Live music: New York's hidden gems

The city's best music venues off the beaten track

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Barbès

  • Price band: 1/4

Show up early if you want to get into Park Slope’s global-bohemian club—it’s tiny. Run by musically inclined French expats, this boîte brings in traditional swing and jazz of more daring stripes—depending on the night, you could catch African, French, Brazilian or Colombian music or acts that often defy categorization (e.g., One Ring Zero). Chicha Libre, a Brooklyn band reviving psychedelic Peruvian music, holds down Mondays. 

  1. 376 9th St at Sixth Ave, Park Slope, Brooklyn
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Pete's Candy Store

  • Price band: 1/4

It may be pocket-sized, but that pocket is full of goodies. Evenings begin with readings, poetry and art. On Bingo Tuesday, blue-haired ladies battle yuppies for 99¢ prizes, and Wednesday’s Quizz-Off draws top-drawer TP mavens; Scrabble is on Saturday. After the games, there’s free music in the Pullman-car-shaped performance space, with acts on the cusp of wider recognition appearing nightly. When the weather warms, the backyard opens to stargazers. Throw in surprisingly good pressed sandwiches and an El Diablo (tequila, cassis and ginger ale) the size of a Big Gulp. What more could you want?

  1. 709 Lorimer St between Frost and Richardson Sts, Williamsburg, Brooklyn
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Sycamore

  • Price band: 1/4
  • Critics choice

Bolstering the quirky-cool factor at this Ditmas Park watering hole is a unique mercantile marriage: The spot is a flower shop by day and a tavern by night. Observe the Cheers-brand chill at the long, illuminated, resin-topped bar. Choose from more than two-dozen bourbons, and beers on tap ranging from comforting standbys like Bud and Guinness to microbrews, like the fruity, hop-heavy Goose Island Honker’s Ale. Add a cozy (unheated) patio and a free jukebox, and you’d be hard-pressed to find a better backdrop for a round of cold ones—or an occasional bouquet.

  1. 1118 Cortelyou Rd, (between Stratford and Westminster Rds)
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Goodbye Blue Monday

Relax while taking in this cult Bushwick drinkery’s distinct junkyard aesthetic (the walls are lined with old books, random lamps and retro radios). The acts that play here are pretty eclectic, ranging from antifolk to experimental jazz, and best of all, gigs are always free. If you can, check out the popular Bushwick Book Club series, at which bands play new tunes based on that month’s reading assignment.

  1. 1087 Broadway, (at Dodworth St)
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Sidewalk Café

  • Price band: 2/4

Despite its cramped, awkward layout, the Sidewalk Café is the focal point of the city’s antifolk scene—although that category means just about anything from piano pop to wry folk. Nellie McKay, Regina Spektor and the Moldy Peaches all started here.

  1. 94 Ave A at 6th St
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The Firehouse Space

  • Price band: 1/4

This former firehouse has been transformed into an event space designed to imitate a giant, fancy apartment, with a pool table, a kitchen, a deck and a hot tub. It can be rented for all kinds of occasions, and serves as a performance space that is already being snapped up for concerts by the neighborhood's numerous musician inhabitants.

  1. 246 Frost St, (at Woodpoint Rd), 11211
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Maxwell's

  • Price band: 1/4

The trip to Maxwell’s can be a hassle, but the 15-minute walk from the PATH train can make you feel like you’re in small-town America. The restaurant in front is big and friendly; for dessert you can feast on indie-rock fare from popular acts (the Fiery Furnaces, Big Pink) and garage favorites (King Khan & BBQ Show). Hometown heroes Yo La Tengo stage their more-or-less annual Hanukkah shows here.

  1. 1039 Washington St at 11th St, Hoboken, NJ
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Jalopy Theatre

  • Price band: 2/4

If you’re looking for an authentic, atmospheric folk-and-country joint, this Red Hook honky-tonk is the real deal. Besides functioning as a gallery space, instrument store and café, the Jalopy has a super-cute, retro-style minitheater in the back.

  1. 315 Columbia St, (between Hamilton Ave and Woodhull St)
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Users say

1 comments
Pat Donaghy
Pat Donaghy

Wise up... See the great JD Meatyard as part of the Sidewalk Cafe's winter anti folk festival... JDMeatyard comes all the way from Liverpool UK... 6.30 21 feb at the sidewalk cafe.... " mark e smith meets louden wainwright with songs to die for"