The Best Live Music Venues in New York City

Categories: Best of NYC

Barclays Center in Brooklyn
Radio City Music Hall, the Beacon, the Bowery Ballroom, the Blue Note: all these destinations for live music have earned their place on New York City's perennial favorites list year in and year out. We love them, too, but we're not going to rank them here. Our favorite venues have less to do with perfect acoustics, coveted programming and pristine bathrooms and bank more on unforgettable experiences and inimitable moments. Do your eardrums stand a chance of getting blown out at Glasslands? Absolutely. Is the trek up to the Apollo a long one? Undeniably. How long does it take you to shove your way through the bar at the Mercury Lounge? Longer than we'd care to admit, but it doesn't change the fact that these venues set the standards for music lovers discovering their new favorite band on the streets of New York any given night of the week. We wouldn't have it any other way, so here's our take on the best venues of New York City.

See also: The 10 Best Jukebox Bars in New York City

Best Mood at a Venue: The Rockwood Music Hall
Between its three stages, The Rockwood Music hall hosts big sounds in its tiny abodes, and an excellent experience is the name of the game here. This is not the spot you hit if you want a DIY show that involves chewing off High Life bottle caps before shoving into a sweaty crowd; this is where you take someone if you want to impress them with their next favorite folk, jazz, blues or singer/songwriter act. The schedule is filled with up-and-coming talent that flocks to Rockwood for the intimate vibe and phenomenal sound, and it's easy to sit and kill a beautiful bottle of red while taking in the sultry strains of an aspiring French bluegrass aficionado before heading to the next room for a rowdy North Carolinan rock band's set. 196 Allen St. (212) 477-4155.

Best Living Legend: The Apollo Theater
It's an honor and a privilege to set foot in the Apollo, let alone play it. This is where James Brown cultivated his pedigree as the Godfather of Soul and where countless others--Marvin Gaye, Aretha Franklin, Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday, The Jacksons--passed through, either at the theater's famed Amateur Night or as reverent headliners themselves. The Apollo still offers season after season of incredible shows, and has recently played host to Charles Bradley (who was first bit by the performing bug watching James Brown there) and, uh, Metallica. 252 W. 125th St. (212) 531-5300.

Location Info


Rockwood Music Hall

196 Allen St., New York, NY

Category: General

Apollo Theater

253 W. 125th St., New York, NY

Category: Music

Cake Shop

152 Ludlow St., New York, NY

Category: Music

Irving Plaza

17 Irving Place, New York, NY

Category: Music

Terminal 5

610 W. 56th St., New York, NY

Category: Music

The Glasslands Gallery

289 Kent Ave., Brooklyn, NY

Category: General

285 Kent Ave

285 Kent Ave., New York, NY

Category: Music

The Mercury Lounge

217 E. Houston St., New York, NY

Category: Music

Barclays Center

620 Atlantic Ave., Brooklyn, NY

Category: General

Skinny Dennis

152 Metropolitan Ave., Brooklyn, NY

Category: Music

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