The Best Independent Music Rooms in New York City

Written by Paul Adler Posted in: on February 03, 2012

Do you ever get the feeling you’re behind on independent music and don’t know anything about what up-and-coming acts are generating buzz right now? Well, have no fear: we’ve got ten great venues in Manhattan and Brooklyn where you can catch the best heretofore unknown talent New York has to offer. On the other side of that coin, these venues are great options if you're an up and coming artist looking to get your foot in the door on the NYC gig circuit. They're easy to book, and won't jerk you around with pay to play or any other shady schemes. We at Indie Ambassador would like to thank Bushwick’s most precocious industry-head and Skrillex-channeling blog maven, Keaton Kustler, for advising on the selection of venues in this article—as both a member of the music industry and a diehard fan, Kustler attends anywhere from one to fifteen shows a week (three to four, on average).

 

Brooklyn

10. The Glasslands Gallery (289 Kent Ave, Williamsburg)

from Glasslands’ website:

“...The GlassLands is a community art & music space in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. We host live music, dance parties, special events and ongoing interactive art projects. GlassLands was founded by musician Rolyn Hu and Artist Brooke Baxter in May 2006.”

9. The Acheron (57 Waterbury St, Bushwick)

The Acheron is a relatively new, all-ages, DIY venue that opened just a year and a half ago, but has already earned a reputation for its scene-supporting ethic and eclectic list of performing acts. They were even featured in the New York Times two weeks ago.

8. Cameo Gallery (93 North 6th St, Williamsburg)

From dance parties to comedy sets to punk and hip-hop shows, the Cameo Gallery has it all. Pop out between sets for a coffee at the Lovin’ Cup where, if you check in on FourSquare, you’ll get a free plate of tater tots.

7. Shea Stadium (20 Meadow St, Williamsburg)

Shea Stadium is a “recording studio/show space dedicated to documenting live performances,” and they certainly make sure to follow through with the latter half of their manifesto, offering dozens of live recordings on their blog.

6. Rubber Tracks (130 Hope St, Williamsburg)

Last year, Converse unveiled their ambitious, new, community-based recording studio and show space in Williamsburg. According to Converse’s website: “Rubber Tracks serves as a catalyst for originality by giving new and emerging bands the opportunity to record their songs in a high-quality studio setting. Musicians of all genres are able to apply in advance for a time to use the studio – for free. As in no cost.”

5. St. Vitus (1120 Manhattan Ave, Greenpoint)

St. Vitus, named after a terrible-yet-side-splittingly-hilarious psychosomatic medieval affliction, offers, in addition to their own home-brewed ale, an eclectic roster of performing acts, claiming that, “finally, Greenpoint has a real rock bar!”

Manhattan

4. Fontana’s (105 Eldridge St, LES)

Sporting three separate levels with three respective bars and touting the illustrious lure of having “NO COVER,” Fontana’s is a Lower East Side rock & roll staple.

3. Mercury Lounge (217 East Houston St, LES)

Specializing in rock acts, Mercury Lounge holds a modicum of dominion over the indie scene on the Lower East Side. As an affiliate of Bowery Presents, Mercury offers must-attend shows for those in the know.

2. Pianos (158 Ludlow St, LES)

Besides offering a vibrant chunk of nightlife and an expansive first floor show space, Piano’s often finds its way into the indie scene in an inextricable way, boasting viable presences at both CMJ and SXSW.

1. The Studio at Webster Hall (125 East 11th St, East Village)

The Studio at Webster is the angsty, youth-oriented counterpart to its sister, upstairs. Significantly more easy to book and teeming with a variety of performers, the Studio has become a must-play for many up-and-comers.

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And those, folks, are ten of the absolute best spots in New York City if your aim is uncovering the newest, freshest indie talent. Naturally, there is a time and place for everything, especially in New York, and these venues might not prove to be the most preferable choice if you're looking to attend a rave or maybe catch a chamber quartet. However, if you're having that old, forgetful, self-questioning feeling that you're missing out on some killer shows and rare talent, take this opportunity to note some of these spots and head out to one or two this week—maybe you'll surprise yourself and find a new band that you actually like.

Paul Adler is a freelance writer, blogger, musician, and former liquor store employee. Connect with him on Twitter or Tumblr.

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