New York City is generally considered the entertainment capital of the United States, a place through which many emerging bands and other live acts have passed on their way to super stardom. The Big Apple is literally teeming with fabulous music venues, hosted by bands cranking out tunes that guaranteed to bring crowds to their feet and leave them cheering for encore after encore.
In the following piece we will highlight a number of these great venues and describe the types of music audiences can expect to hear when attending one of their many shows. We will also point out some of the great amenities—seating options, bar services, food menu—that make each of these nightspots so popular among locals and tourists; and outline the various music styles performed in these establishments—music that continues to draw large crowds of eager fans night after night.
City Winery NYC
At its core, the City Winery in NYC may appear to be merely a bar and low volume wine operation, but as you are sure to discover, the place puts together an impressive lineup, on various nights of the week, of musical acts that range from singer-songwriter soloists, to Jazz ensembles to smooth Rhythm and Blues—performances that regularly draw audiences made up of locals and in-the-know tourists.
The intimate Mediterranean food service is another plus for this venue, a menu intentionally designed to complement the in-house-made wine and smooth tunes in a café-like setting that makes it a great place to relax and unwind prior to the show. Boasting reserved seating at tables, the City Winery tends to draw an older crowd that remains in its seats throughout the show, but with an audience of no more than 300-325 people there really isn’t a bad seat in the house.
City Winery has a fully-functional wine environment by day, with regular tastings and private events. By night, the venue strives to provide its guests with great wine and a culinary experience that pairs well with the nightly entertainment. It’s not a rowdy place by any means, but if you’re looking for scrumptious food, fresh wine and easy-listening tunes, you simply cannot beat the City Winery.
The Bowery Ballroom
As the title suggests, the Bowery Ballroom is a splendid music venue in the Bowery section of Manhattan, NY. Located at 6 Delancey Street, the structure that hosts all this great music has a lot of history, being built just before the Wall Street Crash of 1929.
For years now, the Bowery Ballroom has been one of the city’s premier rock venues, especially since reopening in its current Lower East Side location in 1997. The trendy spot hosts a variety of bands and acts from many different genres, all in an intimate 550-person space that is constantly buzzing with energy. Once a retail store, the Bowery boasts three floors, three full bars and a band lineup that has included the likes of the Pixies, Grizzly Bear, Metric and, most recently, Lauryn Hill.
Directly—and conveniently—in front of the venue’s entrance is one of the entrances to the Bowery Station on the BMT Nassau Street Line of the New York City Subway, making it very easy for partygoers to get here. Interestingly, the Bowery Ballroom serves as the namesake of Joan Baez’s “Bowery Songs” album, recorded live at a concert here in 2004.
A relatively small venue with great decor, the Grasslands Gallery will never be able to host one of the mammoth rock and roll shows complete with all the bells and whistles. However, what this place lacks in space it more than makes up for in cool and style. As the name would indicate, Grasslands Gallery is part music venue part art space. The walls are adorned beautifully with murals and frescos, colorful lights hang from the ceiling and a stage backdrop rotates out when the music gets underway.
There’s a very cool bar in the back of the Grasslands Gallery where modestly priced beer, wine and cocktails are on hand, and the shows typically cost a mere $10 a pop—decidedly lower than most other music venues in the city. Local stars and up-and-comers are the usual performers here, although occasionally a bigger name will also grace the stage. Recent shows have included the likes of YUCK, LEIF and Light Asylum, among others.
In South Williamsburg since 2006, the Grasslands Gallery is located in a converted warehouse, which the owners have transformed into a neighborhood art space that can host music shows for up to 200 people comfortably.
The Town Hall
NYC’s Town Hall music venue is a 1500-seat Midtown space that arguably has the best acoustics in the city, perhaps even rivaling those at the famed Carnegie Hall. The concerts at the Town Hall include everything from rock and roll shows to Jazz series to Jewish klezmer bands and more. In its nearly 93 years of existence, the Town Hall has hosted a great number of musical superstars, some of which include Billy Holiday, Whitney Houston, and even Bob Dylan.
The Town Hall Music Theater boasts great bar service that is both fast and delicious, with choices that range from beer to wine to delicious cocktails. Sadly, the food service here is a bit minimal, limited to snacks and finger foods. The décor is simple and unassuming, making it a pleasant place to see the show of your choice. The only downside to the Town Hall music venue is the seats, which seem to have been made for smaller people of another era. Because of this, tallish people may find the seating a bit cramped and uncomfortable.
City Winery photo via Goldstar