Lady Gaga, the Strokes, and Jessie J are just a few of the now-boldfaced names who played the clubs of the Lower East Side before making it big. Up-and-comers, along with indie bands and cult performers, still form the soundtrack of the Lower East Side. When you visit the neighborhood’s music venues, including those below, you just might get a chance to see and hear the next-big-things before they actually make it big.
95 Stanton Street (between Orchard and Ludlow Streets)
Arlene’s Grocery. Image: Alex Lozupone/Wikimedia
Arlene’s Grocery was a bodega before its reincarnation as a live-music venue in 1995. Several years after its launch it expanded into the butcher shop next door, enabling it to add a second bar as well as a gallery space. Arcade Fire, Lady Gaga, and Lana Del Rey are among the performers who played the club early in their careers. In addition to hosting up-and-coming bands most nights, along with a judicious selection of cover bands, Arlene’s Grocery holds rock-and-roll karaoke with a live band on Monday nights.
6 Delancey Street (between Chrystie Street and the Bowery)
The Sons & Heirs, a Smiths/Morrissey tribute band, played the Bowery Ballroom in April. Image: Vladimir/Flickr
The building that is now the Bowery Ballroom was built in 1929, and vestiges of its Beaux-Arts aesthetic remain: the two-story arched window, the mezzanine’s vaulted ceiling. The building was home to a series of stores before being converted to a music venue in 1998, one that frequently receives kudos for its acoustics. The club hosts an eclectic range of performers; upcoming dates include singer/songwriter Donavon Frankenreiter (August 9), rapper Amir Obè (August 15); pop-punk duo Diet Cig (September 8), and roots/country singer/songwriter Hayes Carll (September 16).
217 East Houston Street (between Essex and Ludlow Streets)
Mercury Lounge. Image: chrisjtse/Flickr
The Mercury Lounge has a capacity of just 250 people, less than half that of its sister club the Bowery Ballroom. Long before its conversion to a music venue in 1993, the building housed servants of the Astor family. Today the club books a broad array of up-and-coming and on-the-cusp bands; this month alone will see shows by funk/rock/dance music ensemble Tweed (August 4),guitar master Matthew Curry (August 13), surf/grunge band King Shelter (August 15), and Satanicide, an homage to the heavy-metal hair bands of the ‘90s (August 29).
317 East Houston Street (between Attorney and Clinton Streets)
Parkside Lounge. Image: Jazz Guy/Flickr
Funk and folk rock, bluegrass and jazz, psychedelic and soul: In any given month you’ll hear just about every genre of live music at this former old-school bar and grill. In addition to live music just about every night, Parkside Lounge hosts Monday night vinyl swaps accompanied by DJs playing funk and soul from the ‘50s, ‘60s, and ‘70s and Wednesday night trivia contests.
158 Ludlow Street (between Rivington and Stanton Streets)
Despite its name, Pianos is not a piano bar; prior to opening as a two-level club in 2002, it was a piano shop. The main level features an ever-changing lineup of indie bands just about every night; the upstairs lounge leans more toward DJ sets and dance parties. As well as drinks, Pianos has a small, very reasonably priced offering of burgers, fries, and other pub grub.
196 Allen Street (between Stanton and East Houston Streets)
Each of Rockwood Music Hall’s three stages offers music every night, primarily by on-the-rise indie artists. On a given night you could listen to, say, new-school jazz performers Bob Lanzetti and Dred Scott Trio on stage one, all-girl country cover band Your Ex-Girlfriends on stage two, and singer/songwriters Joelle Lurie and Matt Cusson on stage three.