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New York City Live Music Clubs & Bars

Ace of Clubs

9 Great Jones St., New York, NY; Tel. 212.677.6963
It may have been upgraded to include primo spirits and even some decent wine choices, but the Ace of Clubs is still an awesome venue where East Village eclectic rock vibes aren't totally lost. Dimly lit and regularly busy, this is a great spot for finding live acts of every sort, though most of the time you can find at least one scarred up rocker with a distortion pedal up on the stage. Country music is the specialty the last Friday of every month. Oh, and the sound system rocks.

Arlene's Grocery

95 Stanton St., New York, NY; Tel. 212.995.1652
Anyone who claims to be a true modern-day NYC rocker is clearly lying if they haven't been to Arlene's Grocery or if they think the joint has anything to do with food. Though it only opened in 1995, this plucky venue has played (and still plays) a major part of the Lower East Side music scene. With cheap beer, live music seven nights a week, punk rock/metal karaoke and even more cheap beer, Arlene's has "old school New York rock club" written all over it.

The Bar Next Door

129 MacDougal St., New York, NY; Tel. 212.529.5945
If you're trying to impress a date with your appreciation of jazz music, take them to The Bar Next Door. This basement haven is intimate, cozy and beautiful, complete with sensuous, speakeasy vibes that are just about guaranteed to win you a second date. The music is live seven nights a week, courtesy of outstanding performers, and the full bar can give you everything from rare spirits to passion fruit champagne cocktails. Delicious food from the adjoining Italian restaurant, La Lanterna di Vittorio, is available until closing.

Bowery Ballroom

6 Delancey St., New York, NY; Tel. 212.533.2111
Considered one of the best live music clubs in New York, the Bowery Ballroom is a Lower East Side institution. Dark and swanky, complete with a cool bar for post-show mingling, the setup is enough to keep you entertained if the band isn't doing for you. Built to corral about 600 people or so, the Bowery Ballroom is big enough to feel like a concert hall, but small enough to be comfortable; the acoustics are great. The crowds are pretty predictable based on the bands, which range from big-name rock to hipster indie acts.

Crash Mansion

199 Bowery, lower level, New York, NY; Tel. 212.982.0740
Crash Mansion is a cool venue for Lower East Side rockers and hipsters to catch bands on the up-and-up. It's a chill space where the large bar that's lit from underneath, the cushy brown sofas that line one of the walls and the cozy booths in the back create an atmosphere that's a bit classier than most rock-styled joints. It's not a huge place, but it can hold enough people to keep the night alive and entertaining; the fire marshal will crash the party if the crowd gets over 350.

The Cutting Room

19 W. 24th St., New York, NY; Tel. 212.691.1900
With leather couches, velvet curtains and a beautiful mahogany bar, the Cutting Room seems like the kind of place that would be populated by high-rollers and socialites instead of its crowd of tattooed rockers and dolled-up hipsters. But it's the contrast that makes this place amazing. This is the kind of bar where you can chill out in a snazzy setting without dealing with any of the pretentious types or door drama that the style would suggest. Nightly acts bring everything from burlesque beauties to swanky jazz trios to deliciously gritty rock groups. Random art adorns the walls, including a giant picture of co-owner Chris Noth (a.k.a. Mr. Big from Sex and the City).

Jazz Standard

116 E. 27th St., New York, NY; Tel. 212.576.2232
As sleek and sexy as all jazz clubs should be, Jazz Standard is a classy, exquisite venue for catching some of the best jazz shows in NYC. Located in the basement of southern-and-soul-food-staple Blue Smoke restaurant, this club boasts the same delicious and mouthwatering food of its upstairs neighbor, as well as a killer selection of inebriants. The wine list is primo, as is the array of spirits, which includes over 30 varieties of tequila. The cover can be a little high, but the lack of a drink minimum makes it bearable. Jazz Standard is known for bringing in some of the biggest names in Jazz, so be sure to get there early when they're in town.

Kenny's Castaways

157 Bleecker St., New York, NY; Tel. 212.979.9762
Kenny's Castaways is all about rock and blues, baby. Serving up live music for more than 40 years, this place earned its street cred playing host to bands like the New York Dolls, Kiss, the Ramones and Phish; Bruce Springsteen played his first New York gig on this very stage. The cool atmosphere blends a bit of style and rock history, with gold records and signed photos adorning the walls, and a dark and sexy mezzanine level that's perfect for curling up with a good cocktail on while you listen to almost six bands every night. The crowd varies, but is generally an oddly harmonious blend of young and old, hip and shaggy.

Mercury Lounge

217 E. Houston St., New York, NY; Tel. 212.260.4700
The roster may be filled with bands you've never heard of, but Mercury has, in recent years, become the sort of stepping stone that every up-and-coming band must pay their dues at—in short, don't be surprised if some no-name band you see here goes platinum before you know it. Big names that have played this stage include Interpol, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs and the Strokes. The space isn't very big, but there's not a bad seat in the house and the sound system is pretty good.

Louis 649

649 E. 9th St., New York, NY; Tel. 212.673.1190
In the frequently over-priced world of New York, most places that are even slightly economical offer little more than sticky barstools and a decent jukebox—Louis 649, on the other hand, is not only wallet-friendly, it's a great place for catching live jazz most every night of the week. Good local artists on the rise offer some of the classiest, traditional jazz around on a regular basis, and there's no cover charge to be spoken of. Even the drinks are cheap, here; the massive beer selection is frequently half-price, and the wines and premium-made well drinks are equally affordable. There's a mellow, bohemian vibe to this little Village jazz bar, making it a nice stop when craving a little live music and a tasty cocktail.

Prohibition

503 Columbus Ave., New York, NY; Tel. 212.579.3100
Snazzy décor, a sexy lounge-type feel and an amazing menu of specialty cocktails makes Prohibition the perfect candidate for president of Upper West Side music clubs. The vibe suits the neighborhood with cool lighting schemes and a beautiful setup, but the crowd and staff aren't the hipper-than-thou types. The nightly music ranges from Journey cover bands to groovy jazz groups, and there's a pool table for those who want to shoot a few rounds. Prohibition also serves up a decent menu of New American cuisine. The only downfall to this place is that the prices of drinks are on par with the neighborhood; so don't show up if you're broke and seeking a good cheap buzz.

Terra Blues

149 Bleecker St., (2nd floor), New York, NY; Tel. 212.777.7776
There aren't many places where you can find down-home, deep and soulful blues being belted out on a regular basis, but Terra Blues is the real thing. Candle-lit and dedicated to rich Southern-style blues, this is the place where some of the best blues acts in the city, and even the country for that matter, can be found. Two bands play acoustic sets from 7-10pm nightly, and both bands plug in around 10 or so, turning up the volume and the heat. Terra Blues is also known for a killer selection of scotch and bourbon.
— New York Bar & Club Reviews by Jennifer Jespersen