Now entering its 21st year, MoMA PS1’s summer Warm Up series of Saturday festivals remains Long Island City’s claim to musical fame. But a number of the neighborhood’s bars and restaurants also host live music, and not just in the summer. In any given week you can listen to funk-rock and klezmer, samba and jazz, new country and time-honored mariachi.
42-52 27th Street (between 42nd Road and 43rd Avenue)
Bar inside The Beast. Image: thebeastnextdoorcafebar.com
Its name might lead you to expect a heavy-metal dungeon, but the Beast Next Door is more Belle Époque than Headbangers Ball. Its brick facade is painted a brilliant blue; inside it boasts tables handcrafted from 1940s metal-and-wood pallets, an oak bar, brick walls, and all manner of salvaged, gilded, and restored decor. A café as well as a bar, it serves a small selection of cheeses, charcuterie, salads, and sandwiches. Most Saturday evenings it hosts live music, veering from one genre to another with aplomb. Recent performers included the Zisl Slepovitch Trio, a klezmer ensemble; the Owlz, another trio, this one specializing in gypsy jazz, swing, and bebop; and a funk-rock-soul quartet with the unlikely moniker Unlimited Breadsticks.
5004 Vernon Boulevard (between 50th and 51st Avenues)
Another bijou bar that serves cheeses and charcuterie, along with oysters and shrimp, Domaine offers more than 40 wines by the glass in a Parisian-style setting—think marble-top tables and a zinc bar. Area performers play music, mostly jazz but rock, funk, and soul as well, almost every evening. Among those recently taking the stage were the Long Island City Jazz Alliance, guitarist Daisuke Abe, and multigenre multi-instrumentalist Steve Blanco, who often plays solo sets on the piano.
10-43 44th Drive (between 10th and 11th Streets)
The terrace of John Brown Smokehouse. Image: Bryan Pocius/Flickr
Kansas City-style barbecue, home-cured pastrami, and an extensive beer menu are reasons enough to visit this brick-wall eatery. But another inducement, from April through August, is the live entertainment that takes place most weeknights on its backyard terrace. On Monday evenings the John Brown All Stars play funk/rock/soul among the picnic tables clad in red-and-white checked plastic tablecloths. The Fabulous Thunder Jerks hold court on Tuesday nights. Rock-influenced jazz band Affinity plays Wednesday evenings, and Andrew Sovine & Company serves us new-country tunes on Thursdays.
45-58 Vernon Boulevard (at 46th Avenue)
Behind the bar at L.I.C. Bar. Image: late Pixel/Flickr
L.I.C. Bar is proud of its century-old history as a local watering hole, complete with tin ceiling, brick walls, and scarred wood bar. With its bistro tables and heat lamps on chilly evenings, however, the rear terrace is perfectly in keeping with the niceties of 21st-century Long Island City. Throughout the summer, the terrace is the site of Sunday concerts that begin in the afternoon and run through early evening. A recent Sunday lineup kicked off with samba band Os Clavelitos followed by the Queen’s Cartoonists, a seven-piece ensemble that plays music from classic and modern-day animated shorts, TV shows, and movies, with Americana duo Brian & Silbin rounding out the lineup. An equally wide-ranging assortment of performers play indoors on Monday, Wednesday, and Saturday evenings year-round. Among those who recently gigged here were the self-described “experimental country art rock” Jack Grace Band, Brooklyn-based rockers Barbaric Yawp, and guitarist J.W. Farrell.
22-25 Jackson Avenue (between 46th Avenue and 46th Road)
A Warm Up session at MoMA PS1. Image: sodapop/Flickr
On summer Saturdays, the art museum makes the most of its large rear courtyard by putting on its Warm Up series of concerts, which begin at noon and run into the evening. More than a half-dozen acts from around the world play each show. The August 4 lineup, for instance, includes Laff Trax, a collaboration between chillwave pioneer Toro y Moi and hip-hop producer Nosaj Thing; glam rockers Madam X; house-music producer Leon Vynehall; electronic-music composer/artist Photay; alt-rock band Starchild & the New Romantic; and deejay Manara, whose sets incorporate Bollywood soundtracks and dance music.
40-01 Northern Boulevard (at Steinway Street)
If you are hoping for a quiet meal, this is not the place for you. If, however, you like your fajitas, churrascos, mojitos, and margaritas accompanied by mariachi music, come on by. Mariachi bands play Wednesday through Sunday evenings, and singing along is encouraged.