Best downtown rock clubs

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Bowery Ballroom

  • Price band: 1/4
  • Critics choice

It’s probably the best venue in the city for seeing indie bands, either those on their way up or the ones holding their own. Still, the Bowery also manages to bring in a diverse range of artists from home and abroad. Expect a clear view and bright sound from any spot. The spacious downstairs lounge is a great place to relax and socialize between (or during) sets.

  1. 6 Delancey St, (between Bowery and Chrystie St)
Book online

Cake Shop

  • Price band: 1/4

It can be difficult to see the stage in this narrow, stuffy but clean basement space—but it gets big points for its keen indie- and underground-rock bookings, among the most adventurous in Manhattan. It’s located in the heart of the Lower East Side, scrunched between Pianos and the Living Room on Ludlow Street. Cake Shop lives up to its name, selling vegan baked goods and coffee upstairs. The brightly lit back room on street level sells used vinyl and CDs, as well as a smattering of new releases, DVDs and other record-store ephemera.

  1. 152 Ludlow St, (between Rivington and Stanton Sts)
More info

Mercury Lounge

  • Price band: 1/4

The unassuming, boxy Mercury Lounge is both an old standby and pretty much the number-one indie-rock club in town, with solid sound and sight lines (and a cramped bar in the front room). There are four-band bills most nights, though they can seem stylistically haphazard, and set times are often later than advertised. It's a good idea to get tickets for bigger shows in advance.

  1. 217 E Houston St, (between Essex and Ludlow Sts)
Book online

Santos Party House

  • Rated as: 4/5
  • Price band: 1/4
  • Critics choice

Launched by a team that includes rocker Andrew W.K., Santos Party House was three years in the making, though you’d never guess it from the decor—both floors are basically black, square rooms done out in a bare-bones, generic club style. The place is committed to resuscitating the downtown area's underground scene, with top spinners of off-kilter house, cosmic disco, funk and soul regularly taking to the decks, including A Tribe Called Quest’s Q-Tip and Rich Medina. The multigenre party Mister Saturday Night has featured everyone from hip-hop production god DJ Premier (from Gang Starr) to house hero Kerry Chandler.

  1. 96 Lafayette St, (at Walker St)
More info

Pianos

  • Price band: 2/4

In recent years, a lot of the cooler bookings have moved from Pianos to Brooklyn or down the block to venues such as Cake Shop. Still, while sound is often lousy and the room can get uncomfortably mobbed, there are always good reasons to go back—very often the under-the-radar emerging rock bands that make local music scenes tick.

  1. 158 Ludlow St, (between Rivington and Stanton Sts)
More info

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