See a band just before it hits it big
116 Suffolk St.
Thanks to forward-thinking parties like “Vicious” and “Call the Cops,” bands like the Killers, Futureheads, and the Secret Machines showcased at this tiny, no-frills club just before they took off. Next up: Diamond Nights and Benzos.
See a band just after it hits it big
125 E. 11th St.
Sure, it’s cheesy, the layout is terrible, and Budweisers cost $7. But it’s also big enough to house a crossover audience, the sound system is killer, and it’s getting the names: Arcade Fire, the Fiery Furnaces, and the Hives, lately.
Hear music under stars
Eschewing the SummerStage formula of a few big-name benefits plus a slew of missable acts, the festival consistently hosts above-par acts like Burning Spear, Pere Ubu, and Van Hunt, plus star-studded tributes to artists like Leonard Cohen. And you can actually get in.
See new- and old-school hip-hop
125 Fifth Ave.
Park Slope doesn’t exactly ring with hip-hop lore, but since the biggest M.C.’s are hard to catch outside stadiums, the left-field acts—like A Tribe Called Quest’s Ali Shaheed Muhammad and Blackalicious’s Lyrics Born—who play this intimate setting are a worthy substitute.
See Broadway stars up close and personal
FEINSTEIN’S AT THE REGENCY
540 Park Ave.
Cabaret star Michael Feinstein is masterful at lining up world-class musical actors—Nell Carter, Brian Stokes Mitchell, Chita Rivera—to perform one-act shows in this intimate space.
Catch an obscure heavy-metal band
243 W. 42nd St.
This Times Square blues-and-soul institution boasts a surprisingly heavyweight metal lineup—everyone from hard-core bands like the Dillinger Escape Plan to death-metal acts like Satyricon and King Diamond.
Discover Teutonic cabaret
CAFE SABARSKY AT NEUE GALERIE
1048 Fifth Ave.
The weekly cabaret inside this gorgeous townhouse café has quietly become one of the best in the city. The German- and Austrian-tinged performances range from traditional Yiddish to contemporary acts like Daniel Isengart—and you can sample toothsome chocolate ganache pastries while you watch.
Hear modern but not too avant jazz
DIZZY’S CLUB COCA-COLA
10 Columbus Circle
If Jazz at Lincoln Center’s main Rose Theater is too trad and Tonic too free, Wynton Marsalis’s smallest space has quickly established itself with savvy, accessible programming that’s already hauled in everyone from famed guitarist Jim Hall to piano legend Cyrus Chestnut.