Unless you happen to have a friend who seems to know every show at every venue within a 50-mile radius (trust me, these people exist), picking out a venue can seem pretty overwhelming and depending on the type of concertgoer you are, one man's trash can be another man's treasure. If you're looking for a place to start, here are a couple picks for anything you're in the mood for, from a drink and a show with some friends to a massive stadium-sized spectacular.
1. ROUGH TRADE
Great for: See a show, buy a record
A branch location of the London record label that has been home to the Smiths, the Strokes, Sufjan Stevens, and Arcade Fire among others, Rough Trade has long been a staple of the indie community. It's one of those venues that's a record store by day (a pretty sweet one at that) and a home for local bands and artists at night. Watch some music, buy their music, buy some other musicIts a good situation for everyone involved.
2. SILENT BARN
DIY but legal (but still legit)
This famous Brooklyn venue gained a reputation as a great DIY spot back when it was located at some house off the Hasley L stop. The original location unfortunately closed in 2011, but has since been rocking at its new location in Bushwick. With a good mix of local newcomers and more established acts, as well as a legal booze license, you can experience some underground DIY vibes without worrying about getting busted by the cops.
3. MADISON SQUARE GARDEN
I meanits a pretty obvious choice
This massive and amazing venue really speaks for itself. It's a historic venue that has become synonymous with New York City attracts some of the worlds biggest artists and almost always makes for a fantastic show. The tickets aren't usually cheap, of course, but you definitely have to make your way to the garden at least once in your life.
4. THE APOLLO THEATER
Lots and lots of history
While the Apollo is a little more touristy than the other choices on this list, it's nonetheless one of the most historic venues still functioning in New York today. With its famous and incredibly brutal Amateur Nights, where up-and-coming performers compete in front of an audience who will literally boo you off the stage, the Apollo has been a springboard to legendary artists, from Aretha Franklin to Stevie Wonder to Lauryn Hill. Amateur Nights are still held most weekdays, so they're a great show to catch if you're on a budget. Oh yeah, and James Brownnuff said
A little jazz, a little culture
This Brooklyn venue might be the tiniest one on this list, but it has one of the most diverse event calendars in the city. From Jazz to folk to world music, as well as a venue for readings and film screenings, Barbes is a great place for discovering music you wouldn't normally find on your own. French Jazz one night, Lebanese folk the next, there's no better place to travel the musical world for cheap than Barbes.
6. NATIONAL SAWDUST
Artist-led space made for music
National Sawdust is one of the most unique spaces out there for some of the coolest and most ambitious music out there. Being designed specifically for music, the space can basically be described as a pod within a brick box, which may not sound impressive, but the acoustics and experience of the beautiful space are unrivaled and is a must-see for any type of music lover.
7. THE BOWERY ELECTRIC
No frills, drink-and-a-show bar
Sometimes, when you want to go to a show, all you need is some place simple, somewhere that'll let get a drink, chat with friends, and catch a show while you're at it. The Bowery Electrics got you covered, with its simple bar setup and sweet lineup of concerts. Sometimes simple is better, and the Bowery Electric is a pretty solid example of that.
8. ROCKWOOD MUSIC HALL
Three stages, one venue
Along with a record label of the same name, Rockwood Music Hall is home to three separate stages. That's right, three stages. That means more artists that come in, more options for you, and the more awesome time you'll have. With artists like Lady Gaga and Mumford & Sons gracing the stage(s) over the years, you're bound to find an act worth seeing.
PIANOS has built a name for attracting some of the best local indie talent around, which has made it a stable within the hipster community. Featuring a DJ space on the top floor, a bar and regular performance space on the ground floor, and surprisingly good and creative bar food, this venue is worth checking out yourself or letting all your vinyl-loving friends know about.
10. MUSIC HALL OF WILLIAMSBURG
Indie Rock haven
Designed to be the "Bowery in Brooklyn," and actually owned by the Bowery Presents, the balcony-clad Music Hall of Williamsburg brings in some of the most popular acts in indie music right now, even with its minimal 550-person capacity. As part of a new wave of concert venues that came about in the mid-2000s, the Music Hall is a modern and fresh venue to go see some fantastic talent, and is a must for anyone who wants to experience the Brooklyn music scene.