Boston nightclubs are mostly concentrated in the nightlife-centric Theater District and Chinatown neighborhoods (as anyone who's ever tried to grab a cab in that area around 2:30am knows all too well). But Cambridge and Allston are also prime areas for a night on the town, and several great bars and lounges offer DJs and space to move your feet. In Central Square, Middlesex Lounge, for example, gets revelers dancing to local and touring acts alike, and every evening offers a completely different crowd and novel experience. Just across the street, Phoenix Landing does the nightly pub-to-club transition, offering sounds that range from dubstep, reggae and drum 'n' bass to '80s hits and Top 40 favorites. Good Life holds it down Downtown with two dance floors and some of the most inventive DJ nights on that side of the Charles.
When the Roxy's shabby sort of elegance became just plain shabbiness, new ownership took over to revamp the entire interior, renaming the space Royale. The massive room has a grand stage, an elegant marble foyer, cushy seating nooks, a fantastic sound system, a festive light show and more bustier-wearing bartenders than you can shake a glowstick at. There are VIP balconies if you feel like getting away from it all—but Boston clubs rarely reach the size of this place, so why not take the opportunity to get lost? The DJ spins house/dance on weekend nights, while hipper-than-thou promoters Bowery Boston (yes, the Hub's own branch of the much-loved Bowery group in NYC) bring in a diverse range of indie and mainstream rock, pop and hip-hop throughout the week.
Though the DJs spin the best vintage hip-hop, classic electro and underground dance, and while the clientele has been known to kick off their shoes and fill the floor, Middlesex is still more of a lounge than a full-blown nightclub. The room is filled with little metal benches on wheels that can be artfully arranged to accommodate even the most disorganised of parties, enabling the space to transform to suit laidback hipster hangouts, MIT tech nerd power lunches or downtown hip hop heads that form the sidewalk queue each weekend night.
The name has changed, but the song remains the same. The cul-de-sac of clubbery that is Boylston Place is a reliable hot spot on weekends, and the Estate (formerly Mansion) holds its own as the strip's largest space. Hip hop and mashups make up the bulk of the playlist, and the interior boasts lots of leather, fireplaces and balconies.
One of several spots that have helped to drag downtown Boston out of late-night wasteland, Good Life caters to many different scenes. On a given night, the DJs may be spinning top-40 hits, underground hip hop, Latin remixes or cutting-edge electro music. Don't like the scene upstairs? Head down to the more intimate subterranean lounge area.
Deep house and Guinness may not seem like the most natural match, but Phoenix Landing pulls off the hybrid pub/club marvellously. The decor is unremarkable, but the no-frills atmosphere fits well with the gritty underground sounds that find their way through the speakers. The floor is tiny, but the variety is huge: hip hop, reggae, house, techno, drum 'n' bass, new wave and dubstep all have a home here.
Named after the classic Kenmore Square jazz club that hosted such greats as Billie Holliday, Louis Armstrong, Charlie Parker, Duke Ellington and Ella Fitzgerald, Storyville sure has a lot to live up to. And while the Copley Square space doesn't quite do the historic name justice, is does offer quality, laidback nightlife and dancing. More a lounge than a club, two separate rooms with two separate dance floors means that if you don't like the song, you can change venues in just seconds.
Catering to an upscale, international crowd, Bijou draws dance DJs with the same kind of cache. Arrive early (around 10 or 11pm) if you don't want to wait in line—or worse, not get in at all. The space is small and intimate, but often loud and crowded. Go for the dancing and, if you're feeling spendy, reserve a VIP table ahead of time to really live it up among the posher set.