My favorite New York City concert venues

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New York City is where I became a concert junkie. No city in the U.S. hosts more great concerts than NYC, so the list of outstanding concert venues is almost endless.

Everyone who attends shows in New York has a personal list of the best places to see a concert. This is my totally subjective list, based largely on personal memories associated with the venues.

Mercury Lounge

I’m only just now getting over the 2008 breakup of Danish pop duo Junior Senior, whose split was a tragic development for anyone interested in shaking his or her coconuts. But at least I have the memories of seeing them at the Mercury Lounge in 2007. This dive on Houston Street actually isn’t the nicest or cleanest place in the world. But it only holds 250 people, making it a great place to see some of your favorite acts up close.

Music Hall of Williamsburg

Pretty much every cool indie band in the world plays this place. The venue’s upcoming schedule features acts ranging from acclaimed newcomers, like Das Racist and Metronomy, to acts who have been around a while and built up a decent fan base, like Sondre Lerche and Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings, to veteran acts with hardcore crowds, like Arctic Monkeys and Ani DiFranco.

Bowery Ballroom

The Bowery is cozy, with a capacity of less than 1000. It’s relatively clean and well-maintained. And it was the site of one of my favorite concert memories – seeing Coldplay in an intimate venue just before they exploded with the “A Rush of Blood to the Head” album. We shared a luxury box with the Gallaghers from Oasis, while Gwyneth Paltrow sat across the room in another box.

Hammerstein Ballroom

For some reason, I ended up here a lot during my summer NYC internship, catching shows by Jimmy Eat World, Our Lady Peace, the Hives, and Doves. I love the elegant design, with the hand-painted ceiling, the balconies along the sides and the general admission floor. This 34th Street location is one of the few concert venues in New York that is an actual architectural attraction in addition to hosting cool shows.

Madison Square Garden

I know, it’s not cool to like huge arenas. You’re supposed to talk about how you only love tiny, crowded clubs. But MSG is one of the premiere arenas in the nation and gets shows that venues in other cities often don’t get. I still regret not buying tickets to Michael Jackson’s 2003 anniversary shows, which ended up being his last in America. Seeing MJ live is one bucket list item I’ll never get to complete. MSG also has a smaller theater that holds about 5000. Seeing Radiohead there in 2006 was one of my favorite concert moments ever.

I’m aware that my list is missing a lot of great concert halls, like Terminal 5 and Radio City Music Hall, but for me, these five venues are the ones that come to mind first.

What’s your favorite place to see a concert, New York City or otherwise?

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About Scott Shetler

Scott is a Chicago-based journalist and blogger who seeks out quirky sights and awesome destinations throughout North America and beyond.

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