Music performances often take place at Madison Square Garden, the Theater at MSG, and Town Hall. Also see what’s on at the low-key Joe’s Pub, a sizeable cabaret that hosts intimate-feeling shows by popular performers; and Webster Hall, where programming spans live music and dance parties nightly across its four floors.
Ticket-Buying Tips -- Tickets for events at all larger theaters as well as at Hammerstein Ballroom, Roseland, Irving Plaza, B.B. King’s, and S.O.B.’s can be purchased through Ticketmaster (tel. 212/307-7171; www.ticketmaster.com). Advance tickets for an increasing number of shows at smaller venues—including Bowery Ballroom and Mercury Lounge—can be purchased through Ticketweb (tel. 866/468-7619; www.ticketweb.com). Do note, however, that Ticketweb can sell out in advance of actual ticket availability. Just because Ticketweb doesn’t have tickets left for an event doesn’t mean it’s completely sold out, so be sure to check with the venue directly. Even a sold-out show doesn’t mean you’re out of luck. There are usually a number of people hanging around at showtime trying to get rid of extra tickets for friends who didn’t show, and they’re usually happy to pass them off for face value. You’ll encounter pushy professional scalpers too, who peddle forgeries for exorbitant prices and are best avoided. Be aware, of course, that all forms of resale on-site are illegal.
Online Sources for Live-Music Fans -- Check these websites for the latest live-music schedules:
- Ticketmaster: www.ticketmaster.com
- Pollstar: www.pollstar.com
- New York Citysearch: http://newyork.citysearch.com
Additionally, New York (www.nymag.com), Time Out New York (www.timeoutny.com), and other hard-copy publications and their corresponding websites are full of the latest live-music listings.
Music Under New York -- The noises of honking horns, car alarms, and sirens are not the only sounds you’ll hear in your New York travels. Music is everywhere. In the warm weather, a guitarist or violinist will set up at a busy corner and play all day and night. In the winter, musicians head into subway stations, where, legally, they aren’t allowed to play without permission—but not even the authorities want to stop free entertainment. Whether performers are great or groaners, they’re all just trying to earn a buck. Some of the good ones, who audition for the opportunity, perform under a program sponsored by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) called “Music Under New York.” If selected, they can perform legally at designated subway stations, such as Times Square/42nd Street, 34th Street/Sixth Avenue, 14th Street/Union Square, and 59th Street/Columbus Circle. The variety of music is amazing and the quality is as good as you might see at some of New York’s clubs. Traversing a busy subway station, you may hear a capella singing, gospel, blues, Cajun, classical piano, Andean, Brazilian drumming, barbershop quartets, or Dixieland jazz. If you’re not in a hurry, the way most New Yorkers are, stop for a listen—just don’t forget to tip! For more information, visit the MTA website (www.mta.info/mta/aft/muny).
(Mostly) Rock Clubs
Really, you can’t throw, well, a rock downtown without hitting a rockin’ club—though plenty of stellar (and more affordable) Brooklyn clubs are stealing their thunder. And remember, many of these places are half bars, in case you want to hang out without necessarily seeing a show. Beyond the listed venues, music fans on the hunt for diamonds in the rough should visit legendary folk-music joint the Bitter End, 147 Bleecker St., in the heart of the Village (tel. 212/673-7030; www.bitterend.com), and the quaint Living Room, at 154 Ludlow St. on the Lower East Side (tel. 212/533-7237; www.livingroomny.com). (Le) Poisson Rouge also hosts live music in addition to fun dance parties.
Jazz, Blues, Latin & World Music
Big-name jazz clubs can be really fun in New York, and likewise, expensive. Music charges and bar-tab/drink minimums can vary dramatically depending on who’s playing; beware especially of a dinner requirement, even for a late show. Call ahead or ask the host so you know what you’re getting into. Reservations are almost essential at top spots.
For those of you who like your jazz with an edge, see what’s on at City Winery. Swingsters should consider Swing 46. Weekends at Carnegie Club are ideal for Sinatra fans looking to relive the moment.
Despite its name, B.B. King Blues Club & Grill extends well beyond the blues genre to staging throwback acts of just about any ilk. You might also consider Jazz at the Kitano, in the mezzanine of the Kitano Hotel, 66 Park Ave., at 38th Street (tel. 800/548-2666 or 212/885-7119; www.kitano.com), for some first-rate jazz in a classy, comfortable setting. Likewise for 55 Bar, 55 Christopher St., near Seventh Ave. (tel. 212/929-9883; www.55bar.com), which bills itself as a “prohibition era dive bar with incredible jazz, funk and blues nightly in Greenwich Village.” The Kitchen, 512 W. 19th St., between Tenth and Eleventh avenues (tel. 212/255-5793; www.thekitchen.org), has a full slate of live music and performance art.
In association with the 92nd Street Y, the 92YTribeca offers a similarly eclectic mix, as does Joe’s Pub, which adds a cabaret spin. There’s also music at every first Friday of the month in the rotunda at the Guggenheim Museum. And don’t forget Jazz at Lincoln Center, the nation’s premier forum for the traditional and developing jazz canon.
Some of the bars mentioned in the listings also have occasional live music. For an eclectic mix of jazz, Latin, and R&B, Creole in East Harlem offers a full schedule.
An evening spent at a sophisticated cabaret just might be the quintessential New York night on the town. It isn’t usually cheap: Covers can hit $100, depending on the showroom and the act, and require two-drink or dinner-check minimums. Always reserve ahead, and get the complete lowdown when you do.
If you like your cabarets on the fun ‘n campy side, visit Marie’s Crisis Café (tel. 212/3243-9323) or the Duplex in Greenwich Village. Or if you’re uptown (and into an older crowd) stop by 1924 speakeasy Bill’s Gay Nineties Restaurant and Piano Bar at 57 E. 54th St. (tel. 212/355-0243; www.billsnyc.com), which starts the piano singalongs around 8:30 nightly.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.