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Lizard Lounge, Music and nightlife, Boston
Photograph: Michael Young Lizard Lounge

Guide to music venues on Massachusetts Avenue

Where to catch the best gigs and concerts along Mass Ave

By Eric Grossman and Time Out contributors

Storied rock clubs, bare-bones bars, and raucous DJ lounges are dotted along the Cambridge stretch of this major thoroughfare, which runs from Dorchester all the way to Lexington. Several of the best live music venues in the area can be found here. Party the night away on a live music crawl from the mighty Middle East in Central Square to tiny Toad in Porter SquareFrom the best nightclubs in Boston to the best record stores in Boston, music is, indeed, what we do. More of a visual art kind of person? You might want to browse through our Boston museum guide.

RECOMMENDED: Full guide to the best bars in Boston

Where to hear music on Massachusetts Avenue

The Middle East, Music and nightlife, Boston
Photograph: Courtesy The Middle East

1. The Middle East

Music Music venues Central Sq

This sprawling venue is one of America's leading rock clubs, and a major player on the national and local music scene. A Middle Eastern restaurant as well as a club, it was the nurturing ground for Boston's alternative and indie music scenes, beginning in the mid-1980s in the smaller Upstairs room. 'Downstairs' was added later and, like many of Boston's basement clubs, was once a bowling alley. In the restaurant, musicians play the Corner without a cover charge, and in keeping with the Middle Eastern theme, there are also belly dancers. ZuZu, the venue's newest addition, sits in-between Upstairs and Downstairs, offering food, hip DJ nights and bands.

The Cantab Lounge, Bars, Boston
Photograph: Courtesy Cantab Lounge

2. The Cantab Lounge

Music Music venues Central Sq

This delightfully dive-y Central Square haunt offers everything from bring-your-ax blues jams to singer-songwriter open mics (Mondays). A well-stocked jukebox fills in during quieter moments at the bar, which draws a diverse clientele ranging from twentysomethings to grizzled barflies. The one Cantab constant throughout is high-quality musicianship and an undeniably unpretentious vibe.

Plough & Stars, Bars, Boston
Photograph: Michael Young

3. Plough & Stars

Bars Pubs Central Sq

The Plough has been going strong for more than three decades. In the daytime, it offers some of the best pub grub in town. At night, the tiny bar is transformed into a hotbed of clashing elbows and live music. Your chances of meeting a novelist just went up by 90%.

Lizard Lounge, Music and nightlife, Boston
Photograph: Courtesy Lizard Lounge

4. Lizard Lounge

Music Music venues Harvard Sq

A short walk from Harvard Square, this diminutive basement bar puts on a jam-packed program of shows. The beauty of the Lizard Lounge is that there is no stage. Instead, bands perform on a well-worn rug—the only delineation between audience and performer. The musical fare runs the gamut from rock and folk to Americana, along with the odd Boston Opera Underground performance. There's great food too, served all night up in the Cambridge Common restaurant.

Toad, Music and nightlife, Boston
Photograph: Courtesy Toad

5. Toad

Music Music venues Porter Sq

This Porter Square hole-in-the-wall is one of the few remaining inexpensive, low-key music spots in the city. There's a lot of good roots/Americana, though the joint isn't above booking a solid Beatles tribute band or a well-honed soul singer. Barely the size of an apartment, Toad gets packed easily, so expect to rub elbows with complete strangers.


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