Boston has reared its fair share of famous faces. Musicians and bands like Aerosmith, the Dropkick Murphys, and the Pixies all got their start in this energetic city. Their success reminds locals that the weeknight, local gig they dropped in on could very well be the breakthrough performance of a future big-ticket draw. More often than not, the best place to catch a live show is at the dive bar down the block. Boston’s music scene is eclectic and rife with international talent. From locally renowned smooth jazz duos to bass-dropping DJs and Berklee College of Music students taking their talents from subway stations to the stage, these newcomers are eager for small audiences in cafe corners, basement bars, and mini-music halls. Whether you prefer your entertainment with sticky floorboards in dusky dance halls, or at a private table with an effervescent spritzer, the live music scene in Boston is abundant.
The Middle East
Get close to your new favorite band at this Middle Eastern restaurant and nightclub. The Downstairs basement hall features larger bands leading ear-splitting, bass-pumping dance parties, while Upstairs boasts a more relaxed, casual vibe—and the venue’s signature ruby horseshoe arches. Stay Upstairs to see up-and-coming Boston-based music groups perform on the stage layered with Persian rugs, and munch on charcoal-grilled kebabs and other Lebanese specialties at the family-operated restaurant, ZuZu.
This Bohemian-chic cabaret is known for hosting amazing live music every night of the week. Go here for soulful live jazz on a Friday or Saturday night and mingle with a mellow crowd looking for an easygoing night out. If you show up early, you’re sure to claim a table at the stage’s edge. With no cover charge at the door, go ahead and order one more drink from their creative cocktail list, like the Queen Bee, with vodka, fresh-squeezed grapefruit juice, elderflower, and champagne.
Paradise Rock Club
Loveingly referred to as “The Dice,” this intimate venue is praised for its on-point acoustics, affordable tickets, and a varied line up of fringe mainstream and local acts. It’s also the first place U2 performed in the United States, back in 1981. Arrive early to avoid getting stuck behind either of the two columns in the middle of the room.
House of Blues
Born in 1992 in a converted historic house in Cambridge, the House of Blues has grown up to be the music mecca of the Fenway neighborhood. While the spacious, three-tiered venue is large enough to host to big name headliners, including Lady Gaga and Katy Perry, and the crowds they draw, it’s small enough to evoke the house concert vibe it had way back when. A smartly curated folk-art collection adds to the comfortable, living-room atmosphere.
There isn’t a bad seat in the house at this upscale Cambridge kitchen and music venue, where the band sets up on a lofty stage surrounded by standing room and a second-floor mezzanine. Book your tickets early as the space is compact and fills fast with devoted fans of folk, indie rock, and alterna-pop bands. Work up an appetite on the dance floor and indulge in gastropub-style fare, including “disco tots” with chorizo gravy and cheesesteaks topped with homemade kimchi.