8 Small-Scale Places for Live Music in NYC

New York is flush with great options for seeing live music in a variety of settings. So where do you go when you want to chill and get into what you're hearing? Here are eight venues that hold no more than 250 people at a time and provide a roster of great artists for when you want to get a little up close and personal with great music in New York City.

The Iridium

iridium steve miller

Steve Miller with Jimmie Vaughan (credit: Arnie Goodman). 

After more than a quarter century in New York, The Iridium remains the capital of guitar mastery. Home base to the legendary guitarist Les Paul (he and Paul McCartney once shared the stage there), the club still pays homage to the late musician with Paul-related memorabilia adorning the walls. You'll find a mix of jazz, classic rock, blues and a range of other genres on their calendar. This subterranean club also serves food and drink from its convenient Theater District location. 1650 Broadway, 212-582-2121,

City Winery New York City

city winery

Photo: Adam Pass/City Winery.

City Winery New York City at Hudson River Park brings together great bites, wine to match, and views to remember. The venue’s two stages host a stellar array of big-name music and comedy performers nightly. 25 11th Ave. (15th St./Pier 57 in Hudson River Park), 646-751-6033,

Rockwood Music Hall 

Like a rocket, you'll discover three stages at the Lower East Side’s Rockwood Music Hall. Check out each one  (or all three!) for the best in indie acts of numerous genres. There are two smaller, more intimate rooms and the bi-level room for bigger acts. Some shows are ticketed, while others are provided free of charge with just a drink minimum. There’s no reason not to find your new favorite group at Rockwood! 196 Allen St.,

Village Vanguard

Village Vanguard

This is a legendary spot. Jazz fans and novices alike make pilgrimages this jazz club in the West Village. Don't let its small size fool you; once the players set to work, they’ll transport you anywhere imaginations can go. A great starter show is performed every week on Monday nights with the Vanguard Jazz Orchestra, who have been nestled into this time slot since 1966. 178 Seventh Ave. S., 212-255-4037,

Pete’s Candy Store

Pete's Candy Store

Pete’s is synonymous with Brooklyn music. With performances staged in what looks like an old train car, it's an atmosphere that only enhances the roster of talent at this 20-year-old Williamsburg hangout. In addition to a range of musical acts, there are also poetry readings, open mics and comedians, too. During the warm months, you'll find a charming back patio to enjoy a drink and one of their grilled cheese sandwiches. 709 Lorimer St., 718-302-3770,

Blue Note

Blue Note Jazz Club Chris Botti

In an annual tradition, Chris Botti performs a holiday residency at Blue Note Jazz Club.

Some four decades old, Blue Note continues its commitment to hosting top-notch  jazz performers every night from its venerable Greenwich Village location. All the greats pass through these unassuming doors, where you’d be well advised to reserve a table in advance and come as early for the best seats possible. 131 W. 3rd St., 212-475-8592,

Mercury Lounge

Another renowned nightspot that's still surprisingly intimate, Mercury Lounge holds down the music fort on East Houston. Like Rockwood, this venue showcases indie acts that might well blaze to fame sometime soon. But for now, you can still see them for about $15 at this no-frills, always cool club on the Lower East Side. 217 E Houston St., 212-260-4700,

Jalopy Theatre

Back in Brooklyn, you’ll find folk, blues and honky-tonk and all things Americana on the menu at Red Hook’s Jalopy Theatre. They not only showcase rootsy acts of all kinds, but also teach guitar and other instruments (mandolin included!) to adults and kids alike. Their Brooklyn Folk Festival also attract acts throughout the borough every year come spring. 315 Columbia St., 718-395-3214,

About the Author

Merrill Lee Girardeau lives and writes in Brooklyn.

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