Sarah Tomlinson is a Brooklyn- and Los Angeles-based journalist and celebrity ghostwriter. Her father-daughter memoir, Good Girl, is out now from sister company Simon & Schuster and available wherever books are sold.
A city of constant reinvention, New York has inspired innumerable artistic, sonic and fashion movements. And while critics are always lamenting the rising cost of living as the death of culture in the Big Apple, artists, musicians and punks have always found abundant inspiration in a good fight. Steeped in history and full of new pockets ready for discovery, the city still offers many great live music opportunities. Here are the five best, for the current moment, at least.
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217 E. Houston Street
New York, NY 10022
Although the legendary nightspots that launched the punk movement—CBGB and Max’s Kansas City—are long gone, the Lower East Side is still a nightlife hub. Even with the upscale boutiques and ice cream shops that have moved in, many corners just feel rock and roll. This neighborhood stalwart continues to host a motley assortment of punks and rockers and the sold out shows have the sweaty intensity to suggest the artist will soon be on to bigger and better, as will upcoming performers Machine Elves and Tennis.
94 Avenue A
New York, NY 10009
Really special venues are often much more than just a place to see bands play, also nurturing a tribe of musicians and associated artists. The Sidewalk Café helped create NYC’s Anti-Folk scene in the mid-90s, supporting the development of musicians including Regina Spektor and The Moldy Peaches, as well as Peaches’ co-founder Kimya Dawson’s solo career. It is still home to one of the city’s oldest open mic nights.
620 Atlantic Avenue
Brooklyn, NY 11217
It might be argued that no arena in New York could compete with Madison Square Garden, but there’s something to be said for this young upstart that managed to coax The MTV Video Music Awards from Los Angeles to New York. Barclays did just that in 2013, the award show’s thirtieth year, and the night starred pop music heavy weights in Brooklyn, from Lady Gaga to Kanye West. It’s easy to see why the room was chosen for such a monumental show. It’s a well-designed space with clear sightlines and great sound quality.
Central Park SummerStage
New York, NY 10019
An iconic musical destination, the Central Park SummerStage is where Yoko Ono gathered heartbroken John Lennon fans the Sunday following his assassination, and where Simon and Garfunkel recorded their impeccable 1981 reunion concert. Boasting breathtaking sunsets behind the stage, the space is a surprisingly intimate place to hear live music. It features clear sightlines and short queues for the abundant dining and drinking options and will be an ideal backdrop for country rockers Dawes and folk pop crooner Father John Misty this summer.
20 Meadow Street
Brooklyn, NY 11206
The scene of one of the city’s newest rock revolutions, this modest Bushwick loft—featuring a live music space and recording studio—has just the kind of speakeasy atmosphere and community-minded vibe that makes musicians and audience members feel at home. Founded with involvement from local punk stalwarts, The So So Glos, the band has not only helped to grow the Bushwick scene but has also spread the word while touring with Matt & Kim and The Hold Steady. The next musical up-and-comer could be onstage tonight.
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