Boston has a great music scene, and pulls in big name artists year round to some of its legendary larger concert halls. Good things don’t have to come in large packages, however. Leave the theater district, put downtown in your rearview, and poke around the streets of Allston and Cambridge: you’ll find some phenomenal smaller venues where many of the city’s rising bands—as well as musicians from around the world-—will go to get the locals dancing. These are a few of our top picks for lower capacity, less well-known places to get your groove on:
52 Church St, Cambridge, MA 02138
Probably the venue on this list with the most out-of-town pull for musicians, the Sinclair is a great place to grab a bite and rock out with some of the best bands you’ve never heard of before they make it big. Plus, if you’re in the mood to dance, Fridays bring a 10pm disco dance party—just be ready to leave a trail of glitter everywhere you go for the next few months.
The Cantab Lounge
738 Massachusetts Ave, Cambridge, MA 02139
On a late night in Cambridge, there’s no better place to hit the dance floor than the Cantab Lounge. Right by the heart of Central Square, Cantab boasts an eclectic rotation of live acts and well-known Bluegrass-only Tuesday night lineup. Split between an upstairs with a bar and a downstairs with a bar, on any given night you might find two different bands playing two different kinds of music. The best of both worlds!
The Middle East Restaurant & Nightclub
472-480 Massachusetts Ave, Cambridge, MA 02139
Just down the road from Cantab is the Middle East, which offers not one but three different concert spaces and two dining options—despite the variety, the Middle East manages to keep things low-key and might just be the best place in the city to hear indie rock. Up and coming musicians from some of the nearby colleges are known to make an appearance for a jam session every once and awhile.
1222 Commonwealth Avenue, Allston, MA 02134
If you’re trying to sniff out the next big thing and want a ticket straight to the heart of Boston’s indie-underground music scene, you can’t do much better than Great Scott. You’ll rarely shell out more than fifteen bucks for a night of cool grooves and cooler people. Tired of music? Great Scott also hosts a comedy series every Friday at 7pm called the Gas, which showcases some of the best acts in the local comedy scene.
47 Palmer St, Cambridge, MA 02138
A bit of a departure from the other venues in this article, Club Passim is a dedicated folk joint that has hosted legends like Joan Baez, Jimmy Buffet, and Bob Dylan. Nowadays a center of Boston’s singer-songwriter music scene, if you’re looking for a lower-key way to enjoy some phenomenal music you can’t miss Passim’s regular live shows. Like what you hear? Try out Passim’s School of Music for a chance to make some music yourself!
Sam is a sophomore who usually needs a haircut. He gives a lot of tours on campus and is excited to actually get the chance to go on some this summer for a change. He also leads trips into the wilderness for the First-Year Outdoor Program and Outing Club and serves as manager for the alpine ski team. This love for the mountains is reflected in his destinations for this summer: Denmark, Belgium, and the Netherlands… wait.
While he might not be straying too far from sea level, Sam’s still looking forward to the many high points of his trip—eating chocolate in Antwerp, eating chocolate in Bruges, eating chocolate in Brussels, and making friends with the deer that live in that one deer sanctuary north of Copenhagen.