Lucid Culture


Mehmet Dede of Drom Reflects on the Defiant Relaunch of A Popular Manhattan Nightspot

In these difficult economic times, while some New York clubs desperately pander to the lowest common denominator with jello wrestling, beer pong and other ways of killing time on the Jersey Shore, the elegant New York East Village nightclub Drom at 85 Avenue A between 5th and 6th St. is relaunching itself as an all-purpose world music emporium on April 1. It should come as no surprise that we’re fans of the club: having rated Drom as Best Manhattan Venue of 2009, we watched them slowly gravitate to being more of a restaurant before rededicating themselves to the live music that made the place such a mecca in its first two years, beginning in 2008. Drom’s Director of Programming and Bookings, Mehmet Dede, who along with global promoter Serdar Ilhan is responsible for the makeover, took some time out of his schedule to speak with us. Here’s the scoop:

Lucid Culture’s Correspondent: It’s no secret that we’re glad to see that Drom is back – we spent a whole lot of time at your place a couple of years ago. What’s behind the decision to make it a fulltime music venue again, other than it’s a lot of fun?

Mehmet Dede: It’s always been a fulltime music venue. About a year after it opened some creative differences arose among owners and the programming became less cohesive – the club lost its soul, in a way. When co-founder and brainchild behind the club, Serdar Ilhan, bought out his partners last summer (with his new partner Ekmel Anda), he not only remodeled the club, but also made necessary programming and management changes to re-brand the venue to fit its motto, “Global Music for a New World.”

LCC: On one hand, what you’re doing makes sense: the Poles want Polish music, the Turks want theirs. Same with the Azeris and the Dominicans and every other great culture in this melting pot of ours. So there should be a consistent market for all of that. Yet no club dedicated to “world music,” that is, music that represents pretty much every culture, has ever managed to stay in business in New York. Are you on to something that nobody else is?

MD: We tend to think of “world music” as music that brings together communities. What I think sets Drom apart is that it is open to sounds from more countries, communities and genres than other clubs: You can hear Russian space-age pop music, an alt country band and traditional Greek music all within the same day, at times here.

LCC: Does the grand reopening involve the sound system, or the decor? Since day one, you’ve been one of the best-sounding rooms in town – I hope that won’t change…

MD: We’ve enhanced the sound system, added new gear to our technical inventory and enlarged the stage area. We’ve also painted the floor, added new artwork to the walls, and new furniture as well. The biggest change is the addition of a big chandelier, which makes you feel like you’re listening to the artist in your living room.

LCC: You and Serdar use the club as home base for your frequent global music festivals, whether in Central Park, at the UN or the Town Hall among other venues. The latest kicks off with a mammoth free concert in Central Park on Friday, June 17 with legendary Turkish songwriter/filmmaker Zulfu Livaneli. Will you continue promoting big events like that one?

MD: Yes. Serdar and I started off as promoters, and over time added producing festivals and running a nightclub to the list. Today, while we continue to produce one-off shows in and around town, we wanted to bring our experience in doing these events to a live music hall.

LCC: Your schedule for April is as eclectic as anybody could want. Palestinian-American songwriter Stephan Said continues his monthly residency; you also have jazz, Turkish music, a terrific classical pianist playing her cd release show, Turku’s hypnotic Silk Road songs on the 16th, and diverse Middle Eastern sounds with Duo Jalal on the 27th, just to name a few events. Anything else that we should know about?

MD: I would add to that list the Beatrockers & Hardknockers event on April 23rd – the ultimate showcase of the beatbox artform. Poum Tchack, a sextet from the South of France, who are elegant and classy, will play on April 30th. Last but not least, new-soul-comer Chris Turner will play at Drom in April.

LCC: Maybe this isn’t your department – or maybe it is – but I noticed that while pretty much every other restaurant out there has raised their prices, Drom’s are lower than they were last year. And the menu is simplified. What’s up with that? Will you still have that mezze [appetizer] plate that I love so much?

MD: We have simplified the menu because we have a better idea now of what people eat when they attend a concert at our venue. We are primarily a live music hall:  to complement that, we’ve added easy-to-eat main courses, bar food and finger food to the menu. Don’t worry, your fave appetizers will remain on the menu!

LCC: Is there a reason why your place is so pleasant and so many other clubs aren’t? I mean, when I go to Arlene Grocery, the crackhead who does the door acts like she wants to rip my head off. If I want a decent seat anywhere near the stage at City Winery, I have to show up super early. Yet when I come to your place, it’s dark and cozy, everybody’s friendly and relaxed, I can always manage to find a spot somewhere to sit if I’m hungry and I never start to feel like going up and strangling the sound guy. Does one have to be Turkish or Bulgarian to run a club that doesn’t make the customers feel like they’re in a concentration camp?

MD (laughs): Maybe it’s the Turkish hospitality?!


March 31, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

New York City Music Clubs and Venues

Most recently updated 8/31/19, this list of over 200 clubs includes pretty much every New York establishment that has music frequently, as well as a small handful who host only the occasional live show. Be aware that venues booked by Live Nation are not included here, since this is not a blog for corporate music. We update this constantly.

Every year, we pick a new spot, one each from Manhattan and Brooklyn, as “Best Venue of the Year” – keeping in mind of course that our picks from previous years are no less enjoyable now than they were a couple of years ago, other than the eight which are now closed. The winners so far are:

Manhattan: Lakeside Lounge (now closed)
Brooklyn: Luna Lounge (now closed)

Manhattan: Rodeo Bar (now closed)
Brooklyn: Barbes

Manhattan: Drom
Brooklyn: Spike Hill (now closed)

Manhattan:  Banjo Jim’s (now closed)
Brooklyn: Hank’s Saloon (now closed)

Manhattan: Shrine
Brooklyn: The Jalopy

Manhattan: Lakeside Lounge (now closed)
Brooklyn: The Jalopy

Manhattan: Zirzamin (now closed)
Brooklyn: Barbes

Manhattan: Spectrum (now moved to Brooklyn)
Brooklyn: Freddy’s Bar

Manhattan: Pangea
Brooklyn: Pete’s Candy Store

Manhattan: The American Folk Art Museum
Brooklyn: Bar Matchless (now closed)

Manhattan: The Atrium at Lincoln Center
Brooklyn: Barbes

Manhattan: Bryant Park
Brooklyn: The Jalopy


Aaron Davis Hall
On the City College campus between W 133rd and 135th Sts on Convent Ave, one block east of Amsterdam Ave.
1 to 137th St. (don’t take the 2 or the A because those stations are on the other side of Morningside Park, and there’s no direct stairway through the park nearby)

Movies, occasional theatre and concerts once or twice a month in this comfortable auditorium. Some events are very expensive; others are free, although they usually require a RSVP. They like latin jazz a lot here.


140 Wilson Ave. (Stuydam/Willoughby), Bushwick
J/M to Central Ave.

This refreshingly laid-back beer bar with pub grub and frequent music in the bare-bones backroom no longer has any presence on the web, which is troubling. It’s a repurposed former bodega backroom comparable sizewise and soundwise to Gold Sounds.  Music runs the gamut from loud and noisy to retro and garagey; some surprisingly popular national touring acts show up here from time to time. Cover is cheap, usually no more than $10.



American Folk Art Museum
Columbus Ave. at 66th St.
1 to 66th St./Lincoln Center

The more or less weekly free Friday evening acoustic and global music shows hosted by crystalline-voiced Americana singer Lara Ewen are consistently excellent, a mix of front-porch folk, acoustic songwriters, string bands and sounds from the Balkans to the Mediterranean.  Performances are in the museum’s echoey, high-ceilinged first-floor atrium Museum admission is also free, and the staff here are very personable. Wine is also often available. The sound is better and more cathedral-like than what you would expect. If you’re going, get there as close to five as you can, since the seats fill up fast with a mixed crowd of neighborhood folks and tourists. These shows are a great way to start the weekend if you work or go to school nearby or can get out in time to get here. The exhibits here are also very interesting and feature unknown and undeservedly obscure treasures from across the decades.


The Americas Society
680 Park Ave at 70th St.
6 to 68th St.

Occasional concerts, a mix of new music, classical and jazz from across Latin America in the cozy second-floor auditorium of this former Gilded Age mansion. Many events here are free; some require a rsvp since space can be tight. The staff are friendly; getting here early is always a good idea.


The Apollo Theatre

253 West 125th Street

Between Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. Blvd & Frederick Douglass Blvd.

A/B/C to 125th St.

“It’s showtime!” Yeah, besides the televised open mic frequented by hordes of drunk kids booing timid performers off the stage, they have plays, musicals and the infrequent concert, mostly hip-hop or corporate pop. The dingy, multi-tiered interior is actually nowhere as big as the tv cameras would have you believe, in fact smaller than the Beacon. The sound isn’t bad but it isn’t pristine either. But this place is a landmark where pretty much everybody who was anybody, from the 30s through the 60s played at one time or another. Advance tix available at the box office. Compared to the personnel at the other big theatres, the Apollo’s staff seem considerably brighter, more friendly and competent. There’s also an adjacent, pricy cafe with a considerably smaller stage, stupefyingly bad sound and the occasional hip-hop, soul or corporate performer.


The Arete Gallery
67 West St., Greenpoint
G to Greenpoint Ave or about a 20-minute walk from the Bedford Ave. L station

Frequent improvisational jazz along with the occasional avant garde, classical or global music act here. Cover is on the pricy side, $15-25, which you would expect considering the gentrified location. Follow the path from the front entrance through the courtyard to get in to the gallery. Not reviewed as of 2019.


Arlene Grocery

Stanton between Orchard and Ludlow, south side of the street

F to 2nd Ave.

A taste of Bleecker Street on the Lower East. Arlene’s was ground zero for edgy NYC rock back in the 90s, but has decayed to a Jersey mallternative room comparable to the Bitter End, even if the sound is better – and it isn’t always. This place has the potential to be sonically excellent but seldom is, more a fault of the sound personnel rather than their system. Cover is cheap, usually $10 and under; Monday nights, with cover bands and karaoke, are frequently free. The segues here are laughably jarring: singer-songwriter, hip-hop, death metal back-to-back without a thought of how much more money they’d make at the bar if the bands had something in common. Drinks are on the pricy side although they have shot-and-shitbeer specials, and the bartenders are nice. Potential hassles at the door depend on who’s working: literally everything here runs hot and cold.


Arthur’s Tavern

57 Grove St. just west of 7th Ave. South

1 to Christopher St. or any train to W 4th St., walk west on Waverly

Oldschool west village jazz dive. Long-running weekly residencies: vocal trio on Thursdays, blues on Sundays, etc. Cheap cover if in fact there is one, relatively cheap drinks, nice bar staff, extremely comfortable vibe in worn-down, lowlit ambience. Equally popular with budget tourists as well as an aging neighborhood crowd.


The Asia Society
725 Park Ave. at 70th St.
6 to 68th St.

Occasional folk, jazz and classical shows in the sonically excellent lower-level auditorium here. Adventurous programming includes both traditional and cutting-edge artists from across Asia, from Iran to China. Tix are reasonable – in the $25 range – the staff are nice and the rotating art exhibits are often very edgy as well.


The Austrian Cultural Center
11 E 52nd St. (5th/Madison)
E or F to 53rd St.

Frequent free classical, jazz and sometimes even rock shows in the cozy third-floor auditorium. A RSVP is required for most of them. Get there early and score a seat in the balcony where the sound is best. Very adventurous and cross-genre programming here.


Baby’s All Right

146 Broadway south of Bedford, S Williamsburg
J/M to Marcy Ave.
Baby’s All Rights is noteworthy for having the best air conditioning of any Brooklyn venue. Stand in the back, beneath the crowd gathered at the bar, and get deliciously blasted by the big industrial unit up on the ceiling. It’s sort of the South Williamsburg version of Bowery Electric. Big stage in the back, a little oversize for the space, and surprisingly good sound for a former Hasidic furniture store space. Bands are a mix of the lamer acts who played the now-shuttered Glasslands and Death By Audio, along with frequent punk, psychedelic and garage rock. After a rocky start, there’s been turnover and the staff are unexpectedly mellow and non-hostile. Drinks are predictably expensive and small. Too bad that some of the shows here gouge customers who opt for paying cash rather than buying online with a credit card.


Bar Chord
1008 Cortelyou Rd. (Stratford/Coney Island Ave.), Ditmas Park, Brooklyn
Q to Cortelyou Road
Expensive gentrifier bar with free 9 PM shows, a mix of jazz and Americana with the occasional rock or reggae band, many of them very good. Some of the Jalopy acts pass through here. Music on the little stage in the front window, bar alongside it, booths along the other edge of this long, rectangular space, with more tables and a backyard in the rear out of view of the band. No cover charge; the people who work here are nice enough, but the loud local crowd – a weird and non-interactive mix of local working people and children of out-of-state speculator wealth – have no interest in the music and bellow over it. And it’s a bitch to get home from here if you have to take the B train any distance.


Bar Lunatico 

486 Halsey St., corner of Lewis Ave., Bed-Stuy
C to Kingston/Throop Ave.
After taking a shot at being sort of the Bed-Stuy version of Barbes, and then shi-shi Jersey folkie joint, they’re now sort of the Jazz Standard of Brooklyn. Many jazz acts far too popular for a Manhattan room this small are making the shlep out here. It’s a charming little boite, the smell of spices wafting through the room (they serve crostinis and paninis and such), comparable sizewise with the back room at Pete’s. The staff are friendly and seem happy to be here; drinks are on the pricy side, although they have cheap canned beer. The sound is fantastic. A welcome alternative to the gentrifier meat markets springing up in the hood and contender for best Brooklyn venue.


The Bar Next Door

129 MacDougal between W 3rd and Washington Square South, right around the corner from the Blue Note

Any train to W 4th St.

A cynic would say that if you’re thinking of going to the Blue Note, you ought to go here instead. Better known as la Lanterna (the upstairs restaurant, which runs this little walk-down joint), it’s a great place to see A-list talent for D-list prices. It also has good food (pizzas and pastas are consistently excellent). Small ensembles (usually trios, a mix of traditional and more adventurous jazz styles, heavy on the guitarists since the purist Peter Mazza books the joint) play in the corner by the fireplace. Early arrival is advised because it’s not much bigger than Barbes. You’re pretty much on top of the band. Service is refreshingly oldschool West Village and laid back. Sets at 8:30/10 Sun-Thurs.; 7, 9 and 11 on weekends; no cover for the early shows, $12 otherwise.


Baruch College Auditorium
On the south side of the pedestrian street on 25th St. between Lexington and 3rd Ave.
6 to 23rd St.

Frequent classical, jazz and global music here during the school year, in a sonically superb basement-level auditorium that was once home to one of the city’s most widely used recording studios in the 1950s and 60s. Cover is on the pricy side ($25-$30, sometimes more) although there are frequent free shows here too. Take the elevator down a couple of flights because the stairs are sometimes closed off after hours.



***RATED BEST BROOKLYN VENUE 2008, 2013 and 2017 ***

corner of 6th Ave. and 9th St., Park Slope, Brooklyn

F to 7th Ave. and walk downhill

Believe the hype: there is a good act playing here virtually every night, something no other New York area venue can boast. Day in, day out, Barbes books more exciting music than any other venue in town (maybe anywhere in the world), a diverse, rotating cast of jazz, oldtimey, Americana, latin, Balkan, Middle Eastern, Afrobeat and occasional rock acts from every corner of the globe. Barbes’ theme is Gallic, taking its name from Barbes-Rochechouart, an unfortunately now-gentrified former Arab ghetto in Paris. The back room here is small, a tad bigger than Pete’s Candy Store, and the bands who play here often fill it. Consequently, it’s best to show up early if you want a seat. Since it’s cozy back there, the sound is usually superb. They typically pipe the music from the back room in over the bar if you’d rather chill with their friendly staff. Lately a similarly cool, oldschool Brooklyn contingent has gravitated here since they’ve been priced out and elbowed out of other venues by the young Republican invasion. You can make friends here. Drinks are remarkably cheap for the hood, and they have a good tequila selection. A $10 tip to the bands is very strongly suggested; occasionally, a jazz or global music act will have a $10 cover.



Fulton Ferry Landing, Dumbo, Brooklyn

F to York St.; A to High St. and walk to the water

Chamber music inside a renovated barge at the foot of the Brooklyn Bridge, all year long. Highly regarded as a date spot – with the almost imperceptible sway of the boat, the view of lower Manhattan and the marvelous acoustics, this can be a very romantic experience. They’re also reduced their ticket prices in recent months, an unexpectedly welcome development. The venue’s other redeeming feature these days is the free, mostly-weekly Saturday 4 PM “family” shows, typically featuring solo piano or string performances. Early arrival is an absolute must, as the below-decks space is fairly small and sells out fast, especially in the summertime.


Battery Park Carousel
1/4/5 to South Ferry; R to Whitehall
Frequent Friday night, 8 PM outdoor shows during the warmer months, heavy on the oldtimey jazz and swing sounds.


The Beacon Theatre

74th and Broadway

1/2/9 to 72nd St.

Gilded Age beauty at a price to match. Once the crown jewel of the Upper west, it’s now part of the Madison Square Garden empire. The Beacon’s steadily decreasing number of concerts hardly justify the expense, considering that most of the acts who play here are aging corporate bands or 70s has-beens (the Allman Brothers used to do a monthlong thing here once a year). If in fact you can find a show that’s under $75, you’d do best to get tix at their box office, open 11-5 PM Mon-Fri. The sound here is terrific, as you would expect from the ambience. Don’t try to bring alcohol or other beverages in here: you will be frisked. Don’t waste your money on the tiny drinks they serve in little plastic cups. There is only one way in or out, through the front doors; you might want to station yourself close to an exit at the end of the show to beat the crowd. Be careful not to fall onto the tracks at the 72nd St. subway station: it’s the narrowest platform in the entire system.


The Bell House

149 7th St. between 2nd and 3rd Aves., Gowanus, Brooklyn

F/N/R to 4th Ave.

A pity that this sonically superb, high-ceilinged, midsize hall – just a tad smaller than Bowery Ballroom – hardly has music anymore. When they do, it’s often on a little stage to the right of the front bar as you walk in. Once in a while there’s a national touring act – Americana, indie or soul music – in the big room in the back.  Otherwise, it’s a gay bar with a good tap beer selection. Advance tix for popular acts are cheaper and available at the box office on shownights. Nice enough people working here, and the lowlit ambience is appealing – it’s a popular wedding venue in the warmer months.



25 Ave. A at 2nd St. under 2A, enter thru the door on 2nd St.

F to 2nd Ave.

Small basement space with loud sound and weird sightlines: the little stage is situated so it’s hard to see unless you’re at one of the tables around the corner from the sound booth, or clustered up on the left between the stage and bar. Cover is cheap; the staff were annoying in the early going but have since turned over and are a pretty friendly crew these days. Drinks are pricy as you would expect. Too bad the venue doesn’t have a website or do anything to promote the bands, a mix of punk, retro rock and garage acts who play here along with the usual parade of twee indie posers and Beyonce wannabes.



315 W 44th between 8th and 9th Ave.

A/C/E to 42nd St/Port Authority

Legendary, pricy restaurant row jazz club named after Charlie Parker. Swanky as you can expect: table service, expensive drinks and mediocre, overpriced food in the original upstairs dining room and also the more auditorium-like basement. Pricier than the Blue Note, with a similarly touristy crowd but less harried waitstaff, along with a somewhat more adventurous booking policy including latin and big band jazz. The sound is as good as you would expect for what you pay (the cheaper seats by the door are your best value). The staff are surprisingly nice, but ultimately the Vanguard and the Jazz Standard offer more bang for the buck.


The Bitter End

Bleecker between LaGuardia and Thompson

A/C/E/B/D/F to West 4th St., take the exit on the south side

The prototypical Bleecker Street hellhole: cheap and cheesy. Cheap, meaning that if the band wants to put somebody on the guest list, that comes out of their earnings at the door; cheesy as in Pearl Jam, Dashboard Confessional and Ani DiFranco wannabes onstage, lost in the 90s and cluelessly hoping for a big record label to discover them and make them famous. The sound is iffy, crowd Long Island and Jersey touristy, drinks are expensive, there’s a minimum if you want to sit and the staff are obnoxious (waitresses are always trying to round up people standing against the wall so as to extort money from them at the tables). A venue of last resort for acts who can’t get a gig anywhere else. With 200 other places to see music in NYC, we definitely don’t need the Bitter End.


Blackthorn 51
80-12 51st Ave., Elmhurst, Queens
R to Grand Ave, walk west on Queens Blvd

Queens’ home to heavy sounds, both metal and punk. Better booking than St. Vitus, if more infrequent: only two or three shows a month here these days. Not reviewed as of 2019


The Blue Note

W 3rd just east of Sixth Ave.

A/C/E/B/D/F to W 4th, take the southside exit

A cynic would ask who’s going to go here after the Fukushima reactor takes its toll on this club’s usual clientele: the sign over the entrance should be in Japanese. This place was a great jazz club, most likely before you were born, and vestiges of that remain: the sound is superb. But the prices are intimidating and the food is lousy. “Bar seating” is your best bet – it may get pretty crowded, but just stand in the crowd and you can beat the drink minimum issue. Booking here is a mixed bag, with Pan-American or European performers and the occasional jazz legend interspersed among Lite FM-style elevator jazz acts. Occasionally they’ll have a rock act. On Friday and Saturdays nights after the main acts are done, or for Sunday brunch, they have funk and fusion at reduced prices, but they discriminate against cash customers.


Bowery Ballroom
Delancey St. just east of Bowery
J to Bowery or F to 2nd Ave., walk south and west
This former Yiddish vaudeville theatre’s slow, sad decline from New York’s best-sounding midsize venue to corporate tourist trap mirrors the decline of the city as a whole. Jersey tourists and parents no longer worry about getting mugged on the Lower East, so now that’s who goes here. Most of the music is predictably atrocious: Disney autotune pop and its imitators from outside the country, with frequent gay meat market nights and “comedy.” Back in the day, the door crew here were chill and didn’t hassle you, and ticket prices were more reasonable than at competing venues. Bizarrely, most of the rock and Ameridana acts who used to pass through here are now being booked in to the Mercury, where, for the moment, you can still get discount advance tix until 7 on weekdays.


Bowery Electric

327 Bowery between 2nd and 3rd Sts.

F to 2nd Ave. or B/D/6 to Broadway-Lafayette

Located in the split-level downstairs space that formerly housed the dreaded tourist bar the Remote Lounge, this comfortably lowlit saloon is nothing like its predecessor or its sister bar Niagara on Ave. A. At the bottom of the stairs, there’s the bar to your right, with the lower level about half-occupied by a surprisingly big stage for a space this size. The downstairs PA is excellent but the sound can be hit-and-miss, depending on who’s working the board. Occasionally, acoustic performers will squeeze themselves into the tiny upstairs rehearsal closet (walk straight past the bar) which has frequent acoustic shows and which is so ridiculously small that there’s hardly room in there for the band, never mind customers. Drinks aren’t overwhelmingly expensive, cover is typically cheap, the vibe casual, the crowd oldschool a la Otto’s and the staff are nice. Booking encompasses what’s left of the New  York rock scene, with punk, latin rock and Americana along with many of the Jersey acts who play Arlene’s


Branded Saloon

603 Vanderbilt Ave. at Bergen St., Brooklyn

2 to Bergen St., walk uphill 2 blocks

Expensive gay bar with a western theme and pricy diner food. Beyond the menu, the cowboy theme doesn’t really make itself apparent. Mellow staff, drink prices about average for the neighborhood, but it can be as much of a strain to watch here as it is to play. Occasional music – folk, jazz and indie classical – in the small back room; performers squeeze themselves in on a facsimile of a stage on the left. In quieter moments, the blare of the bartender’s phone plugged into the PA, or the tv, can drown out the band.


Bric Arts
647 Fulton St. at Rockwell Place, Ft. Greene, Brooklyn
Any train to Atlantic Ave
Run by the private parketeers who put on the Prospect Park bandshell shows, this multi-purpose venue does quadruple duty as tv station, art gallery, music venue and home base for Silicon Valley slavers who want to make code monkeys out of the kids from across the park. Three rooms; the tiny recording studio (which also does double duty for public access tv broadcasts), where the occasional concert in the “studio series” is held; the boomy, high-ceilinged front atrium where the occasional “stoop series” show is held; and the comfy split-level auditorium. Some shows are free, but rsvps are required for the studio, which predictably sells out fast. Ticketed shows at the auditorium are comparable to the expensive stuff at BAM; their box office, where advance discount tix are available, is open early in the evening on showdates.


The Broadway
no website
1272 Broadway, Bushwick
J to Gates Ave and walk back toward Williamsburg

The old Gateway space is open again with a bunch of trendoid bands. Not reviewed as of 2019


Brooklyn Academy of Music

30 Lafayette Ave., Brooklyn Heights

The closest train is actually the G to Fulton St.; BAM is only half a block away. Otherwise take any train to Atlantic Ave.

Ironically, BAM has mostly movies these days. They’ve gotten rid of the free Friday night shows at the upstairs cafe. The big, main space with tiered seating, the black-box theatre on Hanson Place and the smaller theatre across the street and down the block all have excellent sound, high ticket prices (advance tix from the BAM box office are a must) and programming that runs the gamut from the avant garde to global sounds, opera and Madonna – who sold out the moment tix went onsale.


Brooklyn Bazaar
150 Greenpoint Ave just west of Manhattan Ave
G to Greenpoint Ave.

This old Polish mansion is where the organizers of the old Brooklyn Night Market have moved their lame, overpriced flea market, greasy hot dog and burger stands, bar, impromptu movie theatre and series of lame, effeminate indie bands. A lot of the wussiest acts left stranded when Glasslands closed are playing here now along with the frequent latin punk, hardcore and death metal shows. Some shows gouge cash customers who don’t or can’t buy tix online. Not reviewed as of 2019.


Brooklyn Botanic Garden
990 Washington Ave, Brooklyn
2/3/4 to Eastern Parkway

Cherry trees! Greenery as far as the eye can see! More oxygen than anywhere else in town, and occasional outdoor concerts along with the annual chile pepper festival which is always a lot of fun. This year there’s free admission on Tuesdays starting at 6 PM; be aware that one the weekend, you may need to use the 455 Flatbush Ave. entrance around the corner.


Brooklyn Bowl

61 Wythe Ave. between N 11th and N 12th., Williamsburg

L to Bedford Ave.

Brooklyn’s worst music venue, hands down. You’re treated like a criminal the moment you approach the door. Be prepared to be violently searched by a sadistic crew of ex-cons hell-bent on feeling you up in the most private places…whether you’re a girl or a guy. You will also be given a meticulous search via metal detector. What’s more, you will be forced to empty out your backpack, your purse if you carry one, and  also your pockets! Be aware that if you actually make it past the gauntlet at the door, there will be a crowd of drunken tourists at the bowling lanes who have zero interest in the music and will be making a lot of noise. Bands play in the far corner past the lanes, meaning that you won’t be able to hear the music in quieter moments. Booking stoner music: jambands, reggae, Afrobeat and funk – may be a ploy to increase income for this hellhole’s ridiculously overpriced faux-southern-themed kitchen. Considering that many of the acts who pass through here also play places like the Mercury and Knitting Factory, you’d be crazy to go to Brooklyn Bowl.


Brooklyn Bridge Park

At the water in Dumbo; closest train is actually the A/C to High St. although it’s also a short walk from the F at York St. and the 2/3 at Clark St.

Occasional free concerts on the little stage, hidden in a terraced enclave in the middle of the park, beyond the peninsula with the rollerskating rink. The Jalopy and Barbes folks have staged things here in the recent past.


Brooklyn Conservatory of Music

58 7th Ave at Lincoln Pl., Park Slope

2/3 to Grand Army Plaza or B/Q to 7th Ave.

Occasional jazz, classical and global music concerts in the rustic, comfortable late 1800s first-floor auditorium at this Brooklyn music school. Cheap cover (always under $20, sometimes under $10); nice staff working here; drinks might or might not be available. Be aware that the space is not air conditioned, explaining why there’s no summer schedule here.


Brooklyn Maqam Hang

Not a venue but a rising star in the NYC music world connecting the past and future of Middle Eastern music here. They started with a low-key monthly Monday series of shows at Sisters Brooklyn in Fort Greene and now book events all over the borough. Some are pass-the-hat, some have a cover charge; either way, it’s a mix of hometown talent from across the Arabic-speaking world along with rare appearances by artists from the Middle East and North Africa.


Brooklyn Public Library

Grand Army Plaza, Brooklyn

2/4 to Grand Army Plaza

How to describe? Well, it’s full of books. You can see the big, massive old edifice from the subway. The number of free concerts here, outside on the steps during the warmer months, sometimes in one of the small public rooms on the second floor, has been scaled back recently. Acts are diverse, ranging from jazz to classical to world music and frequent kiddie bands pandering to the ever-increasing number of young Republican moms in the neighborhood. Be aware that many shows require an online RSVP and will sell out. Their site also lists events at the many local BPL branches.



Bryant Park
On 42nd St. between 5th and 6th Ave
Any train to 42nd St.
Frequent early evening and occasional lunchtime concerts here during the warmer months: brass bands, salsa and jazz. The main attraction is the accordion festival, a fall series programmed by the irrepressible Ariana Hellerman (founder of the indispensable free events guide Ariana’s List), featuring acts and styles all over the globe situated just far enough from each other throughout the park so that there’s no sonic competition. They also have frequent free movies here. The public restrooms at the southeast corner by the library are shockingly clean and well-maintained.


Bushwick Public House
1288 Myrtle Ave. just past Central Ave
M to Central Ave

Airy, roughhewn gentrifier coffeehouse upstairs; comfortable bodega basement-type space downstairs. A few ratty old recliners and a handful of tables and a railing along the left side of the space. Nice people working here, cheap cover, a variety of bands from punkish to free jazz play at the back of the long rectangular room. A small bar at the other end has cheap beer and less cheap booze. Now if only the venue would get their website up and running so we can find out who’s playing here!


Cafe Wha

115 MacDougal St. between Bleecker and W 3rd St.

A/B/C/D/E/F to W 4th St.

Talk about living off your reputation: Hendrix played here frequently before he went to England and got famous. Apparently the club owners also own the building, because the place is still here. Not that it needs to be: this stuffy little tourist bar caters strictly to an out-of-town crowd, and late at night and on the weekends, an unsophisticated black clientele for whom rap apparently never happened. Expensive drinks, overzealous door crew, clueless bar staff, overly loud, generic funk and cover bands phoning it in on the little stage. Ugh.


Carnegie Hall

881 7th Ave. at 57th St.

A/B/C/D/1/2/3 to Columbus Circle

Ticket prices keep climbing toward the stratosphere here, and their programming has recently been eclipsed by Lincoln Center’s far more adventurous booking. The sound is great (don’t let oldtimers distract you with hairsplitting comparisons of pre- and post-1985 sonics here). Three separate halls: the big, venerable 1891 Stern Auditorium, the more recent, smaller Zankel Hall and the third-floor Weill Hall for chamber music, small ensembles and solo performers. Most of the western world’s great classical and new music ensembles come through here eventually. Advance tickets recommended for everything, since many concerts here sell out. Early arrival is an absolute must, to beat the last-minute crush: you’d do well to get there at least twenty minutes before showtime. The people who run this place are pros: you’ll be treated well. Be sure to check their calendar for the frequent free neighborhood concerts they sponsor, typically at local library branches.


The Cell Theatre
338 W. 23rd St (8/9th Aves)
C/E to 23rd St

More music now than there used to be at this comfy, gilded-age ground-floor space with a small balcony in the back. Comfy chairs, surprisingly good sound for a place that was primarily used for theatrical events for years. Musicians play on a stage in the window, more or less, backs to the street: Jazz, the avant garde and chamber ensembles all pass through. Tix are in the $25 and under range; there might or might not be beverages or snacks available, depending on who’s playing.


The Center for Remembering and Sharing
123 4th Ave,(between 12th & 13th, second floor over the coffee shop

Frequent adventurous concerts, from jazz improvisation to new classical to chamber music, including performances by Asian artists rarely heard in this country. Not reviewed as of 2019


Center for Traditional Music and Dance

Not a venue but an advocacy organization similar to the World Music Institute, but more oldschool and grassroots-oriented. They book a ton of amazing global musicians into venues all over the five boroughs, and many of the concerts are free. Lately Balkan and Latin American music have been very well represented among the many regions whose music they support. When there is a cover charge, tickets are typically available at the door as well as online. A good bunch of folks doing good work.


Central Park Summerstage

Central Park, 72nd St. entrance, closer to the east side

6 to 66th St.

This venue has been through good times and bad and 2019 was not very good. What the private parketeers are trying to do is to get rid of the free events that have been the area’s mainstay for decades and make this a fulltime paid space. In the meantime, portions of the back bleachers – reserved for advertisers in recent  years – have been opened to the public once again. But unfortunately, the space on the slope out back is often fenced off, getting rid of the best place for people who want to chill. The summer concert program still seems to halfheartedly represent a global agenda, but is outnumbered by the ridiculously overpriced ticketed concerts that you would enjoy far more in an airconditioned space. If you go to a free show here, prepare for volunteers making sad-puppy faces for donations as you enter but don’t be fooled: all this is paid for with taxpayer money and donations from corporations who can well afford it. You’d also best show up early – like when the doors open at 3 PM – if there’s a popular act on the bill.  Lincoln Center Out of Doors, New York’s best free outdoor concert series, begins in July and is a vastly more enjoyable, eclectic alternative.


Central Synagogue

652 Lexington Ave. at 55th St.

6/F to 53rd St./Citicorp Center

This sonically exquisite historic landmark – beautifully remodeled after a fire back in the zeros – has occasional free lunchtime organ concerts as well as traditional Jewish sounds from around the globe along with lectures, literary and film events. The synagogue’s Moorish-inspired interior decor is a feast for the eyes.


224 Manhattan Ave (Grand/Maujer), Williamsburg
L to Grand St.; late night and on the weekend, G to Broadway and a 15 minute walk

Occasional rock shows with surprisingly interesting, edgy bands here. Not reviewed as of 2019


Chhandayan Center for Indian Music
4 W 43rd Street #618
Any train to 42nd St.

Tabla lessons and frequent performances of all kinds of Indian classical music here: vocalists, instrumental ensembles and dance performances. Not reviewed as of 2019.


Chelsea Music Hall
407 W 15th St. (9/10)
A/C/E to 14th St.

Lame “comedy,” corporate urban top 40 acts (and innumerable Miley Cyrus wannabes and such) along with the occasional Caribbean or African band here. It seems expensive and exploitative, as white-owned clubs in places like New Jersey and Alabama that draw minority audiences tend to be. Not reviewed as of 2019.


The Chelsea Symphony

Not a venue but a symphony orchestra, a welcome presence in the New York classical and new music scene. The Chelsea Symphony serves up politically fearless, imaginatively thematic, frequently holiday-centric (Halloween, Valentines Day, etc.) programs including numerous New York and world premieres. They also frequently include choral, operatic and even pop music in their programming, and have a sense of humor. The quality of the performances is every bit what you’d hope for in an artistically-inclined New York neighborhood. Lately St. Paul’s Church, 315 West 22nd St. has been their home. Admission is cheap (typically a $20 donation); early arrival is recommended, because the orchestra has built up quite a following on their home turf.


City Vineyard
233 West St at Pier 26, across the highway just south of Hubert, Tribeca
1 or A/C/E to Canal St.

City Winery’s smaller southern annex has had music on and off since opening a couple of years ago, and with the main venue not scheduled to reopen further north until 2020, it’s absorbed some of the touring singer-songwritery types left homeless when the bigger space got the boot from Disney. It seems slightly less expensive than the chain’s Manhattan home base. Not reviewed as of 2019.



City Winery

The expensive, hangar-like flagship of this national chain, owned by one of the founders of the Knitting Factory, became one of the last bastions of singer-songwriter and dentists’ office pop in New York. The venue closed in the summer of 2019 but will reopen at Pier 57 at 15th St. in 2020 since Disney bought the SoHo building. Here’s hoping the sound is as excellent and the staff are as pleasant and chill as they were there.


Clemente Soto Velez Center
107 Suffolk St. south of Rivington
F/J/M to Delancey St.

Community center with a makeshift gallery and frequent, expensive jazz, emphasis on improvisation. Several acts are typically featured on the same bill.


Cleopatra’s Needle

2485 Broadway (92/93)

1/2/9 to 96th St.

Pricy white-tablecloth restaurant with nightly jazz on the little stage in the back. The sound isn’t bad, considering that the place draws a big afterwork crowd and is a popular neighborhood dining spot. Jazz usually starts at 8, with some good under-the-radar talent including many regular faces. Wednesday is open mic night followed by the weekly jazz jam that starts around midnight. No cover, only a $10 minimum at tables. Foodwise, you’ll do best with their excellent Middle Eastern menu which is more diverse and adventurous than what’s available at your typical falafel joint. Be aware that even on the hottest summer nights, they may leave the windows wide open, meaning that it won’t be any cooler inside.


Club Bonafide
212 E 52nd St just east of 3rd Ave.
6/F to 53rd/Lex

In the deadpool of NYC jazz venues, the back-room third-floor former Something Jazz Club space is at the top of the list.  Reopened by the head of a small chain of shi-shi French restaurants after that place went belly-up, they had a flirtation with eclectic booking – Middle Eastern, big band jazz and Balkan sounds – but now it’s become the NYC jazz equivalent of the Bleecker Street cover bars. The sound in the little auditorium – roughly comparable sizewise to the Jazz Standard – is hit and miss. Drinks are predictably expensive, the crowd touristy, but the staff are surprisingly friendly and chill. Hardly anyone any good plays here anymore.


C’Mon Everybody
325 Franklin Ave. (Clifton Pl./Greene Ave), Crown Heights
G to Classon Ave
A mix of urban top 40,  indie posers, gay meat market nights here. Not reviewed as of 2019.


The Cobra Club
6 Wyckoff Ave. (Morgan/Troutman), Bushwick
L to DeKalb Ave.
Yoga center with bands on Saturday nights and frequent entertainment for tourists: Miley Cyrus karaoke and the like. Not reviewed as of 2019.


Concerts on the Slope
St. John’s Episcopal Church
139 St. John’s Place downhill from 7th Ave., Park Slope
2/3 to Grand Army Plaza

A frequently adventurous weekend chamber music series featuring small ensembles, lots of premieres and interesting programming: bassoon music, Messiaen’s Quartet for the End of Time and high-profile 20th and 21st century works along with obscurities and up-and-coming artists. Concerts are held in the boomy church confines; a suggested donation is appreciated. There may be a reception after more popular programs.


Coney Island Baby
169 Ave. A (10th/11th Sts.)
L to 14th St.

The former Brownies and Hifi space had regular music for awhile but is mostly just a bar again. The stage seems to be even smaller than it was at the Hifi and is now located across from where it used to be. As a result, the sound has been a work in progress. Booking was all over the place: aging punk bands, Bowery Electric garage rock types and even a bluegrass brunch: nothing seems to have worked. Drinks are pricier than they were at they Hifi, and the Hifi wasn’t cheap; the staff seem reasonable and not likely to hassle you at the door. If they did things right, they probably wouldn’t put the Mercury out of business, but they could seriously compete with the Rockwood. 


121 W 45th St. west of 6th Ave
Any train to 42nd St.

The last home New York Irish legends Black 47 had in this city is an upstairs room at the most Times Square adjacent branch of this local chain, about the size of Arlene’s with excellent sound and predictably pricy midtown drinks. The pub grub is good but also not cheap. If only this venue could get some good bands in here! It’s easy to get to, the people who work hare are very pleasant and cover is cheap, usually ten bucks or less. For the moment, conventional wisdom is that this is a venue of last resort for bands with no following, which it shouldn’t be.


Cowgirl Seahorse
259 Front St. in the South St. Seaport
Any train to Fulton Sst.

Country-themed bar with weekly Monday night Americana music. Bands play on the stage to the left of the bar; no cover charge, decent pub grub, drinks on the expensive side. Touristy crowd, nice people working here.


The Cutting Room

44 E 32nd St. (Madison/Park)

6 to 33rd St.

Beautifully renovated, oldschool New York elegance, often at a price to match, in this sonically superb, renovated old Curry Hill theatre space. Has-been top 40 acts from the 80s, wannabes from that era and the occasional jazz or rock act play to an older crowd. Be aware of a $20 per person food/drink minimum at the first floor tables in addition to the cover charge, which could be very little, or ridiculously expensive. The smaller second floor balcony to the left of the stage’s large proscenium, may or may not be open depending on who’s playing and how sold out the show is. Advance tix aren’t really necessary but available at the box office, to the right as you walk in. Expensive drinks but a laid-back, friendly staff.


Damrosch Park

out back of Lincoln Center

1/9 to 66th St., or just take the 1/2/3/B/C to Columbus Circle and walk north

This is the park where the the annual Lincoln Center Out of Doors festival’s main events are held are held every August,  daily concerts scattered around the Lincoln Center plaza: a sensationally good, eclectic range of A-list Americana artists, jazz and world music acts including many first-rate New York performers. Pharaoh Sanders’ concerts here in the late 90s are the stuff of legend. To get a seat in the rows of white plastic chairs, get there at least 20 minutes before showtime. The park is situated so that there’s no sonic competition with the screeching alarms on the city buses running up and down the adjacent avenues.


The Delancey

It’s on that little service road that runs parallel to Delancey St. on its north side, just east of Clinton.

F/J/M/Z to Delancey or B/D to Grand St. and walk north and east.

The Delancey earned respect for being home to Small Beast, the legendary Monday dark rock night founded by Botanica keyboardist Paul Wallfisch and which ran weekly from 2008 to 2011 until the club finally phased it out. That was upstairs on the little stage across from the bar, where they very seldom have live music anymore. Downstairs in the long, rectangular basement space there are frequent rock shows about half the time: after all these years, this place still remains a work in progress. Acts who play here are a mix of oldschool NYC bands who bring an older, scruffy crowd, plus lots of tourist bands from Jersey with more of a fratboy following. The sound downstairs is shockingly good; upstairs, it’s what you would expect. As a bonus, the door staff are vastly less attitudinous here than at most of the other LES clubs, and the Delancey has the best air conditioning of practically any other club in town. Fairly cheap cover; drink prices are about average for the neighborhood. Be aware that they have New York’s nastiest men’s room: those disgusting troughs make the old Mars Bar seem spotless by comparison. Use the adjacent unisex stalls instead.


Desmond’s Tavern

433 Park Ave. S., Murray Hill

6 to 28th St.

Irish bar/greasepit restaurant that’s been there for decades (Veronica Lake reputedly worked here) with regularly scheduled live music in the back room where there are booths and tables. Drinks are beyond-the-pale expensive – we’re talking ten bucks for a bottle of Bud. The place has a fratboy vibe, no surprise since Baruch is just a few blocks away. The sound is pretty bad; it’s not really set up to be a music venue, and nobody comes to listen, it seems. They don’t seem to pull many New York bands, or bands with a New York audience. Although their Irish staff are predictably pleasant and professional, the door crew are clearly sick of chasing off underage yuppie puppies and may take out their hostilities on you. Depending on the act onstage, there may or may not be a cover charge.


The DiMenna Center
450 W 37th St. (9th/10th Aves.)
A/C/E to 34th St.

Comfortable, multi-room basement-level space with frequent classical, indie classical and theatrical events and home to the Orchestra of St. Luke’s. They’re shooting for a sort of Carnegie Hall Junior ambience. Drinks may or may not be available; excellent sonics; seating may include both tables for groups as well as individual seats. Cover is cheap for what you get, usually under $20 and never much more; programming can be eclectic, from the chamber music canon to the avant garde.


Dixon Place Theatre
161 Chrystie St. north of Delancey
J/M to Bowery or F to 2nd Ave.
Mostly theatrical events at this comfortable, often unexpectedly expensive black-box space, but there are also frequent free singer-songwriter or jazz shows in the small bar/lounge upstairs. The sound isn’t much; chairs in back behind the bar and along the wall sometimes, which confounds people who come to see theatre here and can’t figure out where to go.


Dizzy’s Club

Rose Hall at Lincoln Center, southwest corner of Broadway at 60th St., 5th floor

A/C/B/D/1/2/9 to 59th St./Columbus Circle

Coming off the elevator, walking down the hall and then into this semicircular  room with its modernist decor and big window facing south, you wouldn’t expect the sound to be very good. But it is. This a remarkably pleasant place to take in a show, a prospect made even more enticing by the wide variety of jazz here: small combos, big bands, singers, European acts, and perhaps most notably, A-list New York players who’ve been plying the scene for years and have now been rewarded for all their toil with decently paying gigs here. Trouble is, cover is often ridiculously expensive. At least the comfort level here is also a cut above: there’s enough space between the tables for customers and the remarkably pleasant, casual waitstaff to make their way through without stepping on your feet or spilling drinks on you. Shows are typically 7:30 and 10:30 PM; the midnight shows with up-and-coming talent, are your best best, sometimes a cheap as $5. Box office hours are Mon-Sat noon-6 PM.


The Django
2 6th Ave. north of Canal
A/C/1 to Canal St.

Jazz Wednesday-Saturday in the basement of this swanky Eurotrash hotel; prices continue to climb toward Blue Note extravaganzy. Lots of Romany swing, vocalists, postbop and the occasional latin or salsa jazz act. Not reviewed as of 2019.


Downtown Brooklyn Concerts

Corner of Willoughby and Pearl Sts.

Any train to Borough Hall, walk toward the Fulton Mall

Early Wednesday evening free outdoor concert series running July through September. Word on the street is that they’re phasing out the bland, lame Republican rock for a more global cast of acts. This could be something really good in 2019.


Downtown Music Gallery

13 Monroe St. (Catherine/Market), Chinatown

About equidistant from the East Broadway (F train) and Canal St. (6/N/R/Q/M) stations: they’re downtown like never before. Comfortably lowlit, dingy, wonderfully eclectic downstairs record store – if the outer fringes of jazz are your thing, it’s next to impossible to walk out of here without buying something. Frequent free early evening Sunday shows in the back of the store, from a similarly eclectic parade of global improvising talent, usually duos or trios since space is tight. Folding chairs are provided on both sides of the stacks of cds and vinyl. Hours are Thurs through Sun, noon to 8 PM plus Monday noon to 6.




85 Ave. A between 5th and 6th Sts.

F to 2nd Ave. or J/M to Delancey, walk north.

Among NYC venues, only Barbes ranks with these guys for diversity, in terms of the acts they book here. Starting in the spring of 2009, for about a year, Manhattan’s only fulltime world music club was the borough’s most happening live music venue; then they decided to be more or less a fulltime restaurant. Since rededicating themselves to being a fulltime club, they’ve been booking an eclectic, global mix from the Middle East, to Asia, to Africa, to Latin America, in addition to frequent jazz and the occasional rock show or singer-songwriter. The sound on the big stage in the back of this basement spot is outstanding. You enter through a foyer; down the hall is a long bar to your right, with the big, spacious stage and plenty of standing room to your left. There are also rows of booths in back, and a row of tables along the left wall. Drinks aren’t cheap (no draft beer), although their menu is delicious, and cheaper than you would think considering the lush, lowlit surroundings (the peppered eggplant spread that comes with the mezze plate is to die for). Cover is generally inexpensive, usually under $20, with advance tickets at the club’s box office highly recommended for more popular acts. Nice waitstaff and a casual yet romantic vibe.


The Dumbo Archway
Under the Manhattan Bridge, go downhill from the York St. subway exit on Jay St. and follow the sound

F to York St.

Weekly 6 PM Thursday concerts from June through early September in the echoey sonics here, the stage facing one of the neighborhood’s innumerable bars. Benches along the back wall usually get taken early. Shows are an eclectic mix of swing, Americana, latin and even hip-hop acts.


The Ear Inn

Spring St. between Washington St. and the highway, south side of the street

C/E to Spring St.

This is the place with the butcher paper and the crayons, where everybody draws on the tables. You’ve been there. Everyone has. It’s a NYC rite of passage, and it’s straight out of 1975, a little oasis of normalcy way over on the west side far from SoHo Eurotrash hell. Beer is fairly cheap, they have decent bar food and live music that starts late (midnight-ish) and goes much later, even during the week. Country, blues, jazz mostly. The music is on a tiny stage to the right of the door as you walk in. The PA system is pretty primitive, so the sound is iffy, but this is the kind of place where if you’re still there in the wee hours, pretty much anything starts to sound good. The Sunday, 7:30 PM hot jazz show hosted by trumpeter Jon Kellso and (usually) guitarist Matt Munisteri is a New York institution that everyone should experience at least once.


El Cortez
17 Ingraham St (Bogart/Morgan), Bushwick
L to Morgan Ave

Mexican restaurant with a backroom and lots of different acts: punk, Americana, and the usual indie garbage. Not reviewed as/of 2019


Elebash Hall
365 5th Ave. north of 34th St.
B/D/F to 34th St.

Comfortable downstairs CUNY grad center amphitheatre space with frequent concerts by artists from around the globe as well as a regular series of socially aware panel discussions and some free classical and jazz programming as well. Staffed by students, who are pleasant to deal with; it’s a pretty dry room but the sound system is excellent. Tix for the global music series are typically $25, other acts are usually much less expensive.


11th St. Bar

510 E 11th St. between Ave. A and B

L to 1st Ave.., or take the M14A bus which goes south on A.

Popular Midtown-style Irish bar in a strange location, a back street in the East Village. Drinks aren’t cheap, as you can expect, although the staff are very laid-back. Absolutely no hassles at the door, a pleasant change considering the neighborhood. Tuesday-Thursday, singer-songwriters play through the tiny PA system in the back with the tables: the closer you are to the music, the better you’ll hear it. There’s also a Monday latin jam and an Irish jam here.


599 Johnson Ave. (Gardner/Scott), Bushwick
L to Jefferson St.

Multi-room space opened by the owners of the odious old Williamsburg sweatbox Glasslands at the end of 2017. Looks like the same parade of entitled Bushwick trust fund kids, emphasis on the gay contingent. Not reviewed as of 2019.


The Fat Cat

75 Christopher at 7th Ave. S.

1 train  to Christopher St.

The sister jazz bar to Small’s is a similarly dingy, surprisingly decent-sounding room (if you consider that it’s a busy pool hall) and frequently shares acts with its larger sibling. Drinks are very cheap for a jazz joint, and cover is cheap, usually $3; the staff, like the ambience, are laid back. There’s a small listening area close to the stage, with a couple of couches and some chairs; otherwise, you may find yourself jostling for space with people holding big sticks. A lot of the same faces filter through here on a regular basis, a mix of traditional and modern styles (a lot of the Smalls crowd basically uses this place as a rehearsal room). The club likes residencies.


55 Bar

55 Christopher St. between 6th and 7th Ave.

1 train to Christopher St. or A/B/C/D/E/F to W 4th St. and walk west

Small, low-ceilinged basement space where Jack Kerouac used to hold court sixty years ago. It hasn’t changed much since then. A couple rows of tables to the left of the bar, remarkably cheap cover if in fact there is one at all, no hassles at the door, iffy sound. Mostly jazz here nightly, a rotating cast of  familiar postbop faces with the occasional soul or blues act making use of the club’s ancient, rickety Fender Rhodes electric piano. Drinks are on the pricy side despite the dingy milieu.  Plan on getting here early if you’re thinking of seeing a show as it’s popular with both tourists and an older neighborhood crowd.


Flushing Town Hall

137-35 Northern Blvd., Flushing, Queens

7 to Main St./Flushing

Beautiful old Gilded Age New York elegance in a Bowery Ballroom-sized space. It’s sort of a Town Hall Junior with remarkably adventurous programming, music from every corner of the globe plus monthly jazz jams, theatrical and dance performances. Seating is not reserved, so you’d best get here a half-hour early (it’s easy to get to, about six blocks from the last stop on the 7 train). The sonics are best suited to acoustic instrumentation, the staff are competent and friendly and ticket prices aren’t extravagantly expensive, typically under $20, with many free events as well, some of which you need to rsvp for online. Be aware that if you’re a NYC school student and you’re 19 and under, you can get into any show for free with your school ID.


FM Jersey City
340 3rd St., Jersey City
Path train to Grove St. and about a three-minute walk

Roughly comparable to Bowery Ballroom, sizewise; not as much music here as there was when it opened with a bang in 2018. Not reviewed as of 2019


Footlight Bar
465 Seneca Ave (Himrod/Harmon), Ridgewood, Queens
L to Jefferson St.

Scruffy gentrifier bar with pricy microbrews and a big, cavernous, sonically boomy back room where a mix of trendoid bands, free jazz acts and miscellaneous fauxhemians perform on the weekends. On one hand, it’s cool that they’d book an afternoon-long program of jazz improvisation; on the other, it’s not easy to get to unless you live nearby.




627 5th Ave. at 17th Street, Park Slope/Sunset Park, Brooklyn

R to Prospect Ave. or F to 7th Ave and a ten-minute walk.

The bar that fought the good fight and finally lost to sleazeball developer Bruce Ratner’s land grab reopened in a new location and deserves a lifetime achievement award for all they had to endure and overcome. They brought the actual bar countertop from the old Pacific Yards space and reinstalled it here. The front room is somewhat nicer than at the old location, and Donald’s crazy, psychedelic video mashups still play on the tv over the bar. The back room is about the same size as at Pete’s and is more suited to acoustic acts than the loud rock that they used to have in the old downstairs room. As at the old location, there’s music – which runs the gamut from Americana, jazz, the occasional Balkan band, rock, funk and singer-songwriters – although somewhat less of it than before since they also have regular comedy and open mic nights along with frequent art shows. Same nice people, different place: stop in and enjoy a rare asshole-free oldschool NYC atmosphere with cheap beer, generous portions of diner food and some good tunes. Be aware of a frequent $10 cover charge during the week


Gallery MC
549 W 52nd St, 8th Floor (between 10th and 11th Ave)
C to 50th St.

Frequent edgy art and the occasional concert – jazz and Balkan music, mostly – at this 8th floor walk-up Macedonian arts center.


iGantry Plaza State Park

48th Ave. and the river, Long Island City

7 to Vernon-Jackson, take 48th Ave. straight to the river, or G to 21st/Van Alst, take 45th Ave. as far toward the water as you can and then make a left.

Surprisingly easy to get to, this little amphitheatre-like park is situated between the old crane gantries left behind when the Pepsi bottling plant was razed, and a complex of shoddy, hastily thrown up luxury condos across the street. The free, early evening concert series here from June through August is booked by the Queens Council for the Arts, which means a terrifically diverse mix of music from all over the world. You can see acts here who would otherwise cost you a hundred bucks at Lincoln Center. Bands play on the flagstones in the middle of the park, looking up at the audience who typically gather on the park steps facing the cranes and the water. The sound is iffy (the PA isn’t very powerful), but the breeze off the river is nice and once the sun goes down behind the skyscrapers across the water, it’s a lovely place to be. Bring a date but beware the Ubers shuttling between the luxury condos: they will run you down if you’re not careful.


Ginny’s Supper Club 
310 Lenox Ave north of 125th St., in the basement under Red Rooster
B/D or 2/3 to 125th St.
You take the staircase to the right immediately after entering the restaurant. The setup is about twice the size of the Jazz Standard, with a big bar to your left as you enter, lots of tables in front. The sound isn’t anything special, drinks and food are pricy and the crowd tends to be a mix of blitzed locals and yappy European tourists. Which is too bad because the staff are nice and booking can be good here, a mix of trad, postbop and latin acts, and cover is relatively cheap, in the $15 neighborhood. But nobody’s listening.


Gold Sounds
44 Wilson Ave (Melrose/George), Bushwick
L to Jefferson St. Take the Starr St. exit, go two blocks south to Wilson, then hang a right, it’s no more than a ten-minute walk

Sort of the deep Bushwick version of Alphaville. The better-quality, i.e. noisier and more guitar-oriented bands from the Palisades scene, along with metal, punk and the occasional psychedelic band have gravitated to this cozy former bodega backroom. The sound crew try hard to get things right in the uninsulated, barewalled space. Cover is cheap (ten bucks or less), no Nazis guarding the door, nice people working here. Drinks aren’t cheap but they also aren’t insanely expensive like the rest of the gentrifier spots popping up all over the hood.


The Good Room
98 Meserole St. (Manhattan/Lorimer), cattycorner from the Greenpoint YMCA
G to Nassau Ave. or L to Bedford and a ten-minute walk

Gay disco with occasional twee and trendoid rock shows. This new space didn’t wait a millisecond to distinguish itself as New York’s most extortionistic club, when it comes to advance tickets. Those who prefer to pay cash – or whose only option is cash – are required to pay double the ticket price at the door. Welcome to Greenpoint, New Jersey. Not reviewed as of 2019.


The Greene Space

44 Charlton at Varick, enter on Charlton

1 to Houston, C/E to Spring or any train to W 4th St., walk south and east

In what was once a deli space, WNYC built a brand-new, sonically immaculate studio for live broadcasts, lectures and the occasional concert, some at which you can chat up your favorite WNYC on-air talent. It’s not overwhelmingly big, so advance tix are highly recommended. The staff seem psyched to be here and sightlines are good. If you’re there for a live broadcast,  turn off your phone, keep your eye on the “on-air” light to the right of the stage and unwrap that crinkly bagel somewhere else. If you can’t make it to the event, tune in at 93.9 FM and AM 820 or go to the live webcast.


Greenpoint Gallery
390 McGuinness Blvd at Dupont, Greenpoint
G to Greenpoint Ave.

Frequent rock and jazz events here, often on Friday nights, and always free. Not reviewed as of 2019


Greenwich House Music School
46 Barrow St (Bleecker/Bedford)
1 to Christopher St.
This quaint old brownstone once served as home to a scene that foreshadowed the advent of indie classical music. That was in the 40s through the 60s. It’s still a music school, with frequent classical and jazz shows in their rustic second-floor auditorium (which isn’t air-conditioned, and can get stuffy in the warmer months). Cover isn’t overwhelmingly expensive, usually in the $15-20 neighborhood; the staff are friendly and laid-back; the sound is best suited to quieter acts.


The Greenwich Village Orchestra

They’re an orchestra, not a venue, a terrifically talented ensemble who deliver concerts as good or better than you’ll see at Carnegie Hall or Lincoln Center for half the price or less. Conductor Barbara Yahr brings out their best in Romantic material; they are also passionate advocates of new music, featuring many world premieres and New York premieres from some of today’s best composers from around the globe. Lately their home has been All Saints Church at 239 E 60th off Firsr Ave., several stops north of their old stomping ground, Your $20 donation and admission to the concert may also include a reception with wine and munchies afterward.


Yelena Grinberg’s Piano Salon
Intimate Upper West Side residential location less than five minutes from the 1/2/3 train at 96th St. (exit front of the train)

The elegant, fearlessly adventurous classical pianist and impresario is one of New York’s great champions of obscure classical and contemporary repertoire. Grinberg has wide-ranging, voracious taste in piano and chamber music and plays most of these semi-monthly, mostly Sunday and Wednesday shows in a comfortable space big enough to hold a few rows of folding chairs. If the idea of Beethoven on the mandolin, rare arrangements of famous (or unknown) symphonic works for small ensemble, unusual pairings like bassoon and harp, or material you will literally hear nowhere else in New York, maybe on this continent are your cup of tea, this is your place to be. Cover is usually $35 which includes wine, munchies and good conversation afterward.



W 3rd St. and Thompson St.

A/B/C/D/E/F to W 4th St.

Homeless guys thrusting flyers in your face try to lure tourists into this Israeli-owned bar with a stage in the back that caters mainly to an aging black crowd. Cover bands and the occasional funk act play on the stage at the back. Drinks aren’t cheap and although there’s no Nazi factor, the sound is lousy and loud. It’s hard to think of a reason why you’d ever want to go here.


Groove on Grove

NJ Path train to Grove St.

Outdoor free music series during the spring and summer at 7 PM on Wednesdays  at the Grove Street Path train station in Jersey City, an eclectic mix of rock, soul, funk and Americana.


Gussy’s Bar
20-14 29th St (20th/21st Aves), Astoria
N/Q to Ditmars Blvd.
Occasional rock, blues or metal at one of Astoria’s longest-running watering holes. Not reviewed as of 2019.


The Gutter

200 N 14th St. (Berry/Wythe), Williamsburg

L to Bedford Ave. or G to Nassau Ave.

A predecessor of the Brooklyn Bowl, this slightly less upscale trendoid bowling alley has frequent music, an often excellent mix of punk, metal, garage, country and similar retro sounds on the weekend in the back room to the left of the main entrance. Small bar in the back, a few stools along the walls, expensive drinks and surprisingly good sound on the makeshift stage. Cover is cheap, typically under $10; the staff have tourist fatigue and are obnoxious.


Happy Lucky No. 1 Gallery
734 Nostrand Ave at Park Place, Crown Heights
2/3/4/5 to Franklin Ave; A/C to Nostrand Ave

Jazz loft type space with art shows, yoga classes and frequent, adventurous jazz and indie classical sounds. Not reviewed as of 2019


Hill Country

30 W 26th St.

F to 23rd St.

Sort of the Flower District equivalent of Radegast Hall: this expensive barbecue restaurant is a magnet for oblivious tourists who bellow over the music. Which is too bad, because it can be good, a mix of mostly country, bluegrass and the occasional blues, zydeco or western swing band, established New York groups as well as national touring acts. The big stage is downstairs at the split-level space: the PA is good and loud, but the clueless bridge-and-tunnel yuppie crowd could not care less and make it next to impossible to hear during quieter moments. The bar along the left wall is your best bet for seating: drinks are surprisingly a lot cheaper than the menu, although they don’t have draft beer. The staff are inobrusive. Cover charge, if there is one, is on the pricy side for what you get here, around $15.



1090 Wyckoff Ave.
Ridgewood, Queens
J/M to Myrtle-Wyckoff or L to Halsey St.

Gay meat market nights, electronic experimentation (and trust-fund kid self-indulgene) avant jazz, and a handful of intriguingly noisy abstract rock acts filter through here: they seem to have picked up some of the spillover from when Wonders of Nature closed. Not reviewed as of 2019.


Hungarian House
321 E 70th St. (1st/2nd Ave)
6 to 68th St.

Frequent adventurous jazz, classical and wild traditional sounds, including some ferociously fun Romany dance bands, in the spacious upstairs auditorium here. Many shows are free; cover is usually cheap, no more than $15, if there is one. Frequent movies and art exhibits too. Nice people working here.



168 7th Street, Gowanus, Brooklyn

F/R to 4th Ave.

Sort of the Gowanus version of the Stone. Surprisingly well tricked-out sonically, cozy and intimate first-floor former garage space: a great place to see A-list cutting-edge jazz for a $15 cover. Bare-bones milieu, not much in the way of heat in the winter or AC in the summer but the music is stop-shelf and the vibe is pleasantly chill. Be aware that shows here can start a half-hour late or more.



1650 Broadway, downstairs, just south of 51st. St.

B/D/F to Rockefeller Ctr.

A jazz club that’s seen better days. Les Paul played a Monday residency here for the last decade of his life. Mostly fusion, elevator jazz and top 40 has-beens who’ve fallen on hard times. The sound is as good as you would expect in lowlit basement ambience; drinks are expensive; the staff remain pleasant and professional. Cover is usually in the $30-$35 range, occasionally less. Get here early if you want a seat at the little bar to your left at the bottom of the stairs, otherwise you can take a table.  They serve food, which we can’t vouch for, being as expensive as it is. A couple of things you may not know: Iridium tix are half-price with a reservation and student i.d., and the club is all-ages.


Issue Project Room

22 Boerum Place, downtown Brooklyn

2/3/4 to Borough Hall

After a long tenure in Gowanus and then a brief hiatus in Greenpoint, this well-loved avant garde and experimental music venue took over a truncated former theatre space in downtown Brooklyn, rows of folding chairs facing a makeshift stage. Their old custom-made, flying saucer-like speakers hanging from the ceiling are gone now, but the stone-lined room has great natural reverb. Many of the organization’s events are free; those that aren’t are usually cheap, $15 or under. Drinks are available, but this isn’t really a bar: people typically come to listen. The staff are pleasant and low-key, by comparison to the more pretentious contingent that would frequent the old space.


505 ½ Waverly Ave. (Fulton/Atlantic), Ft. Greene
C or G to Clinton-Washington
Radical theatre space with occasional indie classical and jazz improv shows now closed and scheduled to reopen near the original Fort Greene location at 18 Putnam Ave in midsummer 2019.

***RATED BEST BROOKLYN VENUE 2011, 2012 AND 2018***

The Jalopy

315 Columbia Street, Red Hook, Brooklyn

Many ways to get here without having to resort to the B61 bus which actually leaves you at somewhat of a distance from the venue. Fastest route is to take the F/G to Carroll St., exit front of the Brooklyn-bound train, walk straight on Smith to First Place. Take First Place to the BQE, then take the walkway over it. Make a U-turn at the bottom of the stairs and continue in the same direction one block on Summit St., then left on Columbia, the Jalopy is a block and a half away. It’s about a ten-minute walk. Alternately, take the 2 to Clark St., walk down Henry about fifteen minutes, take a right on First Place and continue as above. It’s not nearly as far as it seems.

NYC’s oldtimey music central, doing quadruple duty as guitar and fretted instrument store, highly regarded repair shop, music school, venue and bar. Cover is cheap, very seldom more than $15, usually around $10. The staff are just about the nicest, most laid-back folks you’ll find at any NYC venue and the music is consistently first-rate. The bar is to the right as you walk in and has a good quality tap beer selection, and remarkably decent prices. The charmingly quaint, dimlit performance space is straight ahead: take a seat in a church pew or in a row of chairs. The sound is superb: many acoustic acts choose to use a single, central mic for amplification, and it works remarkably well. Music here includes country, bluegrass, blues, ragtime, Balkan and other styles of global music and sometimes jazz. Their smaller Jalopy Tavern space next door features many of the venue’s regular acts playing solo, for free. Strong contender for best Brooklyn venue, year after year, well worth the slight extra effort to get here.


The Jalopy Tavern
317 Columbia St., Red Hook, next to the Jalopy Theatre
Easiest way to get there is to take the F. Exit front of the train, left on Smith, left again on First Place. Three minute walk to the pedestrian bridge over the BQE. Make a U-turn onto Summit, left on Columbia. The whole walk won’t take more than 10 minutes.

Yummy bar food, cheap beer, good people and a chill neighborhood crowd, plus a more boisterous and electric but similarly diverse range of Americana music as you’d find next door. Honkytonk, Hawaiian swing, torch jazz, even ska with the house band, Skalopy. If you don’t teel like waling all the way to Sunny’s, the Jalopy Tavern is a good alternative.


The Jazz Gallery

1160 Broadway (at 27th St)., 5th Fl.

R/N to 28th St.

Considerably larger, more comfortable and sonically improved, by comparison to their old Hudson Street digs, the new Jazz Gallery features the same adventurously tuneful acts as at their old Soho location, emphasis on numerous latin styles. You take the elevator up to the fifth floor; you have your choice of stairs or elevator as an exit. There are typically several rows of folding chairs as well as plenty of standing room. Cover has gone up (typically $20, sometimes more); the staff are laid-back and friendly; depending on who’s working, there may or may not be drinks or snacks available for cheap. Early arrival (fifteen minutes before showtime, more in the case of popular big bands like Darcy James Argue or Orrin Evans’ large ensembles) is recommended if you want a seat.


The Jazz Standard

116 E 27th St. east of Park Ave.

6 to 28th St.

Downstairs from the Blue Smoke barbecue restaurant, with whom they share ownership. Along with the Village Vanguard, this is your best bet for top-echelon jazz in New York City.  The sound is just as good, and the comfort level is 180 degrees from the competition: this place is an oasis. For one, it’s a lot more spacious: a small bar area to your left as you walk in, larger tables past a barrier straight ahead and then a more cozy space with smaller tables to your right. What will strike you fastest is how casual and laid back the vibe is: the staff are pleasant and professional, drinks are cheaper here than at the other swanky jazz joints (they have draft beer), and most of all, there’s no minimum. Booking here is also vastly more adventurous and diverse than at the other big-ticket clubs. Monday is Mingus night, with either the Mingus Big Band, Orchestra or Mingus Dynasty; they also have regular latin jazz as well as pretty much every modern or vintage jazz style. Food is typically pricy, although the menu has many tasty snacks (the mac and cheese is deliciously decadent, NYC’s best). Hard to go wrong with a show here.


Joe’s Pub

Lafayette St. just south of St. Mark’s Place, next to the Public Theatre (of which it is a part)

B/D/F to Broadway/Lafayette or 6 to Astor Place

After this blog bitched for years about the extortionistic drink minimums and lousy sound here, they apparently listened and fixed the sound. Now if only Joe’s Pub would 86 those appallingly expensive minimums, it would once again be one of Manhattan’s elite venues. Renovations here resulted in slashing the size of the bar (it now sits in the club’s northwest corner, replaced by a long row of individual stools along a long railing)  to accommodate more table space  The sightlines are still kind of a pain, but cover is pretty cheap considering what you get: a wide swath of global sounds as well as frequent theatrical, cabaret and gay events. Off and on, over the years, Joe’s Pub has been a first choice of venue for New York bands looking to do a classy album release show, a heritage they ought to live up to. The staff here have been through a lot of changes but seem less discombobulated than they were while renovations were going on.


The Juilliard School
66th St. across the street from the Lincoln Center campus
1 to 66th St.

The nation’s most highly regarded music conservatory has frequent free programs open to the public, plus both free and ticketed classical, chamber and jazz concerts in the various Lincoln Center halls as well as in the school’s more intimate, sonically pristine studios. You will have to pass through security to get in, but the staff don’t hassle you. Some concerts require a rsvp. A great way to discover the talent that will be playing across the street and around the world over the next several years.


The Kaye Playhouse at Hunter College
695 Park Ave at 68th St.
6 to 66th St.

Sonically excellent auditorium with tiered seating. Tix available at the box office, open M-F noon-7 PM. Concerts range from classical to jazz to the occasional global music act. The atmosphere is pretty chill compared with the more shi-shi classical and  jazz venues in town. Tix are sometimes affordable and sometimes outrageously expensive.


The Kingsland
269 Norman Ave, Greenpoint
G to Nassau St.

Ridiculously overpriced has-been emo bands, tourist pop acts and the occasional nostalgia punk tour pass through this relatively new spot, absorbing some of the spiillover from the late, lamented Grand Victory scene. There goes the neighborhood? Or are these people keeping things real for the few remaining holdovers? Not reviewed as of 2019.


The Kitchen

512 W 19th (10th/11th Ave.)

C/E to 23rd St. or L/A to 14th St. and a long walk north and west

Dance, film, art but not a whole lot of music anymore at this storied Chelsea avant garde performance space. Tix not overwhelmingly expensive (you should get them in advance for popular performers), nice people running the place, diverse cultures and ethnicities represented here, and the sound in the surprisingly comfy auditorium is good. There’s just less going on here than there used to be. Although that could be said for the city in general.


The Knitting Factory

361 Metropolitan Ave. at Havemeyer, Williamsburg, Brooklyn

L to Lorimer St., left on Metropolitan at Kellogg’s Diner, walk under the overpass, the club will be on the right across from the old Black Betty space

It’s basically a bar. The former Luna Lounge space was split in half when this New York-based chain of small venues took over, resulting in an oversized stage overlooking a room in back about half the size of the Mercury Lounge. The sound is first-rate; booking runs the gamut of sissy indie bands, metal, ska, punk and Americana. The staff are sometimes hostile and sometimes surprisingly less so. Discount advance tix for more popular shows are available at the ticket window as you walk in; cover varies from less than $10 to considerably more.


The Knockdown Center

52-19 Flushing Ave, Maspeth, Queens

L to Jefferson St.; you have the option of a leisurely 20-minute walk north along Flushing Ave., or you can take your chances on the bus that stops at the corner of Flushing and Jefferson.

Huge, cavernous former doorframe factory originally repurposed for experimental theatre and the further reaches of indie classical and performance art. That was just a ruse to attract donations: it turned into a gay bar/disco. Ticket prices, as you would expect, have gone through the roof. The staff seem friendly; the sonics aren’t nearly as boomy as you would expect, looking up at the beams way up in the ceiling.


The Korean Cultural Center
460 Park Ave. (57/58)
6 to 59th St.

Not a lot of events at the space here, although this advocacy organization books a lot of shows all over the five boroughs, an exciting mix of classical, jazz, rock and traditional sounds by natives as well as expats. For those not already in the know, Korean music is awesome and the South Korean government knows that, fiercely promoting their agenda all over town.


Lincoln Center
65th and Broadway
1 to 66th St.

New York’s cultural mecca changes with the times: it’s not all just classical now.  The New York Philharmonic make their home here, with more classical music in the slightly smaller Alice Tully Hall. The 10th floor Kaplan Penthouse hosts more intimate rock, pop and occasional classical concerts. Movies and occasional chamber music at the second-floor Walter Reade Theatre, plus there’s opera and dance too. The annual Lincoln Center Out of Doors festival, on the plaza and out back in Damrosch Park, is Manhattan’s most eclectic and non-stressful outdoor bigtime concert series. The atrium space on Broadway north of 62nd has the most relevant, global concerts of anywhere on campus, and the box office there has all kinds of good deals on day-of-show tix. Jazz at Lincoln Center happens pretty much nightly in the three Columbus Circle rooms a few blocks south. Nice people working here, good programming, and often a lot more affordable than what you find at Carnegie Hall.



Lincoln Center Atrium

61 W 62nd St. (across the street and a little south of the big main complex: enter on Broadway, middle of the block between 62nd and 63rd)

1/A/C/B/D to Columbus Circle

This is where New York’s flagship cultural institution stages their most cutting-edge, relevant programming…and it’s all free. Regular, mostly-weekly 7:30 PM concerts encompass sounds from around the world in addition to classical and jazz acts, many of whom will probably play here in the coming years for good money. There are also frequent panel discussions, literary and theatrical events. Bands play on the stage in the middle of this long, rectangular, groundfloor space. Expect there to be crowds filling the tables; expect to stand (along the side) or even be shut out unless you get there early (an hour isn’t too soon – this is an upper westside phenomenon). Expensive snacks and surprisingly reasonably-priced drinks ($4 bottled beer) are available. The staff seem to be enjoying themselves and the vibe is contagious. Fun fact: the atrium’s box office, open daily, is where you beat the lines and get deals on rush tickets for Lincoln Center events.


Lincoln Square Park
At the triangle at 65th where Columbus crosses Broadway
This little patch of land used to be a junkie hangout back in the 90s but has been cleaned up and now hosts weekly Wednesday noon shows in July and August under a little canopy on the north side. Some good bands pass through here: Americana, Balkan and jazz sounds.



635 Sackett St. between 3rd and 4th Ave., Gowanus, Brooklyn

R to Union St. or F to 4th Ave., walk back in the direction of downtown Brooklyn; or if you’re up for a walk, it’s only about ten minutes downhill on 4th Ave. from the Atlantic Ave. station (use the 4th Ave. exit, not the one at BAM).

A pleasant surprise to discover this gay bar with a stage in the back has taken a 180 degree turn from the obnoxious, shi-shi, exploitative vibe that permeated the club’s old digs around the corner. Trouble is, they traded out the bad vibes for bad sound. It’s a pretty generic first-floor repurposed industrial space, and ownership didn’t bother to put any money into the sound system like they did at the old place because they so rarely have music here anymore. When they do, it tends to be eclectic, everything from Balkan brass to acoustic songwriters and the occasional rock band.


Long Island City Bar

45-58 Vernon Blvd., Long Island City

G/7 to 21st St./Court House Square

This popular, laid-back local hangout has music on frequent weekday nights and also on the weekends, an impressively eclectic mix of singer-songwriters, rock and jazz. Bands play on the little stage just around the corner past the end of the bar, with several tables nearby. During the warmer months, they may also have music outside in the backyard. The vibe is casual and friendly, drinks not overwhelmingly expensive and the crowd surprisingly diverse: this seems to be a definite 99-percenter bar.



Lucky 13 Saloon
644 Sackett St. at 4th Ave, Gowanus
R to Union St.

With the closing of the Acheron and the precarious situation of St. Vitus, most of the heavy sounds in town and those passing through have gravitated here. Not reviewed as of 2019


Madison Square Garden

For a laugh, we decided to include this venerable basketball arena which began life decades ago as a boxing ring at 23rd St. and Broadway, migrated uptown and eventually found a permanent home at 34th St. and 7th Ave. Home of the Knicks (and regional basketball tournaments, which are a far better bargain, plus they don’t blast nonstop, earsplitting hip-hop and endless commercials at you like they do before, during and after NBA games). This place no longer has any shows worth seeing: tickets are stratospherically expensive, priced to the hedge fund contingent, frequently hundreds of dollars apiece: the Van Halen reunion tour, Fall Out Boy, Bon Jovi, ad nauseum. Back in the early zeros – that’s how long it’s been since anybody here has been to the Garden for a concert  – security was surprisingly lax (we smuggled in booze and other stuff), tickets were obscenely expensive (almost $40 for Iron Maiden), Bud was $8 for a little plastic bottle, the sound was boomy as it always is and we were stuck way up in the rafters. There is also a theatre under the arena, formerly known as the Felt Forum, whose name seems to change every few years and while slightly less expensive, is still beyond the means of most New Yorkers.


Madison Square Park

north of 23rd St. at Broadway

N/R to 23rd St. or take the F or 6 and walk to Broadway

The free summer concert series here was great for years but has lately taken a sad turn in the direction of simpering kiddie bands for hedge fund trophy wives and their spawn. Unlike some NYC parks concerts, this is a very mellow scene: they don’t indiscriminately rope off half the park and cram the audience into a tiny space. Fun fact: since alcohol is sold in the park, it’s legal to drink here, regardless of the fact that you’re in public with an open container. The sound isn’t all that great, but you’ll probably be able to get pretty close to the stage. Some shows have a stage at the east side of the park, facing west; others situate the stage at the southern tip in the sandy area at the corner of 23rd and 5th Ave.


Manhattan Center

no website

34th St. between 8th and 9th Ave., north side of the street

This building houses both the Hammerstein Ballroom and Grand Ballroom, both large, Gilded Age style theatres with tiered seating in the back and floor seating between the tiers in the back and the stage. Advance tix – which can be ridiculously expensive – are a must. The door staff aren’t very pleasant and you will be frisked: don’t bring anything drinkable in here. But the sound is excellent. They only have music here a few times a year these days.


The Manhattan JCC
334 Amsterdam Ave at 76th St
1/2/3 to 72nd St.

Mostly movies, theatrical and literary events at this big multi-room space, although the occasional concerts here tend to be excellent: classical, jazz, klezmer, Balkan music, even Afrobeat. Shows once or twice a month, sometimes in the auditorium, sometimes on the roof. Food and drink frequently served at the rooftop parties; admission is always affordable, i.e. under $30, sometimes much more. Very family-friendly, comfortable place, nice people working here, a genuine oldschool neighborhood vibe.


Manhattan School of Music

120 Claremont Ave., Harlem: main entrance west of Broadway at 601 W 122nd St.

1 to 125th St.

Frequent free and cheap concerts – jazz, classical, funk and new music – featuring luminaries from across the musical spectrum along with the school’s talented ensembles. Two auditoriums and several music rooms here, all of them sonically excellent.


Mannes College of Music 
main entrance at 55 W 13th St. at 5th Ave.

Several auditoriums and studios here feature some fascinating programs of jazz, classical and new music. Most events are free and open to the public. Early arrival is always a good idea because you’re dealing with performances by students with lots of friends. Performances can be fantastic, often on the same level as the pros because these students are playing for a grade, or a degree.


The Market Hotel
1140 Myrtle Ave at Broadway, Bushwick
J/M to Myrtle Ave

After a long stint in South Williamsburg, this lo-fi space moved to Bushwick and has either successfully evaded the cops or actually obtained a liquor license. Also known for very rarely booking anything other than the most twee and sissified Bushwick indie bands. Not reviewed as of 2019 and not likely to be.


Mercury Lounge
Houston just west of Essex
F/V to 2nd Ave
Although still Manhattan’s best-sounding rock room, the Mercury is in trouble. The crowds have dwindled, and it’s ironically easier to get a gig here than it was twenty years ago, when it was the place to play in New York with its pristine sound and its friendly late-night vibe. But as the years went by, it took a very unsuccessful turn toward corporate rock and then was hung out to dry by the Bushwick crowd, who never leave that neighborhood since being geotagged outside it is verboten. For the moment, this is where Jersey bands move to when they’ve outgrown Arlene’s. With ownership having sold out to the odious Live Nation, it remains to be seen if the venue’s surprisingly nice staff will be retained, and if, like at Bowery Ballroom they’ll stop booking good bands. At present, the Mercury is also the box office for advance Bowery tix,  open Tues-Sat noon-6 PM.


Merkin Concert Hall

129 W. 67th St., between Broadway and Amsterdam Ave.

1/9 to 66th St. or A/C/B/D to Columbus Circle and walk north

Late-zeros renovations did wonders for this late 70s-vintage concert hall with tiered seating which has become a popular Upper West attraction and a remarkably cost-effective alternative to Lincoln Center or Carnegie Hall. Orchestral, chamber music and mellower jazz sounds best here: while places like this weren’t built for amplification, the sound here is much improved. If the lower level sells out, they may open up the balcony, where the sound is just as good as it is in the orchestra. Programming can be diverse and imaginative, running the gamut from various classical styles to jazz, world and sometimes folk music. Conspicuously and happily absent are the nickel-and-dime concessions to the hedge fund set that you find at the other classical halls: the overpriced coat check, the booze, the officious staff and the ubiquitous corporate vibe. The staff here are competent and courteous; advance tix at their box office, open Tues-Sat til 7, are highly recommended. Note that for shows where there is no assigned seating, early arrival is very highly recommended.


Metropolitan Museum of Art

5th Ave at 82nd St

6 to 86th St.

Two things a lot of people don’t know about the Met: A) if you live here, you can pay what you want, a quarter or a dime and they’ll still let you in, and B) they have some excellent concerts that are free with museum admission, as well as frequent chamber and world music concerts in the auditorium just past the Egyptian section on the first floor, and on Friday nights adventurous string quartet Ethel entertains the crowd at the swanky second-floor balcony bar.  And if you’re very lucky you might catch someone good playing the vintage 1830 Appleton organ on the balcony in the musical instruments section.


Metrotech Park

At the end of Myrtle Ave. between Jay and Bridge Sts., downtown Brooklyn

F to Jay St. (rear exit if you’re coming from Manhattan) or 2/4 to Borough Hall

Located adjacent to scam developer Bruce Ratner’s first failed project, BAM books free weekly noontime concerts here on Thursdays during the summer, a mix of Hot 97/Mariah Carey style “R&B” and older soul, blues and reggae acts. The park draws a mix of local retirees and blue collar workers on their lunch break, predominantly West Indian. The sound is surprisingly good. The park staff puts out plastic chairs, which quickly get taken by the lunch crowd and daycamp kids and autistic or retarded groups out for recreation. 2018 here was pretty much a wash.


163 W 10th St. at 7th Ave. South, basement level, next door to its sister club Smalls
1 to Christopher St.
The people behind Smalls opened this long, swanky, rectangular basement space to book more popular acts who typically play the Vanguard or Jazz Standard but want a place to work out new material in a duo or trio setting. Drinks and bar snacks are expensive; the sound is fantastic, service is low-key and unobtrusive. There are free shows for happy hour during the week; otherwise cover is usually $20 or $25.


Miller Theatre

2960 Broadway at 116th St.

1 train to 116th St.

The Miller Theatre boasts arguably the most adventurous indie classical programming of any NYC venue: it’s like a yearlong Bang on a Can marathon. When it’s not, it’s a considerably more laid-back, inexpensive alternative to Carnegie Hall or Lincoln Center, with frequent jazz and classical music. It’s a charming old gilded-age building; shows here often sell out. Advance tix are available online and at their box office, open M-F noon-6 PM and two hours before the start of every performance. The sound is surprisingly good, although like Carnegie Hall, it’s best suited to less explosively rhythmic acts (amplified bass and drums didn’t exist when it was built). The staff are refreshingly helpful yet unobtrusive. The Miller Theatre also books the series of choral concerts at the Church of St. Mary the Virgin on 46th St. And watch their calendar for the series of free early-evening “pop-up” concerts featuring A-list classical, jazz and avant garde talent.


206 W 118th St. (ACP Blvd./St. Nicholas Ave)
B/C to 116th St.

This Harlem jazz shrine, where bebop was invented in the late 30s by the Ellington band, has reopened  – again – and is ostensibly remodeled – again. Much of the same minor-league talent they were featuring before they closed abruptly in the summer of 2017 are filtering through again too. Cover is $10 til Thursday when it goes up to $15. Food was very expensive in the joint’s most recent incarnation. The sound and ambience were both superb before the place closed, although after an initial buzz, crowds thinned out to the point where it didn’t make much sense to keep it open. Jury’s out on whether reopening was such a good idea or not – at the prices they charge here, beyond the relatively cheap cover, this backstreet block may not draw enough tourists and yuppies to pay the rent.


2 Havemeyer St. just off McCarren Park, Williamsburg
L to Bedford Ave.

This gritty lo-fi space has a bar to the left as you walk in, grungy music room to the right with ratty couches and a primitive PA, in the same vein as the old Black Betty. Nice enough people working here, cheap cover if there is one, drink prices about average for the neighborhood. Booking is similar to Pete’s – a mix of hip-hop, free jazz and indie tunelessness plus “comedy.”


The Museum of Chinese in America
215 Centre St. (Howard/Grand), Chinatown
6 to Canal St.

Frequent concerts – rock, soul, jazz, classical, hip-hop and experimental music by many first-class Asian artists who deserve to bde better known. Lots of interesting, politically aware exhibits here too. Not reviewed as of 2019


Museum of Modern Art

53rd between 5th and 6th

V to 53rd/5th Ave.; B/D/F to Rockefeller Ctr.; 6 to 51st

The $20 cover charge is unconscionable, and Friday free day, starting at 4 PM, is a nightmare: the staff set up a wire holding pen in the adjacent lot, and it can take literally hours to get in (and by then, the museum is about to close: how about that for free?). But insiders know that it’s a “suggested donation” and New York residents can do the same here as at the Met: pay what you want. The Summergarden classical/avant garde series seems to be on hiatus; occasional jazz or classical shows here along with a regular series of movies.


Museum of the City of New York

1220 5th Avenue at 103rd St.

6 to 103rd St.

Along with some of the most fascinating historical exhibits anywhere in town, they have occasional concerts in the basement auditorium: classical, jazz and world music. Free admission for upper eastsiders living or working north of 103rd St. Open Tuesday-Sunday 10 AM to 5 PM.


The Music Hall of Williamsburg

N 6th St. between Wythe and Kent, next door to the old Galapagos space, Williamsburg, Brooklyn

L to Bedford Ave.

The former Northsix space was taken over by the Bowery Ballroom empire, who did a good job and then spun it off to corporate giant AEG. Mostly corporate pop, instagram sensations riding their fifteen minutes of fame, and lame indie acts too smalltime to play Bowery Ballroom get booked here these days. Plus, the door staff have been a nightmare recently, to rival the gauntlet you have to endure at Brooklyn Bowl. High ceilings, decent sound, expensive drinks in a room about half the size of Bowery Ballroom.


The National Jazz Museum in Harlem

58 W 129th St (Lenox/5th Ave.)

B/D to 125th St.

Occasional free concerts and rare film screenings, plus they book events all over town, many of them free and featuring some of NYC’s best players. One of NYC’s underrated treasures,  reopened in their new space in December 2015.


National Sawdust

N 6th and Wythe Ave, Williamsburg

L to Bedford Ave.

Opened in the fall of 2015, highly regarded composer/impresario Paola Prestini oversees booking Williamsburg’s sonically exquisite home to indie classical music. A rotating cast, including some of John Zorn’s circle at the Stone, take turns bringing in their friends and colleagues; music runs the gamut from new-music chamber ensembles, to choral groups, postrock and other less auspicious events like gay meat market nights and wimpy indie rock. The cavernous, expertly appointed main room has sound to rival any venue in town; it’s not as dry a space as, say, Avery Fisher Hall. Tix are on the pricy side, $30 and considerably more for more popular ensembles. Expensive drinks are available at the little bar down the hall after you walk in. At least the friendly staff all seem happy to be here.


Naumburg Bandshell 
In the middle of Central Park, south of the bathrooms and west of the Summerstage arena
C to 72nd St; 6 to 66th St
There are about a half-dozen free classical shows here during the summer as well as the odd rock or jazz performance. If you’re coming for classical, shows start at around 7:30 and you’d better get there an hour early if you want a seat. Some of NYC’s best ensembles make regular appearances here; it can be a charmingly oldschool experience. The shade from the trees overhead and the mid-park breezes keep the space surprisingly cool in the early evening; just keep an eye out for divebombing bats.


New Jersey Performing Arts Center (NJPAC)

1 Center St., Newark

Path or NJ Transit train to Penn Station/Newark and about an eight-block walk.

Plush, comfortable auditorium just a five minute walk from the Path train, with concerts about once a week. It’s sort of a Town Hall Junior: pricy tix, but an easygoing, helpful staff. The New Jersey Symphony Orchestra makes this place their home; they also have frequent easy listening and jazz shows with the occasional singer-songwriter or theatrical event. They also book occasional, free jazz and outdoor concerts on the plaza outdoors during the summer.


New York City Parks Concerts
The Parks Dept. has created this incredibly useful citywide concert page, indispensable in the summertime!


The NY Klezmer Series
These wandering Jews have wandered, and wandered, and wandered: from the Sixth St. Synagogue, to the Upper West, to Red Hook and now are headquartered back in the East Village at Town & Village Social Hall, 334 E 14th St. (between 1st & 2nd Ave.) On most Wednesdays, brilliant drummer Aaron Alexander hosts his killer weekly klezmer series: cover is $15 for the show which starts at 8:30. There’s also dance and music workshops available as well as a package deal for the entire evening for extra money. Acts are a global cast of talent: klezmer is the loosely connecting thread among the many jazz, rock, classical and folk artists from the Jewish diaspora in Alexander’s deep address book.


The NY Philharmonic

New York’s flagship classical orchestra, who make Avery Fisher Hall at Lincoln Center their home when they’re not on tour. Music Director Jaap van Zweden and other conductors from around the world lead this world-class ensemble through familiar repertoire in addition to frequent holiday concerts and some remarkably adventurous contemporary programming, a very auspicious new trend here. In addition, their chamber ensembles perform in smaller concert halls throughout Manhattan. Ticket prices depend on the program: some are stratospherically expensive, but many aren’t; advance tickets are always highly recommended, as is early arrival (half an hour before showtime isn’t too soon). Or stop by the ticket window at the Lincoln Center atrium at Broadway and 62nd for cheap day-of-show tickets, which pop up more frequently than you might think. Smartly, the orchestra records a considerable portion of their concerts and makes them available via itunes; there are also the weekly, nationally syndicated WQXR broadcasts The New York Philharmonic This Week (every Thursday at 8 PM) and Live from Lincoln Center.


the club’s website is useless and never updated
112 Ave. A (southeast corner of E 7th st)
Closest train is actually the F to 2nd Ave.

The loud little upstairs backroom has music off and on, picking up some of the spillover of the rock acts left homeless when Hank’s closed, as well as some of the spastic/autistic open mic crowd who used to hang out at Sidewalk, and the Lady Gag wannabes who’d play the Rockwood if they could but don’t have the social numbers. Since the bar tends to only schedule shows on weeknights, the bridge-and-tunnel yuppie crowd that descends on the place on the weekend is usually absent. And the toxic/Nazi vibe that permeates most of the East Village bars on the weekend is absent as well. It’s a pass-the-tip-bucket situation. The sound isn’t much, but some of the bands here – especially the Hank’s crowd – are surprisingly good. Drinks are on the pricy side.


The 92nd St. Y

92nd St and Lexington Ave.

6 to 86th St.

Did you know, if you’re under 35 you can get discounted tix to shows here for around $25? That makes the popular Upper East auditorium a real bargain compared to the other swanky classical/jazz halls. Otherwise, prices here are frequently beyond the pale, even more than at Lincoln Center or Carnegie Hall. They also have frequent free chamber music in the smaller Weill Art Gallery space. Because this place is an institution (in both senses of the word: there’s always a crisis being narrowly averted), early arrival is a must.



Nublu 151
151 Ave C bet. 9th and 10th St.
L to 14th St. or take the M14A bus w hich stops about a block away

Turkish sax legend Ilhan Ersahin’s original shady, lowlit den of trippy jazzy sounds between 4th and 5th is still open and happily still accepts cash; the infinitely swankier duplex bar up the block at 151 Ave. C  apparently does not. At both addresses, things start late and go way later. At the new digs, the stage is on the center of the ground floor, with a balcony, bar and benches up the stairs on the right. Drinks are ridiculously expensive but the sound is good and so is the music, a mix of jazz, hip-hop, Middle Eastern sounds and clubby electronic stuff. The crowd there has been much more affluent than the peeps from the hood at the old location.


Nuyorican Poets Cafe

263 E 3rd St. between Ave. B and C

F to 2nd Ave.

This friendly, socially conscious neighborhood institution has been around forever and still has regular Latin jazz shows, with the occasional band, songwriter or aspiring reggaeton artist. Booking here is diverse and imaginative, reflecting what the neighborhood used to be fifteen or twenty years ago. They have a liquor license but the bar is still as makeshift as it probably was when they first opened the place. Bands play on the stage in the back, where there are a few tables and plenty of standing room. Cover is cheap, there are no Nazis whatsoever, the sound is surprisingly good and so are the acts who play here: people you’d usually drop $100 on at the Blue Note come through here on a regular basis. Also frequent, well-attended Wednesday and Thursday hip-hop slams.


The Old Stone House

In the middle of little Byrne Park, bordered by Fourth and Fifth Avenues and Third and Fourth Streets, Park Slope, Brooklyn

R to Union St. or any train to Atlantic Ave. and about a 10 minute walk

Reconstruction of a 1699 Dutch farmhouse that served as a pivotal site during the Battle of Brooklyn and was eventually razed in 1890. Kind of small and quaint with occasional jazz, classical or folk concerts on the weekend. Relatively cheap cover (under $15 usually), wine and pricy snacks are available. Get there on time if you want a seat: they get taken quickly by the oldtimers and neighborhood people.


1 Rivington St.
Southeast corner, 2nd floor, off Bowery
J/M to Bowery or F to 2nd Ave.

Indie classical group Metropolis Ensemble‘s cozy home base has frequent shows featuring work by a global cast of new and emerging composers. Lots of exciting stuff happening here. The door is unmarked; go up the stairs into the little auditorium with folding chairs. It’s an intimate space. Most events are in the $10-20 area; very unpretentious vibe. There may or may not be drinks or snacks available.


Otto’s Shrunken Head

14th St. just west of Ave. B, south side of the street

L to 1st Ave. or 4/6/N/R to Union Square and walk east or take the M14 bus to Ave. B

Most important thing you should know about this place; bring your passport! They have an ID scanner and use it mercilessly on pretty much everybody under 40. Unless you’re comfortable with some random sketchy character at the door making a digital copy of your personal info, you’ll need it (ID scanners don’t work on passports). Which is too bad: with the ongoing demise of the East Village, Otto’s has become become more and more of a landmark despite the little back room’s dodgy sound, the obnoxious door crew and sometimes pleasant, sometimes aloof bar staff. This dark, dingy oldschool rock bar also has Unsteady Freddy’s surf music extravaganza the first Saturday of every month as well as an eclectic mix of punk, ska, and even jazz acts playing  in the back while retro 60s and punk rock blasts at the front bar. Drinks are cheap and other than on the weekend, when the tourists come in to guzzle the garish, campy tiki drinks from silly oversized bowls, it sometimes feels like it’s 1999 again here.


Our Wicked Lady
153 Morgan Ave at Meserole St., Bushwick
Theoretically, L to Morgan Ave; during the L-pocalypse, the closest train is the J/M at Myrtle Ave.

Frequent rooftop shows at this increasingly less scruffy gentrifier bar. Expensive drinks, lousy sound, annoyingly shi-shi crowd; things may go later than planned here. Not the most organized venue in town. Cover is usually in the $10 range; lots of shows ar pass-the-hat.


The Owl

487 Rogers Ave at Midwood St., Lefferts Gardens

2/5 to t.President or Winthrop S

Oren Bloedow’s magically Lynchian new venue has an exciting lineup of the kind of edgy jazz and Americana acts who made the Stone such a happening place back in the 90s and zeros. It’s sort of Barbes relocated to Lefferts Gardens, an instant contender for best Brooklyn venue. Cover is always under $20 if there is one; most shows are pass-the-hat. The owner is a good guy – and a phenomenal guitarist – and has a deep address book. Booking here runs the gamut from adventurous jazz, to dark rock acts similar to his excellent main band, Elysian Fields, to Americana. Comfortably cozy front bar, sonically good back room a little bigger than Rock Shop, with a concert grand piano and seating in folding chairs. The crowd comes from all over, and comes to listen.


Paddy Reilly’s

519 2nd Ave. at 29th St.

6  t0 33rd St.

Guinness, Guinness and more Guinness. That’s all they serve at this legendary Irish pub. Live music isn’t the staple it used to be here – Black 47’s Saturday night residency at the club’s old location a couple of blocks south in the 80s and 90s is legendary – but they still have traditional jam sessions and frequent Irish bands here in the back on weekend nights. A neighborhood spot with no little Hitlers manning the door: even if there’s no music, it remains a great place to hang out after all these years, drawing a mix of locals, unpretentious young people and expats.


178 2nd Ave (11/12 Sts)
R to 8th St. or any train to Union Square

In an era where Manhattan venues are gouging customers every which way in a desperate struggle to survive, this long-running Mediterranean restaurant has carved out a genuinely supportive space for artists in their cozy, sonically exquisite back room. Booking is eclectic and focused around their grand piano, from art-rock, to jazz, to cabaret, to theatre and frequent gay acts. The menu is not cheap but the food is good: appetizers are especially recommended. The staff are very friendly and laid-back: everybody, even the guys in the kitchen, seem to be having a great time here. Otherworldly chanteuse Carol Lipnik‘s weekly residency is fast becoming legendary. Cover might seem intimidating, but if you’re in the know (hint: talk to the artist who’s playing here), there’s always a discount, often a real bargain. The lowlit ambience and convivial atmosphere make this an ideal date spot.



17 Meadow St. (Waterbury/Bogart), Bushwick

L to Grand St.

Right across the street from the now-closed Shea Stadium (the loft venue/rehearsal space, not the ballpark parking lot), this multi-room groundfloor space rarely books music any more. The labyrinthine entry opens up on a big main area with good, powerful sound; there’s also a smaller room to the side that lacks soundproofing and consequently has dodgier sonics. Cover also runs the gamut; some shows are cheap, some are in the $20+ range. The door crew are surprisingly chill; drinks are on the pricy side. There’s also a flea market here on weekend days with street food out back and all-ages shows in the small room.


Paris Blues Bar
2021 Adam Clayton Powell Blvd at 121st St.
closest train is actually the 2/3 to 116th St.

Scruffy old 60s style jazz lounge whose octogenarian proprietor probably hasn’t done a single renovation since about that time. A vestige of the hardscrabble neighborhood crowd who haven’t yet been priced out by the yuppies jostles at the bar with rich white kids who’ve convinced their parents to let them go slumming in the hood. Cover is cheap if there is one; drinks aren’t super cheap but they aren’t yuppie-expensive either. If you’re not a regular, you may be treated with suspicion: considering how badly devastated the area has become, that’s understandable. A rotating cast of hard funk, Chicago blues and postbop jazz talent play weekly residencies here. Catch a rare look at how vital Harlem was at a time when absolutely no money was coming in other from people who decided to make this place their home.


Park Church Coop
129 Russell St. (Nassau/Driggs), Greenpont
G to Nassau Ave

The church basement is sporadically open again, with occasional classical and jazz shows as well as infrequent experimental music and the more jazz-inclined side of indie rock. Thankfully, it seems the church fathers got sick of dealing with scuzzy promoters like the Poisson Rouge, who used the space as a venue of last resort if they couldn’t sell enough tickets to a place like Union Pool.


Parkside Lounge

Houston and Attorney Sts.

F to 2nd Ave.

Old-school LES bar with a music room in the back.  The sound is erratic; it can be pristine one night, and awful the next, depending on who’s working the board, if anybody. The crowd at the bar is surprisingly mixed: since it’s so far east, it tends to draw locals who’ve been driven away from the Ludlow Street strip by the tourists. Beer is fairly cheap but everything else isn’t. There are door personnel on the weekend, but they’ll let you in without carding you if you’re obviously of age. Less and music here than there used to be: lots of terrifyingly un-funny comedy open mic nights, which is sad, considering that many A-list bands have made this place their home base over the years.


People’s Symphony Concerts

Not a venue but an organization that has been staging cheap, high-quality classical chamber music performances for over a hundred years, a remnant of an earlier, more civilized era in NYC. Still very popular with an older, impressively diverse demographic. Concerts typically take place at Washington Irving High School auditorium on Irving Place, cattycorner from Irving Plaza, and occasionally at the Town  Hall. In a happy development, tickets for all concerts are available in addition to their usual series subscription packages.


People’s Voice Cafe

40 E 35th St. (Madison/Park) in the church basement.

6 to 33rd St. or B/D to 34th St.

Frequent 8 PM Saturday shows: Americana, folk and singer-songwriters, emphasis on socially conscious performers. Cover is typically $15, “no one turned away” for lack of funds. Not reviewed as/of 2019.



Pete’s Candy Store

Lorimer between Frost and Richardson, Williamsburg, Brooklyn

L/G to Lorimer St., walk along Union toward the BQE (downhill), take a right, walk along the BQE to Lorimer, left on Lorimer, under the BQE and about 5 blocks to the venue

Williamsburg’s second fulltime music venue (after the Charleston, which no longer has music) gets a lifetime achievement award for having been Brooklyn’s original outpost for Americana. It’s safe to say that without Pete’s paving the way, there would be no Jalopy. There’s a bar as you walk in, the music room straight ahead. When bands are playing you need to go through the walkway to your right, into the small room. It’s a tiny little place with what can be great sound (bands do it themselves). Drink prices are about average for the neighborhood; they also have delicious pressed sandwiches.  Pete’s started out fifteen-odd years ago as the place to see Brooklyn people playing country, bluegrass or oldtimey acoustic music, but when co-owner/booking agent Juliana Nash left, it went into a steep decline and the trendoids took over. After a brief resurgence with some  eclectic classical and jazz-inclined acts, booking is now a grab bag that reflects both the club’s glorious past (adventurous songwriters and oldtimey acts) and the area’s dubious present  (gentrifiers hell-bent on being the next Toby Keith or Taylor Swift). There’s a back garden for smokers – be aware it gets really crowded on weekends and late at night.



Ludlow between Stanton and Rivington, east side of the street just north of the Living Room

F to 2nd Ave.

There’s a bar/restaurant as you walk in, another bar upstairs, with live music in the back room. The sound is lousy: a place with as good a system as they have here shouldn’t sound this bad. The original LES doucheoisie hangout, it draws a Jersey/Westchester/Long Island cokehead crowd with a big out-of-town pickup scene.  Drinks are fairly expensive: good luck muscling your way to the bar through the throngs of fratboys, Miley Cyrus wannabes and drug dealers. If you carry a purse, keep it close at hand. And the door crew are Nazis: they have an ID scanner (bring your passport if you have one: the machine can’t read it and capture all your vital info), the staff is rude and so is the clientele. They also don’t treat bands well. Those who play here typically do so once and don’t come back. You’d do well to see your favorite band elsewhere.


Pier One

70th St. and the river, upper westside: walk down the stairs at Riverside and 68th St.

1/2/9 or A/C to 72nd St.

This is an actual former shipping pier, not a home decor store. There’s a brief free outdoor concert series here in July and August. Most of it is smarmy kiddie entertainment straight out of Capturing the Friedmans, but there’s an occasional jazz or classical act. There are plenty of chairs but no one listens: it’s an upper westside yuppie hang. To get to the pier you have to walk down a series of stairs over the highway from the north; go out the way you came in unless you’re up for a long stroll.


Pine Box Rock Shop
12 Grattan St. just east of Bogart, Bushwick
L to Morgan Ave

Vegan bar (yup!) with a little back room and a small corner stage, hidden way past the bustling front area, to the right and up a few steps. The eclectic mix of loud rock, singer-songwriters and free jazz they’ve had here in recent months has been mostly pushed out for nerdy comedy. No cover, awful sound, expensive beer, the yuppie puppy meat market crowd is as annoying as you would expect, and the staff are hostile.


Pioneer Works
159 Pioneer Street (Imlay & Conover), Red Hook
The B61 bus – which you can catch outside Sahadi’s, or on Court St. before it gets to Atlantic Ave – will drop you off about a block and a half away.

Big, cavernous multi-purpose art/music space which has reputedly benefited from some sonic improvements, which were badly needed when the old warehouse space first opened. A big hit with the locals, who don’t have much to choose from in the hood other than the wonderful Sunny’s and Dinosaur BBQ. The Barbes folks book a regular Sunday series of global sounds here, which is consistently excellent. Otherwise, the Silicon Valley slavers, with their computer nerd seminars and such, have moved in, along with trendoid promoters booking shows by the likes of Bon Iver for ten thousand dollars a ticket, that sort of thing. Which makes sense, considering that the venue used to gouge cash customers extra when it first opened – no word if policy that still holds.


Le Poisson Rouge

158 Bleecker St. just west of LaGuardia, south side of the street

A/B/C/D/E/F to W 4th St.

This venue can’t figure out what it wants to be. Intrepid jazz/classical spot? Global music venue? These days, less and less. Gayer-than-gay disco, a more expensive version of the rest of the neighboring tourist traps, is more like it. And other than the putrid top 40 cover bands who play here on the weekend, you basically have to be gay to get a gig here as well. Which is too bad. Downstairs from the space that formerly held the Village Gate jazz club, it’s a beautifully appointed room, expertly tricked out for sound. Coming in from the street, you walk downstairs past a small bar and into the music area, the stage immediately to your left with tables in front and some standing room along the back wall. Drinks aren’t cheap and they gouge you extra for a minimum if you want to sit. The staff are still nicer than what you usually encounter on this street; show tickets usually under $20 (advance tix highly recommended at their box office, open 12-5 Mon-Sat and also on show nights).


The Postcrypt Coffeehouse

116th St. and Amsterdam Ave., in the basement of St. Paul’s Chapel on the Columbia campus

2 to 116th St.

Performers typically play acoustic without amplification on a little stage in this little crypt-like room, which fills up very quickly – it’s a Columbia institution, open only Friday and Saturday nights during the school year. Sometimes they have booze and drinks, sometimes not. No cover –  a terrific place to see top-quality talent in a refreshingly low-key, mellow setting. Here’s wishing them luck back in their old digs.



Prospect Park Bandshell

Prospect Park West at 9th St., Park Slope, Brooklyn

F to 7th Ave. and walk uphill on 9th St., the entrance will be on your left. Accessible via other trains, but as you walk through the park you will realize how large and difficult to negotiate it is.

Free concerts are held here from June through August,  a mix of popular world music and folk acts, with the occasional rock band.  Doors typically open around 6 for a show that starts at 7:30. At the gate, they’ll try to get you for $3, but just tell them you paid on April 15 – or go through the playground to the right of the main entrance, past the bathrooms and go in the back. As with Central Park Summerstage, the free shows here are being phased out by expensive “benefit” concerts subsidized by your taxpayer money. Since all this takes place during the summer and there is very little breeze beneath the trees here, it can get brutally hot. The sound is erratic; sometimes the seats get taken within seconds of when the gates open, sometimes half the seats go unused, depending on the weather and the popularity of the act onstage. But if the space is full, there’s still plenty of space in the park to the rear of the arena where you can hear the show and probably see a little as well. Beware the attitudinous rent-a-pigs who hang out by the back fence and hassle random concertgoers.


Public Records
23 Butler St., Gowanus
any train to Atlantic Ave, walk downhill on 4th Ave, right on Butler

Other than the Wednesday night series of pass-the-hat jazz shows by a formidable rotation of downtown jazz talent, the former Retrofret Guitars space seems to be run by a gay out-of-state stoner contingent. Some of the quieter electronic acts you’d find at, say, Holo or Troost are passing through here now. Word on the street is that management can’t figure out whether they want to make it a wedding rental space a la the Jalopy or Bell House, or the Gowanus version of Elsewhere. Is Gowanus gay enough to keep this place in business? Or do they have enough trust fund moola to make that a moot point?


Queens Theatre in the Park

In the middle of Corona Park, across the street from where Shea Stadium used to be, past the tennis stadium and the Globosphere.

7 to Shea Stadium/Willets Point and no more than a ten minute walk: go back in the direction the Manhattan-bound trains are running, cross the street and take your first accessible left.

Located close to the Queens Art Museum in the park, this small theatre with a single level of tiered seating only has occasional concerts, usually in the summer and around the year-end holidays. Tickets range from cheap ($10) for less-popular or ethnic acts, to prohibitively expensive, and are available at their box office. Frequently, they’re cheaper if you buy a subscription. The acoustics are surprisingly good. Surprisingly cheap wine and bottled beer are available. The staff and volunteers here are remarkably pleasant and professional. If you don’t know the neighborhood (or feel lost in Queens), there used to be a free shuttle van which runs from the old Shea Stadium parking lot to the theatre: look for flyers on surrounding lampposts as you exit the train.


Radegast Hall & Biergarten

113 N 3 Street, corner of Berry, Williamsburg

L to Bedford Ave.

Considerably smaller than Bohemian Hall in Queens, it’s still a pretty big place: wooden booths along the walls, restaurant seating adjacent to the bar area, and an outdoor space with picnic tables where the bands may or not play (there’s also something of a stage to your left as you walk in). As at Hill Country, the owners here are blessed with good taste in music – Romany and oldtimey swing bands, primarily – and cursed with an awful location. Meaning that if you came here to hear music, you may not because the roar of the yuppie puppies yapping at each other can drown out everything else unless the band is really loud. The menu is pricy ($4 for a pretzel), though they have an excellent beer selection. A nice place to drink when it’s quiet, maybe, but unfortunately not a destination for listening.


Radio City Music Hall

48th St. and 6th Ave., enter on the avenue

B/F to Rockefeller Ctr.

Legendary art-deco theatre whose equally legendary sound is actually only adequate when rock acts play here. Enter on the southeast corner, walk past the ticket window on your right and then straight into the hall. Red plush seats upstairs and down; bathrooms in the basement. They don’t often have concerts here anymore, and when they do, they’re typically popular indie rock or corporate acts. Surprisingly, security is very laid-back here: nobody frisks you unless you obviously have a fifth of whiskey down your pants. Advance tix are a must, available at the box office, and ridiculously overpriced (it’s booked by the same people who book Madison Square Garden): you’d do well to wait til your favorite band who is playing here does a gig at Bowery Ballroom.


Riis Park Beach Bazaar
16702 Rockaway Beach Blvd
Fastest way to get there is actually the ferry which leaves from Pier 11 on the East River near South St. Seaport and stops in Sunset Park on the way for the price of a subway ride

Weekly early afternoon and early evening free concerts  with appropriately beachy music – surf rock, rockabilly and tropical psychedelia – at this popular Rockaways spot


Rocks Off Concert Cruises

One of the funnest things you can do during the warmer months. Boats sail rain or shine with an impressively good mix of party bands: funk, reggae, ska, soul and occasionally world music. Chicha Libre even played a couple of these. There are two boats: the smaller Half Moon, leaving from behind the heliport at 23rd Street and the FDR, and the Temptress, a 500-capacity ship that usually departs from 41st Street on the West Side. The Half Moon heads south along the East River and passes underneath the Williamsburg, Manhattan and Brooklyn bridges to the Statue of Liberty and then goes back the way it came: prepare for as much as three hours of revelry. The Temptress goes north on the Hudson River to the George Washington Bridge, then turns around, heading straight for the Statue of Liberty and then back to the harbor. For what you get, tix are not overwhelmingly expensive (almost always under $30, sometimes considerably less), the staff are laid-back and friendly – the fun is contagious – and the boats are immaculate. Even the restrooms are clean. Drinks are pricy but generous, cheap snacks like hot dogs and empanadas are available and the sound is pretty good considering where you are, under a canopy topside (if you prefer to remain below decks away from the crush of people, they pipe the music down there). These cruises are extremely popular and frequently sell out so advance tix (available online, at the boat office with the orange palm tree on the roof at the heliport, or at the Highline Ballroom box office for an extra charge) are a must, as is early arrival.  Believe it or not, tourists for the most part have not yet discovered this: it’s usually a pretty hometown crowd. They also have the occasional Mets cruise, a leisurely way to get the party started and get you to the ballpark in time for the game. Be aware that bottles and other containers are not allowed onboard: you’ll have to leave them on the dock and then retrieve them afterward.


Rockwood Music Hall

Allen St. just south of Houston, east side of the street south of the overpriced pizza place

F to 2nd Ave.

The decline of the Rockwood, from NYC’s best and best-sounding room for songwriters and quieter rock acts, to stuffy, ridiculously overpriced Jersey tourist trap, mirrors how the neighborhood has gone to hell. When the original, small Rockwood room opened in 2005, it was the little engine that could, booking more adventurous acts than any similar venue. For that reason, the high prices on drinks could be overlooked, especially as the place was so small and there was no cover charge. But as the young Republican blitzkrieg took over the area, the music went in a corporate direction, mostly clueless kids from out of state hoping for a big record label or a reality tv show to catapult them to stardom. And drink prices in the original small space, the big walk-down space in the adjacent “luxury” condo complex and especially the crypt-like third room, have skyrocketed. A bottle of water is the cheapest thing on the menu, and that’s four bucks. If you include a tip for the band, you would literally save money paying a $12 cover around the corner at the Mercury. Yeah, the Rockwood has great sound, but all the good acts who play here also play far more comfortable and affordable places like Pete’s and the Jalopy.


Rough Trade 
64 N 9th St. (Wythe/Kent), Williamsburg
L to Bedford Ave.
The world’s highest-ceilinged record store also has frequent live music in the back, booked by corporate giant AEG, who bought out the Bowery Ballroom booking empire. Oversize stage for a space a little bigger than the Knitting Factory; depending on the act, the upstairs balconies, with sparse seating, may or may not be open. The sound is excellent, and there are frequent free shows here.  There’s a long bar in the back, with expensive drinks: be aware that you can’t bring drinks into the record store. Beyond that, the staff are surprisingly laid back. Although there’s a lot of vinyl, some of it temptingly obscure, for sale here, it’s prohibitively expensive, sometimes $30 or more.



509 Atlantic Ave. at 3rd Ave. (across the street from Hank’s), Prospect Heights, Brooklyn

Any train to Atlantic Ave.

This huge old renovated theatre space is avant garde and indie classical central, more jazz-inclined than Issue Project Room. Some acts you would pay $100 to see at the Blue Note come through here to play their more cutting-edge stuff. Shows typically start around 8, cover is usually around $15-20, the staff are very cool and casual. Drinks are available although it’s more of a place for listening than for drinking. Depending on the anticipated turnout, the upstairs balcony may or may not be open. Roulette also has a vast online archive of shows dating from its 1970s Tribeca loft-jazz beginnings, with more amazing moments than you can count, streamable here. There’s often a discount on advance tix, available at their ticket counter on show nights.


Rubin Museum of Art
150 W 17th St east of 7th Ave.
1 to 18th St. or any train to 14th St.

Himalayan art museum with frequent jazz and occasional classical shows in the sonically accommodating, comfortable midsize basement auditorium. Tix are on the pricy side, advance tix recommended at their front desk. Pleasant and helpful staff; the crowd comes to listen.


Various locations over the years: the latest one is in central Bushwick

As you would expect at a Burning Man tattoo clusterfuck, minorities and working class people will probably feel like fish out of water at the latest central Bushwick location of this lo-fi multimedia space with more-or-less monthly weekend shows. The name is the originator’s old Brooklyn phone number spelled out on a keypad. Expect acrobats, fire twirlers, space cake, bathtub absinthe and music. Most of the bands are bland trendoid fodder although their old fixation with circus rock acts still remains after almost 20 years of this. At the request of the owners, the address is kept private, email for deets/cover charge. To their credit, they no longer require you to show up in some ridiculous costume, nor do they limit their invites only to idiots who are still on Facebook.


St. Bartholomew’s Cathedral
Park Ave. north of 50th St.
6 to 53rd St.

Frequent classical concerts in the vast sonics here. The organ is one of the world’s most powerful and boasts a ferocious trumpet stop hidden way up in the rafters. Cover is affordable, usually $25 and under. Gotham Early Music Society also hosts a fascinating series of weekly, free baroque and pre-baroque chamber concerts on Thursdays at 1:15 in the adjacent chapel from early fall to late spring. 


St. Mazie’s

345 Grand St. between Havemeyer and the BQE, Williamsburg

L to Bedford Ave.

The old Rose Bar space has frequent if completely unadvertised music, a mix of oldtimey Americana and jazz sounds for the most part. Not much has changed other than most of the floor space now being taken up by tables (with a drink minimum, if you want to sit) and even higher prices than its predecessor’s were, and those were pretty steep to begin with. You can see the acts who play here at the Jalopy for a lot less without having to dodge the crowds of gentrifiers and textards on Bedford.


St. Patrick’s Cathedral

5th Ave. between 50th and 51st St.

E to 53rd St. or B/D/F to Rockefeller Center

One of the local television stations once aired an alarmist piece about germs on door handles. One of the doors tested happened to be right here at the church, and for some mysterious reason – you be the judge – it turned out to be the only one in town that was completely germ-free. The “world’s most famous U.S. gothic Roman Catholic Cathedral,” as they bill themselves has world-class acoustics, frequent choral and chamber music concerts and a highly regarded organ recital series that resumed in the fall of 2015 after renovations. Because the sonics here are the best in town and among the best in the world (and because tourists are constantly wandering in and out), concerts here tend to be very well-attended: early arrival is advised. Please remember that you are in a church and behave respectfully: no talking, no snacking, no cellphones.


St. Peter’s Church
54th/Lexington Ave.
6 to 53rd St.
Frequent jazz concerts here including the regular, free Sunday evening jazz vespers concerts at around 6 as well as outdoors in the amphitheatre-like space adjacent to the subway station, and classical concerts as well. The subterranean space has boomy acoustics best suited to less percussive acts. Mellow ambience, lots of good performers.


St. Thomas Church

53rd and 5th Ave.

B/D/F to Rockefeller Center

The sound is as incredible as you would expect from an architecturally beautiful old New York stone space with a gorgeous, roughly three-second sonic decay. The free, weekly 5:15 PM Sunday organ concerts here are an even more popular local attraction since the installation of the brand new organ (even more powerful than the old hybrid Aeolian-Skinner) in the late fall of 2018. They also have frequent choral music performed by their world-famous choir of men and boys as well as touring ensembles.


St. Vitus Bar

1120 Manhattan Ave. (Box/Clay), Greenpoint

G to Greenpoint Ave. or a long walk from the Bedford Ave. L stop

New York’s home for heavy rock has been invaded by lots of trendoids lately, a sad indication that the market for loud sounds may not be what it used to be – in this neighborhood, anyway. Dimlit bar with a good, cheap happy hour (and much stiffer prices after it’s over) as you enter, relatively small room (about the same size as Gold Sounds) in back. The sound is excellent and LOUD as you would expect, considering who plays here, a diverse and frequently excellent mix of stoner rock, doom metal, art-rock, darkwave and all sorts of hardcore and death-metal acts along with sadly more and more frequent Bushwick sissy-rock. Cover is relatively cheap, around $10, except for the occasional pricier national or international touring act. The staff are easygoing and laid back although the door crew are obnoxious. Various noodle-type munchies may or may not be available at the bar. If the folks out front of the club – c’mon, guys, this is Greenpoint, not the East Village – weren’t so annoying, this might not only be the best venue in Brooklyn but the best venue in New York City.


Scandinavia House
58 Park Ave north of 37th St.
Closest train is the 6 to 33rd St.

The sonically excellent downstairs auditorium at this Nordic arts center has all sorts of adventurous programming: classical, jazz and the avant garde, as well as movies and art openings. Cover is cheap, considering the quality of the ensembles from across the Scandinavian nations, many of whom make their US debuts here. Nice people working here, good sound, cheap cover ($25 and under, sometimes free), considering what you get. The upstairs restaurant has gravlax, aquavit and other specialties from the lands of the midnight sun.


The Schimmel Center
3 Spruce St. (Gold/Park Row), Financial District
J/6 to City Hall; 2 to Park Place
Pace University’s comfortable auditorium has mostly phased out the free global music concerts that were once so popular here, in favor of expensive ticketed shows, a mix of cheesy folkie and Broadway acts and the same cast of edgy global musicians and bands who made this such a magnet destination ten-odd years ago. Students work here, so they’re friendly and chill.


Scholes St. Studio
375 Lorimer St. at Scholes,South  Williamsburg
closest train is actually the J/M to Hewes St.

Scruffy lo-fi jazz and indie classical space. Cheap cover, if there in fact is one. Some pretty cool artists play here. Not reviewed as of 2019


Secret Project Robot
1186 Broadway, Bushwick
J/M to Kosciuszko St.

Shuttered at the end of April, 2019. They managed to make a move from their first Williamsburg digs to Bushwickt , let’s see if they reopen, and if they do, how much further out they’ll be. East New York, maybe?


Shapeshifter Lab

18 Whitwell Pl., Gowanus, Brooklyn. Whitwell is a small street running parallel to 4th Ave. Exit at Union St.., walk 2 blocks in the direction away from downtown Brooklyn to Carroll, right on Carroll, left on Whitwell.

R to Union St.,

Laid-back old industrial loft space repurposed as adventurous jazz venue, a little less roughhewn than I-Beam. The sound is surprisingly good for an old rectangular brickwalled first-floor room a little bigger than the old Roulette in SoHo. Cover is relatively cheap, usually not more than $10. The staff are laid-back and friendly. Drinks are available, although this is more of a space for listening than for drinking, something reinforced by the crowd: you won’t have to dodge textards or yapping yuppies here. Music runs the gamut from the more interesting groups who play Cornelia St. or the Jazz Gallery, to international acts who lean toward the avant side of jazz. Shapeshifter is also Brooklyn’s home to large ensemble jazz of all kinds. Actually very easy to get to, less than two minutes on foot from the R train (it’s right around the corner from Rock Shop) – or you can take a leisurely 15-minute walk downhill from the Atlantic Ave. station. The space also has frequent art openings and the occasional theatrical event.


Shea Stadium

20 Meadow St. between Stagg and Bogart, Bushwick, Brooklyn

L to Grand St.

Props to the crew here for memorializing what may have been a dump – although it was OUR dump. And now, like the baseball stadium, it’s gone, shuttered in early 2017. It would be fitting if the next group to move into this old industrial loft space named their new digs Shitty Field – and ripped a gaping hole in the roof. No word if the old owners’ huge online archive of live performances will remain online.


The Shed
545 W 30th St (10th/11th Aves)
Closest train is the 7 to the end of the line at 34th.

Located in that sick, surreal, hyper-rich Legoland monstrosity and run by Eurotrash, this new venue is trying to be the Hell’s Kitchen counterpart to National Sawdust. While they seem to be making a token effort to include racial minorities in their programming, ticket prices are obscenely expensive, among the priciest in the five boroughs. Not reviewed as of 2019 and not likely to be.


The Sheen Center
18 Bleecker St west of Bowery
6/B/D/F to Broadway-Lafayette

Classical, jazz and occasional latin music a few times a month in this comfortable basement-level auditorium, a little bigger than the Cell Theatre. TIx are on the pricy side; the staff are pleasant.




2271 Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Blvd. (133-134 St)

B/2/3 to 135th St.

This scruffy storefront restaurant/bar/club, just three blocks from the train, is where good acts from out of town who don’t fit the number-crunching poindexter club booking model end up playing – and it’s worth the trip uptown if you have the time. Vaguely African-themed restaurant in front, music in the back in a small space about the same size as the back room at the old Lakeside with impressively good sound. Music is as about as diverse as it gets here: reggae, ska, jazz, singer-songwriters, indie rock, jam bands and music from all over the globe. Most shows are free. The place and the people who run it have a strikingly casual, laid-back vibe. The food is excellent, fairly inexpensive and there are a lot of vegetarian options (their homemade habanero sauce is heaven for hot pepper addicts but should be avoided at all costs if you can’t handle spicy food). Draft beer is expensive and drinks are even more so but they are extremely strong. One thing you should know is that the service here seems to run on African time so settle up fast if you have to be somewhere afterward. And after years of putting on pass-the-hat shows, they charge a cover on Saturday nights now.



300 W. 116th St
D to 116th St.
The folks at the wonderful Shrine further uptown saved their dough and opened this much more shi-shi basement-level sitdown bar and grill to cash in on the yuppies who’re destroying the neighborhood. This seems to be where they’re putting the more singer-songwritery and, well, caucasian acts who’d occasionally pop up at Shrine, along with an intriguing mix of jazz and global styles, like a Barbes Jr. Expensive, loud and crowded as the night goes on: absolutely nobody listens here


68 Jay St. Bar

68 Jay St., Dumbo, Brooklyn

F to York St.; walk downhill, the bar will be on your left at the corner of Water

A throwback to another, vastly more pleasant era when the streets down here were strictly for the adventurous and the down-and-out. This dark, narrow little rectangular space in the old Grand Union tea warehouse has consistently first-rate  oldtimey and Americana roots music, everything from bluegrass to delta blues on Saturday nights, booked by A-list songwriter Jan Bell. Mississippi hill country bluesman Will Scott plays here occasionally and is reliably excellent. In the early evening, many of the neighborhood trust fund kids wake up and come here. But when the music starts, they all leave, because it’s good. Relatively cheap drinks, a nice bar staff, casual atmosphere and no little Hitlers to be found anywhere.


Skinny Dennis 
152 Metropolitan Ave. at Berry St., Williamsburg
L to Bedford Ave
The Williamsburg corner bar counterpart to the old Rodeo Bar resembles its Manhattan predecessor in the worst ways. Noisy meat market crowd, hostile and attitudinous staff, and nobody listens to the music. Which is too bad, because his is ground zero for what’s left of the ever-shrinking electric side of the New York Americana scene. Some of the usual suspects from the Jalopy and the old Rodeo scene filter through here. But the well-heeled gentrifier crowd is oblivious, and obnoxiously loud, and the door staff are really nasty, maybe as a result. You’ll do much better at Pete’s Candy Store or the Jalopy.



183 W 10th St. just west of 7th Ave. S, north side of the street

1/9 to Christopher St.; A/C/E/B/D/F to W 4th St. and walk west

This lovable basement-level dump remains as fertile an incubator for jazz talent as it was in the 90s: ever notice how so many bands from the Smalls scene during that era are playing Lincoln Center now? Cover is typically $20 and the level of talent is outstanding, a mix of up-and-coming artists and better-known acts playing diverse styles from postbop to latin to vocal jazz. A lot of familiar faces make this place their home when they’re not on the road. The sound here is much better than you would expect from the junk-shop decor – several live albums have been recorded here. Drinks are as pricy as you would expect; the staff are casual and pleasant. Early arrival is always a good idea because this place sells out frequently, especially for the after-hours jam which predictably draws a lot of A-list talent.



2751 Broadway (105/106)

1/9 or C to 103rd St.

More intimate than Birdland, this surprisingly friendly south Harlem spot is a little bigger than Smalls, with superior sound and a rotating cast of good postbop jazz acts, including regular organ combos and frequent latin groups. Cover can be steep during the evening because admission may come with a pricy white-tablecloth menu that is far from vegetarian-friendly. The time to come here is after around 11:30 at night because it’s a comfortably laid-back hang, cover is cheap if there is one, the jams can be very inspired and go well into the wee hours. The staff seem to enjoy working here and that vibe is contagious; the clientele is a mix of more adventurous European tourists and locals.


Socrates Sculpture Park
32-01 Vernon Blvd, Long Island City
N to Broadway and about a 12-block walk,

Frequent freee music events, from indie classical to hip-hop, in this popular waterfront hangout spot with a trippy vibe akin to the East Village gardens of the 80s.



204 Varick St. at Houston

1 to Houston St. or any train to W 4th St., walk south and west

Mostly latin, Brazilian and hip-hop at this long-running, swanky west village Brazilian restaurant/club. The sound on the big stage is typically good, and surprisingly, there’s absolutely no Nazi factor at the door. Tix tend to be expensive – over $20 – at the box office. The food is mediocre and at their prices, to be avoided. Be aware that while sometimes the club opens up the floor for more popular acts, sometimes (especially for older acts) they don’t, meaning that unless you take a table for dinner, you may be squished into a narrow corridor between the dining area and the relatively small bar space.


Soup & Sound
292 Lefferts Ave (Nostrand/Rogers), Crown Heights
2 to Sterling St

Drummer Andrew Drury programs this adventurous improvisational jazz series, on the second floor of a ramshackle woodframe house. A donation gets you soup and potluck and maybe wine, and first-class sparring among an international cast of jazz musicians. It’s like the old Seeds series in Fort Greene, but less composition-centric and with much better ventilation.


South House
149 Newark Ave., Jersey City
About a block and a half from the Grove St. Path station

BBQ restaurant with soul and funk music, some of it awesome. Black Joe Lewis played here once. Not reviewed as of 2019.




70 Flushing Ave at Cumberland, Ft. Greene

closest train is the F to Jay St. and a ten minute walk around the corner past the projects

Spectrum made a name for itself as a comfortable Lower East Side loft space for some of NYC’s – and the world’s – most adventurous avant garde sounds. Then they got priced out and moved to new digs across from the former Brooklyn Navy Yard. The new location is charmingly industrial and surreal: a wood-shingle dormer window overlooks the cozy audience space below, surrrounded by ladders and brickwork and bits and pieces of scaffolding. Cover is usually $10; drinks and snacks are sometimes available; the ambience is oldschool, jazz loft-ish, rows of folding chairs and a recliner or two for the lucky few who get there early enough to snag them. Booking still encompasses every corner of the avant garde, from indie classical to jazz to chamber music from across the centuries, and the occasional artsy rock band. The crowds come to listen. A strong contender for the borough’s best venue.


The Stone

now located at the New School’s Glass Box theatre at 55 W 13th St.
closest train is actually the F/L to 14th St.

The programming for outsider jazz guy John Zorn’s iconic little Alphabet City corner room has moved to this cozy ground-floor space just to the right of the entrance. Shows are now back to a more-or-less daily, 8:30 PM schedule with a $20 cover charge at the door. As with Zorn’s iconic East 2nd St. location, a rotating and somewhat more chaotic series of artists from his circle are keeping the tradition alive, mostly weeklong stands with a series of highly improvisational ensembles. The staff are as pleasant and unobtrusive as always, and the crowd comes to listen. Show up early if you want a seat.


45 Bleecker St. at Lafayette
B/D/6 to Broadway-Lafayette

This sonically pristine, lavishly decorated basement-level space, downstairs from the Culture Project Theatre (hence the name) has been open on and off since ostensibly closing for good a couple of summers ago. It’s a fantastic room: comfy reclining seats, a bar in the back and some of the best sonics in town. But the owners haven’t figured out how to make it work. Cheesy easy-listening jazz acts didn’t draw since it’s too far from the tunnel for Jersey customers. For now they have the occasional classical, jazz or latin show. Tix are on the pricy side, $20 and up, and when it was a fulltime venue the door staff were overzealously obnoxious. If this place tried, they could steal all the good classical acts who play the Poisson Rouge.


The Sultan Room
234 Starr St.(Wyckoff/Irving), Bushwick
L to Jefferson St.; during the L-pocalypse the closest train is the J/M to Myrtle and about a 20 minute walk

The former Starr Bar has music in the back room again, lots of surprisingly good stuff: noir soul, metal, psychedelia in addition to the usual parade of Midwestern speculator children finding ways to spend their parents’ ill-gotten gains. In other words, Union Pool transplanted to the ‘Shweck. Comparable cover, sound not likely to be as good since the old space was so rough. Not reviewed as of 2019.



253 Conover St., Red Hook

B61 bus (which you can pick up on Fulton St. or Atlantic Ave. in front of Damascus Bakery) to Beard St. (next to last stop; ask the driver).; walk 1 block, opposite direction of bus, to Conover St., take a left, it’s in the middle of the block.

Semi-legendary little Red Hook neighborhood watering hole. They’ve always had frequent live music, mostly Americana roots and most of it pretty good. Their local crowd in recent years became mixed with gentrifiers who can afford the $30 car service back to Bushwick – although the cash-only policy kept most of them out. Not much of a stage or a PA system, but it’s a party atmosphere and it’s contagious. Really nice people run this place.



1031 Grand St. at Morgan Ave, Bushwick

L to Morgan Ave.

Midsize rock space which has absorbed much of the louder, more hetero Palisades indie rock contingent. Cover is typically $10 but sometimes a lot more.  Not reviewed as of 2019


Symphony Space

1/2/3 to 96th St.

95th St. & Broadway

There are two rooms here: the long, cavernous ground-floor auditorium with floor seating in front and tiered seats in the back, and the downstairs Thalia Theatre which usually shows movies but which sometimes features music as well. They’ve been doing jazz, classical and world music here forever, along with frequent dramatic and literary events (a couple of NPR shows tape here). The sound is very good upstairs, fine for movies in the downstairs room but a little lacking otherwise. Tickets are expensive, usually over $30.  There’s now a shi-shi bar on the way down to the theatre which serves predictably overpriced little glasses of wine and fancy sandwiches and has the occasional free weekend jazz show.


The Tenri Institute
43A W 13th St. east of 6th Ave.
F to 14th St.

Japanese-owned classical room for hire, like the DiMenna Center but smaller. The owners don’t do much in the way of helping spread the word about who plays here. The sound is decent and some of the acts who pass through here – the Moment Quartet, who’ve hosted their annual festival here more than once – are fantastic. Ticket prices depend on the artist, some very affordable, some ridiculously expensive,. Drinks and snacks may or may not be available.


Terminal 5
610 W. 56th St.
B/D/E to 53rd St./7th Ave. or B/D/1 to Columbus Circle and a long walk west either way
Those familiar with Philadelphia will see a striking resemblance, layout-wise, to the Theatre of the Living Arts there. A little bigger than Bowery Ballroom, with a similar layout: a couple of balconies with tables, big stage on the right as you walk in, and plenty of floor space.Booking encompasses the same type of acts who used to play the old Roseland, i.e. those not big enough to fill Madison Square Garden, which these days means a lot of lame EDM and gay acts..At least you don’t get the bullhorn-toting security ex-con Nazis that you used to get there, and the sound is better. Although because it is smaller, concerts here very frequently sell out: advance tickets very highly recommended. With the demise of the Bowery Ballroom empire, it’s a good question whether this space will continue to sell them.


Terra Blues

Bleecker between LaGuardia and Thompson, north side of the street, upstairs

A/C/E/B/D/F to West 4th St., take the exit on the south side

One of New York’s only three remaining blues bars has terrific sound, expensive cover considering what you get (old guys phoning in Chicago-style standards, with the occasional oldtimey swing or country-blues act) and pricy drinks. Usually it’s the same lame Clapton wannabes playing here week after week, but sometimes they’ll have some really good acts (Hazmat Modine frequently plays here on the weekends). Considering the neighborhood, the staff are surprisingly friendly. Tables up front with waitress service; bar straight ahead of you as you walk in. Take a seat along the rail on your far right, along the wall, if you don’t feel like drinking: usually, you’ll be left alone.


Terraza 7
40-19 Gleane St, Queens,
7 train to 90th St/Elmhurst

All sorts of traditional and cutting-edge sounds from south of the border, much of it jazz, at this long-running populist hotspot. Cheap cover (typically $10) and very popular with a neighborhood crowd.


Third Street Music School Settlement

235 E 11th St (2nd/3rd Ave)

Free classical concerts on frequent Friday evenings during the school year, usually at 7:30 PM in the comfy first floor auditorium with a few rows of chairs as well as seating along the walls, amphitheatre-style. Seating not reserved, prompt arrival advised. Something of a shock that this isn’t better-known than it is – so far it draws a mostly older neighborhood crowd. The performers are reliably first-rate, players you’d usually have to fork over fifty bucks or so to see at Lincoln Center or Carnegie Hall. The school also books the outdoor free summertime Thursday lunchtime concert series at St. Marks Park at Second Ave. and 9th St., a mix of first rate jazz and world music acts.


The Town Hall

123 W 43rd St. just west of 6th Ave

B/D/F to 42nd St.

This big old 19th century theatre, a favorite with the folkie crowd back in the 60s, was parodied in the film A Mighty Wind. Tickets are expensive, often ridiculously so (advance tix a must, and generally not through their box office: you may have to go to a Ticketmaster outlet like Irving Plaza). Ironically, the sonics here work best when there’s a loud rock band onstage. Acoustic acts sound lost in this boomy, spacious room. Unlike at the Beacon, they’ll let you out to smoke (there’s frequently an intermission), and if you’re not obvious about it, you can sneak alcohol in (forget about their small, overpriced drinks). These days they book a mix of world music, classical, jazz and Americana, mostly older artists.


915 Wyckoff Ave., Ridgewood, Queens
L to Halsey St.
The old Silent Barn space was reopened and interestingly enough has come to encompass both the more outside, avant garde-inclined acts who used to play there as well as a gay crowd who comes out for EDM.  At least the ambience is working: friendly people at the door, totally laid-back vibe, liquor license, more seating than this airy ground-floor apartment-house space had when it was the Silent Barn. The sound isn’t anything special, but it’s not awful either. Every now and then they’ll have a really good multi-band bill here, and cover is cheap, typically under $10.


The Treehouse at 2A

2nd St. and Ave. A

F to 2nd Ave.

Americana guitar genius Tom Clark (of High Action Boys fame) books a diverse cast of country and roots music performers Sunday nights starting at 9 upstairs at this long-running neighborhood bar, with occasional music there during the week as well. The place got its original monicker from the branches casting their shadows on the brick wall of the building across the street. Stage in front, bar in the back in this long, narrow space with couches, stools and a counter along the right wall. Drink prices are about average for this part of town.  It’s a pretty intimate, mellow scene that gets more lively as the evening goes on, and the sound is surprisingly excellent. Booking is haphazard: one week there’ll be three or four amazing acts, then the next week will be a wash, and there’s no telling who’s playing since the bar does nothing to promote it on the web. The door crew can be overzealously hostile and annoying. Grisly factoid: the space was remodeled in the wake of a deadly early-zeros explosion fueled by cooking crack cocaine.


Tribeca Performing Arts Center

Borough of Manhattan Community College

199 Chambers St. east of the Westside Highway

1/2 to Chambers St.

This is the BMCC auditorium, occasionally used for concerts. Jazz, world music, classical mostly. Tix, which can be pricy, are available onsite, check the website for details. Banks of cushy folding chairs, good acoustics, friendly and laid-back staff and surprisingly good acoustics in the space (which has shrunk considerably since the 90s, but is also sonically much more appealing).


Trinity Church

Broadway at Wall St.

2/3/4/5 to Wall St. or any train to Fulton St., walk south and west

A beautiful historic landmark whose leadership went from heroes of the Occupy movement to zeroes over the course of that summer, which strangely coincided with a decline in music here. But now it’s back; the eclectic lunchtime series of classical, jazz, choral and mostly-weekly organ concerts during the spring and fall have been moved to its older and smaller sister venue St. Paul’s Chapel on Broadway at Fulton. The acoustics at both places are superb as you would imagine; because those shows tend to be well-attended, early arrival is always a good idea. Please remember that you are in a house of worship and be respectful: no talking, no cellphones, no crinkly bags of potato chips, no screaming rugrats.


1011 Manhattan Ave (Huron/Green) Greenpoint
G to Greenpoint Ave.
Music in the front window, a pretty much daily mix of Americana, jazz and esoteric stuff like Greek gangster music, freak-folk and surf rock. Behind that in the long, rectangular space is a bar and a back garden; the kitchen serves food til around 10. The sound is pretty dodgy, and the bar crowd doesn’t pay much attention. Prices are pretty much average for the neighborhood, i.e. rising constantly.


Union Pool

corner of Union and the BQE, Williamsburg, Brooklyn

L or G to Lorimer, walk straight down Union toward the BQE, club is on the corner on your right.

The music is usually in the back building at this two-building complex – once a pool supply dealership – that you reach after crossing the interior courtyard. It’s a high-ceilinged room with iffy, generally loud sound. Avoid standing under the little balcony in the back if you can: someone might spill their beer on you. Fifteen years ago, this place was rockabilly central, now it’s mostly tourists and trendoids. Not a place where you’d want to hang out. Drinks aren’t cheap. There’s a door guy on the weekends, but if you’re obviously of age you won’t have any problem getting in. The quality of the acts here depends; they like theme nights, and on a good night you can see several good bands. Rev. Vince Anderson – a New York institution and incredibly charismatic performer who you should see at least once in your life – plays a deliriously fun dance party here on Mondays at 11. Otherwise, lots of punk, garage rock, psychedelia and noiserock, some pretty adventurous bills. Be aware that shows here start on time these days: arrive an hour late for a 9 PM act and you’ll miss them. The taco truck in the backyard isn’t open these days; waiting on that license.


Village Vanguard

1/2/9 to Christopher St. or A/C/B/D/E to W 4th St. and walk west

178 7th Ave. S

This small, legendary basement venue has booked pretty much every jazz legend since the end of World War II (believe it or not, CBGB owner Hilly Kristal got his start here). Drinks are notoriously expensive and tiny (although you get a drink ticket with paid admission), as are the little chairs and tables they squeeze you into. But the sound is pristine (there’s a reason why so many jazz groups have made live albums here), the staff is professional if obviously harried – you have to be something of an acrobat to work here – and the acts are reliably first-rate. It’s pricy but cheaper than a lot of other jazz clubs – $25 plus a two-drink minimum during the week, $35 cover plus a drink minimum on weekends. Despite its limitations, this is your best bet for big-name jazz in New York.



261 Driggs Ave., Williamsburg, Brooklyn

L to Bedford Ave. or G to Nassau St.

Big, beautiful, cavernous Polish wedding banquet hall with occasional shows put together by the former Bowery Ballroom booking agency. Plus cheap Polish draft beer and cheap steam-table Polish eats. Since this place dates from before the turn of the previous century, the architects did not predict the advent of rock music and the sound can be boomy: the closer you are to the stage, the better you’ll hear, and there’s plenty of room on the big dancefloor. Music is only an occasional thing here these days, although the acts they get are frequently topnotch: Gogol Bordello, Rasputina, Patti Smith. Advance tix are available at the Knit, the staff are totally chill, and on nights when there are no events, the bar and the snack bar are open to the public. For the most part, the crowd is neighborhood Polish kids: the trendoids, being xenophobic, generally stay away.


The Way Station

683 Washington Ave. at Prospect Place, Ft. Greene, Brooklyn

Any train to Grand Army Plaza

There are some sucky bars in Brooklyn, but most of them don’t come right out and admit it. The Way Station actually advertises itself as a place for dorks and losers. It’s hard to tell how accurate  that is – the only bar on a rundown, slowly gentrifying strip, this cozy neighborhood spot draws a diverse crowd of locals and loud yuppie puppies, whose roar at the bar to the left of the little stage generally makes the music hard to hear, which is sad because it can be good, a mix of Americana and more edgy rock than most Brooklyn venues book. Admission is free, drinks aren’t overwhelmingly expensive and the staff are laid-back, but nobody, NOBODY, pays any attention to the bands struggling to make themselves heard over the din.  If you can’t make it out, they stream their shows here.


Webster Hall
125 E 11th St. (3rd/4th Aves)
any train to Union Square

It’s open again. In its first incarnation, Webster Hall earned infamy for having the most obnoxious bouncers in town: they were sadistic. Both the big, roughly Bowery Ballroom-sized main hall and the small basement space – a little bigger than Bowery Electric – will ostensibly have bands, but as of February 2019 only the main room was open. Beyond sadism at the door, the sound was decent upstairs and less so further below, tickets were usually in the $20-30 range. Too bad the booking sucks so far: mostly corporate has-beens and lame indie acts left stranded when Bowery Ballroom went completely corporate. Not reviewed after the 2018 closure.



World Financial Center

E to World Trade Center, take the walkway on the north side of Ground Zero over the highway and then hang a left at the bottom of the stairs.

Infrequent free concerts here during the colder months and lots in the summer, both inside the Winter Garden on the ground floor and outside on the plazas on the river, mostly classical and jazz. Lately sonic issues – a persistent, paint-peeling, shrieking alarm on the elevator along the east wall of the space – threaten to ruin any hope of enjoying a show here.


World Music Institute

68 Jay Street, Suite 201, Dumbo

F to Jay St.

Not a club: this is the box office. They’ve been promoters of an astonishingly good range of music from around the world, often at Symphony Space, though they’ve moved around a lot. Typically, they choose venues with excellent sound. The organization seems to be in flux and possibly on hiatus. Tickets are typically available at their office (open Mon-Thurs 11-5, Fri 11-1) and also at Symphony Space and Roulette for shows at each of those venues. Tix are also available online for some shows, with a processing charge. Season subscriptions and membership (which includes a 20% discount on show tix, which could be worth it if you see a lot of them) are also available.


Zinc Bar

82 West 3rd Street (btw. Thompson & Sullivan)

A/B/C/D/E/F to W 4th St.

The move from their old digs on Houston to the old Sun Mountain/Baggot Inn space is a resounding success: the room has never sounded this good. The layout is the same: long bar on the left as you walk down, tables and couches in front where there is a minimum. Cover is cheap, usually $15 or less. They still feature a lot of regular residencies: tropical and African jazz and frequent big bands.  Relatively laid-back bar staff, drink prices are average for the neighborhood, cheap cover considering the quality of the acts here.


September 21, 2009 Posted by | blues music, classical music, country music, experimental music, folk music, funk music, gospel music, irish music, jazz, latin music, Live Events, middle eastern music, Music, music, concert, New York City, rap music, reggae music, rock music, soul music, Venues, world music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

How the Depression Will Affect Music in New York City – Part One – The Clubs

Well, everybody’ll be broke and homeless, we’ll all gather in the park or in abandoned luxury housing sites and play broken-down instruments and sing until the Halliburton troops come along with their machine guns, at which point we’ll all have to make a run for it. Right?


Let’s hope not. While wishing President Obama all the best, realistically speaking we are in for a long, hard few years, probably more, certainly enough to shift the paradigm for music as we’ve come to know it here in New York. In this series, we examine some of the ways the music scene in New York will change as money gets tighter and everyone prepares for the worst. In the wake of the closing of Cha Cha’s, the Cutting Room and the Zipper Theatre, today we’ll take a look at how the depression will impact music venues in New York. Subsequent articles will look at how musicians and also the audience for live music are impacted.


When discussing music venues in New York, or for that matter in any urban area, the primary factor to keep in mind is that the majority of them are vanity operations. That is to say that only a small percentage of New York clubs actually depend on door receipts and liquor sales in order to stay in business. Many venues are vanity operations in the purest sense of the word, i.e. a club opened by a successful owner in another field of business who wants some kind of association with music, usually to appear “cool” and frequently to use the pretext of being a bar or club owner in order to pick up women (or men). More than a few are owned by sole proprietors, groups of individuals or their parents who live off inherited wealth and therefore have no interest in turning a profit. Other clubs function as a tax writeoff for the owners of other, profitable businesses, operating at just enough of a loss to be cost-effective in the proprietor’s larger scheme. Still other clubs are part of a chain of bars, venues or restaurants and are thereby subsidized by profits from their sister establishments. And there are others (bet you were waiting for this one, huh?) who are simply fronts for various types of illegal activity, usually drug distribution or money laundering. Of all of these, who’s going to survive, who isn’t, and how will that affect what choice we as concertgoers have in these rapidly changing (some would say deteriorating) times?


It’s not as easy as saying that those with money will survive and those who actually depend on turning a profit won’t. It might seem a no-brainer to assert that a club that owns rather than leases its space will outlast the competition, but that’s not necessarily true, especially if for one reason or another rent receipts are insufficient to keep the club solvent. It also might seem a no-brainer to assume that the most obvious vanity operations will outlast the competition, but that isn’t true either: what if daddy calls little Todd back to Lake Wayzata, Boca Raton or Waccabuc because he’s sick of sinking his ever-shrinking nest egg into what was obviously a lost cause from day one? Or because he’s sick of little Todd blowing (pun intended) through five grand a week on moldy old clothes, coke and internet porn?


With all these and other factors in mind, we’ve fought very hard to resist setting up a dead pool here for all the New York clubs. Rather, here’s a list of the types of places who, for better or worse, will probably have the most staying power:


1. The biggest venues, i.e. Madison Square Garden, Terminal 5 et al. Because these places draw concertgoers from a far wider geographical area than your typical small downtown club, mathematically they still stand a better chance at filling their seats. The Garden, most obviously, because they own the property.


2. The smallest venues, i.e. Barbes and Lakeside, because their rent is comparatively low.


3. The niche venues, i.e. some Dominican place in the South Bronx or a Polish bar in Greenpoint, places you’ve probably never heard of unless you’re part of those communities. Dominicans will always congregate for bachata and merengue; Poles for turbo-folk and hip-hop; Greeks for Greek music, Syrians for Syrian music, you name it.

Many of these places have also been financed on better-than-average terms by lenders in their own ethnic communities.


4. Clubs who cater to one end of the economic spectrum or the other. Look around you: a lot of the most shishi places are still pulling traffic, as are the places that serve dollar beer and pass the tip bucket rather than charging a cover.


And now for a list of who’s probably not going to make it:


1. Anybody who’s too far off the beaten path and doesn’t depend on a local crowd. That big cavernous two-thousand capacity space that just opened in Gravesend, Brooklyn? We just made this one up: it doesn’t really exist, but what if it did? Do you really think that even if they booked the trendiest, most fashionable indie posers, strippers and “celebrity djs,” they’d actually be able to pull enough of a crowd to eke out an existence a good twenty minutes from the nearest subway stop, which happens to be an hour out of Manhattan, assuming that it’s not after midnight and there actually are trains running at all? By contrast, a local bar in, say, far Bushwick or Red Hook that happens to be the only place in the neighborhood will actually benefit from the depression, as rising subway fares and shrinking wallets keep people close to home.


2. Any establishment overly dependent on a middleclass audience. By that we mean a place that doesn’t market itself as either shishi or downscale and scruffy. Your typical conformist American aims upward, i.e. he or she’d be more likely to go for the shishi place than the dark, dingy dollar beer bar. As money gets tighter, don’t expect these crowds – especially young parents from out of town – to go downscale. They simply won’t go out in Manhattan anymore. This promises to severely impact the singer/songwriter scene as well as clubs that cater to a more mainstream or corporate sound.


3. Any establishment other than the big sheds like Madison Square Garden who depend on an out-of-town crowd. That upper eastside bar where an endless supply of New Jersey bands play their first-and-only New York City gig? Those bands are going to stay right where they are in Jersey, along with their fans.


4. Sole-proprietor venues. That means any club that either isn’t part of a chain, doesn’t have multiple owners or an outside source of income.


5. Any establishment that doesn’t have a distinct identity. Branding has suddenly never been more important. If you have a friend in a band, they won’t mind if you go see them at this one East Village bar instead of that other one in Chinatown, will they? No, but that generic basement space in Chinatown (or the East Village) might not stay in business if your friend’s friends blow off the show. 


Other than mass closures, how will the changes affecting New York venues impact the music scene as a whole? Some predictions:


1. As the number of venues shrinks, it suddenly becomes more of a buyer’s market for clubs. Only the most popular bands will get consistent gigs at whatever clubs survive the months ahead. This isn’t necessarily a good thing, either: while it will certainly weed out a percentage of dilettantes who were never serious about music, it will also make it considerably harder for new acts to find an audience.


2. Concert admission charges will go in divergent directions. Many of the places who charge a cover will charge more, although the more adversely affected clubs will stop charging a cover in an attempt bring in crowds of bar customers.


3. Alternatives to the traditional music venues will spring up everywhere. That means more loft parties, more outdoor shows, and more industrial spaces, school gyms and church basements suddenly playing host to live shows. As the club scene suffers, independent promoters who don’t rip off bands will prosper (or will at least survive), and some of the most unlikely spaces will become vital parts in a scene. We’ll see a return of the speakeasy on a level unseen since Prohibition. 


4. Stereotypical, conformist “indie rock” will die off slower than you think. The whole Williamsburg/pitchfork/stereogum clique is independently wealthy and has access to many vanity venues, none of whom have to turn a profit to stay in business. Many of the children in these bands will be called home by their parents, but many won’t; some of these clubs will close their doors, but not all of them. Age alone will ultimately be the end of “indie rock,” as the children who play it turn 35, collect their trust funds, get married and move out of town to have kids (and don’t expect there to be enough luxury housing here to keep them here: there won’t be).


5. Acoustic acts will prove more resilient than electric bands. That means anyone with an accordion, a banjo, an acoustic guitar, anything you can play on the streetcorner, in the subway or the park (and can practice in a squat without electricity). Likewise, traditional sounds (Balkan music, bluegrass, delta blues, Irish dance music), all of which already have considerable popularity, will become even more prominent. Hip-hop will embrace real, live drumming on a mass scale. Jazz will return to the public eye as mass entertainment on a level not seen since the fifties. Chamber music will also grow in popularity, as corporate funding for opera and large orchestras dries up. And if you’re lucky and somehow manage to hold onto your job or find one that pays enough to sustain you, you’re in for what could be not only a very interesting but very rewarding experience.


Next: how the depression will affect bands and musicians. 

February 1, 2009 Posted by | Live Events, Music, New York City | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

In Memoriam: Hilly Kristal, 1931-2007

Right place, right time. A hippie who worked as a mover and then as booking agent for the Village Vanguard jazz club, Kristal opened his bar in what was then no man’s land, the lower Bowery, in 1970. He changed the name to CBGB/OMFUG in 1973. CBGB stood for Country and Bluegrass Bar: OMFUG stood for Other Music for Uplifting Gourmandizers (the word gourmandizer was apparently a stoner invention of his: it’s supposed to mean connoisseur). The Ramones stumbled upon the place a year later because their drummer Tommy was (and still is) a bluegrass fan. And the rest is history.

In typical New York club owner fashion, Kristal did nothing to promote the scene that sprang up there: it was a spontaneous, underground, word-of-mouth thing and he left it at that. Never particularly ambitious, Kristal let the bands who played there spread the word. Lest any of you oldtimers out there try to romanticize things, the CBGB scene, even in its prime, wasn’t much better than the music scene in New York in the present day, such that it is. Bands didn’t play CBGB because they wanted to: they played there because they couldn’t get a gig at Hurrah’s, or Gildersleeves, or Max’s. Most of the CBs acts were pariahs in the more mainstream clubs because in the late 70s and early 80s, most New York bands sounded pretty much like New Jersey or Long Island bands: everybody wanted to be Aerosmith. As Bob Gruen recounted in the documentary NYC 77, the CBGB clientele was basically just musicians coming out to see their musician friends. Your typical NY music fan didn’t go there because most of the bands who played there weren’t that popular and the club was in a scuzzy neighborhood.

As punk gained popularity, so did CBs and Kristal. A brief stab at starting a record label was a failure; however, the development of hardcore proved a boon to the club and its owner, whose Sunday afternoon hardcore matinees brought in thousands of underage kids from the suburbs to beat each other bloody, drink and puke. This was in the days before Rudy Mussolini.

In the late 80s, booking was taken over by the members of Prong, an atrocious heavy metal trio, and the acts playing the place predictably followed in that direction. As usual, Kristal remained a hands-off owner. His greatest achievement was to open CB’s 313 Gallery in 1992, which quickly became the place for acoustic music in New York: the sound and most of the acts who played there were consistently good, and for awhile the place even served pizza (the pizza ovens were still there when it closed last year). Meanwhile, the main venue went into decline, to the point where in the last couple of years before it closed, they were booking cover bands from New Jersey for Saturday night shows. The Gallery somehow managed to remain a first-class venue until perhaps the final two years.

Kristal was a shy, retiring person who let others take advantage of him: relatives meddled in his affairs, employees stole from him and it was only the licensing of the CBGB clothing line that made him a millionaire. In the battle that saw the venue finally lose its lease, he testified that for a time, it had been difficult to make the rent and there’s no reason to believe he wasn’t telling the truth. His greatest achievement? That he was there, openminded enough to let good things happen (he was a hippie, after all) and didn’t get in the way.

August 29, 2007 Posted by | Music, music, concert, New York City, obituary, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments