The Coolest Places to Catch Live Music in New York City

If you’re not a regular part of the NYC rock scene, you might be interested in the fact that the Big Apple has a thriving group of venues where you can have a good time and listen to some great (and well known) music while you’re in the city.

The Fillmore At Irving Plaza

This might be the holy grail of New York City hard rock venues. Once you go bigger than this (about 1000 people), all the venues are completely corporate. Even though this is a Live Nation venue, they haven’t completely ground out the soul of Irving Plaza. See a Sevendust or Megadeth show here and it doesn’t get much better.

Almost everywhere in the place has a good view and you can usually find some of the best nationals and up-and-coming nationals in any given month. The NYC rock and metal scene is not as big as you think and you will find friends here regularly…

Gramercy Theater

Formerly The Blender Theater, this is a true concert venue. It is the smallest of the Live Nation rooms in NYC. It used to be a theater (hence the name) and the sound is great. The light show is AWESOME– almost enough on its own to make it worth the trip.

Also, there is stadium seating in the back in case you don’t want to stand for the opening act, or the headliner for that matter. The drinks are reasonable and the line at the multiple bars doesn’t get too long. In short, it strikes the perfect balance between being intimate but not being so small that it’s crowded or sounds bad.

Highline Ballroom

This place is like the older, bigger, badder brother of Crash Mansion. Walking into the place you immediately feel like you have walked into one of New York City’s upscale (and big) night clubs. There are tables upstairs and around the sides with a big floor in the middle and the drinks are not cheap.

However, catch Highline on a night with some good bands and you will realize that you are in one of the BEST concert venues in NYC the moment the music comes through the sound system and the light show starts. For its size (around 600-700 people), this place rocks…

The Studio @ Webster Hall

The little brother to the big room upstairs, it has the look and feel of an old, beat up, NYC rock club– just what the doctor ordered for the Union Square area. This is proved by the dress code: Prove you are wearing something, anything, and you can get in. The room was opened during CMJ in 2008 and has been featuring a steady stream of rock shows and served as a location for the filming of the IFC show, Z Rock.

Crash Mansion

Crash Mansion is probably the coolest and best sounding rock venue of its size (about 350 capacity) in New York City. The sound system (and sound guy Billy) makes the place sound great consistently from night to night. So much so that it is a favorite for industry band showcases. The bartenders, management and staff are friendly and don’t mind a little partying themselves.

The stage is wide, but low and it has a ridiculous amount of lighting gear on it for the Fearless Music TV tapings that go on there. Don’t be fooled by the swanky lighting, stone walls and vibe-y bar. This place looks high maintenance and you can get bottle service at the booths but its heart is with its open bars and drink specials for rockers like you and me… oh and there is food that won’t break the bank…

Santos Party House

Cool ass place to see a show. It is one of the newer additions to the clubs making their way out of the crowded LES, Santos is a room not to be missed. Opened by Andrew W.K., it is not designed to feel like a local club, but more like a concert hall.

They have more than just music, however, there is a dance hall and a lounge area which have been to known to feature edgy art exhibits. But don’t worry, you won’t see any velvet ropes here… at least not yet. But be warned: for those on a budget, stick to the beer, a jack and coke will run you $11.

Arlene’s Grocery

Raw, youthful, and as close to fresh NY talent as you’re going to get. Arlene’s is a Mecca for all local bands in New York City. There are two rooms, one with music, one without, both with well stocked bars. Careful on your way back up the stairs from the bathroom though, one of the steps is a little high and after a few drinks, you will be among the thousands that have tripped.

This is not just a weekend place though, every Monday night there is a live Rock N’ Roll Karaoke band where people from all over come to live out their rock star fantasies (and its free!).

The Annex

The first thing you will notice about the Annex is… that it is really dark in there. The second thing you will notice is… that the stage is kind of weird. After your eyes have adjusted and you find the stage, you will then notice that it sounds good and the place has a cool vibe with a good though often eclectic mix of bands.

There are loungey areas upstairs and downstairs where you can sit back and act cool instead of rocking up front with the bands and the drinks won’t bust your recession budget…

Lit Lounge

The upstairs of this little rock club has a somewhat swanky lounge-bar feel to it. The downstairs is long, narrow, dank and has arguably the smallest rock stage in New York City.

Even so, we want to get the booker for Lit Lounge to work for us because he or she manages to get some great local and even touring bands like Fixer and Shadows Lie to grace its TINY stage. There are lots of cool little nooks and crannies in this dark basement for drunken hookups or passing out, or both…

Posted by Gotham Rocks | Reviews