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Live music: New York's hidden gems

The city's best music venues off the beaten track

New York City is full of unexplored nooks, cozy dive bars and out-of-the-way surprises. These venues might not be hosting the biggest shows in town, but they're among the best live-music venues for finding undiscovered artists and secret New York treasures.


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. 

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Park Slope

Pete's Candy Store

It may be pocket-sized, but that pocket is full of goodies. Evenings begin with readings, poetry and art. In addition to Wednesday’s Quizz-Off game night, 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?

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Sidewalk Café

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.

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East Village

Jalopy Theatre

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.

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Carroll Gardens

ShapeShifter Lab

Jazz bassist Matthew Garrison's slick Gowanus performance space hosts nightly performances of live experimental music. During the day, the joint provides state-of-the-art rehearsal, recording and exhibition space to the neighborhood's artists.

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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"