Impromptu date ideas: Where to take a music lover in NYC

MeetMoi is all about introducing you to new and interesting people nearby that you can meet up with in person. This is the third in a series of posts to give you hints on where to take your new Intro on an impromptu date. Get more ideas here.

By Brienne Walsh

From bars to concert halls to summer stages to the nearest subway station, there are hundreds of places to hear live music in New York. To narrow down your choices, we’ve picked ten places where you don’t need to pay for a ticket in advance to hear some of the best music the city has to offer. Perfect for an impromptu MeetMoi date, this list has something for every type of music lover.

1.    Barbes, 376 9th Street, Park Slope: This bar and performance space has live music every night of the week, beginning with a cocktail hour set from 5-7pm. Although a donation of $10 is strongly encouraged for performances, the venue is small enough that you can sit at the bar for a drink, and still be able to listen to the music. If you go, don’t miss Stephane Wrembel, the French virtuoso guitarist who wrote the theme song for Woody Allen’s “Midnight in Paris.” He plays at Barbes every Sunday night.

2.    Jules Bistro, 65 St. Mark’s Place, East Village: This old East Village stand-by is styled after the jazz clubs in Harlem in the 1950s, as well as classic street cafés in Paris. On any given night, you can stop by for a glass of red wine, and hear some of the best live music in the city.

3.    Manhattan Inn, 632 Manhattan Avenue, Greenpoint: Serving classic American bistro food along with cocktails, this restaurant features a grand piano in the back room. Underneath a crystal chandelier, local pianists play their oeuvre throughout brunch and dinner. Later in the evening, a DJ is brought in, and a dance party opens up in the back room.

4.    Frank’s Cocktail Lounge, 660 Fulton Street, Fort Greene: A neighborhood institution, this bar charges a $5 surcharge for music on the weekends—the rest of the time, the performances are free. Featuring the occasional jazz show, as well as DJs who spin classic hip hop, you’ll be lucky if you catch saxophone whiz, Lonnie Youngblood, who performs on rare Thursday nights. Both kitschy and classy, this is the perfect place to take a music lover who likes an eclectic mix.

5.    Starving Artist Café and Gallery, 249 City Island Avenue, City Island: Located on a bizarre—and kind of wonderful—seaside outpost in the Bronx, this coffee shop invites musicians of all types to come perform. Although they don’t charge a cover, they pass around a “music appreciation box” to guests seated at tables. The café proves that not all of the great live music venues are downtown and in Brooklyn.

6.    Opera on Tap, Freddy’s, 627 5th Avenue, Park Slope: With outlets in just about every city in the United States, this bar has live opera singers come perform for barflies one Sunday evening a month. By goading visitors to “get depressed, then medicate,” the organizers of the event show that there can be humor—and fun—in opera music, a medium that is not always appealing to young listeners.

7.    Pete’s Candy Store, 709 Lorimer Street, Williamsburg: A stopping point on the way to fame for many indie rockers, bands perform every night of the week in the back room of this bar, which is located on a quiet residential street in Williamsburg. Featuring both drink specials and comfort food, the stage in the back room looks like the set for a vaudeville performance at a carnival, giving a twinge of nostalgic romance to the music played within.

8.    Parkside Lounge, 317 East Houston, East Village: The backroom of this venue features live music performances, film screenings, and, according to the website “good times.” With shows ranging from blueglass to burlesque to funk to pop, on any given night—if you stick around for long enough—you’re bound to hear something you like. Bands either charge their own cover, or pass around a hat for tips; the bar itself doesn’t charge a dime to enter.

9.    The Bell House, 149 7th Street, Gowanus: Coverted from a 1920s warehouse, this space boasts 25 foot ceilings and great acoustics. Although the live music isn’t always free—a recent concert by Norah Jones, for instance, played to a sold out audience—many nights of the week, there’s no cover charge. If nothing else, you can visit the Gowanus Canal right down the street, which is very polluted, but makes for its own kind of visual music.

10.  Le Poisson Rouge, 158 Bleecker Street, West Village: Attempting to serve as an asylum for artists and musicians alike, this venue has some of the best performances in the city. Although many require tickets, there are a variety of free events for members, as well as at least one night a week that’s open to the public, including the monthly party known as “Macaulay Culkin’s iPod,” in which a DJ spins tunes for dancing. Guests come dressed up in costumes—in May, the theme was Prom Night—but you can show up as is, and just enjoy the spectacle free of charge.

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Filed under Impromptu Date Ideas, Meeting Up, New York

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