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NYC Music Venues

Get up close and personal at these venues, where every seat in the house is front row.

From arena-busting spectacles to singer-songwriter sets, New York is an essential stop on any musician’s tour. As a result, music fans can easily seek out an awesome musical performance on any given night in the city. But in addition to stadium sellouts, New York’s smaller venues also foster rising stars.

If you’re in search of cutting-edge jams, look no further than these incubators for the next big thing. These cozy indie music joints don’t require much advance planning. So show up with an open mind and open ears, and get ready to rock.

1. Don Pedro

Never outgrew your punk phase? Head over to Don Pedro, where you can party like an angsty teenager. With happy hour drinks starting at $2 a pop, this Brooklyn venue’s vibe is akin to a garage band party, all grown up. The party doesn’t stop at punk, though catch a drag show, skeeball fest, or a Mexican feast at this playground for adults. There’s an upside to this venue’s extremely casual, intimate space: since the stage is so small, every view is a good one.

2. National Sawdust

Your jaw will drop at this artist-led, non-profit Greenpoint joint even before the music starts. The modern auditorium, outfitted with stark white walls and intersecting black beams, was designed for maximum acoustic clarity and, seemingly, sheer coolness. This Jetsons-esque space easily converts from a sit-down concert to a dance party with the removal of a few chairs. Given the space’s versatility, National Sawdust’s curators are able to host a variety of performances all in the name of exploration and discovery.

3. Cake Shop

In the crowded ecosystem that is Manhattan’s Lower East Side nightlife, Cake Shop stands out for its indie music lineup and its pastries. The two-floor space serves a variety of desserts (banana cream pie, anyone?) on the bright-orange top floor. A mint-green staircase leads the way to a dimly lit performance space, where rock bands and DJs share the stage with the occasional experimental theater show. If you’re lucky, you’ll snag one of the venue’s old theater chairs for a quick rest between dance breaks.

4. Rough Trade

At this Brooklyn space bordering the East River, you’re doing more than supporting indie bands you’re helping the whole independent music industry. Before entering the concert space, visitors pass through a branch of a vinyl record store founded in London in 1976. Rough Trade’s American flagship store is perfect for music lovers craving a night of live music, plus something more for the road.

5. Joe’s Pub

Intimate doesn’t always have to mean sweaty. At this downtown New York performance space run by the Public Theater, catch your favorite singers while noshing on dinner. Enjoy jazz, Broadway, comedy, and bands, all cabaret style. A caveat: compared to some of the other selections on this list ($2 Happy Hour, anyone?) Joe’s Pub might strike you as a bit pricey. But you can spend the $12 minimum on innovative cocktails and tacos, so who’s complaining?

6. The Knitting Factory

The Knitting Factory was founded in 1989 as a bastion for poetry, art, jazz, and performance. With locations in Hollywood, Tribeca, and Williamsburg, the Knitting Factory may have grown up a bit since its idealistic start, but the company is still committed to nourishing rising stars as well as more established talent.

7. Silent Barn

This consistently surprising place caters in the alternative, so don’t expect anything remotely conventional. What you can expect is an adventure. After a few itinerant years, Silent Barn’s founders found a permanent home in Bushwick, Brooklyn. Appropriately, the space runs on DIY Brooklyn soul, and can act as anything from a concert hall to a barber shop to an art gallery, depending on the day. Stick around long enough, and you might become one with Silent Barn’s flock of dedicated clientele.

Has this list gotten you excited for a night out? Plan ahead with, or just show up to any of these places and prepare to be surprised.

Affinia is offering an extra night free when you book a three night stay in one of our locations in New York City. Book now.

(Image Credit: Ethan M. Long/Flickr)

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