Even as the recording industry struggles, the five boroughs—Manhattan, Brooklyn, even Queens—remain packed with live-music venues, from hole-in-the-wall dives to resplendent uptown theaters. On any given night, there's a daunting array of world-class acts performing around town. (Plan accordingly and you might be able to double up.) Here's a list of our favorite venues, which are a good starting point if you're looking for a gig to see.
Best live music venues in NYC
Run by local promoter Bowery Presents, this Williamsburg outpost is basically a mirror image of similarly sized Bowery Ballroom, one upping its Manhattan counterpart with improved sightlights—including elevated areas on either side of the room—and a bit more breathing room. With booking that ranges from indie-rock bands to hip-hop acts, it's one of the best rooms in New York to see a show.
This spacious former vaudeville theater, resplendent after a recent renovation, hosts a variety of popular acts, from Steely Dan to Ryan Adams. While the vastness can seem daunting for performers and audience members alike, the gaudy interior and uptown location make you feel as though you’re having a real night out on the town.
After extensive renovation, this storied tennis stadium—home to memorable matches and concerts from the ’20s through the ’80s (including the Beatles, Stones and others)—reopened its doors in 2013 with a rowdy Mumford & Sons gig. These days, the venue regularly hosts a wide variety of artists ranging from Chainsmokers to Van Morrison.
Operated by the hip folks behind beloved art and music haven Glasslands, this 24,000 square-foot converted warehouse hosts live shows and DJ nights on three stages: two inside and one rooftop space. Its bookings feature a diverse mix of cutting-edge indie-rock, electronic music and more.
One heralded as the Showplace of the World, this famed Rockefeller Center venue has razzle-dazzled patrons since the 1930s with its elaborate Art Deco details, massive stage and theatrics. Though best known as the home of the Christmas Spectacular, which stars the high-kicking Rockettes and a full cast of nativity animals, many musicians consider the 6,000-seat theater a dream stage to perform on, including a recent extended stay from Lady Gaga and Tony Bennett.
As home base for the BRIC Celebrate Brooklyn! series, the beautiful bandshell in Prospect Park is a scenic amphitheater surrounded by lush greenery. Catching a gig is guaranteed to be a highlight of your summer showgoing season, whether you're seeing a buzzy indie-rock band, a classic soul or funk group, or one of the best hip-hop artists around.
After more than 80 years, this basement club’s stage still hosts the crème de la crème of mainstream jazz talent. Plenty of history has been made here—John Coltrane, Miles Davis and Bill Evans have grooved in this hallowed hall—and the 16-piece Vanguard Jazz Orchestra has been the Monday-night regular since 1966. Thanks to the venue's strict no cell phone policy, seeing a show here feels like stepping back and time. It's just you and the music.
The Blue Note prides itself on being "the jazz capital of the world." Bona fide musical titans (Chick Corea, Ron Carter) rub against hot young talents, while the close-set tables in the club get patrons rubbing up against each other. Arrive early to secure a good spot—and we recommend shelling out for a table seat.
Big, beloved and not-so-beautiful MSG is perhaps the most famous sports arena in the world. Perched above Penn Station since 1968, the 20,000-seat venue is the best spot in town to catch touring sensations like Phish and Radiohead and countless other amazing concerts.