Live and Local: Music in New York


  • New York : The city is always bustling

  • New York : Locals line up to get into the Mercury Lounge

  • New York : Inside the Mercury Lounge

  • New York : On stage at the Mercury Lounge

  • New York : The New York subway at night

As a music blogger I spend a large portion of my life going to gigs. And when I say “large portion”, I really mean every spare minute. Most people are surprised to hear that when I take a holiday, the last thing on my mind is exploring the local music scene. For me a holiday means a break from everything – home, work, hobbies and blogging.

When I’m out in the world travelling I have to remind myself the reason I see so much live music at home, and write about it, is because I love it. And if I find myself in a city or country renowned for its music scene and I don’t go and see anything, I’ll definitely regret it later. I have to make sure in between the sightseeing, relaxing, eating and drinking that I track down a music venue and catch something live and local.

That’s exactly what I did in New York, a city where there’s always too much to do, so I thought I’d share with you a couple of tips on how to get the balance of a holiday and music just right.

1. Stay Somewhere Central

This probably sounds like practical advice for any holiday to a big city but it’s even more important if you want to include music. Most cities have an area that’s particularly rich in venues (think Fortitude Valley in Brisbane or Melbourne’s inner-North) and it’s usually easily accessible from the centre of town. Lower Manhattan is a good base – you’re only a taxi or subway ride away from all the major music venues. Expedia’s Aussie travellers absolutely love New York – we usually stay for five days so it’s worth having a good base for your adventure. Check out Expedia’s New York Travel Guide for some more tips.

2. Familiarise Yourself With Local Listings

Most cities will have street press, local magazines or online listings for gigs. They won’t cover everything but there’ll be a fairly decent cross-section to work with. Time Out is usually available in most hotels. I’m pretty particular about my music. I like to try and find nights or venues that suit my tastes – Oh My Rockness is perfect for indie music lovers like me.

3. Don’t be Afraid to Ask Around

Sometimes the best gigs are the ones that aren’t advertised. Ask bartenders, hotel receptionists and wait staff where to see live music – you’ll be surprised by the recommendations. If it wasn’t for the bartender at The Gaslight in New York’s Meatpacking District, I never would have found a really cool jazz bar on the Lower East Side.

4. Mix Music with A Must-Do Experience

You’ve got a limited time to see and do everything when you’re on holiday. Instead of sacrifice sightseeing for music, try combining the two. Head along to an event in an historic venue, eat at a famous restaurant near the club where a band is playing or plan a walking trip that ends with a music venue. Catching a show at New York’s Mercury Lounge was the perfect excuse to grab a bite to eat at the iconic Katz’s Delicatessen beforehand.

 5. Keep It Local

As tempting as it is to see the latest big band or touring superstar, it’s unlikely you’ll have an experience unique to the city you’re in. Instead find a band that’s local – the crowd will be local and you’ll hear something you might not find anywhere else. I had to convince myself I didn’t need to see Gotye in New York City as he plays regularly enough in Australia – my time and money was better spent on a local.

 6. Have Fun

Most of all you want to make sure you have a great time. You’re in a foreign city where you (probably) don’t know anyone – use the opportunity to really let your hair down and dance like no one is watching.

Mercury Lounge images by Adam Macchia

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Gareth Evans

About the Author Gareth Evans

When Gareth Hugh Evans started Timber and Steel three years ago he had no idea that it would become one of the most highly regarded and widely read music blogs in Australia. Seeing the rise of acoustic, folk and roots based music both in Australia and worldwide but with no local music site dedicated to the genre Gareth decided to grab the bull by the horns and start his own - and the response has been overwhelming. Timber and Steel was only meant to be a hobby, now it's Gareth's life. 3 travel must haves? Laptop, mp3 player, sunglasses What's on your travel bucket list? Going electric at the Newport Folk Festival, Bar hopping in Nashville