-60
AMBIENCE: DRINKS: HAPPY HR:
Upscale rock bar ~$6-$12 N/A
ADMISSION: FOOD: AGE LIMIT:
$7-$50 N/A 21+

greenwichvillage

82 West 3rd St
New York, NY 10012
212-477-9462
Hours: Sun-Thu 6p-2:30a, Fri-Sat 6p-3a
Subway: A,B,C,D,E,F,M to West 4th St
zincbar.com

Written by: Nick D’Amore

Down a few steps and through the red velvet curtain and you’re transported to a time when jazz ruled the cultural landscape. Zinc Bar contains all the elements of a great jazz club: cozy atmosphere, stunning acoustics, subtle accoutrements and stiff cocktails. The only things missing are rings of cigarette smoke.

A night at Zinc is not a sentimental trip down memory lane. Instead, you will hear brilliant musicians taking the vast vocabulary of jazz to exciting and different places. Though the music genre’s roots are distinctly American, jazz is truly global music. Performers at Zinc come from varying backgrounds and nationalities, flavoring the language of jazz with their native tongues, resulting in fresh and eye-opening performances. Throughout the week, there are Brazilian, African, Caribbean and Latin performers exploring the music of jazz.  Besides its inclusion of world musicians, the club also welcomes free jazz artists, stand-up comedians, poets, cabaret acts and vocal performers.

For the full music experience, walk past the bar to the audience area; though only a few steps away, the music suddenly swells all around you. It is obvious the principals behind Zinc paid particular attention to the club’s sound, which creates a rich, full and crisp sonic atmosphere. You can hear the nuances and dynamics of each instrument from any table near the stage: the melodious fingering of a twelve-string guitar; the hushed brushstrokes on a snare; the subtle plucking of a bass; the brassy punches of a trumpet; the expert tickling of piano keys. “The Zinc family of staff, musicians and music fans all truly share a love for the music,” says the club’s owner, Alex K.

Located a few short blocks away from the hubbub of the university bars and tourist attractions of the West Village, Zinc is an underground oasis of cool. But, there are no pretentions, no airs, no put-ons.

HISTORY

Like jazz music itself, Zinc Bar is influenced by the music’s history, but is still creating an experience that is attractive and seductive. Zinc’s origins are on Houston Street, where the club was located for nearly 20 years.

Zinc began in 1993, when Alex saw that the jazz talent in New York needed a home, but also one that a younger audience could afford. Constructing the venue has  continually been a family affair. The club’s name is a reference to the “jazz caves” of Paris, where Hemmingway would meet friends. He wrote, “Let’s meet at the zinc” because the bars were zinc-topped. Alex’s sister and co-owner, Kristina K, was reading Hemmingway in Paris and brought the idea home with her.

The owners recently moved the venue to the heart of Greenwich Village.  During the Golden Age of jazz, Zinc’s current site was known as The Cinderella Club, a cabaret and jazz club that was active from the 1930s to the 1950s. The venue was home to such jazz luminaries as Thelonious Monk and Billie Holiday. “Every major jazz cat played there,” says Alex. One fixture at The Cinderella Club, legendary jazz guitarist George Benson still visits Zinc when he is in town. One night, he took the stage for an impromptu, hour-long performance. The late, great jazz drummer and composer, Max Roach, also used to drop by the club, encouraging the owners to “keep on keepin’ on.” The impressive list of visitors to Zinc includes: Gil Goldstein; Flora Purim and Airto Moreira; Astrud and Bebel Gilberto; Jeff “Tain” Watts; Ravi Coltrane; and Branford Marsalis.

178 7th Ave
New York, NY 10014
212-255-4037
Hours: 8p-1a Daily
Subway: 1,2,3 to 14th St
villagevanguard.com

Written by: Daniel Morrow

The Village Vanguard is the oldest continuously operated jazz club in the world(1) and has stood at its current location on 7th Avenue in the West Village, since 1935. When walking into the basement level  venue, its history is immediately apparent. Photographs and posters of famous Vanguard sessions and musicians cover the walls; they are, in the words of owner Lorraine Gordon, “photos of great artists that are no longer with us, who are here in spirit.”

Although Village Vanguard has come a long way from its beginnings in 1935 as a variety performance and dinner venue, its enduring success can be largely attributed to its owners and their unadulterated passion for jazz. It was the original owner Max Gordon’s love for jazz that led to the Village Vanguard becoming a jazz-only venue in the early 1950s. Lorraine Gordon married Max during this period and took over running the venue after his death in 1989.

Though Lorraine makes all the decisions at the venue, she gets a lot of help from her daughter Deborah and from Jed Eisenman, a life-long Vanguard fan who began working there before Max died.

Today the Vanguard is as lively and popular as it has ever been. There’s a healthy mix of music students, locals and international jazz fans visiting the venue every night. The venue still attracts celebrity musicians; and the booking is adventurous and often risky by inviting occasional unknown artists to perform. As Jed explains, “Lorraine is the sole arbiter of what we end up booking, she does it all herself; that’s how you can tell how passionate she is about the music.” It is thanks to her life-long passion for jazz and her ability to keep up with the latest in the jazz scene, that she has consistently been able to pick out some of the world’s best jazz talent to play at the venue.

The greatest of memories and moments belong to the stage. The room’s oddly triangular-shape means that there are no parallel walls and few reflective surfaces. Most venues are inevitably square in nature and it is often the case that hundreds of thousands of dollars are spent on acoustic treatment. This room has never been touched; it is quite by accident, one of the most transparent and natural sounding jazz rooms that can be found in the city.

(1) NPR Music, “The Village Vanguard: A Hallowed Basement,” NPR Music, http://www.npr.org (accessed February 2011).

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130 West 3rd St
New York, NY 10012
212-777-7745
Hours: Tues-Sat 9p-4a, open Sun
Subway: A,B,C,D,E,F,M to West 4th St
thevillageunderground.com

Written by: Emily Niewendorp

The Village Underground brings to life music and memories from the past four decades. The entryway is demure and understated compared to its neighbor and sister-bar, The Fat Black Pussycat.  Downstairs, the dark brick walls and columns exude a hip, basement environment. This medium-sized room provides a variety of seating: large booths in the back and small tables that skirt the stage. On the walls, posters of prominent ’60s rock and folk musicians recall the venue’s former activities.

The Village Underground played an important role in the modern, folk-rock era. Originally known as Gerde’s Folk City, from 1970 to 1987, the venue yielded up such legends as Bob Dylan and Elvis Costello. In 2000, Noam Dworman, who formerly owned Cafe Wha? around the corner, opened The Village Underground to revive the live music scene in Greenwich Village. The space was given an overhaul, and bands—now playing a variety of music genres—began to groove on the large, well-lit stage.

The Village Underground is not known for folk music these days, but  instead hosts rock, R&B, funk, reggae, world and country music. The venue has a namesake in its own band: The Village Underground, which performs popular covers every Wednesday through Friday. The large band invigorates the room and people jump to their feet, dancing and getting ‘down ‘n’ dirty’ in the aisles. DJs spin on Saturday night and individual musicians take to the open mic on Sundays. The Cheryl Pepsii Singers, followed by guest bands, jam on Mondays, and world music takes over on Tuesdays.

All the musicians create remixes in their own styles and bring their own recipes from time to time, diffusing creative energy around the room—and the crowd loves it.

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149 Bleecker St
New York, 10012
212-777-7776
Hours: Showtimes 7p & 10p, Open late
Subway: A,C,E,B,D,F,M to West 4th St
terrablues.com

Written by: Rachel Antonio

If blues is your preference, then Terra Blues is your place. Often touted as the place to go for an authentic, blues experience, Terra Blues is an old-fashioned saloon for modern-day times.

The great blues players who have played here: Little Milton, Edgar Winter, Johnny “Clyde” Copeland, Kenny Neal, James Armstrong and The Holmes Brothers, are a few of the  many national acts that appear year-round at Terra Blues. Local blues musicians like Clarence Spady and Junior Mack are honored with weekly residencies and render equally satisfying shows.

Perched on a second floor above Bleecker St. in the heart of Greenwich Village, Terra Blues seems to call out to pedestrians below. On warm nights, music spills out onto the street through large, open windows draped with lush, reddish curtains. Its dim lighting and laid-back rhythms generate an open and inviting atmosphere. Votive candles dot the internal landscape, quietly illuminating the wood-work and  framed photos discreetly recount the venue’s impressive history.

It is the mission statement however that defines the venue more than its ambiance and decor: Terra Blues runs on “booze and blues.” The music club’s bartender, Gabriel Aldort, will attest that this motto has endured for over two decades. The saloon features a full bar and consistently delivers quality shows daily. For over fifteen years, its gothic arch ceiling—complete with gargoyles, it’s an interesting visual tangent—has carried the best blues sounds in NYC to date.

The summer of 2010 marked Terra Blues’ 20th anniversary. Michael Powers has been playing there since its opening. On Monday evenings, Powers and his band take the stage. When asked what one of his performances is like, he comments: “…[It] runs on spontaneity…It runs on ’60s influence. It runs on what we like.”  The same could be said of Terra Blues.

151 Bleecker St
New York, 10012
212-260-9797
Hours: 11a-4a Daily
Subway: A,B,C,D,E,F,M to West 4th St
redlionnyc.com

Written by: Emily Niewendorp

Sports bar by day, music venue by night: the Red Lion brings traditional English pub culture to Bleecker Street. The venue attracts students from NYU, and a lively mix of American and European professionals. At night’s end, everyone from avid sports fans to dancing couples mix together in rowdy fun.

The Red Lion opened in 1983. Ten years later, current owner Andrew Breslin took over, inspired to support local musicians. Red Lion has a neighborly and low-key feel during the week when it features original music and singer-songwriters. Its weekend line-up attracts large crowds from the NYC area—some are ‘dressed to the nines’—who come out to hear familiar cover songs played by a live band. The Dugger Bros Band with its dynamite, rhythm and blues show is a Sunday night staple.

Throughout its history, Red Lion has lent its stage to several, notable names in music: Bob Dylan hung out here in the ’80s; John Mayer has also stopped by. Musicians that often play here include: Gavin DeGraw, Milo Z, Dana Fuchs, The Nerds and Michael Brunnock, among others.

Upon entering the venue, the small stage sits to the left backdropped in bold colors. The bar stretches across the length of the room, staffed with friendly bartenders who converse with regulars on a first-name basis. Seating is provided throughout the  wood-paneled room, under tiled murals of legendary musicians. Red Lion also has outdoor seating, a perk that few other Bleecker Street venues can provide.

The kitchen is open until midnight. It serves American-European cuisine, an all-day English breakfast and brunch on Saturday and Sunday. (Note: the Bloody Marys are great.) An ATM is housed in an old-fashioned, red telephone booth in the back.

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158 Bleecker St
New York, NY 10012
212-505-3474
Hours: Music times vary
Subway: A,C,E,B,D,F,M to West 4th St
lepoissonrouge.net

Written by: Jason Siegel

Le Poisson Rouge, French for ‘The Red Fish,’ was so named as a bit of a joke. When co-owners David Handler and Justin Kantor were brainstorming venue names, they were aiming for pretension. It was a conscious effort to belie the true nature of their endeavor: to deliver, eclectic, varied music to the masses. Being classical musicians themselves, David and Justin are passionately committed to their genre, but in a decidedly unpretentious way. 

A tilted, fish tank greets patrons as they descend the broad staircase to LPR. The large room is sleek and black, without engendering too much darkness. Red highlights—Le Poisson is ‘rouge,’ after all—spice up the visual aesthetic. The main stage faces the room diagonally from the corner and a roll-out stage tucks underneath when not in use. This smaller, moving stage allows for varied seating configurations, much like a black-box theater. Black couches and bar tables line the back wall, and modern-styled chairs and tables fill up the space directly in front of, or around, the stage. The bar serves as a multi-use space—for drinks at night, as a cafe by day, and continually as an open, art gallery. Past the gallery, two vast, medieval thrones with fish-shaped arms guard the bathrooms.

Acoustics are paramount to LPR’s design; the performance space was engineered by legendary architect John Storyk, who designed the world famous Electric Lady Studios for Jimi Hendrix, Jazz at Lincoln Center, and private studios for numerous artists: Bob Marley and Bruce Springsteen, among others. 

David and Justin, consider Le Poisson Rouge a ‘gateway club.’ LPR has entertained audiences with a plethora of musical styles: opera and other classical forms, indie rock, hardcore metal and rap, along with additional fringe genres. David grins, recalling, “five to seven hundred people, twenty- and thirty-somethings, standing through a forty-minute-long symphony, beers in hand…pierced and tattooed to the nines,” for the New York premiere of sacred music composer Arvo Pärt’s newest piece.

David and Justin are adamant about their ‘no-limits’ policy on the types of genres featured at LPR; their only condition is that the music be magnificant.

HISTORY

Le Poisson Rouge occupies the same building that once housed the Village Gate, a Greenwich Village mainstay from 1958 to 1993. The Village Gate hosted such remarkable acts as Jimi Hendrix, Allen Ginsberg, Dizzie Gillespie, John Coltrane, Thelonius Monk, Billie Holiday, Duke Ellington, Nina Simone, Ella Fitzgerald and Aretha Franklin. So, as David puts it, LPR has “a lot of ghosts in here… really good ghosts.” In the interim, the space served as an off-Broadway theater and a night club. 

Upon graduation from the Manhattan School of Music in 2004, David and Justin began looking for the perfect space in which to open a modern, funky venue. The Greenwich Village, once an über-bohemian and gritty neighborhood, further transitioned during the ’90s and ’00s into an upscale version of its former self. This evolution in the neighborhood suited David and Justin’s pseudo-pretentious idea for a venue and also inspired them to ensure the continued production of rich music in the Village. Fast forward a few years: David and Justin received the keys to the space in the fall of 2007, remodeled the entire interior in a few short months and opened LPR in the summer of 2008.

125 MacDougal St
New York, NY 10012
212-254-9393
Hours: 3p-4a Daily
Subway: A,B,C,D,E,F,M to West 4th St
clubgroovenyc.com

Written by: Nick D’Amore

Groove opened its doors in 1997, a natural progression by a collective of musicians from the 101 Bar, a venue further uptown on 7th Avenue. The club’s name explains its philosophy: performances are loose and organic.

Bands jam and swing spontaneously, interacting with the audience in the intimate room. On any given night, guitarists bring their solos off stage—in between the rows of tables—or an audience member jumps on stage to wail along with the band. The musicians never stop laying down thick grooves, showcasing tight playing to a crowd of hand-clappers and head-bobbers. Joy for the music overrides any air of pretension at Groove; the bands are excited to play and the audience happy to be a part of the performance.

Groove focuses primarily on R&B, blues, soul and funk music. The rhythms wafting out into the streets of Greenwich Village beckon people inside, if they aren’t already intrigued by the colorful mural of legendary musicians painted on the club’s exterior wall. Inside, artwork and pictures tastefully decorate a good portion of the walls. They serve to commemorate the superstars who have been drawn to the tunes at Groove, including Chaka Khan and Shaquille O’Neal. Groove’s affordable menu, the room’s ambience, and sultry soundtrack provide a great date spot.

Groove schedules jazz artists, spoken word performers, DJs and even some rock bands in addition to the club’s house bands throughout the week. Local and developing musicians perform in the early time slots, and inspire moving and grooving in the crowd.

Outdoor seating is available before the music starts. Groove opens early for happy hour specials, followed by big-time talent in a warm and harmonious setting.

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115 MacDougal St
New York, NY 10012
212-254-3706
Hours: Mon 9p-2:30a, Tue-Thu,
Sun 8:30p-2:30a, Fri-Sat 8:30p-4a
Subway: A,C,E,F,M,B,D to West 4th St
cafewha.com

Written by: Nick D’Amore

A rare intimacy exists between the band and the audience at Cafe Wha?. Large bands occupy a small stage, playing almost literally in the lap of the audience. The club packs in as many people as possible, but it is never uncomfortable. The space’s layout guarantees a seat near the action on stage, or a place to dance.

Cafe Wha? offers three resident bands each week: Brazooka, a Brazilian jazz band; Disfunkshun, a Brazilian dance band; and the 10-member Cafe Wha? Band. Guest bands fill the remainder of the schedule.  To simply label the house band a cover band would be akin to calling Guinness just a beer, or calling New York just another city. Cafe Wha?’s players are masters of their craft, performing as a tight, creative group and offering infectious interpretations of many rock and pop standards.

Cafe Wha? continues to reinvent itself—now a venue offering a raucous good time, attracting visitors and college students alike.

HISTORY

Cafe Wha? carries on as a vibrant New York City institution with a rich past. In its heyday, the venue helped launch some of the most legendary artists in popular music, such as Bob Dylan, Jimi Hendrix, The Velvet Underground and Bruce Springsteen. Writers and artists of the Beat Generation met at Cafe Wha? in the 1950s. During the social upheaval of the 1960s, Greenwich Village, and Cafe Wha? in particular, remained a safe haven for the revolutionary thinkers of the era.

As the times and tastes of the public changed, so, too, did the entertainment provided at the venue. While you might not discover the next revolution in popular culture at the club these days, what you will experience are three excellent bands offering crowd-pleasing music that gets the floor rumbling under dancing feet.

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131 West 3rd St
New York, NY 10012
212-475-8592
Hours: Mon-Sun 8 & 10:30p, Fri-Sat 12:30a, Sun 12:30p & 2p
Subway: A,C,E,F,B,D to West 4th St
bluenote.net

Written by: Emily Niewendorp & Monica U. Garcia

The Blue Note Jazz Club’s jazz persona sizzles like a long, high hat brush roll. The club seems to have always existed. Blue Note’s notoriety stems from the void it filled in New York City’s music scene when it opened in 1981. Most supper club-type venues, like Blue Note, had all but disappeared from NYC, leaving jazz venues that existed on two levels: smoky, basement clubs or large concert halls. Legendary musicians, such as Dizzy Gillespie, Sarah Vaughan, Oscar Peterson, Carmen McRae and Betty Carter were retreating from public view. Blue Note was born fully formed, with no question about its identity. The club emanated a sense of home to jazz artists, immediately attracting luminaries back to the small stage.

In the club’s beginning years, cherished relationships created fond memories between the musicians and the Blue Note staff. Owner Steve Bensusan, says, “I remember hanging out with Dizzy as a young kid. It was amazing. All the musicians—this was kind of like a home for them, outside of just performing here. They would come here during the day and hang out—poker games in the dressing rooms, things like that.” A small jazz club with dressing rooms was a great perk, but a no-smoking policy such that Blue Note had was unheard of at the time, and very favorable to singers.

The popular restaurant and bar brought in sufficient revenue with its 185-seat space, which enabled Blue Note to be generous toward its musicians. Every seat in the house had an excellent sightline, making for an intimate atmosphere. Blue Note became a destination for folks, even those who were not already jazz sophisticates, yet wanted exposure to the genre. The Blue Note educated many people in this way, contributing to the rekindling of the jazz scene.

Although jazz music has naturally changed since its Golden Era, Blue Note artists continue to experiment musically and impassion the crowds. Over the years the big evolution at Blue Note has revolved around the range of jazz-influenced music it books. In the ’80s, the club showcased traditional jazz; in the ’90s, it experimented with smooth jazz, R&B and blues. Presently, Blue Note’s music programming is diversified—from Mos Def to Chick Corea—running the gamut of jazz and jazz-related music. Hip-hop, soul and funk artists take the stage in the wee hours of the night, drawing a younger demographic into the room. The end result is an infusion of younger audiences who come back to see the more established jazz artists on other nights.

The Blue Note staff creates a welcoming experience in Greenwich Village, a historically relevant birthing ground for jazz. Ticket prices and minimums are competitive with other jazz clubs. Detailed artist biographies appear in Blue Note programs, creating healthy anticipation over future visits. First-time patrons may come initially because they are curious about Blue Note, but on succeeding visits they will be curious about the musician and his or her music.

The Blue Note shares its name with Blue Note Records. When the club opened in 1981, Blue Note Records was defunct, which legally enabled Blue Note Jazz Club to use the name. Later the record label resumed business and the club and the label have since shared the same name. Blue Note records its albums under the Half Note Records label.

Blue Note Jazz Clubs are also in Nagoya and Tokyo, Japan, and Milan, Italy. The owners also own B.B. King and the Highline in NYC.

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147 Bleecker St
New York, 10012
212-673-7030
Hours: Mon-Thu, Sun 7:30p-2a, Fri-Sat 7:30p-4a
Subway: A,C,D,E,F to West 4th St | 6 to Bleecker St
bitterend.com

Written by: Rachel Antonio

New York City’s oldest rock venue, The Bitter End, still draws crowds no matter how trendy other music venues get. This Bleecker St. landmark is almost as much a legend as some of the stars whose careers were launched here—a seemingly endless roster of music giants, such as: Arlo Guthrie, Carly Simon, Bo Diddley, Peter, Paul and Mary, Billy Joel, Linda Ronstadt and Stefani Germanotta (Lady Gaga).

The Bitter End hasn’t changed its look since 1961. Its practical clapboard frame exterior and blue awning have marked the club’s location for 50 years. Inside, the worn wood paneling, exposed brick and Tiffany-style lampshades give the space a rustic, dated feel. Faded and peeling posters decoupaged onto the walls further emphasize the venue’s age. Billboardmagazine articles, autographed photos, records and ticket stubs adorn the walls as badges of honor, heralding the dues paid here.

Free of obstructed views, the stage is set up for musicians to command the focal point in this venue. Colored stage lights brighten up the space, which is home to a baby grand piano. Tables are available close to the stage, or many people prefer to stand and dance in the back near the bar. The Bitter End was founded on rock music, although it is common to hear other genres such as pop, country, folk and soul.

Table seating requires a two-drink minimum per show and bar seating one drink. The bartenders, manager and bouncer all help make The Bitter End a relaxed and casual environment. Co-owner and manager Paul Rizzo says: “I just want everyone to have a good time on all levels.”

On Sunday evenings, The Bitter End hosts a singer-songwriter night, giving amateurs a chance to strut their stuff. Musician Emma Lov says: “It feels really good to be in front of an audience. The Bitter End treats you like a professional.”

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westvillage

59 7th Ave South
New York, NY 10014
212-243-9323

Contrary to its name, Marie’s Crisis is a happy place, where musical theater enthusiasts gather around adept pianists, taking turns singing solos and gathering for sing-a-longs. Once the home of Thomas Paine – the 18th century revolutionary, and named after his pamphlet, “The Crisis,” the venue honors those of radical nature in gracious fun.

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61 Christopher St
New York, NY 10014
212-255-5438
theduplex.com

Duplex is a piano bar and cabaret venue that attracts the kings, queens and loyal fans of New York. On the ground floor piano bar, the staff—some between jobs on Broadway—sing as they work. Upstairs, the cabaret dates back to the ’50s, boasting performances by Barbra Streisand, Woody Allen, Joanne Worley and more. Duplex also hosts new work on Mondays and encourages submissions.

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57 Grove St
New York, NY 10001
212-675-6879
www.arthurstavern.com

Open since 1937, Arthur’s Tavern is an original experience. In a historically designated building, Arthur’s looks like a saloon, and acts like a jazz club. Year-round festive decorations and tight quarters attract all types to its line-up of: jazz, including Dixieland and New Orleans style; Chicago blues; R&B and more.

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183 West 10th St
New York, NY 10014
212-252-5091
Hours: 7:30p-4a Daily
Subway: A,B,C,D,E,F,M to West 4th St | 1 to Christopher St
smallsjazzclub.com

Written by: Rachel Antonio

Smalls contributes in a huge way to the artistic, downtown music scene. What lies beneath the foot traffic in its 10th St. locale leaves a lasting impression.

The guys that have shaped the business are as friendly and cool as college buddies; co-owners Spike Wilner, Lee Kostrinsky, and Mitch Borden have been running Smalls together since 2007. They are jacks-of-all-trades and can be found at Smalls nightly, either greeting folks at the door, managing the bar or playing a set. Mitch’s eclectic style, Lee’s Fedora, and Spike’s curly locks are hard to miss.

Smalls basement space is meant to feel like a rumpus room in a house. The uniqueness of Smalls can be felt immediately upon entering the venue. Its space welcomes all, evoking an intuitive understanding of decorum. All levels of musicianship are respected, while the hodge-podge of decor defines the room and adds a level of intrigue. The musicians face the entrance, playing from the other side of the room. The bar lines one wall and people fill in the rest of the space, sitting in chairs or leaning into their sweetheart. Pretty much anyone who is a name in jazz has been through the door of Smalls.

From Wynton Marsalis to Roy Hargrove, and Eric Reed, it is not uncommon for one of them to pop in at any given night and perform a set.

Spike credits it all to Mitch, who has a ‘flea market’ mentality. Mitch picks up anything of value, builds sculptures and puts artwork up all over the place. The club has mismatched curtains, various styles of rugs and one-of-a-kind chairs. Strategically placed mirrors reflect key strokes on the baby grand piano and the beating on the drums. Spike explains:

“We want to get away from the air of formality because right now all of the jazz clubs are so formal. You’re not allowed to talk. At Smalls the music earns the respect of the people naturally, but they’re not forced to be quiet”

[FirstLive Note: In fact,  Spike was kindly ‘shushed’ by the audience when we visited Small’s to discuss FirstLive Guide.]

Smalls is building a community that encourages global participation and artistic growth. Small’s website streams live video and audio of performances nightly, and a database stores musicians’ bios and live recordings. One of Small’s new ventures is SmallsLIVE, a record label that showcases emerging musicians and features their performance at Smalls. The club also participates in many fundraising efforts for the jazz community. The club has come a long way from its early days, due to the collaboration of three down-to-Earth guys named Mitch, Spike and Lee.

HISTORY

Before Spike and Lee came into the picture, Smalls thrived in the ’90s as a bring-your-own-beer jazz club. Mitch was the original and sole owner at the time. The club stayed open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Spike, who is also a professional pianist, started playing gigs at Smalls in the first month it opened in 1994. He describes the venue’s scene as a group of anti-society musicians, saying “[there was] always this extremely dynamic lifestyle going on there.”

Smalls met its fate when the club went bankrupt in 2000 and then reopened in 2006 as a Brazilian bar. One year later, Spike and Lee teamed up with Mitch to revamp the place and revitalize Smalls.

Smalls now operates with a formula: a cover fee is charged, which allows patrons to come and go as they please. There are three acts each night. Seasoned musicians play early evening, and the budding artists play after-hours and jam sessions. After midnight admission is half price. Smalls is no longer BYOB, having since acquired a liquor license.

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75 Christopher St
New York, NY 10014
212-675-6056
Hours: Mon-Thu 2p-5a, Fri-Sun 12p-5a
Subway: 1 to Christopher St
fatcatmusic.org

Written by: Heather McCown

Upon descending the stairs of Fat Cat on Christopher Street, one may expect the darkened atmosphere of a pool hall; instead sounds similar to Coltrane and Lonnie’s Lament are first noticeable. Inside, jazz musicians share the space with pool tables, chess boards, and ping pong tables.  Jazz musicians deftly play, oblivious to the action happening around them. Their lyrical notes and deep melodies float past the exposed pipes and spot lights. Part of the crowd sits on corduroy sofas and chairs, while others engage in shooting pool, drinking beer and hanging with friends. 

The din from the crowd can be heard only when the band pauses between songs. It is then that one realizes this is a pool hall. Instead of competing for attention, the two complement each other. “The venue is totally unique, because you never see any place that includes table games with live music,” says Sheldon Yellowhair, Fat Cat’s sound engineer. And, the musicians love it too. Stand-up bassist, Joseph Lepore, remarks: “It’s a great place for steady gigs—to work out the music before recording.”

Fat Cat is not ‘hip’—it doesn’t have to try that hard. Rather, it is a place to hear amazing live jazz in a dynamic atmosphere. The mix of live jazz and pool-hall action gives Fat Cat its edge and authenticity, separating it from other West Village, college hang-outs. 

According to the manager, Ben, the long-term goal of Fat Cat is to become a non-profit, and give back to the community through equipment donations and musical education programs.  For now, Fat Cat continues to, as doorman Charlie Brown puts it, “keep the right kind of people here and the wrong kind out” by embracing diversity and an overall pleasant atmosphere.

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32 Jones St
New York, NY 10014
212-691-7538
Hours: 6pm Daily
Subway: A,B,C,D,E,F,M to West 4th St
caffevivaldi.com

Written by: Daniel Morrow

At Caffe Vivaldi, owner Ishrat Ansari has created an inspiring community for musicians to gather and perform. Ishrat describes it as an all-genre music venue, delivering “everything from bluegrass to opera,” and that it is more of a listening room than a ‘cafe’. Many musicians are handpicked by Ishrat to play, some through the open mic session he holds every Monday.

The venue epitomizes warmth and a home-like atmosphere with a fireplace, plants, and candlelit tables, plus a grand piano.  In the stage-less room musicians perform only feet away from regulars, who gather at the tables and snack on Italian and Mediterranean dishes.

HISTORY

Ishrat is an old-time West Village resident, since 1973, when he opened a small bookstore that quickly became a hangout for writers, poets and artists. It was after a visit to Europe with its many cafe style restaurants that he decided to open a cafe with music.

During construction of Cafe Vivaldi in 1983, a local lady approached Ishrat with a sketch given to her many years before. It was of her grandfather, an enthusiast of the composer, Antonio Vivaldi, and the owner of the Laundromat that once stood where the cafe is now. In the sketch, “he irons with his right and leads the philharmonic with his left, augmented by a radio above him” (quote from the inscription of the sketch). Ishrat was so moved by the sketch and the story he named the place Cafe Vivaldi.

The venue aims to carry on the vibrant glory days of the neighorhood. A music lover, Ishrat has sacrificed financial gain in his passion for musicians. Open now for 28 years, Ishrat recalls many famous moments that have taken place in this small room. From Bette Midler’s birthday party and visits from Andy Warhol to Joseph Brodsky’s interviews after he won the Nobel Peace Prize. Woody Allen has also shot two movies here, Bullets Over Broadway and Whatever Works. In fact, Ishrat liked the decor from the set design of the latter film so much that he has left much of it intact to this day.

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Various Cafe, listening room N/A
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Bohemian, cozy $5
ADMISSION: FOOD: AGE LIMIT:
Free Full menu

55 Christopher St
New York, NY 10014
212-929-9883
Hours: 3p-2a Daily
Subway: 1 to Christopher St
55bar.com

Written by: Rachel Antonio

55 Bar embraces new musicians as well as world-wide veterans of the jazz sphere. The venue schedules two acts daily, often offering the early 7 p.m. show free of charge. Drinks are cheap, making 55 Bar affordable to everyone.

It is a half-basement, true bar (no actual stage for the bands exists), lit with Christmas lights. The manager, Mark Kirby, attributes the high sound quality to the low ceilings and wood floors and paneling.

55 Bar’s cutting-edge jazz reputation is so renowned that the club is referenced in music textbooks in the Netherlands. Famous for its nurturing environment of experimental jazz, performers often try out new material written earlier the same day. In this way audiences experience new jazz in the making. “There’s all types of jazz trying to get out there,” Mark says, “not just sweet and mellow.” Up-and-coming jazz musicians who mix elements of jazz with trip hop, electronica, etc. are also welcomed. It’s not much of a ‘talking bar,’ but rather a bar for soaking up the sounds.

HISTORY

55 Bar has come a long way since its ‘neighborhood bar’ days. The scene back then was wild; alive until the wee hours of the morning, and the type of place where undercover cops roamed.

Its reputation today can be attributed to the late Queva Lutz, who took over the venue more than a decade ago. Back then, the bar featured a popcorn machine and an aged jukebox, filled with 45s of Duke Ellington and old-school jazz. Queva cleaned up the place, mandating that all laws would have to be obeyed. In the words of 55 Bar’s ‘go-to’ man, Mark Kirby: “More importantly, she made it into a serious jazz venue with shows every day—early shows and late shows. She really built it up to be what it is now. I call it ‘an internationally-famous, jazz dive’.” Queva’s son, Scott Ellard owns and books the club now, continuing her vision.

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Jazz, blues Basement bar 75
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Heart of jazz,
soul of blues
$7-10 N/A
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Free-$10 N/A 21+

upperwestside

2485 Broadway
New York, NY 10025
212-769-6969
cleopatrasneedleny.com

In a cozy restaurant setting Cleopatra’s Needle proffers some of NYC’s best jazz music and jam sessions. An appealing interior of wood-framed windows, exposed brick, simple designs and well-placed lighting set the tone for jovial nightly tunes. The owner, Maher Hussein, honors his Egyptian roots, as well as nearby Central Park’s ancient re-erected obelisk: Cleopatra’s Needle.

2751 Broadway
New York, NY 10025
212-864-6662
Hours: Mon-Fri 2p-3a, Fri-Sat 11:30a-3a
Subway: 1 to 103rd St
smokejazz.com

Written by: Laura Sherman & Monica U. Garcia

Intimate and welcoming, the Smoke Jazz and Supper Club was a favorite of jazz singer Etta James, who performed there every Valentine’s Day. With plush red leather seating for just over 50, the glow of antique chandeliers and candle light on exposed brick walls sets the mood for a trip to a place where time doesn’t exist. Sensuous, heavy draping does more than help create the intimate mood—it raises the acoustic quality of the room. The sound is impeccable in every seat in the house.

Smoke attracts some of the world’s best jazz performers including Wynton Marsalis, Bill Charlap, Ron Carter, Kenny Washington, Neal Smith, Jimmy Cobb, Eve Cornelius and many more. Smoke hosts a variety of music including funk, soul jazz, Latin jazz, Afro-Cuban, and a 16-piece jazz band.

Co-owners Paul Stache and Frank Christopher work to ensure that Smoke offers its patrons the complete experience. The club offers dinner with every show, and even has the option of a prix fixe or á la carte menu. Three hours of jazz also accompanies the Saturday and Sunday jazz brunch. 

The greatest element of Smoke is the diversity of the crowd. “One of the truly magical things about Smoke is that it transcends generations—that whenever you walk through the door at Smoke, no matter how old you are, you become ageless,” says a regular customer of the club.

Smoke is described as “magical” time and time again, and it isn’t only about the music. Smoke Jazz and Supper Club offers an ethereal experience, transporting you to a setting you hoped existed, and to which you will return.

HISTORY

Since 1999, Smoke has continued the legacy of the club formerly known as Augie’s. The author Paul Auster, a regular at Augie’s, is said to have based one of his characters from his screen play Smoke on the real life Augie. In the movie, Harvey Keitel plays protagonist Auggie, the owner of a Brooklyn smoke shop. In turn, Smoke Jazz and Supper Club was so-named in tribute to Paul Auster.

33 West 60th St
New York, NY 10023
212-253-0036
Hours: Mon-Thu, Sun 6p-1a, Fri-Sat 6p-2:30a
Subway: A,C,E,D to Columbus Circle
jalc.org

Written by: Robbie Gonzalez & Paula Pahnke

“Take care of the music and the music will take care of you;” that is the motto of Todd Barkan, the legendary record producer and current programming director of Dizzy’s Club Coca-Cola, one of the three main performance venues that make up Jazz at Lincoln Center. From the moment you approach the entrance to this elegant jazz club, you are greeted with the gracious familiarity of a guest whose arrival has been eagerly anticipated. That is the heart and charm of Dizzy’s. The lush and spacious layout complements an intimate atmosphere that combines unrestricted luxury with the relaxed sensation of a personal musical experience.

Housed on the 5th floor of the Time Warner Center at Columbus Circle, the club boasts an illustrious view of the New York City skyline, which shimmers through the floor to ceiling window as the stage’s backdrop. Named for jazz great Dizzy Gillespie, the club conserves the classic vibe of jazz club anchors, The Blue Note and The Iridium, which have played host to music legends from Sarah Vaughn, to Les Paul. Uniquely shaping a contemporary jazz experience, under the direction of the club’s managers, Roland Chassagne and Todd Barkan, Dizzy’s showcases notable jazz talents and up-and-coming musicians, providing an accessible experience to both jazz enthusiasts and novice guests. In the tradition of the Jazz at Lincoln Center organization, Dizzy’s is promoting the next generation of jazz performers and listeners, alike, by endorsing young artists during their after hour sets and offering discounts to students for all performances.

As soulful as the music, the menu boasts an array of Creole favorites like Southern Fried Catfish Po’ Boy sandwiches and entrees that include Miss Mamie’s Fried Chicken and Low Country Shrimp and Grits. Dizzy’s Club Coca-Cola creates a state-of-the-art atmosphere for both traditional jazz lovers as well as the next generation to come.

2124 Broadway
New York, NY 10023
212-465-6500
Hours: Music times vary
Subway: 1,2,3 to 72nd St
beacontheatre.com

Written by: Emily Niewendorp

Beacon Theater’s near-perfect acoustics, grandiose auditorium and extravagant Art Deco designs place it in the upper echelon of New York City music venues.

Its recent restoration returned the worn-down structure into a feast for the eyes and heart, an affect that was similarly received by the theater’s original attendees as well—those enduring the Great Depression. The auditorium is a medley of Greek, Roman, Renaissance, Rococo and Moorish styles, displayed in flat gold-       painted ornaments and sculptures. A double balcony with red rows of seating and the vibrant colors on the proscenium, combine with riveting stage performances and events to create an unforgettable experience.

The most famous bands have played Beacon Theater over the years: the Rolling Stones, Jerry Garcia, Aerosmith, Michael Jackson, James Taylor, Radiohead and Queen. Since 1989, the Allman Brothers have performed 173 shows at the Beacon. For many years they played each spring in a weekend event that became known as “The Beacon Run.”

Other types of events are also popular at the Beacon; Bill Clinton celebrated his 60th birthday at the venue with a private Rolling Stones concert, and His Holiness the Dalai Lama chose the Beacon Theatre as the site of his teaching classes in August of 1999.

HISTORY

The Beacon is known as the “older sister” to Radio City Music Hall, opened a few years beforehand in 1929 by the same man, Samuel “Roxy” Rothafel, widely known as a theatrical impresario. He considered Beacon a masterpiece of its time with stylish Art Deco designs by Walter Ahlschlager, and elegant marble entryways. Roxy’s vision of an international entertainment and cultural events destination has awed crowds through the decades, spanning both silent film/vaudeville and talking picture eras.

The venue’s 2008 restoration revealed a surprise: two architectural firms, each with their own set of plans, designed the theater in 1929. The second set of plans was applied when Warner Bros. took over the lease and construction of the theater, before the building was ever completed. In order to honor the building’s preservation as a national landmark as of 1979, the company overseeing the restoration painstakingly studied both sets of original plans, as well as black and white photos, in order to restore the space to its original designs and image that are so beautifully presented today.

spanishharlem

2241 1st Ave
New York, NY 10029
212-348-2703
Hours: Open daily 3p, Sat 4p
Subway: 6 to 116th St
camaradaselbarrio.com

Written by: Emily Niewendorp

Culture, history, camaraderie and home; the night these aspects of Camaradas el Barrio came together Afro-Puerto Rican roots music was pulsating, the bar was packed and owner Orlando Plaza’s mother’s recipes were streaming out of the kitchen. Orlando and his fellow partners, Raúl Rivera and Jay Zhao, learned then that their patrons were calling Camaradas ‘church.’ Deeply rooted in Puerto Rican traditions and the local community, their crystal-clear vision of a public home for all people had finally come to fruition.

Camaradas is one long, narrow room, with a bar and wooden tables for dining. The stage is very small, but that does not stop live bands from playing regularly, and dancers quickly filling up the space. Traditional Puerta Rican tapas are served, while the bar boasts an international and island selection of beers and large tasty sangria pitchers. Art work is displayed on the rustic brick and corrugated tin walls as a rotating gallery.

Camaradas is known in New York City for its Latin music, drawing an array of skin colors and age groups. The spirited music and dancing may take first-timers by surprise, but everyone quickly embraces the music as wholeheartedly as the regulars. Nearing its sixth year of business, Camaradas routinely hosts Navegante, self-described as “electro-land funk.” Camaradas and Navegante’s partnership—based on mutual trust—supports both parties and adds a vibe of creative freedom. The weekly calendar is chock full of Afro-Caribbean bands from Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Haiti and Colombia; DJs; Ladies Night; and various fusion bands.

HISTORY

In Camaradas, Orlando and his partners are producing a feeling. Orlando mentions courageous family businessmen, his work as a historian, a Puerto Rican bookstore on Avenue B, the Nuyorican Poets Cafe and tales of the Palladium days from the ’40s and ’50s as his inspiration. In those days, musicians from the Barrio (Spanish Harlem) proudly played in the Barrio. Setbacks from poverty and crime over the years dampened some of the neighborhood’s culture, but Puerto Ricans and locals in el Barrio have fought to preserve their culture through social programs, clinics and museums such as El Museo del Barrio. Camaradas has become another vital establishment, where the neighborhood can celebrate their heritage.

GENRE: TYPE: CAPACITY:
Latin jazz, world Restaurant bar 79
AMBIENCE: DRINKS: HAPPY HR:
Latin-infused pub $5+ Mon-Fri 4p-7p
ADMISSION: FOOD: AGE LIMIT:
$5+ Latin 21+

harlem

656 West 125th St
New York, NY 10027
212-663-7980
cottonclub-newyork.com

In an oblong white stucco building, the Cotton Club carries on a legacy dating back to 1923, a time when upscale cliental came uptown to hob-nob with their peers and enjoy fine entertainment from across the country. Tourists from around the country head uptown today to mingle with the regulars who sing with The Cotton Club All Stars—a thirteen piece swing band and a seven-piece blues and jazz band—and dance the night away.

53 West 125th St
New York, NY 10027
212-531-5305
apollotheater.org

One of the most famous music halls in the USA, Harlem’s Apollo Theater is the cathedral of traditional African American music. Its name evokes an era of great jazz musicians; Ella Fitzgerald made her singing debut here at age 17, and the theater has carried this tradition to the present day. Long known for it’s support of new artists, the Apollo emphasizes new talent with its weekly Amateur Night. The Apollo music cafe located upstairs, is a new lounge-style environment that features music genres from the Apollos heritage, as well as contemporary genres.

2271 Adam Clayton Powell Jr Blvd
New York, NY 10030
212-690-7807
Hours: 4p-4a Daily
Subway: B,2,3 to 135th St
shrinenyc.com

Written by: Rachel Antonio Corner

Shrine is a live music venue, bar and restaurant known for years only to a hip cognoscenti due to the club’s decision to not advertise its name on the building’s façade, until recently.

The venue exhibits a lot of history for a place that has only been open since 2007. The West African artifacts and native tapestries are part of the owner’s roots, while the club’s decor belies a passion for western pop music. Album covers and vinyl records ranging from Diana Ross to the Beatles to Michael Jackson act as wallpaper, while the high ceiling is plastered with posters. Musically, the venue embraces music from around the world: jazz, rock, Afro-beat, reggae and more. Dancing is encouraged, wherever there is room, and after hours Shrine is a club with guest DJs.

Shrine’s owner, Abdel, explains how the venue came about: “The Shrine is a realization of a lifelong dream. Music has always been the focus of my life. I grew up in Burkina Faso surrounded by music; I moved to New York to work in music. The Shrine is my home. It’s everything I believe a live music venue should be. We are known for having one of the best PA systems in the city; we are also known for being a great place for musicians and music lovers to come together. I’m proud of that.”

The crowd is mixed and hails from all over the city. Young and old, glam and casual, Shrine is part of a newer Harlem where diversity is robust. The area is gentrified and non-locals are among the regulars.

In Abdel’s own words: “Harlem is the best neighborhood in New York! There’s been a lot of talk recently about a new Harlem Renaissance, but Harlem has always been a center of music and culture—the difference is that now downtown is taking notice! Harlem is one of the most diverse places in the world… celebrating the music, the neighborhood, life!”

GENRE: TYPE: CAPACITY:
AMBIENCE: DRINKS: HAPPY HR:
ADMISSION: FOOD: AGE LIMIT:

375 W 125th St
New York, NY 10027
212-864-8941
Showtime Hours: Mon-Thu 8:30p, 10p, 11:30p, Fri-Sat 9:30p, 11:30p, 1:30a
Subway: A,C,B,D to 125th St
Website: N/A

Written by: Mark Osborne

Located in the heart of Harlem, Showmans honors the age-old structures of jazz: hospitality, respect and great music. Once a next-door hangout for performers at the Apollo Theater, Showmans has moved several times since it opened in 1942. Folks continue to frequent the small joint for its long-standing values and sense of community.

Step off the street and into a time warp. This is the Harlem of Coleman Hawkins, T.S. Monk, and Sonny Rollins. The wood paneling and exposed brick give the impression the place has not been updated for decades, and frankly why should it? Loyal customers frequent Showmans, yet they refrain from conducting themselves proprietarily. This interesting mix of older locals is extremely welcoming; seemingly proud to introduce tourists and first-time visitors to their slice of life, seldom found now in the city. The crowd interacts, drinking and dancing together in reflection of the multicultural ‘new’ Harlem.

Showmans is a long narrow room, with the bar and seating filling up one entire side. The stage is located at the back of the room, and is raised enough for decent visibility throughout the bar. The sound, like the atmosphere, is very warm, and not overpowering.

Mona, Showmans manager and part owner, has been booking the bands since 1978; and not just any bands: saxophone great, Jerry Weldon, performs there every Wednesday. Mona is the consummate hostess, offering anecdotes, and appetizers for free. Within the first few minutes of arriving you can see that Showmans is her labor of love and one of the reasons people return.

Take a rendezvous uptown and check out this jazz jewel; you will meet good people, and hear great jazz, with enough money left over for a cab fare home.

GENRE: TYPE: CAPACITY:
AMBIENCE: DRINKS: HAPPY HR:
ADMISSION: FOOD: AGE LIMIT:

gramercy

17 Irving Place
New York
212-777-6800
livenation.com

Irving Plaza has championed the arts since 1860, albeit under various names and through several interior and exterior changes. Its uses included: concerts, balls, lectures, Yiddish theater, burlesque, cinema, a community center, and finally a music venue for punk rock, new wave, reggae, alternative rock, ethnic music and more. Young people today dig the old, funky decor and the inclusive, concert-hall vibe.

127 East 23rd St
New York, NY 10010
212-777-6800
livenation.com

Gramercy Theater is a historic building opened in 1937 that existed as a movie theater that hosted various genres, until it was renovated into an Off Broadway theater house in 1998. In 2006, Live Nation turned the space into a concert hall drawing A-list performers to crowds of enthusiastic New Yorkers. Under Blender Magazine’s sponsorship since 2006 the venue is known as Blender Theater.

116 East 27th St
New York, 10016
212-576-2232
Hours: 6p-3a Daily
Subway: 6 to 28th St
jazzstandard.com

Written by: Emily Niewendorp

Visiting Jazz Standard is a reward at the end of a long day. The venue’s remarkable highlights include owner Danny Meyer’s winning hospitality, amazing jazz music, and real pit BBQ from the upstairs restaurant, Blue Smoke.

The stairwell winds down to the club past black and white photos of great jazz musicians from the last century. As the designs and wall coloring turn red—the standard color at Jazz Standard—the air begins to carry an element of anticipation.

When walking into the Jazz Standard, low voices and the soft tinkling of utensils on tableware are audible. There is a subdued, yet expectant excitement waiting for the music to begin. The staff does its best to accommodate the many seating choices: the bar area; a front section positioned perpendicular to the stage for close views; and tiered platforms.

The black and red stage is simple and intimate, and the roster of talented musicians that play the room means that the shows are nearly always a joy; soft and sweet, and dissident and aggressive. A show at Jazz Standard will carry away any daily strife and charm in the meantime.

Some highlights have included: Bill Charlap with Jim Hall and Frank West; and a Fred Hersch duo series with Kenny Barron, Jason Moran and Ethan Iverson as guests.

The club hosts birthday celebrations and benefits: Preservation Hall Band from New Orleans did a weeklong benefit that hosted numerous Louisiana musicians. Regular events include the Maria Schneider Orchestra’s annual Thanksgiving week residency, and the Mingus Mondays weekly residency. The latter residency showcases Charles Mingus’ music in three rotating ensembles—Mingus Big Band (winner of Grammy Award for Best Large Jazz Ensemble Album), Mingus Orchestra, and Mingus Dynasty.

The club has formed its identity by providing opportunities to emerging artists. Luciana Souza is one of many musicians who had her initial, multiple night, jazz-club engagement at Jazz Standard. The club encourages musicians to experiment and present new projects, resulting in shows that are exciting for both the public and the musicians.

Jazz Standard also nurtures the next generation of musicians through the Jazz for Kids program. Conductor David O’Rourke auditions student- musicians from surrounding high schools and junior highs and forms a group. From October to June the kids play a Sunday brunch performance. A $5 donation to see the show has created scholarship opportunities for young musicians to attend college.

There are no table minimums at Jazz Standard, and discounted student tickets are also available. Live recordings of many shows, such as the Grammy nominated duo of Fred Hersch and vocalist Nancy King, are available both at the venue and online.

HISTORY

Known as The Jazz Standard in late ’90s, Danny Meyer took over operations in 2001, changed the name to Jazz Standard and closed the space for renovations. It turned out to be fortunate timing, as shortly afterward 9/11 occurred. The venue escaped the loss of business that most NYC companies experienced after the attacks.

A long time enthusiast of jazz since his days as a jazz DJ in college, Danny was also excited about bringing one of the first real pit BBQs to NYC. Long-recognized as a creator of hospitality-driven establishments with excellent cuisine, Danny opened Blue Smoke and Jazz Standard in March 2002. Though live jazz and BBQ may seem like an unlikely pair, both are undoubtedly Danny’s passions.

The most proficient musicians and  dynamic shows were naturally scheduled for the venue’s launch, and since then that high standard has continued.

GENRE: TYPE: CAPACITY:
Jazz Supperclub 125
AMBIENCE: DRINKS: HAPPY HR:
Casual $5-25 N/A
ADMISSION: FOOD: AGE LIMIT:
$15-30,
Student discount
Blue Smoke BBQ Kid-friendly

murrayhill

66 Park Ave
New York, 10016
212-885-7000
Hours: Wed-Sat 5p-12mid
Subway: 4,5,6,7,S to Grand Central
kitano.com

Written by: Mark Osborne

“Location, location, location” is the mantra of the real estate business; however at this Park Avenue jazz location, the mantra becomes “intimate, intimate, intimate.”

Located in a mezzanine above the lobby of The Kitano Hotel, this unheralded jazz venue dedicates itself to providing quality jazz performances to a small, but loyal, group of jazz followers.

A list of those who have, or are slated to perform at The Kitano, reads like a who’s who of contemporary jazz players; most of whom have played with legends such as Freddie Hubbard, Wynton Marsalis, Benny Carter and Randy Brecker.  Better yet, the performances are free Wednesday and Thursday, with a small cover charge on the weekends.

The stage is nestled into a corner of the room and surrounded by a random order of small tables and chairs. Seating at the small bar also gives customers a view of the proceedings. A small crew of waitpersons keeps the customers satisfied; but it’s not the food and drink that attracts, it’s the quality of the performances.

The booking manager, Gino Moratti, approaches his mission of providing loyal aficionados with great jazz by way of an almost evangelical zeal. A jazz pianist himself he prides himself on providing his players with the “best sounding piano in New York,” having it tuned three times a week to ensure the integrity of the sound.

The Kitano continues in the rich tapestry of jazz history; the tradition of salon style performances where every breath and every note has meaning and resonance. This Park Avenue jewel is a splendor that needs to be experienced, not just for jazz savants, but for all fans of great music.

GENRE: TYPE: CAPACITY:
Jazz Small bar/lounge 70
AMBIENCE: DRINKS: HAPPY HR:
Intimate,
sophisticated
$8-15 N/A
ADMISSION: FOOD: AGE LIMIT:
Free Wed-Thu,
$15 Fri-Sat
American/
Japanese
Varies

chelsea

30 W 26th St
New York, NY 10010
212-691-0507
Hours: Shows: Tues-Thu 9p-12mid, Fri-Sat 10p-1a
Subway: 1,R to 23rd or 28th St
hillcountryny.com

Written by: Emily Niewendorp

Hill Country brings true central-Texas culture—savory dishes and hot, gritty music—to New York City: dry-rub BBQ with all the fixin’s and American roots music—indie rock, southern rock, folk, blues and country.

Hill Country is a large, bi-level restaurant connected by a broad staircase. There are two huge screens upstairs featuring sports, especially Texas-related events and teams. The music venue downstairs is laid out with family-style, wooden tables in front of the stage. The space feels like a finished basement with brick and wood-paneled walls and a large patch-worked Texas flag hangs at the back of the stage.

The music offerings at Hill Country are intentionally as tasty as the food, and most often free of charge. Well-known Austin acts like the honky-tonk, The Derailers, and Heybale, who play on the venue’s anniversary each year, alternate with regional and local acts six nights per week. Rock and swing karaoke are a hit on Tuesdays. Hill Country’s music booker, Jack Grace, is a cowboy at heart and a professional musician himself, who says his philosophy is, “Never book a bad band and let the good ones play all night long.”

Hill Country feeds and cares for its bands, according to Jack, who says, “The younger musicians are blown away because they didn’t know they could be treated like that, and the older bands say, ‘Wow, I haven’t been treated this well since 1986.’”

Hill Country patrons love to choose their brisket, sausage, ribs and other dry-rub BBQ meats and classic southern sides, and then pick them up at the counter, wrapped in brown paper—true Texas road house fashion. Waiters bring drink orders to the table. The feeling is relaxed, greasy, bluesy and just deliciously Texan. Long-necked Lone Star Beers, Texas craft brews and wines or fine tequilas and bourbons help wash it all down and keep customers coming back for more. Hill Country is a fun, down home place where the live music continues into the night, long past dinner time.

HISTORY

Hill Country is inspired by founder Marc Glosserman’s childhood visits to his father’s family south of Austin in Lockhart—the BBQ capital of Texas. Texas BBQ’s natural partner is Texan music—folk and southern rock, country and Austin City Limits—and young Marc developed an affinity for both. In 2004, after returning from several years’ work as an entrepreneur in London, Marc found himself at a family reunion savoring seasoned ribs with the owner of Austin’s famous Kreuz Market BBQ, while listening to some down-home Texas music. Thinking out loud, Mark commented that opening a Texas BBQ-style restaurant somewhere else—like NYC—would be a great idea. Today he says, “I had no idea at the time that I would be the one to end up doing it.”

Marc found an old manufacturing building in the Flatiron/Chelsea district that was well-suited for Hill Country’s concept, but needed
proper restaurant utilities, like three 12-story smoke stacks for barbecuing. The building’s brick walls and old skylights fit well with the comfortably worn look Marc wanted—like a favorite pair of cowboy boots!

Plans for Hill Country’s future are bright. A venue in D.C. has opened and there are ideas for other markets too. A music CD compilation that inspired Hill Country is coming out and there is talk of its own record label.

State of the Bathroom: High ceilings and wooden doors—looks like a luxurious horse stable.

GENRE: TYPE: CAPACITY:
American roots,
rock n roll
Mid-size club 299
AMBIENCE: DRINKS: HAPPY HR:
Good clean fun $2 Daily 3-7p
Sun-Thu 10p-mid
ADMISSION: FOOD: AGE LIMIT:
Free BBQ All ages

431 West 16th St
New York, NY 10011
212-414-5994
Hours: Music times vary
Subway: A,C,E to 14th St or L to 8th Ave
highlineballroom.com

Written By: Emily Niewendorp

Highline Ballroom occupies a 2nd and 3rd floor space on the border of the fashionable Meatpacking District and west Chelsea. This premier, large-capacity venue is surrounded by refurbished, hip, living spaces, Chelsea Market and High Line Park.

Opened in 2008, Highline puts on a wide variety of shows. Some of the acts that have performed here include: Lou Reed, Paul McCartney, Donna Summer, Amy Winehouse, The Roots, Santana, 50 Cent, Nas, Al Di Meola, McCoy Tyner, Lady Gaga, Justin Bieber, Indigo Girls, Stevie Wonder, Reverend Horton Heat, Cracker, Prong, Sick of It All, Hot Chip and Super Furry Animals.

Highline’s versatile vibe adapts to suit these varied musical genres and their fans. The one-room venue is clean and industrial, yet also has a familiar lodge-look with its high, peaked roof, exposed rafters and finished wood floor. Highline can be set up with tables as a fully-serviced supperclub, or on other occasions the tables can be removed for standing-room concert space. The large, high stage features a killer lighting and sound system. Three bars including one on the balcony provide seamless service and almost all seats and standing positions at Highline offer fine views of the shows.

The menu offers salads, small plates, steak, burgers, fish and vegetarian meals. Bottle service is available.  Private parties are encouraged and group rates are available.

Highline Ballroom is named after the newly renovated High Line walkway that runs north and south near the venue. The preserved elevated train line now serves the local community as a park that links several West side neighborhoods: Clinton, Chelsea and the Meatpacking District.

GENRE: TYPE: CAPACITY:
Various Mid-size club 800
AMBIENCE: DRINKS: HAPPY HR:
Quintessential
live music venue
$7-13 N/A
ADMISSION: FOOD: AGE LIMIT:
Varies American 21+

garmentdistrict

311 W 34th St
New York, NY 10001
212-279-7740
Hours: Music times vary
Subway: A,C,E,1,2,3 to 34th St (Penn Station)
mcstudios.com

Written by: Laura Sherman

The Hammerstein Ballroom holds an old world charm with a hand painted ceiling, elaborate wood work and three balcony areas. All tickets usually sell as general admission; with the ballroom’s enormous standing room floor it is advised to arrive early to get a good spot in the front.

The allure of the ballroom, however, is held in the opera-house quality acoustics, which make every seat in the house sound like the best. Artists including Kylie Minogue, 311, Foo Fighters, Hanson, Backstreet Boys, Britney Spears, The Strokes, Moby, Smashing Pumpkins, Incubus, Katy Perry, Tool, Brand New, Good Charlotte, Matisyahu and many more have graced the stage.

Although the Manhattan Center is best known for the Hammerstein Ballroom, it also boasts The Grand, one of New York’s best kept secrets. This 10,000 square foot space provides an amazing recording space for classical orchestras or intimate chamber ensembles.

HISTORY

Oscar Hammerstein built this extravagant venue in 1906, in an effort to bring opera to the people. Originally named Manhattan Opera House it quickly developed a reputation for its extraordinary acoustics, so much so that the Metropolitan Opera House offered $1.2 million for a ten-year moratorium on opera performances, which was happily accepted. The Shubert Brothers took over in 1911 and hosted vaudeville shows six nights a week, with concerts on Sunday nights.

Over the next few decades the venue went through several management changes. The Scottish Rite of Free Masonry purchased it in 1922 and Warner Bros leased the space from 1926, when history was made with the first ever musical soundtrack recording for commercial film. The vita phone sound-on-disc system captured the 107-piece New York Philharmonic orchestra performing for the film “Don Juan.”

A name change in 1940 to Manhattan Center encouraged such diverse events as big bands, trade shows, union meetings, as well as large private and corporate events; and to this day the venue is a favored locale for live music concerts, awards and fashion shows, product launches, and more. In addition, the Manhattan Center Studios were formed in 1986 to allow for multimedia events. In 1997 the entire venue underwent a major face-lift and updated its equipment to state of the art technology. It has since become a popular place to record live performances; KoRn, All Time Low, and Coheed and Cambria have all recorded live DVDs.

GENRE: TYPE: CAPACITY:
Various Concert hall
AMBIENCE: DRINKS: HAPPY HR:
Old world charm N/A
ADMISSION: FOOD: AGE LIMIT:
Varies N/A 21+

4 Penn Plaza
New York, NY 10121
212-465-6000
Hours: Music times vary
Subway: A,C,E,1,2,3 to 34th St (Penn Station)
thegarden.com

Written by: Emily Niewendorp

Madison Square Garden, or MSG, is a world-famous sports arena and concert hall, home to the New York Knicks and Liberty basketball teams, and the Rangers hockey team. Housed in four locations over a span of 131 years, it is the longest active major sporting facility in the greater metropolitan area, with a flexible seating capacity in the tens of thousands.

The current facility, situated above Pennsylvania Station, opened on February 11, 1968, with certain technological advances leading its design. Suspension cables, just like those on the Brooklyn Bridge, literally hang the ceiling like a canopy from above, thereby removing the need for columns or similar supports that would normally obstruct a spectator’s view.

The Garden, as the venue is also called, is the third busiest arena in the world in terms of ticket sales, hosting 400 events annually. A fight shortly after opening between Mohammed Ali and Joe Frazier set a ticket sales precedent for future shows. In the years that followed, music icons like Michael Jackson and Elvis Priestly drew insane crowds to the arena, and additional legends from the past and present have and do continually sell out the Garden’s capacity, such as: Frank Sinatra, Simon & Garfunkel, Madonna, Dave Mathews Band and more.

MSG is known more for its amenities rather than its ambiance. The arena has the typical concourses encircling the arena with concessions and alcoholic beverages. Club suites, with 12 tickets each, are available to rent by groups or individuals on a single-day basis. State-of the-art technology allows for flexible staging of concerts; musicians can choose to perform in the round, or have the deck placed at one end of the floor for a thrust stage setting, which creates the utility of a backstage area.

At MSG, patrons’ expectations are always high; nothing short of the blood, sweat and tears of the performers are required to drive the energy in this colossal space. Whether it’s a rockin’ Led Zeppelin concert or a tied hockey game, a high-energy experience is what people pay for; and because of MSG’s size and impressive technology, any event held here promises to be nothing short of epic.

GENRE: TYPE: CAPACITY:
Various Arena 20,789
AMBIENCE: DRINKS: HAPPY HR:
Multi-purpose
complex
$10-15 N/A
ADMISSION: FOOD: AGE LIMIT:
Varies N/A Varies

theaterdistrict

1501 Broadway
New York, 10036
212-343-3355
hardrock.com

Hard Rock Cafe started as a single diner in London ran by two fun-loving Americans. Musician Eric Clapton developed an affinity to the place and after a whimsical request by one of the owners, Eric offered up his guitar. More instruments and memorabilia found their place on the cafe’s walls and the rest is history. In New York, Hard Rock has built a rockin’ large stage below Times Square.

315 West 44th St
New York, NY 10036
212-581-3080
birdlandjazz.com

Birdland’s history dates back to 1949 and the hay-days of jazz, when Charlie Parker and other famous musicians drew intense crowds. Over the years, Birdland lived at several different locations, even uptown, until it moved back to midtown in ’96, where today you can appreciate the best jazz in the world in a classy supper club.

349 W 46th St
New York, NY 10036
212-262-9554
Hours: Sun-Thu 5p-11:30p, Fri-Sat 5p-1a
Subway: A,C,E,1,9 to Times Square
swing46.com

Written by: Jasmine Lovell-Smith

Entering Swing 46 is like stepping back into 1940s New York. The lettering on the awning reads “dining dancing cocktails.” With live dance music seven nights a week, this polished, sophisticated venue provides the perfect atmosphere for all three offerings.

The cozy red-walled interior is outfitted with dark wood furnishings, mellow lighting, crisp white tablecloths and red carnations in glass vases. The relaxed yet attentive staff and mixed clientele lend the place an approachable, friendly quality that avoids being stuffy or overly formal.

The front room presents a long, elegant wooden bar, with mini chandeliers overhead and a mirrored wall behind covered in rows and rows of sparkling glasses. Ample table seating is provided in this room for those preferring a quieter dining experience. The venue has an extensive drinks list and a full menu, specializing in classic American cuisine such as steak and seafood.

Past the bar is the entrance to the back room, where the music and dancing take place. The intimate wooden dance floor is right in front of the stage.  The stage, complete with grand piano, is surrounded by both formal table seating and more casual areas to perch for drinks. Music from the ten-piece dance band is tight and swinging, and perfectly in sync with the period atmosphere.

Swing 46 is the last remaining swing supper club on the east coast, and a perfect spot for parties and special events. It was recently voted the number one place to dance in New York City by MSN, and free dance lessons are provided as part of the entertainment. Conveniently located in midtown Manhattan’s theater district, the venue draws a diverse crowd and is particularly popular with tourists looking to experience the New York of a bygone era.

GENRE: TYPE: CAPACITY:
Big band, swing Supperclub N/A
AMBIENCE: DRINKS: HAPPY HR:
Sophisticated $7+ N/A
ADMISSION: FOOD: AGE LIMIT:
$12 Sun-Thu,
$15 Fri & Sat
American 21+

1650 Broadway
New York, 10020
212-582-2121
Hours: Sun-Thu 7p-11p, Fri-Sat 7p-1a
Subway: B,D,E to 7th Ave or N,R to 49th St
1 to 50th St
iridiumjazzclub.com

Written by: Aidan Levy

Since 1994, the Iridium has served as an incubator for numerous world-renowned jazz artists, among them James Carter, Ravi Coltrane, and Cyrus Chestnut. The impromptu nightly jam sessions in the subterranean 52nd Street throwback have led to myriad irreproducible “you had to be there” moments across a broad spectrum of styles, ranging from the time Lionel Hampton sat in with jazz icon Wynton Marsalis, to unexpected appearances by legendary guitarists Slash, Keith Richards and Jeff Beck. In its relatively short history, the Iridium has become one of the top-flight jazz venues in the city, an intimate performance space that attracts some of the biggest names in contemporary music. “You can never see Jeff Beck in such a small room,” says Ron Sturm, Iridium general manager.

The Iridium is perhaps best known for its relationship with Les Paul, the father of the electric guitar, who made it his weekly home for more than 12 years, right up to August 2009, literally weeks before his passing.

To honor the memory of this unifying figure, the club continues to present upper-echelon guitarists in all genres with Les Paul Mondays, a weekly series featuring the Les Paul Trio—guitarist Lou Pallo, bassist Nicki Parrott, and pianist John Colianni—performing with different special guests, among them rock god Peter Frampton, journeyman guitarist Jeff Beck, and former Ozzy Osbourne lead guitarist Zakk Wylde.

“Like Les Paul said, ‘Music is music. What’s good is good,’” says Ron. “So people play here who can shred guitar like Zakk Wylde, or they can play beautiful solo guitar like Martin Taylor or Stanley Jordan.”

Continuing in this tradition, the Iridium stage has also featured a panoply of artists beyond category, including elder statesmen McCoy Tyner, Ahmad Jamal, and Max Roach, as well as young lions Kurt Rosenwinkel, Rudresh Mahanthappa, and John Medeski, a veritable who’s-who of jazz greats. Rounded out by a gourmet menu and consummate wine list, the Iridium is that rare combination of jazz-age grit and insouciant class, all in an informal, freewheeling environment.

GENRE: TYPE: CAPACITY:
Jazz Supperclub 180
AMBIENCE: DRINKS: HAPPY HR:
Casual lounge $7 – $12 N/A
ADMISSION: FOOD: AGE LIMIT:
$20-40,
Student discount
Italian 21+

343 West 46th Street
New York, NY 10036
212-757-0788
Hours: 4p-4a Daily
Subway: A,C,E to 42nd St/Port Authority or C,E to 50th St
N,R,S,1,2,3,7,9 to 42nd St/Times Sq
donttellmamanyc.com

Written by: Heather McCown

Don’t Tell Mama opened in 1982, bringing a unique blend of karaoke and cabaret to the Theater District. Well-known on the performance circuit—Edie Falco, Rosie O’Donnell, or Eileen Fulton occasionally show up for a tune or two—it was also a location venue for sitcoms such as Friends and Will & Grace.

Nestled mid-block on 46th Street in Restaurant Row, DTM welcomes everyone, boasting a mixed crowd of singers and revelers. Entertaining and personable, DTM fills a gap; Jennifer Pace, one of the venue’s celebrated bartenders, explains: “There are not a lot of Mom & Pop joints anymore.”

Comprised of a main room and two private cabaret rooms, the club expanded in 1992 to include a restaurant serving New American Cuisine. When not dining, patrons can sit at black cocktail tables in the mirrored main room and enjoy the piano bar, or catch a dedicated act in one of the private rooms—a perfect spot to throw a party.

The burgundy walls are adorned with signed photographs of artists who have performed, such as: Eileen Fulton, Bea Arthur, Rue McLanahan, Jay Bradley, Kathy Griffin and Neil Patrick Harris. Jennifer relates a story of Tony Danza accidently burning a hole in her stockings one packed night, back when smoking was allowed.

DTM is unassuming, but holds its own.  The booking director, Sidney Myer, clarifies that it is truly a performing arts center as it hosts acts from rock to opera, cabaret, gospel, and even magicians. He states, “Everyone has to start somewhere, and for many this is the place they began.” Even the staff, which also performs, considers this a place to hone their craft. 

While many of the performers have gone on to win Emmy and Grammy awards, and even the $100,000 Grand Prize on Star Search, don’t be intimidated. If you choose to sing, DTM’s friendly staff will guarantee you enjoy belting out a tune, whether it be a standard, or Lady Gaga’s latest.

GENRE: TYPE: CAPACITY:
Cabaret, comedy,
musicals
Piano bar, lounge,
theater
N/A
AMBIENCE: DRINKS: HAPPY HR:
Fun! $6 – $13 N/A
ADMISSION: FOOD: AGE LIMIT:
Free-$25 American N/A

237 West 42nd St
New York, NY 10036
212-997-4144
Hours: Open daily, Music times vary
Subway: A,C,E,N,Q,R,1,2,3,7,S to 42nd St/Time Square
bbkingblues.com

Written by: Laura Sherman

B.B. King Blues Club & Grill opened its doors in June of 2000 in the heart of Times Square, on bustling 42nd Street. Accessible from nearly all the city and regional train lines, the club draws the diversity of New York City and its tourists.

The club is devoted to creating a true blues experience, despite the sometimes harried environment of this tourist hotspot. It is known for its two unique performance spaces, the Showcase Room and Lucille’s Grill.

Both of the music rooms provide a low-lit, high-energy atmosphere in a well-serviced space facing a large stage. The Showcase Room boasts a thirty-foot performance area, with two eight-foot video screens on either side that give musicians opportunities to enhance their show. Horse-shoe style seating leaves an open area before the stage for active listening and dancing, and the forty-foot bar adorned with signature saxophone beer taps further adds to the impressive aura. In an adjacent space of this downstairs club, is Lucille’s Grill, one of the best kept secrets of the city. It has a one-of-a-kind lounge atmosphere, featuring live blues every night of the week, with no cover charge.

B.B. King Blues Club implies blues music and it has a deep connection to that genre, however the club caters to other tastes as well. The Showcase Room in particular hosts rock, metal, hip-hop and tribute bands. Other artists include George Clinton and the P-Funk All Stars, Macy Gray, Better Than Ezra, James Brown, The Beach Boys, The Roots, NOFX, Public Enemy, Rancid, Everclear and B.B. King himself. 

The menu is as diverse as the Big Apple, with a hint of Southern flair. The weekends bring a different style of entertainment with special brunch performances on both Saturdays and Sundays. Starting at 11 a.m. on Saturday mornings you can partake in a fun-filled all-you-can-eat brunch with performances by the group, Strawberry Fields, featuring members from the hit musical on Broadway, Beatlemania. Sunday mornings bring uptown to midtown west, with the Harlem Gospel Choir and an all-you-can-eat soul food brunch.

GENRE: TYPE: CAPACITY:
Rock, pop, folk,
blues, hip-hop
Supper club 500-1000
AMBIENCE: DRINKS: HAPPY HR:
$6+ N/A
ADMISSION: FOOD: AGE LIMIT:
Free-$50
$10 table min.
American Varies