Boston gave the world Aerosmith, James Taylor and too many great musicians to count. It continues to be a city where talent is born, and where up-and-coming artists from across the country go to prove their worth. True to its reputation, Boston’s live music bars do not disappoint.
Indie Rock Heaven: Great Scott
Nestled in the Allston neighborhood halfway between Boston College and Boston University, Great Scott has just the right amount of grit and grime you might expect in a well-worn indie rock club. The narrow, 240-person capacity room features checkered floors and a bar running up one side. It’s welcomed national acts like Wolfmother and Of Montreal to its stage, alongside countless local rock outfits. If indie rock isn’t your scene, Great Scott also hosts a weekly comedy night and occasional DJ events showcasing an array of eclectic music.
All that Jazz: Wally’s Cafe
If you want to be a part of the best jazz scene in Boston, make Wally’s your first stop. Wally’s Cafe opened its doors on Boston’s South End in 1947 and offers live music 365 days a year without a cover charge. It’s a small room with brick walls and moody lighting that exudes old-school vibes. A handful of tables along one wall provide a place to sit back and take it all in, but—fair warning—you won’t be able to resist the dance floor once you hear Wally’s infectious tunes. Wally’s is known as a place for talented up-and-comers to show off their chops, and while blues and jazz dominate the calendar, Wally’s makes room for funk and rock acts as well.
Folk Fever: Club Passim
Back in 1999, a then-unknown singer-songwriter named Josh Ritter drove across the country to play at Club Passim’s weekly open mic. It was his first time performing in public. A dozen albums and countless shows later, Josh Ritter and performers like him keep coming back to Club Passim for a simple reason: It’s Boston’s best folk venue, and there really isn’t even a close second. This Harvard Square institution has been showcasing talented musicians in its intimate 125-seat basement room since 1958. Dine on menu specials such as roasted beets or fried buratta, and don’t forget to check out their beer and wine offerings.
Rockin’ and Rollin’: Paradise Rock Club
For young British rock bands making their first trek across the pond, the Paradise Rock Club is often one of the first stops, and for good reason. This Commonwealth Avenue joint boasts energetic crowds and fist-pumping rock shows. With balcony seating and a wide-open floor plan, the Paradise holds more than 900 enthusiastic music fans, but you’re never too far from the action. Famous Boston bands like the Pixies and the Lemonheads found early success at the Paradise, and the next generation of rockers continues to thrive.
Falafel and Music: The Middle East
The Middle East is a legend in the Cambridge area, balancing gritty dive-bar charm with top-notch Mediterranean food. The restaurant portion of this venue serves up some of the best falafel in town. Make your way to the back, and you’ll discover a huge complex with four different music rooms: Upstairs, Downstairs, Corner and the neighboring companion venue ZuZu. Downstairs is arguably the best room—it’s a 550-capacity standing-room only space converted from an abandoned bowling alley where local and national acts play rock, hip-hop, dance music and everything in-between.