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Sidewalk Cafe

Your guide to NYC’s hidden gem music venues

These are New York City's best hidden concert halls and off-the-beaten-path music spaces

Written by
Time Out editors
Andrew Frisicano

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.

Wonders of Nature
  • Music
  • Rock and indie
  • Williamsburg
As Williamsburg music venues shutter left and right, this space is a rare newcomer for the Brooklyn hood. The cozy bar-venue is more akin to a sparsely furnished living room than what you might imagine as a concert hall, but that only heightens the intimacy of the music. Its website describes the events, presented by longtime Cake Shop booker Andy Bodor, as "fringe / avant-garde / experimental with a focus on music and performance." A recent visit featured a billl that merged outré outsider folk, stoned freak-rock and hushed songwriter fare.
  • Music
  • Park Slope

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.

Pete's Candy Store
  • Bars
  • Lounges
  • Williamsburg

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 reasonably refreshments. What more could you want?

Sidewalk Café
  • Music
  • East Village

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. Keep your eyes peeled for the next rising star.

Jalopy Theatre
  • Music
  • Carroll Gardens

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.

ShapeShifter Lab
  • Music
  • Gowanus

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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