Five Hotspots for Live Music in New York City
The great thing about traveling to New York is that no matter when you show up, there will always be something new and fun to do—even if you haven’t made any plans. And that’s especially true of the live music scene in the city.
There’s an almost endless supply of venues, from small bars to full-scale arenas, and you can find someone performing on any given night no matter what type of music you’re looking for. With so many choices, it can be a little overwhelming for an out-of-town visitor, so here are a few tips on where to hear the best live tunes the next time you’re in New York.
Bar LunÀtico is a Brooklyn music hall that’s owned by three touring musicians, so these folks really know how to make performances work in a smaller space. In fact, they bill it as the “perfect hang.”
The bar features live performances every night of the week, covering folk, jazz, bluegrass and a wide range of cross-genre artists. The calendar is a constantly changing buffet of music, so you might see a local favorite one night and an international performer the next.
If you’re in New York for a weekend, Bar LunÀtico’s Sunday Gospel Brunch is a fun and unique take, and sometimes even features a full chorus! Check out the dinner menu too, which includes eclectic plates such as octopus and elk meatballs.
If you want to go out and listen to live music but also relax and have a conversation, the upscale Flatiron Room between Broadway and 6th Avenue is the place for you. Billed as a whiskey enthusiast’s establishment, the décor of the bar creates a feeling of intimacy and warmth with its leather furniture, reclaimed wood floors and coffered ceilings.
You know you’re doing it up right when you come here, and you should leave your flip-flops at home, as the dress code is business casual. The room functions as a “seated bar,” meaning it’s a place where everyone sits to enjoy their drinks and meal rather than standing and mingling throughout the space.
The stage itself is particularly stunning, with long velvet curtains that surround the performance area. A rotating selection of musicians provide the live ambiance seven nights a week, and in addition to one of the most extensive whiskey lists on the East Coast, The Flatiron Room offers a menu that includes both light bites and full entrees.
This renowned Broadway venue has hosted a “who’s who” of the biggest names in music over the course of its history. The Rolling Stones, Aerosmith, Michael Jackson and Queen have all played here (among countless others), and before Greg Allman’s passing in May, The Allman Brothers put on more than 200 shows at the Beacon since 1989.
This year’s concert line-up continues that tradition of music excellence, with big-name acts like Herbie Hancock, Buckingham McVie, the Beach Boys, Joe Bonamassa, and Ringo Starr and his All Starr Band filling out the schedule. Get there early and make a full evening of it—there are plenty of bars and restaurants right in the neighborhood, and you can find everything from a quick slice of pizza to a full gourmet meal.
The Café Wha? is a legendary Greenwich Village bar where the likes of Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen, Jimi Hendrix and many others performed early in their careers. Today it maintains that tradition with live music seven nights a week, anchored by the Cafe Wha? House Band, which plays everything from classic rock to R&B to modern pop hits.
If you’re looking to groove out while you enjoy a couple of drinks, head over on a Tuesday for Funk Night. The place radiates history, and it’s the type of real-deal New York bar and music hall that’s worth seeking out anytime you visit. Plus, you never know when a big star like John Mayer might come by and hop on stage to jam with the band.
OK, you’ve probably heard of this one before, but it can’t be overstated what a great place Madison Square Garden is to take in a show. For a large venue, the Garden’s wide, low-rise layout gives it a relaxed and open feel, and the acoustics throughout the building are just amazing. Also, the floor has a spring-loaded feel to it, so when the music really gets going it’s like the whole place is bouncing in unison!
This year’s musical line-up at the Garden is as impressive as always, with Lionel Richie and Mariah Carey, Eric Clapton, Paul McCartney, Bruno Mars and Katy Perry all taking the stage. Billy Joel continues his record-breaking residency as well, with a show a month through the end of the year (at least).
If you’re going out before an event at the Garden, I’d recommend finding a bar or restaurant that’s not right in the same area—especially if time is any concern. Those places get crowded. If you can find someplace that’s a little out of the way, you’ll avoid the long lines and be sure to make it to the show in time. For more information about live events currently showing click here.