The Top Music Venues in Philadelphia – Part 2


Boot and Saddle

boot and saddle philly photo
Photo by Kevin Burkett

This is a great small dive bar venue which has a small stage showcasing local talent. As you would expect from the name the décor has a country and western feel. This venue is small so if you have a particular band that you want to see you should get your tickets ahead of time. The stage is small, so if you want to see the band rather than just hear them, its best to try and get up close to the front.

You can get your tickets online for any of the wide variety of indie acts and music talent.

If you want something to eat there is a decent bar menu with such offerings as Pulled Pork, Chicken Wings and even Vegan Chicken Cheesesteak. This is a dive bar with a vegan cheese option! The bar has a rotating list of craft beers on offer for decent prices.

Underground Arts

underground arts philly photo
Photo by bythemillion

This place is a little out of the way in Spring Garden, but it is well worth the trip if you want to see some indie bands in a great venue. It offers 12,000 square feet of space which is dedicated to promoting local bands and preforming arts.

There is plenty of vibrant art on the walls. It has the feel of a modern performance space. Most of the events are standing room only although there are some seated performances sometimes. The space is small, but the acoustics are pretty good. There are a number of large pillars in this basement area so it can be a little annoying if you are standing behind one of them. The larger space also has a bar which serves food.

There is also a smaller room to the side with a bar and some comfortable seating. It can be a place to get away for a while if the crowds in the larger room get overwhelming.

Union Transfer

union transfer philly photo
Photo by New York + Philly Live!

Our list wouldn’t be complete without mentioning Union Transfer. This is a definite Philly favorite music venue. It is housed in an old building and somehow just has a great atmosphere about it.

It has all the ingredients that you need for a great night out listening to an indie band. They offer a really good range of different performers here so that there is something for everyone.

It is a large space with two floors. It is a pretty big space compared to most of the other music venues in Philadelphia, and the high ceilings contribute to the feeling of space. This is a big contrast to many of the other local music venues.

You get a good view of the stage from most areas – either on the balcony or on the main floor. Most of the performances are standing room only, but there are some special events where there is seating. You can sit at the bar and listen to the band if you do not want to go on the main floor area.

There is a good selection of beers and the staff are usually excellent. Overall Union Transfer is one of the best music venues for miles around – a must see if you are in the area.



The Top Music Venues in Philadelphia – Part 1


There are many reasons to live in Philadelphia and one of those reasons is the vibrant indie music scene in the City. In recent years Philadelphia has grown to become one of the most exciting places to explore indie music. Here are just some of the great independent music venues that you really have to check out.

Johnny Brenda’s

johnny brendas photo
Photo by jakemohan

You must make time to head on down to Johnny Brenda’s the next time you are in the Fishtown area of Philadelphia. This exciting venue successfully combines gastro pub offerings with a lively music venue. Downstairs you can enjoy some great food and then venture upstairs to listen to a great band.

This is most definitely not a dive bar, even though sometimes it looks as though it is! It has the dim lighting and the writing on the walls, but it serves wine flights and craft beer. On the menu you can choose from such items as Kale Salad, Roasted Beets and even a BBQ Seitan Sandwich. Anywhere with kale on the menu probably can’t ever be classified as a dive bar!

Upstairs the music venue has a nostalgic turn of the century feel – unusual for an indie music venue, but it really works and adds enormously to its charm. The acoustics are great and there is always a good atmosphere. The music venue is upstairs and has a small bar and a patio area. It is good to have the outdoor space as sometimes it is good to be able to take a break from the crowds indoors. This is a popular place and it does get pretty crowded.

World Café Live

world cafe live photo
Photo by glokbell

No list of music venues in Philadelphia would be complete without mentioning World Café Live. There are two music stages in this exceptional music venue. There are often simultaneous performances happening on each floor.

The Upstairs Lounge has a café serving food and drinks. The food is fine, but not outstanding. You come here for the music, but it is nice to be able to enjoy dinner here if you want to. Most of the shows are ticketed events which can be purchased in advance.

The Downstairs Lounge has a very different atmosphere as it is more like a traditional music venue. It is small so it can get very crowded on busy nights.

Kung-Fu Necktie

kung-fu necktie photo
Photo by kaitlin.marie

If you are looking for a great dive bar in Philly which books some excellent indie rock and punk bands the bizarrely name Kung-Fu necktie is the place to go. It is small so be prepared to go shoulder to shoulder to people when you are listening to a band. Be prepared for it to be crowded ad loud and you will be on the right track. They have plenty of great beer specials to enjoy while you are listening to the music.


Great Venues to Play if You Have an Indie Band in New York – Part 2

mercury lounge photo
Photo by focusc

Mercury Lounge

This is one of the most talked about music venues in New York. The reputation of this place extends to the international stage, as many foreign bands play here when they are looking to get a start in the US. Radiohead is just one of the bands who played Mercury Lounge on their way to stardom.

The performance space is small, holding just 250 guests, but the acoustics are excellent. The stage is a decent size, and just a couple of feet above the ground. Overall the venue is a great place to perform and the design of the room promotes a good connection with the audience. There is a bar here, but this is a place to come and listen to the music first and have a drink second. The emphasis is definitely on the music.


lucilles king photo
Photo by warriorwoman531

Lucille’s is part of B.B. King’s Blues Club. Whilst the big names play in the main venue, up and coming artists get their chance in the smaller Lucille’s venue. This is the place to be seen for emerging blues artists.

As you would expect from being a part of such a prestigious venue, Lucille’s is a very high quality venue. The bar and grill are small, but this is as far away from a dive bar atmosphere that you can get. The décor is all rich dark woods and great art on the walls. Music is played here every night and it is a great step if you can secure a gig here.

Whichever of these great music venues you target, be sure always to follow their own specific instructions of how to contact them about securing a gig. Many of them want to be contacted only by email at first.

Make sure that you check up on their websites as to what each of them requires. It is always a good idea to make a good first impression and you won’t do that unless you pay attention to the booking rules of each venue. You never know when your lucky break is going to come, so keep persevering.



Great Venues to Play if You Have an Indie Band in New York – Part 1

If you are looking for your break for your indie band in New York, you are fortunate as there are so many different venues to play. Many venues that you want to play at will be the ones you’ve already frequented as a customer.  There are some indie music venues that are key to helping you on your way to establishing a wider fan base. It can be tough to get a start, but New York has a lot of excellent music venues where you can perform.

Here are some of the iconic music venues in New York to help you on your way.


pianos lower east side photo
Photo by smulligannn

If you manage to get a gig in this Lower East Side venue you could be well on your way to widening your fan base. There is a lot going on at Pianos, with a variety of different acts performing every day. This is a popular place with long lines to get in to the club most nights. It is well known in New York as one of the best places to hear great live music.

This venue has the advantage that it hosts CMJ showcases, so is well known in the industry. You never know when a music journalist or record label talent scout may be listening. It could give you the chance to be heard by someone with influence in the music industry.

There is a decent sized performance space with good acoustics. To secure a booking you must contact the venue by email only.

The Bowery Electric

bowery electric photo
Photo by Feast of Music

This is another very popular indie music spot which attracts some big names. If you can secure a spot to play here you have a good chance of your first big break.

This is a really nice performance venue. The downstairs basement has capacity for 50 people The stage is small, but the acoustics are pretty good and the place has a great atmosphere. Upstairs is called the Map Room and has capacity for 200 people.

Rockwood Music Hall

rockwood music hall photo
Photo by Tim Pierce

Rockwood Music Hall is one of the most coveted gigs on the Lower East Side. This is a large venue with three performance spaces. The owner, Ken Rockwood, is a veteran indie musician and knows a thing or two about how to make a great music performance venue.

One really notable thing about Rockwood Music Hall is that it has amazing acoustics and sound. Bands are often happy to record a live set here as it is just that good. They even have their own record label here. All the stages are open from 6 pm every night and the music goes on until the early hours. There are plenty of opportunities here and if you make a good impression it could give you a big break.

The Bitter End

greenwich bitter end photo
Photo by Jim Linwood

The Bitter End is one of those places that you really want to put on your priority list when you are trying to get gigs. It is one of the best performance spaces in New York. It is located in Greenwich Village in New York.

You will be following in the footsteps of some of the greatest names in the music industry including Billy Joel, Stevie Wonder, Lady Gaga, Nora Jones and Joni Mitchell.

This fabulous music venue also has the distinction of being the oldest in New York City. In an industry where nothing seems to last very long, it is pretty impressive that The Bitter End has been in business since 1961.

The Bitter End venue seats around 150 and there is standing room for 80 more. One great feature is that they have a NY Singer Songwriter Sessions. These started in 2003 with the aim of giving local talent the opportunity to perform. The audience pay just $5 cover charge to go and hear the bands play. Each artist has 15 minutes of stage time to impress. It is a great opportunity to showcase your talent in front of an enthusiastic audience.


Are Indie Record Deals As Great As They Seem? – Part 2

If you sign with an indie label you are much more likely to have contractual freedom than if you sign with one of the big labels. If you sign with a large commercial label it is highly likely that you will find yourself signing a very restrictive contract. This probably isn’t going to be the case with an indie label. Sometimes the whole deal is just done on a hand shake. If you are with an indie label you are probably going to be able to retain artistic control over your music and are not likely to be forced into album production deadlines.

contract photo
Photo by Steve Snodgrass

Of course not everything in indie record label land is positive. There are disadvantages to working with indie labels. The major downside of indie record labels is money. They just don’t have the financial resources of the big labels. This is a major issue for most indie labels and it needs to be thought about before you make any decisions about your future. You may be in this for the music, but it does help if you have enough money to eat! If you sign to an indie label you will most likely have to find another source of income in addition to your music recording career.

Whilst money should most definitely not be the only motivation you really should be aware of the impact that a lack of resources can have. There are some independent labels which have a decent amount of money, but largely they are not well funded.

This lack of money has an impact not only on recording facilities, but will also impact on promotion. Indie labels usually do not have the money to spend on promotion. This is a big thing to think about. There is no use having great recordings and a great stage presence if no one ever gets to see you.  You may end up having to do your own promotion, and there are several services that can help you with that.

Whilst indie labels will have contacts with the music press, it is likely that their influence will be more limited than the contacts that a large record label has. Getting your name out there in the press is a big part of finding an audience so this is an important consideration. Networking is a very important part of getting seen in the music industry, so you need to think about how you can become more widely known if you do not have the backing of a major label.

If you are with an indie label you may have to do a considerable amount of self-promotion. Social media is huge of course so you have to make sure that you have an online presence. You have to make sure that your music is out there.

A Facebook and YouTube account are the bare minimum of what you need to get yourself noticed. You need to do your own promotion and make sure that only the highest possible quality recordings are out there. If you sign with an indie label you will most likely have to learn marketing skills if you really want to get noticed. If this really is beyond your skill set, you will probably have friends who can do this on a limited budget. Now is the time to call in some favors!

I recommend always getting legal advice before signing anything.  You can buy an off-the-shelf contract and compare it to the deal you’re getting to see if it is fair.

Are Indie Record Deals As Great As They Seem? – Part 1

Getting a deal with an indie record label may seem like that almost impossible dream. Don’t quit your day job just yet!  A good friend continued to work at a fence company in East Brunswick until he had a solid, consistent future – and he was close to Asbury Park.  It is something that you have worked for and dreamed about for so long. You have spent countless hours rehearsing, performing and improving your sound.

You really feel as though you deserve some success and an indie record deal is just the thing that could send you on your way to success. The next thing that you need is a record deal, but is an indie deal really what you want? There are definitely good and bad points about going the indie route.

What are the realities of dealing with indie music labels? It may seem like the hardest part is getting the opportunity to be heard, but what is it really like dealing with an indie record label? You need to know both sides before you make an indie music recording contract your goal.  There are many advantages to dealing with a small label.

One of the main advantages of dealing with an indie label is that you will be able to remain true to your own musical vision. Generally, everyone involved in the indie music world is doing it because they believe in musical freedom and have a great passion for music.

indie label studio photo
Photo by Incase.

If an indie music label likes what you are doing that is a great sign. It most likely means that they share your vision and won’t expect you to compromise for chart success. It is highly likely that you will be able to remain true to your own musical and artistic vision. That can mean a great deal and you definitely need to think about how valuable this is to you.

Another advantage of an indie label is their small size. The big labels are huge corporate entities and you may feel that you are just another artist in a very big pond. You can very easily feel lost if you sign with one of the big labels, but if you sign with an indie outfit this will most likely not be problem, as they deal with a limited number of artists.

Usually indie music labels are a small, close knit community. They tend to have just have a few employees. This means that you will not be part of a big corporate machine as you would be if you were working with one of the better known labels. You will be working with the same people most of the time and this can be a great experience. Of course, if you start having artistic differences with these people it can quickly turn into a rather more difficult experience! However, for the most part, indie record labels are run by people who are in it for the love of the music, so they will usually be fine for you to retain your own artistic integrity.

7 Great Indie Rock Venues in New Jersey that You Have to Experience – Part 2

4 – Wonder Bar in Asbury Park

wonder bar Asbury Park photo
Photo by KatVitulano Photos

You have to visit the Wonder Bar if you want to hear some great music in New Jersey. It is right across the street from the beach and just a great place to hang out if you want to experience a friendly dive bar. They have a wide variety of bands playing each week.

This is even the place that you can bring your four-legged friend as they are dog friendly at the Wonder Bar. They even have a “Yappy Hour” when you can bring your dogs to sit out on the patio with you and make friends. They have special areas for the large and small dogs, just like a dog park.

5 – House of Independents in Asbury Park

This is one of the real success stories of the renaissance of Asbury Park. This is a relatively new venue in the area. It may not have the history of many of the other music venues in the area, but the quality of the facility more than makes up for this. The venue is very well designed. The stage is small, but the audience can get right up close to the performers. Everyone gets a great view and the acoustics are pretty good too.

There is some seating, but most of it is standing room only. Arrive early if you want to get a seat. The seating is stadium style so that everyone gets a good view – although it may remind you of watching sport in the high school gym!

6 – The Wellmont Theater in Montclair

wellmont theater montclair photo
Photo by Montclair Film Fest

This is another great venue which is well worth visiting if you want to listen to some great indie bands playing, it is an older building with some character, but it is very well maintained. It used to be a movie theater and is a truly beautiful building. This adds to the great atmosphere in the venue.

It is a small venue so this is great for seeing the bands up close. There is seating, but the front seats have been removed for the audience to stand.

7 – Dingbatz in Clifton

dingbatz clifton photo
Photo by Ryan Vaarsi

The Dingbatz s another great small dive bar where they always have great bands playing. If you are looking for live heavy metal music this is the place to be. It is most definitely a dive bar but it is very welcoming and has friendly staff.

It is a small venue which has a really good set up – you can see the bands really up close and the acoustics are pretty good too. They have good deals and drinks specials.



7 Great Indie Rock Venues in New Jersey that You Have to Experience – Part 1


There is a lively and vibrant indie rock music scene in New Jersey.  Don’t forget to check out venues in New York and Philly!  The natives get a little tired if you keep mentioning that the best thing to come out of the New Jersey music scene is Jon Bon Jovi! Sure that is something to be proud of, but there is so much to celebrate in the music scene right now. If you want to make sure to enjoy some of the best live music venues in New Jersey, here are some places to start.

1 – Asbury Lanes in Asbury Park

asbury lanes photo
Photo by

This is the place to be on a Friday and Saturday night if you want to listen to some great live music. You may wonder about the name. It is called Asbury Lanes because for the nights it isn’t a music venue it is open as a bowling alley. This has a really friendly atmosphere and a great dance floor.

2 – The Court Tavern, New Brunswick

court tavern new brunswick photo
Photo by DanCentury

This is one of the longest established music venues in New Jersey which is still going strong. It has a history going back to 1981. It did close for a while in 2012 when it was hit with a double whammy. The Council wanted to redevelop the site, but local opposition kept it alive. The Tavern survived this battle, but found itself unable to pay its bills. It is difficult to keep a good place down, and it only closed for ten months.

The Court Tavern is very much back on its feet and has been entertaining audiences in New Brunswick ever since. The appeal of the Tavern is in its authenticity. There really aren’t many places like this left. It has a cabaret license – a rare thing in New Brunswick. This allows it to keep true to its roots and invite bands to perform at the venue with few restrictions. It has a feeling of an indie venue of the past with flyers, stickers and writing on the wall.

The Court Tavern offers a huge variety of acts and talent. The hours vary according to the time of year, but usually they are open Wednesday to Saturday.

3 – Stone Pony in Asbury Park

stone pony photo
Photo by Яick Harris

The Stone Pony is one of the best known music venues in New Jersey. It’s a great venue with an indoor and an outdoor stage. It is only a block away from the beach and very close to all the rest of the Asbury Park nightlife venues. The atmosphere is friendly and the staff are usually welcoming and helpful.

The history of this venue goes right back to 1973. It is known for helping Jon Bon Jovi and Bruce Springsteen on their way to international success. Like many indie venues it has an interesting history of rise and fall. The venue was closed in 1991 after the owners filed for bankruptcy following a series of drunk driving law suits which were brought against them. It reopened again under new ownership but the 1990s were a difficult time for the venue. It reopened again in 2000 and care was taken to preserve some of the history of the venue.

As well as hosting some great music the Stone Pony is known for its involvement in the Asbury Park Festival and numerous charity events. The Stone Pony has a national profile so attracts some big names. Some feel that this has meant there is less opportunity for bands in the local scene.


Great Music Venues in New York – Part 2

Secret Project Robot

With a name like Secret Project Robot this has to be a cool place. Fortunately, it does live up to the hype of its name and is a great indie music venue in Brooklyn.

There is an outdoor area as well as an indoor stage. This is certainly a very eclectic space. Huge works of art hang from the ceiling and lots of interesting art is displayed on the walls.

The outside space is also interesting with art work, a bar and even a slide. You have to go so that you can experience one of the more eclectic bathrooms in New York – look out for the stuffed animals stuck to the walls leading to the bathroom. You can’t miss it!

The stage is pretty small but this just means that you can get up close and personal with the artists. There is room to dance and the bar serves reasonably priced drinks.

secret project robot photo
Photo by N0 Photoshop

Shea Stadium

This venue can be a little difficult to find as it is located in an industrial space off the beaten path in Brooklyn, but is well worth a visit. There is an outdoor patio which is a good place to cool off – it can get pretty crowded and hot inside.

shea stadium photo
Photo by Joe Shlabotnik

The Shea Stadium has been in Brooklyn for less than a decade but has already hosted more than 1,000 music sets. This a combined music venue and live recording studio. Every live session is recorded, creating a unique collection of the best live indie music.

If you are looking for an alternative music venue which most definitely doesn’t take itself seriously the Secret Project Robot is the place for you.

Skinny Dennis

You absolutely have to check out Skinny Dennis in Williamsburg if you are looking for a great live music venue. Definitely a dive bar with a very friendly atmosphere. They serve great coffee infused with copious amounts of alcohol! They even supply free peanuts and you are welcome to throw the shells on the floor. This is a very friendly place which hosts some great live music.

The Stone

No list of great music venues in New York would be complete without mentioning The Stone. Located in the East Village area of New York this music venue encourages the most eclectic range of talent. This is a very small venue which holds no more than about 50 people. It gets pretty hot in there, but you get a great view of the band.

The Bell House

bell house brooklyn photo
Photo by lazerCam

This is another Brooklyn music venue which is well worth visiting. This was once a warehouse but has been converted into one of the best music spaces in New York. There are two rooms. The smaller room is the bar and the larger one has a large stage and a decent sized space for the audience. The acoustics are excellent and there is always a good selection of indie bands playing.

Of course, you shouldn’t discount the venues in New Jersey, as they are often just a train ride away.



Great Music Venues in New York – Part 1

As you would expect, there are many places that you can enjoy hearing a live indie band in New York City. Here are some of our favorite places in New York.

Cake Shop

We know this is an unusual name, but it is one of the best music venues in New York City. Cake Shop has been a fixture in the Lower East Side since 2005.

Cake Shop has two levels. The main floor is a coffee shop, which is a great place to hang out if you want a quiet cup of coffee, and some peace. For somewhere called Cake Shop we would expect better cakes, but can forgive them as we are here for the other side of this place – the music venue.

The lower floor is a dive bar. The venue is a wonderfully dark basement – if you like your dive bar dingy, but friendly this is the place for you. With sticky tables and stickers on the walls this place will satisfy those of you who enjoy a traditional indie music space.

music venue photo
Photo by christian.senger

Union Hall

If you like your music venues to be small and intimate, head on over to Union Hall in Brooklyn. It is a converted warehouse with 5,000 square feet of very interesting space. It even has bocce ball and a library.

There are two floors in the venue and you will find the stage area downstairs. The upper area is a bar which has a very laid back feeling, with a mixed but generally friendly crowd. They have many performers at Union Hall including some great indie bands.

Pete’s Candy Store

This Williamsburg bar hosts a kinds of music from folk to indie. It really doesn’t look like much from the outside, but take a chance and step inside to hear some great music. It is a very small space so you do need to arrive early if you have a particular band that you want to hear.

petes candy store new york photo
Photo by Davide D’Amico

Jalopy Theatre

You definitely have to check out this outstanding music venue in Brooklyn. It is an incredibly laid back and friendly place. It is a music venue which also offers music lessons. The Jalopy is very much a community which encourages music making. They also have Jalopy Radio Station and run their own record label, Jalopy Records.

The music which is played here every night is described as “traditional roots music”. This ranges from blue grass, folk, and country, to blues and traditional world music.

The atmosphere is very much that of the old south. The venue is small and the seating makes you feel as though you are sitting on a wooden church pew. The décor is best described as eclectic with heavy velvet curtains on the stage, the church pews and school like chairs, and of course the bust of J.S Bach.

There is a bar next door to the theater so you can get food and drink there. It is very well worth a visit to the Jalopy for some great music in a very unpretentious venue which is welcoming to all.