NYC concerts, comedy shows and music festivals to see this winter

Catch all this winter's best nightlife entertainment events with our guide to the funniest comedians, hottest NYC concerts and coolest music festivals

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Lesley Flanigan

Lesley Flanigan Photograph: Courtesy Kaufman Music Center


Laugh away the winter blues at a comedy show, shake your ass at NYC concerts or catch a music festival (yes, they happen in winter, too). This season's blowout shows include Jay Z, Billy Joel and Neil Young, and if you want to get hands-on, do some crate-digging at the new Rough Trade record store in Williamsburg.

RECOMMENDED: 101 things to do in New York City this winter

Get a poppy melody stuck in your head

  • Price band: 2/4

The psych-rock outfit returns home to Brooklyn after crisscrossing the country in support of its self-titled third album. The band’s music has gotten grungier and weirder since the platinum-certified days of “Kids,” but the spectacle in its live shows has held strong, promising the kind of strangeness you don’t often see in an arena setting. If that’s not enough to sell you, we’ll point out that the openers—Dinosaur Jr., godfathers of lo-fi rock—are worth the price of admission in their own right.

  1. Barclays Center 620 Atlantic Ave, at Flatbush Ave, 11217
  2. Fri Dec 13
Buy tickets

Dance the night away with Metro Area

  • Price band: 2/4

Tonight's start-to-finish set comes from Metro Area's Darshan Jesrani and Morgan Geist, who'll be playing their usual top-flight mix of glittering house, boogie, Italo and disco. The pair has been active on the party front lately—we don't know of any new recorded material on the horizon, but if everybody closes their eyes and makes a wish, who knows?

  1. Cameo 93 North 6th St, between Berry St and Wythe Ave, 11211
  2. Fri Dec 13
More info

Embrace pop music at Z100's Jingle Ball

  • Price band: 3/4

Relive the tawdriest pop-cultural spectacle of the year as Disney star turned risqué wrecking ball Miley Cyrus cobills with Mr. "Blurred Lines" himself, Robin Thicke, at Z100's glitzy holiday bacchanal. (Something tells us the former Hannah Montana will go easy on the twerking and foam-finger fondling this time around, but who can say?) A host of other heavy-duty hit makers round out this inevitable teen screamfest.

  1. Madison Square Garden 4 Pennsylvania Plaza (Seventh Ave), between 31st and 33rd Sts, 10119
  2. Fri Dec 13
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Raise a joyful ruckus at Unsilent Night

  • Free

This trippy musical performance piece, dreamed up by composer Phil Kline, is downtown’s decidedly arty, secular answer to Christmas caroling. Boom-box-toting participants gather under the Washington Square Arch, where they are given a cassette or CD of one of four different atmospheric tracks; you can also download the Unsilent Night app and sync up via smartphone. Everyone then presses play at the same time and marches through the streets of New York together, blending their music and filling the air with a beautiful, echoing 45-minute piece. Those without speakers are invited to join in, too.

  1. Washington Square Park W 4th St to Waverly Pl, between MacDougal St and University Pl
  2. Sat Dec 14
More info

Spend some time with official Wayans brother Damon Wayans

  • Price band: 3/4

As with many no-longer-young comics, this member of the Wayans clan now focuses his material on the vagaries of family and parenting, but he’s still essentially the same guy we fell in love with on In Living Color. And if you look closely, you can still make out the fluffy wig, bulbous red nose and loaded sock of Homey D. Clown.

  1. Carolines on Broadway 1626 Broadway, between 49th and 50th Sts
  2. Thu Dec 12 - Sun Dec 15
More info

Help Yo La Tengo Celebrate Hanukkah in Brooklyn at the Bell House

Currently without a December home base in the wake of Maxwell's closing last summer, the Hoboken indie-rock heroes reboot their hallowed holiday series in Brooklyn. These shows—each of which features a pair of YLT sets—aren't being explicitly billed as a continuation of the band's long-running Hanukkah series, but it's still safe to expect the usual seasonal themes and array of awesome guest stars.

  1. The Bell House 149 7th St, between Second and Third Aves, 11215
  2. Fri Dec 13 - Mon Dec 16
More info

Watch musicians emerge from Subway platforms for Make Music New York

  • Free

Make Music New York, which inundates public spaces with live music every June 21, now brings its magic to the winter solstice, as well. Look out for participatory musical parades on Sat 21 everywhere from G train stations and the High Line to the Brooklyn Botanical Garden and Columbus Circle. Boombox flashmob pioneer Phil Kline has a new piece going down at BAM for the occasion, in case you have to miss his celebrated Unsilent Night in the Village on Sat 14. Check out makemusicny.org/winter-2013 to find out how you can play along.

Light up the darkest night of the year at Winter Solstice Celebration

  • Price band: 2/4

Having trouble deciding which one of your friends’ apartments will be used to host this year’s solstice bonfire and ritual sacrifice? Avoid all that messy virgin blood and try a more modern tradition: Paul Winter’s annual concert, returning for its 34th year. You can see African-inspired dancing and drumming from the Forces of Nature Dance Theatre as well as the WSC standbys: Brazilian guitarist Renato Braz, and the Paul Winter Consort with Winter himself on sax.

  1. Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine 1047 Amsterdam Ave, at 112th St
  2. Thu Dec 19 - Sat Dec 21
More info

Kvetch about the holiday season

  • Price band: 2/4

The hilariously grumpy Jackie Hoffman is a throwback to the golden age of nightclub acts, when performers overflowed with larger-than-life personality. Her holiday rants at Joe's Pub are particularly invigorating; this time she addresses—among other things—working a gay cruise during Rosh Hashanah.

  1. Joe's Pub at the Public Theater 425 Lafayette St, between Astor Pl and E 4th St
  2. Fri Dec 20 - Tue Dec 24
More info

Ring in 2014 in a New York state of mind

  • Price band: 3/4

Hang out with the Piano Man while you're waiting for 2013 to ring the last-call bell. It's Billy Joel's first proper NYC concert since 2008, and while he hasn't released a new record in over 20 years, he's still the beloved, gazillion-album seller you remember. Expect him to bust out the oldies and the goodies for this big gig: "Uptown Girl," "River of Dreams" and, of course, "New York State of Mind."

  1. Barclays Center 620 Atlantic Ave, at Flatbush Ave, 11217
  2. Tue Dec 31
More info

Welcome newborn jokes into the world at 50 First Jokes

  • Price band: 1/4

Each year in early January, John F. O'Donnell invites 50 of his favorite comics to present their first new joke of the year. It's a meet-and-greet for some of the city's best young comics, and though more than a few jokes come off as a bit too polished, those that play by the rules allow the crowd a peek behind the curtain during the writing process.

  1. The Bell House 149 7th St, between Second and Third Aves, 11215
  2. Fri Jan 3
More info

Wage heavy peace with rock legend Neil Young

  • Price band: 2/4

Every Neil Young fan knows that attempting to predict the iconic Canadian singer-songwriter-activist-raconteur-entrepreneur-visionary's next move is a futile exercise. He spent last year playing epic, mind-melting gigs with Crazy Horse, and in 2014, he's set to unveil his new high-end audio format, Pono. So it's only fitting that Young is reserving some time in between for a whole other type of gig: a series of should-be-rapturous solo shows at one of the swankiest rooms in town. Don't wait to snap up tix, folks—these could be life-changers.

  1. Carnegie Hall 154 W 57th St, between Sixth and Seventh Aves
  2. Mon Jan 6 - Fri Jan 10
Buy tickets

Take a musical trip around the world at globalFEST

  • Price band: 3/4

This übercosmopolitan music event will likely be your only chance to hear “subversive Ukrainian punk-folk,” “North African gnawa trance” and a host of other genre-spanning international acts in one night (at least until next year). The bash features a dozen musicians across three stages in Webster Hall. Represented locales range from Mauritania to Arizona; acts include Australia’s the Bombay Royale, Jamaica’s Brushy One String and Appalachian-Chinese folkies the Wu-Force.

  1. Webster Hall 125 E 11th St, between Third and Fourth Aves
  2. Sun Jan 12
More info

Brave the weather for the can't-miss multi-venue NYC Winter Jazz Fest

Here’s wishing a very happy tenth birthday to this celebration of polyrhythmic syncopation. Highlights include a kickoff concert with Bobby Previte’s Terminals, featuring John Medeski, Nels Cline and So Percussion (Jan 7 at 8pm), plus an anniversary fete for 75-year-old label Blue Note Records headlined by piano titans Robert Glasper and Jason Moran (Jan 8 at 8pm). Catch more than 90 groups and 400-plus performers, including the Dirty Projectors’ Nat Baldwin, Darcy James Argue and the Revive Big Band, on Friday and Saturday at venues downtown.

  1. Various locations
  2. Tue Jan 7 - Sat Jan 11
More info

Put a face to your favorite comedy podcasts

  • Price band: 1/4

Capitalizing on the ongoing podcast boom, Jeremy Wein brings together some of the city's popular shows and hosts for a weekend marathon of recordings. Among those participating in this year's New York City Podfest: Keith and the Girl, Proudly Resents, New York City Crime Report with Pat Dixon, Tell Your Friends! and many, many more to be announced.

  1. Fontana’s 105 Eldridge St, between Broome and Grand Sts
  2. Sat Jan 11 - Sun Jan 12
More info

Brush some dirt off your shoulder

In between designing a holiday collection for Barneys, cutting his teeth as a sports agent, performing for six hours at a Chelsea art gallery and, well, just being Mr. Beyoncé, Hova found time to schedule a few shows in support of his latest album, Magna Carta…Holy Grail. Of course, the ubiquitous hip-hop star will play his home borough of Brooklyn before moving on to more far-flung arenas. Expect to hear new tunes like the artist-name-dropping “Picasso Baby” interspersed with killer classics like “Big Pimpin’.”

  1. Various locations
  2. Sun Jan 12 - Wed Jan 22

Welcome Neutral Milk Hotel back from their extended hiatus

If you’ve been wondering why that music-obsessive friend of yours has been marking off the days until the new year, here’s why: After 15 years of near–radio silence, indie-rock Legends Neutral Milk Hotel are on an international tour, original lineup intact, that will bring them to NYC for six nights in January. Expect to hear hits off their 1998 magnum opus, In the Aeroplane Over the Sea, sung in frontman Jeff Mangum’s trademark wail.

  1. Various locations
  2. Wed Jan 22 - Tue Jan 28

Flip Valentine's Day the bird at The Rejection Show

  • Price band: 1/4

Valentine’s Day sucks, but you can make it suck less by laughing in the face of love. If you happen to find yourself crushingly alone this year, snatch up a therapeutic (single) ticket to this event, hosted by former Late Night with Jimmy Fallon blogger and Girl Code writer-producer Jon Friedman. Daily Show cocreator Lizz Winstead and xoJane.com deputy editor Mandy Stadtmiller, along with other performers, will share hilarious tales of breakup, heartache and rejection, in between live music and variety acts. Who needs that fancy ol’ prix-fixe dinner, anyway?

  1. Littlefield 622 DeGraw St, between Third and Fourth Aves
  2. Fri Feb 14
More info

See Todd from The Office in person

  • Price band: 2/4

You already know this comic as the quintessentially obnoxious Todd Packer on The Office and brash sportscaster Champ Kind from the Anchorman movies. His stand-up is just as bold and hilarious as his onscreen personas, but tends to feature a good deal more self-reflection. Koechner’s routines mine his past for material (he grew up in Missouri and worked for his dad making turkey coops before cutting his comedy teeth in Chicago) and touch upon his current life as a father of five.

  1. Gramercy Theatre 127 E 23rd St, between Park Ave South and Lexington Ave
  2. Fri Feb 28
More info

Be a musical patriot at the American Songbook series

  • Price band: 2/4

The best in jazz, folk, rock, Broadway, gospel and pop will resonate in the intimate Allen Room during Lincoln Center's celebration of all-American music. With solo gigs by Broadway hotshots such as James Naughton (Jan 28) and Ann Harada (Feb 22), the scuzzy country-rock of Deer Tick (Mar 6) and folk songs of Beth Orton (Feb 14), this roster has roots firmly planted in the land of the free. 212-721-6500, americansongbook.org. Dates and times vary; $75–$140.

  1. The Allen Room, 33 W 60th St, (at Broadway)
  2. Jan 22–Apr 5
More info

Raise money for a good cause at Tibet House Benefit Concert

  • Price band: 3/4

Curated by celebrated composer Philip Glass for the nonprofit dedicated to preserving Tibetan culture, this 24th annual show should feature an eclectic, star-studded cast (last year's included Jim James, Ariel Pink, Rahzel, Patti Smith and Tune-Yards—look for the 2014 lineup in January). It’s one party for peace you won’t want to miss.

  1. Carnegie Hall 154 W 57th St, between Sixth and Seventh Aves
  2. Tue Mar 11
More info

Explore the crossover between classical and pop music scenes at Ecstatic Music Festival

This annual happening showcases music that spans a variety of genres, presenting a series of one-night collaborations between various composers, percussionists, indie-rock bands and instrumentalists. Check out electronic experimentalist Lesley Flanigan alongside Brooklyn’s People Get Ready (Feb 19); Wilco drummer Glenn Kotche with new-music act Victoire (Feb 22); brainy hip-hop artist Saul Williams and string ensemble the Mivos Quartet (Feb 26); and So Percussion alongside hybrid-instrument duo Buke and Gase (Mar 26). 212-501-3330, ecstaticmusicfestival.com. Schedule varies; $25, festival pass $150.

  1. Merkin Concert Hall, 129 W 67th St between Broadway and Amsterdam Ave
  2. Jan 31–Mar 29

Geek out with other audiophiles at Rough Trade

Iconic London indie-music emporium Rough Trade has opened a Williamsburg outpost, destined to become a community staple thanks to its impeccable selection and snazzy series of in-store gigs.

  1. 64 North 9th St, (between Kent and Wythe Aves), 11249
More info


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