Arts/Culture

The 8 Best Live Music Venues in New York City

New York City is quite simply one of the best places in the entire world to hear live music, and if you love music, you should hop aboard the closest plane, train or automobile and head to the Big Apple.  Listening to live music in New York is like being on the ground floor of something great, New York brought us the Ramones, Bob Dylan, The Talking Heads, the Wu-Tang Clan and many other famous acts, but new music is made there every day, that up-and-coming band you see at a small club just might be the next Beastie Boys. Some of the historic venues in the City That Never Sleeps set the standard the world over with regard to how music should be presented. On any night, the live music choices available to visitors will seem kind of overwhelming, but EscapeHere wants to help, so here is our handy list for your consideration.

8. The Apollo Theatre

What do James Brown, Michael Jackson, Aretha Franklin, Stevie Wonder, Ella Fitzgerald, and Little Richard have in common?  They are all inductees into the Apollo Legends Hall of Fame.  The Apollo, in the vibrant heart of Harlem, is the greatest African American theater ever to exist, and it has influenced almost every aspect of popular culture we experience today.  In 1937, the Apollo was the largest employer of black theatrical workers in the country, introducing the world to artists like Billie Holiday and Lena Horne, and has been producing legends ever since.

The Apollo was the venue for the nationally syndicated Showtime at the Apollo, which from 1987 to 2008, broadcast over 1093 hours of live performances from Boyz II Men to Natalie Cole. The Apollo Theater supports working artists with a range of performance programs all of which are available on their calendar.  Amateur Night at the Apollo is one of the longest running talent showcases in the United States, and it was the launching pad where young Jimi Hendrix got his start at the Apollo in 1964. Tickets to upcoming shows are available through TicketMaster, learn more about the Apollo here: www.apollotheater.org.

7. The Brooklyn Bowl

If you want to try something a little different, a little grand, a little left from center, consider the Brooklyn Bowl.  In 2013 Rolling Stone named Brooklyn Bowl the 20th best music club in America and you could probably add to the list of accolades as well.  The Brooklyn Bowl boasts the first LEED certified bowling alley in the United States.  This relatively new addition to the music venue scene also boasts a restaurant, two bars, and tons of seating.

While you are watching your show, quench your thirst with the many Brooklyn-only beers on tap.  The Brooklyn Bowl ONLY serves local suds, and has been proud to be the largest seller of Brooklyn beers in the world (no PBR here, sorry hipsters).  The eclectic lineup has included acts like Animal Collective, Lauryn Hill, Kanye West and the Yeah Yeah Yeahs. Being open 7 days a week also introduces Brooklyn to new music, filling out the spaces in between with acts like Dark Star Orchestra and Sister Sparrow and the Dirty Birds.

6. The Bitter End

Established in 1961, The Bitter End currently holds the title of New York’s “oldest rock club.”  The well-weathered bar with its red-brick backdrop is iconic as the legendary acts that have performed there. While no longer the hot spot it once was in the early 60’s when it hosted its “Open Mike Hootenanny” at the height of the folk music era, every Tuesday night, The Bitter End welcomed performers from all layers of the performing strata, famous or not, young or old.  The Bitter end was the place that Peter, Paul and Mary, Pete Seeger, Randy Newman and the Isley Brothers were discovered when under the ownership of famous Hollywood producer, Fred Weintraub.

The Bitter End is located smack-dab in the center of Greenwich Village and is open nightly.  This is an excellent venue to take in rock, blues, jazz, funk, hip-hop, country, alternative and spoken word gigs. Mondays and every other Sunday, The Bitter End stays loyal to its roots and hosts open jam sessions for aspiring stars, a great way to hear new sound…or participate!  Head on out and support this iconic establishment for a $5-10 cover, which is a small price to pay for quality music.

5. The Trash Bar

This place was a DUMP, but in that good way where you could mingle with cheap beer, listen to loud music played by loud passionate people. It looked scary, smelled scary but that scary you would associate with wooden roller-coasters and motorcycle riding. The Trash Bar used to be the epicenter of the electroclash club LUXX, which hosted the first-ever performances of bands like TV on the Radio and the Yeah Yeah Yeahs.

Located between Driggs Ave. and Roebling St in Williamsburg, the area around the Trash Bar has experienced an upsurge of new business including bars, galleries, restaurants, shops and coffee-shops. The Trash Bar finds itself in the center of this revival and has been fully renovated to ensure they can continue to host rock-and-roll shows to hundreds of people. Trash Bar offers free karaoke after 1am on the weekends, $5 PBR & whiskey shot all day and all night and a free Jukebox, the way God intended it to be.

4. CBGB

CBGB actually stands for “Country, Bluegrass, Blues” and is the name of the undisputed birthplace of American Punk.  Founded by Hilly Kristal in 1973, the CBGB grew to be the Bowery home of American Punk and new wave bands like the Ramones, Blondie, Talking Heads, Misfits, The Dictators, The Cramps, and Joan Jett.  In the 1990s, CBGB had ambassadors like Sum 41, Korn and Green Day spreading CBGB “feel” all around the world.

The club closed in 2006, but the former location was added to the National Register of Historic Places as part of the Bowery Historic District and remains a music pilgrimage site to this day. It might be odd that a closed venue is on this list, but let us explain: In 2012 CBGB was reborn as the largest music festival in New York City, producing free concerts in Times Square and Central park and hundreds of other venues across the city. CBGB remains a culture incubator and fosters new music in the way it did in the 70s. Learn more about the CBGB festival and how you can attend at www.cbgb.com.

3. Radio City Music Hall

Radio City Music Hall is one of the most famous and enduring music venues in the world.  Located in Rockefeller Center, it was at one time the most visited place in New York City, surpassing the Statue of Liberty and the Empire State Building. Radio City Music Hall opened its doors in 1932 and featured high-class variety entertainment to mixed reviews (it was the beginning of the Great Depression). The venue was quickly converted to a film-plus-stage venue, offering moving picture shows as well as live gigs.

By the 1979 the venue’s management planned on converting the location into office space, but a public outcry and cooperation of commercial and preservation groups saved this iconic venue from cubicle hell. In 1980, a newly renovated Radio City Music Hall reopened to the public and has showcased the leading performers of the last 30 years, and played host to events such as the Grammy Awards, Tony Awards, MTV Video Music Awards and America’s Got Talent. Visit the Radio City Music Hall online at www.radiocity.com to see their performance schedule and grab tickets.

2. The Beacon Theatre

The Beacon Theatre and the Radio City Music Hall were considered to be the brainchild of the theatrical visionary Samuel “Roxy” Rothafel, and the Beacon is widely considered to be the “older sister” of the two. His dream was that The Beacon become an “International Music Hall” to present popular live entertainment and cultural events. Designed in the Art Deco style, the Beacon Theatre opened in 1929 and hosted acts like vaudeville, opera and silent movies. The Beacon continued to be an important NYC music venue, and was designated a national landmark in 1979, being included in the National Register of Historic Places.

The biggest and brightest have played the Beacon Theatre including Michael Jackson, Queen, Jerry Garcia, Radiohead and Aerosmith. In 2006, Cablevision leased the venue for 20 years, and initiated a 10 million dollar investment into the renovation of the beautiful 2,894-seat, three-tiered theatre, providing upgrades for a new generation of live music lovers. This year you can see artists like Diana Krall, Daemian Rice and The Decemberists. Tickets can be bought from Ticketmaster or the onsite box office, you can find out more information at www.beacontheatre.com.

1. Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts

The last and grandest “venue” is actually a complex set on 16.3 acres in the center of New York City, the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts. The Lincoln Center contains NYC’s finest performing arts venues, including the Metropolitan Opera House, New York State Theater and Avery Fisher Hall and is home for NYC’s oldest and most established performing companies.

The Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts was conceived with the goal of bringing the best of New York’s performing companies into one place. The New York Philharmonic, New York City Opera and the Metropolitan Opera all call the Lincoln Center home. The complex also contains nine other venues of various sizes, and in addition to Opera, all forms of music are explored, from Japanese kabuki to American Jazz, to Inuit throat singing. To take in everything the Lincoln Center has to offer, you would almost need a lifetime, but if you have the privilege of visiting for a while, you can learn about what they have to offer at www.lc.lincolncenter.org.

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