The last couple years have seen a drastic change in the NYC club scene, with many promoters and club-goers choosing to throw their shindigs in the edgier parts of Brooklyn over the glam-packed glitz of Manhattan. A good chunk of the best parties in NYC go down in Williamsburg, from indie music venues to bangin' dance clubs and warehouses. See local bands and touring indie darlings at Baby's All Right, Music Hall of Williamsburg or the Knitting Factory. Visit Output and experience the perfection of its Funktion-One sound system, or drop by TBA Brooklyn for its daily happy hours and strong, local lineups. Start (or end) your night at one of the neighborhood’s many hip watering holes.
RECOMMENDED: Full guide to Williamsburg, Brooklyn
Nightlife in Williamsburg
With spaceshiplike stage lighting, excellent sight lines and a cocktail-and-grub menu that will make you want to stick around for hours, this spot has become something of an institution in Williamsburg since opening in late 2013. Oh, and Baby’s books great acts, too, from classic indie-rockers (Sebadoh) and rising singer-songwriters (Frankie Cosmos) to electro party starters (Dan Deacon) to blog-hyped darlings (Savages).
Cameo Gallery is a performance space situated behind Williamsburg's Lovin' Cup Cafe, typically hosting bills of up-and-coming indie-rockers, booked by local-scene enthusiasts. Though the sound isn't exactly the greatest (the venue's sound engineer has been known to scamper onstage during performances to quickly squash problems), Cameo's a decent place to catch a show and observe that slice of life on the hipster fringe. In between sets, you can take advantage of the café's full bar and menu.
The Knitting Factory’s original funky, intimate Houston Street location quickly grew into a legendary alternative venue following its opening in the late ‘80s, hosting the likes of Sonic Youth and Gil Scott Heron. They’ve managed to keep that spirit since moving to Williamsburg in 2009.
When, in 2007, the local promoter Bowery Presents found itself in need of a Williamsburg outpost, it gave the former Northsix a face-lift and took over the bookings. It’s basically a Bowery Ballroom in Brooklyn, and hipsters flock here to get their indie fix. Shows from family performers are rare, but are booked on occasion.
The sound system at this industrial-sleek club with an impressive 452-person capacity leaves every corner at the perfect decibel for dancing (not talking), which you can do until 6am to artfully deejayed techno, electronica and more. Take in a bird’s-eye view from the catwalke-sque second story, nearly level with the massive, caged disco ball that lords over the sea of sweaty dancers. Output is also one of the few places to use a Funktion-One sound system, arguably the best in the world.
This intimate party space, helmed by scene stalwarts Mehmet “Memo” Erkaya and Gio Gulez, is dedicated to the underground end of the techno and house music spectrum. The popular happy-hour and late-night-DJ bar/club was shut down briefly in late 2014, officially—and finally!—reopening in Spring 2015. The venue regularly hosts stacked lineups of local talent, kicking things off daily at 6pm for happy hour, followed by world-renowned DJ sets till close.
The Verboten club, though running as a party collective at locations across the city for over a decade, finally joined the nightlife scene in 2014, with tons of house, techno, bass music and live gigs filling the 750-person-capacity spot. The main room features an expansive dance floor and Martin Audio sound system, while the side room serves as a restaurant and lounge. Bespoke Musik, Push the Night and PopGun all join Verboten in curatorial duties, and Carl Craig, Guy Gerber, Matthew Dear, Davide Squillace, Ida Engberg, Matt Tolfrey and Lee Curtiss are among the notables claiming residencies.
The former pool-supply outlet now supplies booze to scruffy Williamsburgers, who pack the tin-walled main room’s half-moon booths and snap saucy photo-kiosk pics. Bands strum away on the adjacent stage, while a spacious courtyard is packed with wooden benches to lure chain-smokers. Arrive early to kick back $3 PBRs or $7 Jack-and-Cokes (a buck off from 5 to 8pm).
Raise New York
Finally, a good excuse to hit up happy hour: A portion of the proceeds from each drink bought at Raise New York goes back to the community. Raise donates regularly to organizations like The Marfan Foundation, KEEN NY and Harvey Relief Aid, so you can feel good about drinking at the bar with your friends. Beer drinkers will find brews like Six Point Crisp and Goose Island IPA on draft. The food menu includes elevated bar snacks like bacon-wrapped figs stuffed with blue cheese ($9), General Tso’s cauliflower ($10) and house-brined chicken tenders with a pretzel-potato chip crust ($14). A classic burger ($14), grilled shrimp and kale salad ($14) and tater tot nachos with chorizo ($12) are also on offer. On weekend mornings, stop by between 11am and 4pm to take advantage of the two-hour bottomless brunch deal that includes your choice of entrees like Nutella French toast or breakfast tacos ($35).
Venue says: “EAT AND DRINK FOR A CAUSE! 20% of all profits donated to charity. Help us support Heartshare.org this month!”