Home / From Brooklyn to Montauk: The Top Venues for Live Music on Long Island

From Brooklyn to Montauk: The Top Venues for Live Music on Long Island

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New York is a melting pot for art and music. Luckily, we Long Islanders are exposed to many opportunities to see great live music. Local and national acts are easily accessible at the many venues we have at our disposal throughout the New York City area.

Listed below are the top five venues for live music in the boroughs of Brooklyn and Queens and in Nassau and Suffolk counties for you music junkies out there. Order yourself a martini, tequila and Coke or an ice water and happy venue-hopping. Don’t forget who the designated driver is!

We’ll start with Brooklyn, a mecca for artists and yuppies alike. From the free spirits roaming the streets of Williamsburg to the Hasidic Jews in Borough Park, Brooklyn has many sights and sounds. It also has some great music venues to check out.

1. Trash Bar gives you anything from experimental music to rock to jazz and you can see live music on any given night of the week. The bar is located in Williamsburg and has a well-deserved reputation for its music. It prides itself on having the cheapest food and drinks in the area (and they've completely redone their stage and sound system recently). A “raw” experience in viewing live music, free Tater Tots when you buy a beer and plenty of license plates and junk yard nostalgia complement Trash Bar and make it work.

2. Although South Paw has a relatively small stage, that certainly doesn’t stop it from being cool. Located in Park Slope, it has a large, 5,000 square foot capacity and hosts all types of bands and DJs. A favorite of mine, Antibalas, a Brooklyn-based Latin funk band play this place. To me, it’s a real music lover’s venue. There’s a lot of tradition here although it’s only been around since 2002 and has a well known reputation among artists and musicians in the area. Southpaw was at one point a discount store and features a second bar called Downsouth below it.

3. For the rough and tumble crowd Hank’s Saloon is the spot (in a good way, of course). One of the oldest bars in Brooklyn, this place has diversity. Hipsters, cowboys, punks, and everything else, there’s a country vibe going on here and some. Mondays they have live band country karaoke and offer music seven nights a week. Lots of dancing and BBQ go on here. Sundays they offer free admission from 9:30 until 1:00am, $2 beers and free BBQ. That ain’t too shabby in this town!

4. Next on my list is Rose Live Music. Although it’s only been around for a short time,  word of mouth in the music community has really boosted the live jazz scene in Brooklyn. In its first eight months, Rose had over 700 musicians play the venue. The place also hosts DJs and experimental, new jazz, and Latin music. This place was the first music venue to set up shop on Grand Street and there’s usually no cover to get in. There’s a comfortable patio in the back for those warmer nights and the atmosphere is relaxing and perfect for a martini of your choice! There’s an Italian menu and from what I hear, the cheeses are delicious.

5. Music Hall of Williamsburg (the old North Six) is another good one. I saw Charlie Hunter play here years ago when it was North Six and the neighborhood is hip and artsy. Part of me wishes the old North Six was still around; however, the hall is beautiful. The set up is similar to The Bowery Ballroom and they have an excellent sound system.

, although not known for its music venues, has its share of places to catch good live music.

1. Flushing Town Hall has a lot of out of town acts coming through that are excellent. The hall offers jazz, classical, family events, summer garden concerts, and has been around for over 25 years. It’s a great spot for culture in Queens. A membership to Town Hall which gives you discounts on events as well as affiliation with the Smithsonian Institute in Washington, DC. There are also art exhibits for New York artists. Lots going on here and I highly recommend it.

2. Bohemian Beer Garden is a good place to go although it’s not really considered a
music venue. I put it as second on my list because it’s a great place to hang out and socialize. There are tons of beers to choose from and the place is an easy hang out for friends. It also offers events and festivals during the summer and has bands, dancing and more for entertainment. The food is good and Astoria is a hot spot, so that’s why I recommend this place.

3. LIC Bar has a 100-year history, a great wood bar, and an outdoor garden. It is also conveniently one stop from Manhattan. It has its share of beer choices and a great view of Manhattan. The crowd is friendly, with a lot of after-work people and it happens to be in one of the hottest areas (Long Island City) right now in Queens.

4. Waltz-Astoria Café is a small café in Astoria but seems to draw a lot of good music. Anything from jazz to hip hop is offered here and it has a warm cozy feeling to it although it’s a bit tight inside. The coffee and desserts are good and the staff is courteous.

5. The Irish Circle in Far Rockaway makes the list because it has a neighborhood bar feel to it. Bands play on weekends and lots of locals come out celebrate Rockaway style. This is the new Irish Circle, the old one being a landmark in the area for years. Great bartenders and good food make this an enjoyable place to watch a band.

Nassau County has a lot of places to see live music. With everything from your local pub to decent sized venues represented, you can catch a band any night of the week somewhere in this county.

1. First on the list has to be the Nassau Coliseum. It is the Madison Square Garden of
Long Island. It offers big name bands at a big venue. Of course there’s always
Islanders' hockey and special events scheduled there also. Huge sound here and if you’ve never been there, it’s a great place to see a concert.

2. Nikon at Jones Beach Theater is the best place to see a show during the summer in the area, hands down. Right on the water, Jones Beach offers big time acts in a comfortable and cool setting for the hot summer months. I saw David Bowie there a few summers ago and the light show was great. Top notch venue with an incredible sound system. This is a true concert-goers’ experience.

3. Next on the list I’ll have to go with Mulcahy’s in Wantagh. When the Downtown closed down, this place become even more valuable to Long Islanders for live music. The place has been around forever. It smells like beer and it’s old, but the sound is good and the place has tradition. Everyone has been to Mulcahy’s at least once to see a show if they’ve lived on Long Island for a while. They get a lot of '80s bands like Poison, however there is also a local scene represented on weekends. It’s also right next to the train station which is good if you don’t want to drive or you’re coming in from the city.

4. DJ Rider’s makes the list located in Oceanside. This place has one of the best sound systems on Long Island for a venue this size. DJs offers music five or six nights a week, open mic and weekends the parking lot is packed with motorcycles and a tough yet fun crowd. The bartenders and soundman have been there forever and the place has been around a long time. Used to be the old Christopher’s years ago for you long time Long Island concert-goers.

5. The Crazy Donkey in Farmingdale offers a night club atmosphere with bands and live DJs. The crowd is young, mostly early twenties and the place is packed most weekend nights. Top 40 bands mostly play here and seems to be one of LI’s hottest hang-outs.

Finally, Suffolk County hosts some great places to see music. Although it might be a hike for city folk, it’s worth a drive out there during the warm months for some fresh air and good music.

1. Stephen’s Talkhouse has to go on the top of my list. This is a great place to see music. Some musicians who play here are famous, however many others are underrated or just not that well known. The place has been around since 1970 and national acts started performing there in 1987. There’s karaoke on Wednesdays (I know that’s not really live music) and an open jam on Mondays. People like Taj Mahal and the great Louisiana guitarist Sonny Landreth play here. Definitely worth checking out.

2. Vail Leavitt Music Hall located in Riverhead hosts free concerts and has several stages offering a variety of music. Has a great blues festival during the summer. Lots of jazz artists perform here regularly also.

3. Brookhaven Amphitheater offers a variety of shows during the summer and a top notch sound system. Lots of quality national acts perform here. They also offer top local groups. Also offers movies, classical performances, and Disney shows.

4. Imac Theater in Huntington offers great sound and quality national acts. Located in the heart of downtown, jazz to rock can be heard here with a number of quality local acts opening up performances regularly.

5. Brickhouse Brewery in Patchogue is a smaller venue I had to put on the list. It offers music regularly during the week. Mostly local acts play here. The building is the oldest commercial building in town. It was a hardware store until 1990 and offers good bar food and service.

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About Dan Freedman