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NYC live music venues abound in every borough, and plenty of live music bars host the best local musicians you haven’t yet heard. The sounds of the city may sound musical to some, but there’s so much hidden talent everywhere you go in New York.
There are actually many places to catch awesome local musicians as long as you’re willing to do a little exploring. From NYC rock clubs to live music bars to small music venues with outdoor concerts, there’s something for everyone. Not everyone can play Madison Square Garden. So, where are the best NYC live music venues where you catch local music? Make your way to these spots to get a feel for what the real New York City has to offer.
The Bitter End – Manhattan
As “New York’s Oldest Rock Club,” The Bitter End has a lot to live up to. Everything about the space screams dive bar upon entering. Take a few more steps, though, and this space opens up into a modest venue for seeing some great, understated performers. So grab a drink and see if you can get a table before the show’s over.
Pine Box Rock Shop – Brooklyn
As they say on their website, Pine Box Rock Shop is “housed in a former casket factory.” What could be more rock ‘n roll than that? Pine Box Rock Shop already has major appeal, with a bar decorated in rock show ticket stubs and cheap, delicious drinks.
Additionally, they only serve locally brewed beer, and they are around the block from one of the best taco trucks in New York (Taco Rapido). Not only does their performance space feature local rock bands and other musicians, but you can also attend comedy shows here.
Caffe Erzulie – Brooklyn
Another Brooklyn favorite, Caffe Erzulie gets its name from “the Haitian Voodoo spirit of love, beauty and dance.” Not only does this spot serve coffee, drinks and jams, but it’s also a flower shop during the day.
The food is Haitian-inspired, as is the coffee. Caffe Erzulie is a cocktail bar at night, and their backyard space doubles as a performance venue for upcoming artists. They’re known to host all kinds of acts, including DJs and variety shows.
Beatstro – Bronx
The self-titled “Hip-Hop Restaurant,” Beatstro is something of a phenomenon in the Bronx. The space it occupies can be described as a speak-easy, something both classy and understated. Decorated in the same style of graffiti that you can see all over the town’s street art (commissioned by local artists), Beatstro seeks to unite itself with the culture of the Bronx.
Serving Latin food within this compelling atmosphere, you’ll never want to leave. The entire venue feels like one of “the borough’s hip-hop block parties.” With a live DJ during their happy hour from 4-8 p.m. and other events with local hip-hop artists and performers, you’ll feel like you’re in both the 80s and 2000s simultaneously.
Terraza 7 – Queens
Performances start every night at 7 p.m., so you’ll never miss out on live music here. With outdoor music and jam sessions as well as designated jazz nights, there are many diverse acts to look forward to at Terraza 7. They’re even known to host salsa music nights!
Most of the live music acts are free entry, though tickets can run up to US$5, which is a steal here in the city. If you have music talents of your own, don’t be afraid to attend one of their open mics, too. As both a coffee shop and a bar, Terraza encourages community and political engagement through local art.
St. Mazie – Brooklyn
Jazz? In New York? It’s more likely than you think. St. Mazie is a jazz bar like no other. You’ll feel like you’ve been transported to the final scene of “La La Land.” How romantic.
With small tables big enough for two or three people, and just enough space to dance, St. Mazie’s is intimate in its celebration of jazz music. The live bands perform mere feet from their audience, and everything about this space is warm and profound. The ambience only adds to the cordial feel of St. Mazie.
Marie’s Crisis Cafe – Manhattan
This is the type of place you take your mom. Described as “the world’s only acoustic singalong show tunes piano bar,” what more do you need to know? It’s been a part of the city since the 19th century, so if you’re looking for something old New York, it’s difficult to find anything older.
Named the “Crisis” cafe because it is in the same place as Thomas Paine (author of the American Revolution’s “crisis papers”), a lot is going on here. Apart from its revolutionary history, Marie’s regularly pays tributes to the LGBTQ community, from which it truly contributes its roots. Every night, starting at 6 p.m., the music starts. It doesn’t stop until last call, so warm up your vocal chords. Yes, the servers do sing. You should, too.
Arlene’s Grocery – Manhattan
Just around the block from Katz’s Delicatessan, you can enjoy two iconic New York spots in one day by visiting both. Arlene’s has been around since 1995, but it’s still as fresh as ever. It was one of the first live music clubs on the Lower East Side after it took over the space of a former bodega.
There’s someone who works here named Pirate Mike – he is New York’s only pirate bartender. If that’s not reason enough to visit, check out the fun acts on their events calendar. Primarily a rock venue, you can grab tickets to shows for less than US$15. They’re currently offering tickets for virtual attendance if you don’t feel comfortable entering the venue in person.
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