We’ve all heard the worn-out old saying, “location, location, location.” From what I can tell, pretty much all of us hate it. But when it comes to live music venues, we at TickPick really can’t emphasize enough the importance of this saying. A venue can determine whether or not you are able to truly enjoy getting to see the bands you love. In hopes of making your concert experience as enjoyable as possible, we put together a rundown of our favorite venues in NYC, complete with commentary on the essentials (sound quality, drink prices, friendliness of staff, etc). Happy concert-going!
Really intimate venue with a good view of the stage, cozy vibes. Lower East Side venue (a lot of history, a retro feel). Notorious for bringing fresh, raw talent – bands that will be playing at larger venues just a few months from their show at the Bowery Ballroom. Great sound. The venue tries to bring in a wide variety of performers (indie rock, folk, rap). Brings both the well known and more obscure performers, therefore ticket price varies (but almost always sells out). Laid-back with a lot of space to choose if you want to sit or stand. Bars on both floors. Balcony.
Smaller and cheaper venue; Nothing special about it besides the amount of sheer talent that comes through (which seems like enough to seal the deal). Not a bad venue acoustically. Prone to get crowded, but only because the talent that comes through usually is for a sold out crowd. Nice bar and bar staff, friendly/laidback Brooklyn mentality. Just a short walk off the Bedford L.
This venue has an artist-centric approach, and you’ll feel it in the spirit of the place and the audiences who come to see shows here. Very casual, with nice bartenders, acceptable drink prices, interesting stage decor and great sound guys. Dynamic space with great booking. Events can range from high energy dancing to rock and roll and everything in between. Can get packed, but always has cozy, intimate vibes. A true gem.
Great food, drink specials, ambiance, and of course, music. Sound quality may not be the best, but it’s a “you get what you pay for” kind of thing. Place for special events like album drop parties (Mac Demarco’s recent show to promote Salad Days). Elegant design with low-key shows, parties, and experimental performances. One of the coolest venues in BK. Wall of glowing lights makes for great atmosphere for live music. Friendly vibes from the work staff. 3 rooms (divided into a bar, restaurant, and performance space), well-lit (a plus if you love taking pictures of shows you attend). Inclusive vibe, as if everyone there is with the band, or knows the band. According to Billy Jones (owner), the wide variety of deep house, cumbia, harsh noise and Ethiopian jazz is designed to encompass “the best possible things from all different points on the spectrum happening all at once.” Entry to bar and restaurant is free. Ticket prices for shows normally range from $10-20. Located at Bedford and Broadway, close to the Brooklyn Bridge.
16 bowling lanes, restaurant (brought to Brooklyn Bowl by the owners of the Blue Ribbon Franchise, so you know it’s good). Reasonably priced tickets for a comparatively bigger, well-organized space. The place to go in Brooklyn if you aren’t into small intimate spaces but you want to be where the action is at. BB accommodates more people without cramping up the space. Whenever I walk by, there’s always a line out the door. Questlove Thursdays with a low cover charge. Great beer + food, a good place to go if you’re not sure what you want out of the night, but want different options in one location (music, games, bowling, beer, food). Even if you’re just going for bowling, you will still hear the live music blasting in the background (so make sure you go on a night where whoever is playing is someone you are going to want to hear).
Best for seeing your favorite bands face to face. Small, intimate space that only holds a few hundred people. When you walk in, there’s a bar/restaurant to the right where you can hang out before the show starts (with a viewing window so you can still watch the stage from this room). Standing room only in front of the stage, but the stage is elevated enough to where everyone has a great view of the band. Home to mainly small indie acts, with some hip hop variation. This small Williamsburg venue is a short walk from the Bedford L. The vibe is laid back, the venue is usually filled with Brooklyn hipsters (you know the type). No dress code. Great drink specials and friendly barstaff. Going to see a show at the Knitting Factory will be a casual and fun time, a good way to spend a Wednesday or Thursday night when you want to be out in the world experiencing live music but you don’t want to go all out. Aka it’s cheap, it’s laidback, but still really, really fun (and free standup on Sunday nights).
Truly one of those DIY music venues, and if you’ve never been, try to find someone that has because it’s easy to miss completely. Run by local musicians, so the people you hear at Shea Stadium probably live around the Bushwick area. The venue also functions as a live recording studio. Some bands exchange a live performance to a small crowd for a live recording of their sets. The crowd is going to be very young, mostly ranging from 20-30, and will likely consist of Brooklyn locals and hipster college students. Live indie bands most nights with occasional parties. $6 cover charge. Laid-back atmosphere; since most people will be wearing sleeveless graphic t’s and flannel, it would be best not to dress up. Also, this venue is just a few doors down from Roberta’s, probably the best pizza in Brooklyn.
8. Town Hall
Really special events. This is where artists collaborate; The stage can accommodate a wide array of events. Though Town Hall is on the higher end of relative cost to attend, it makes up for it with an elegant experience. It’s a beautiful venue that lends itself to artists of all kinds. There’s no GA or floor seating – it’s a theater. Town Hall is the only place in the city that can properly stage acts like Rosanne Cash and Patti Smith, providing audiences with an intimate live show that makes any seat in the house, the best seat in the house.
Classy, mid-sized venue in Chelsea. Good acoustics and bar staff. Eclectic bookings, ranging from hip-hop to folk to mellow rock n’ roll. Former night club, and it’s upheld the dance club vibe. Great for club nights. Fits the Chelsea/Meatpacking District vibe. Not swanky, but still nice. Club nights tip: stay until 2am for when they drop the confetti. Intimate banquet seating with balcony. Standing room only near the stage.
Two levels. Bars on top and bottom. Good sized space but normally gets crowded. Great vibes. Not the best acoustics, but good enough to get you up and dancing. Not outstandingly trendy or well decorated. Exactly what you get when you come out dancing on Bowery. Genre-specific dance parties happen weekly/biweekly (sort of like Webster). Straightforward rock bar, dimly lit by light bulbs, stools lined up at the long bar. Simple venue with a great reputation. Live music venue that turns into a DJ/Club spot after 10 PM.