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The Music Lover’s Guide to New York

Much has been said about New York City. Many call it “the city that never sleeps,” while others refer to it as the familiar “concrete jungle where dreams are made of” (thanks, Alicia Keys and Jay-Z), and so much more.

What ‘so much more’ means, of course, is up to you. NYC is home to the best of everything, be it theater, food, architecture, or art. We can go on for days chronicling all there is to see in NYC, but we’d still only be scratching the surface.

Since you’re here, we’d like to assume that you’re either an NYC lover or a music enthusiast. If you happen to be both, then you’ll be happy to know that NYC is the perfect destination for audiophiles. The city has a deep relationship with music — from Harlem’s rich history of gospel music, to the East Village’s iconic rock joints frequented by the likes of Jimi Hendrix.

While some bars and venues have closed their doors, NYC continues to be the ultimate playground for the musicians of today. If you’re looking to get your live music fix with a cold beer in hand, we’ve got the places for you.

The Apollo Theater

Image credit: @apollotheater on Instagram

The Apollo Theater is basically the ground zero of the Harlem Renaissance. Historic greats like Ella Fitzgerald and modern-day icons such as Lauryn Hill have all graced its stage. However, what most people don’t know is that the venue started out in 1913 as a burlesque theater, and was only named the Apollo (and removed from its burlesque beginnings) some 20-odd years later. Nowadays, the theater acts as a sort of gatekeeper for those who want to make it big with their music.

Silvana

Image credit: @silvanaharlem on Instagram

You’ll have to travel north for this one, as Silvana is located in South Harlem, on 116th Street. In a previous post on Passport Required, we talked about some hidden gems in the neighborhood, and Silvana is definitely one of them. Its music selection is diverse, offering everything from Brazilian jazz to electronic rock. With live music playing every night and repeat guests flocking from all corners of the city, this bar makes the trip worth it.

Sofar Sounds

Image credit: @sofarnyc on Instagram

What started as a gig scene in London has since made its way worldwide. In New York, Sofar Sounds regularly hosts intimate gigs in the most nondescript locations — ranging from random living rooms to secret bars. The catch is that the location is only announced the day of the gig, but its previous artists include the likes of Jorja Smith, Vanessa Carlton, and Gang of Youths. You can only choose which neighborhood’s Sofar you want to attend, but the rest is an adventure waiting to happen.

Elsewhere Rooftop

Image credit: @elsewherespace on Instagram

This list wouldn’t be complete without mentioning a rooftop bar. After all, NYC is synonymous with its skyscrapers and high-rise buildings. Yoreevo estimates that approximately 13,500 high rise buildings were built between 2010 and 2015, and that number has only increased since then. One of those buildings is Elsewhere, a club located in artist haven Bushwick. At 24,000 square feet, it isn’t a tiny bar where you’ll have to elbow your way to the bar. They’re known for hosting some of the hottest live DJ shows, and their cocktail menu is a welcome addition to the city’s thriving booze-in-the-sky scene.

Smalls Jazz Club


Image credit: @smallsjazzclub on Instagram

Jazz is just one of those genres that artists keep constantly reinventing — and we don’t mind it one bit. For a more relaxed evening, Thrillist suggests the Smalls Jazz Club over in the West Village. While the venue is significantly less crowded compared to NYC’s more famous jazz joints, that means you’re more free to drown in a sea of sax than gets lost in bustling crowds.

Barclays Center

Image credit: @barclayscenter on Instagram

Sure, Madison Square Garden is a household name when it comes to concert halls, but frankly, Barclays Center is where it’s at. The arena is located in Prospect Heights and was made for show-stopping concerts, having hosted the likes of Barbra Streisand and The Rolling Stones. There’s nothing quite like watching a grand concert, but it’s even better when the location itself adds to the experience.

Arlene’s Grocery

Image credit: @arlenesgrocery on Instagram

No, this isn’t where to go to restock your pantry. The name might be a bit misleading, but music venue Arlene’s Grocery at least started out as a bodega and butcher shop. Now, this Lower East Side location has since been turned into a rock music bar that plays live music every night. Queen of moody pop Lana del Rey performed here before getting her big break, as did a certain Lady Gaga.

Darnell Lamont Walker, a self-professed traveling foodie, has been found sitting at tables eating baby goat sweetbreads, drinking tequila, and laughing loudly with strangers. The writer, filmmaker, artist, and sometimes photographer puts happiness above all.