The Best Places to See Live Music in New York

Floto + Warner

Four fantastic genre-bending venues in the city

New York is still a music town. Does it have the scuzzy spontaneity of the 1970s, when the city’s entropic disarray actually helped foster fertile scenes in punk, hip-hop, and Latin boogaloo? No. But outside of New Orleans, there is no American city that offers more to its residents and visitors in terms of sheer musical variety. On any given night, you can listen to dozens of genres of music live, including ones with which you might not have been familiar at the evening’s outset. At so many performance spaces these days, eclecticism is built right in to the programming.

In a spare room in a far corner of the East Village stands the Stone, a nonprofit club founded in 2005 by the saxophonist-composer-impresario John Zorn. You needn’t worry about a two-drink minimum; there are no drinks—or food, for that matter. What your 20 bucks gets you is a pure musical experience in close proximity to the players. On one hot night last summer, you’d have found the multi-instrumentalist and composer Tyshawn Sorey performing sinuous runs on the toms and cymbals of his drum kit while Zorn played alongside him.

Nominally, the Stone is a showcase for avant-garde jazz, but like the brilliant, uncategorizable Sorey, its musical style is best described as experimental. The virtuoso guitarist Marc Ribot rolls in for a five-night stint in November, and as of March, the Stone will relocate to a posher but still intimate space at the New School’s Arnhold Hall on West 13th Street. Already, the Stone is holding some concerts at the new location: Trumpeter Peter Evans will be there the second weekend of December, and among the artists engaged for residencies in 2018 are the cellist Theresa Wong, the Lebanese electro-whiz Jad Atoui, and ex–Sonic Youth man Thurston Moore.

Operating in a similar spirit is the nonprofit National Sawdust, founded in 2015 and, in fact, run out of an old sawdust factory in Williamsburg (its exterior now artfully tagged with psychedelic graffiti). By day, the theater within serves as a lab and rehearsal space for emerging artists; by night, it’s a concert hall where veterans and up-and-comers alike perform. And by day and night, the restaurant housed in the building, Rider, serves fine contemporary American food. The theme of this, National Sawdust’s third artistic season, is “Origins,” a celebration of music’s cultural diversity, with curators and artists in residence from six continents. Among them: the Chinese composer Du Yun, whose opera Angel’s Bone won this year’s Pulitzer Prize for music, and the New York clarinetist David Krakauer, who has programmed a series of lively neo-klezmer acts.

In the Gothic Revival Church of the Intercession in Hamilton Heights, down a broad flight of stairs, is a gorgeous, arched columbarium space that happens to have awesome acoustics. This is the home of the Crypt Sessions, whose curator, Andrew Ousley, books adventurous classical artists eager to shed the traditional strictures of being, well, classical artists. The cost of admission is $75, which includes a preconcert food-and-wine tasting. “Usually these artists play at places like Carnegie Hall and Lincoln Center, where ticket prices can be twice that,” Ousley says. Upcoming this season are shows by the violinist Lara St. John and the youthful, mischievous Attacca Quartet.

Finally, back downtown: The central Village stretch of Bleecker Street once roamed by the young Bob Dylan, Joan Baez, and Dave Van Ronk had by the 1990s degenerated into a desultory stretch of bro pubs and pay-to-play venues. In 2008, however, the space vacated by one of New York’s most storied clubs, the Village Gate, was reanimated as (Le) Poisson Rouge, which, if anything, has a more eclectic booking policy than its forebear. You just missed Norah Jones’s five-night residency, but among the acts on offer this autumn are the lo-fi auteur Ariel Pink, the guitar-totin’ troubadour Joe Henry, and, making their first U.S. appearance, Anewal, a trio led by the Tuareg desert-rock guitarist Alhousseini Anivolla.