Whether it's because they offer big breaks to up-and-coming bands or they arrange great showcases of entirely local talent, these five venues are among the favorites of New York-based musicians. Some of them are multipurpose spots – one's on par with an intimate listening room, and another has a much-beloved Brooklyn band at the helm. Each has its own unique appeal, but they're all essential to keeping the local scene thriving.
Formerly an electroclash hub, this Williamsburg venue's backroom stage is now befitted with the best in sound equipment for stellar shows from a slew of local and touring outfits. In addition to the allure of generally cheap drinks, from 8:00 p.m. until 9:00 p.m. each weekend, paid entry to the live music area also comes with a whole hour of free booze.
How to book: They can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org, but you can also call the booking agent during specific hours. You can grab a coffee, a slice of something sweet, or a new record – and on most nights, you can also catch a great show. This spot is a go-to for touring rock 'n' roll bands on labels like Trouble in Mind and K Records, and as a result, Cake Shop provides heaps of opportunities for local acts to join those bills.
How to book: Email is their preferred method of contact.
Another beloved spot in Williamsburg, Union Pool's venue area looks like it could have been an old theater speakeasy. And while the name implies swimming or billiards, it offers neither. The reality is cooler, though, and truer to the spirit of quality independent music: a distraction-free setting for up to 150 music fans who are ready to fully engage with the show, not a TV, whether that means quiet listening or frantic moshing. (There's also a bar, of course.)
How to book: You can send music and propose a date via email.
This cabaret themed venue is located in a building formerly home to the Village Gate theater—historic for its 38-year run of featuring now iconic artists like Dizzy Gillespsie, Billie Holiday and Duke Ellington, among other greats. While that era is impossible to recreate, Le Poisson Rouge carries that tradition on by being steadfast about showcasing true artistry, like local and touring vocalists and pianists. Capacity for seated shows is 250, but there's room for 700 standing at livelier events (they also host dance nights).
How to book: See their contact page for the details.
Every set in this Brooklyn venue is recorded, mixed, and mastered in a dual effort to document its history and resurrect the longstanding but somewhat-forgotten tradition of the live album. Founded by staple local act the So So Glos, Shea Stadium is one of few spaces that caters to rising independent acts and is also open to fans of all ages.
How to book: Get in touch using the form available here.
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Jhoni Jackson is an Atlanta-bred music journalist currently based in San Juan, Puerto Rico, where she juggles owning a venue called Club 77, freelance writing and, of course, going to the beach as often as possible.