When indie rock fans talk about where they have seen their favorite bands, Boston is rarely the first place that comes up in the conversation – but it should be, especially for those who live north of Manhattan. With its large student population and numerous music schools, Boston has the fan base to welcome and support new and up-and-coming bands, and offers a ready-made audience for more established indie artists. Here are just five places in Boston to see, hear and in most cases dance to indie rock in Boston.
Brighton Music Hall
158 Brighton Ave.
Allston, MA 02134
“It doesn’t get more indie than Brighton Music Hall,” a local musician, cartoonist, illustrator and fan of indie groups. “It’s a tiny venue in Allston that has a lot of lesser known and local bands,” including obscure, unique groups like Neutral Uke Hotel, a Neutral Milk Hotel cover band whose members all play ukuleles. Although the pack in the fans quite tightly, there is still some space to dance, and prices are usually in the teens to low twenties. Brighton Music Hall is also known for being open to a wide spectrum of musical genres and tastes. Among the bands featured in January, for example, were City of Caterpillars, Phox, the Marcus King Band and Cuddle Magic, and in February they booked Interstate, Flamingo Club and Mo Lowda and the Humble, on the same bill as Busty and the Bass. Tickets are already going fast for the late February bookings, like We the Kings and Slothrust, and for the March shows which include Polyphia, Save Ferris and Sticky Fingers.
967 Commonwealth Ave.
Boston, MA 02215
The Paradise on Comm Ave is a welcome and much appreciated haven for up-and-coming local bands, but it also frequently books many of the older, better-known groups from around the area and around the country. With crowd capacity topping out just over 900, The Paradise provides a good size audience for new bands and just enough space for the followers of more established local groups. In March they welcome Thundercat, Chronixx, Enter Shikari, Foxygen and, for a rare three-day gig, the popular New Found Glory. Prices vary greatly, although most bands can be heard for less than $40 and some for as low as the mid-teens. Drinks are also reasonably priced, and while the staff manages to keep a lid on things, they have a reputation for remaining friendly even while doing so.
52 Church St.
Cambridge, MA 02138
Larger than most indie rock haunts, but still small enough to count as and feel like a club, The Sinclair in Cambridge gives off a good vibe that seems just right for the genre. Their recent listings give a good example of how eclectic a joint this is, as it includes solo acts like guitarists Marc Broussard and Livingston Taylor, tribute bands like Bruce in the USA and groups such as Tokyo Police Club. Due up in March are Viceroy, Nikki Lane, Big Wreck and the Adrian Belew Power Trio. The venue also includes the Sinclair Kitchen, a well-regarded gastropub in its own right.
House of Blues
15 Landsdowne St.
Boston, MA 02215
The House of Blues is the biggest place in Boston to see music groups other than the major venues like The Garden. A nationally-famous spot with a long and proud history of serving up gospel, rock, and especially rhythm and blues – along with hearty po’ boys and jambalaya, The House of Blues is about as deep south as it gets in Boston. From Crooked Coast to Tribal Sounds, and from Dita von Teese to George Clinton, House of Blues mixes up the big names with the new sounds; the famous with the up-and-coming. The atmosphere is hard to beat, especially when they do their famed Gospel Brunch. In March look for Sting, Hippie Sabotage and The Dropkick Murphys (on St. Patrick’s Day, of course).
1 Hamilton Place
Boston, MA 02108
The Orpheum is worth going to for the acts they book, but unlike the indie clubs in town has arranged seating and no dance floor. There is no open space before the stage, which means fans are stuck in their seats – quite literally, as there is barely enough space to even stand up, let alone move. Still, The Orpheum has its concert hall charms, and as such is a good place to hear such well-known artists as Steve Winwood, Regina Spektor, and Shaolin Warriors, all of whom are scheduled to perform in March and April, as well as groups like Dawes, the folk-rock sensation out of L.A. The Orpheum is where indie rock groups aspire to play in Boston, as those that do make it onto this hallowed stage are likely bound for glory – or at least The Garden.
Related: Boston’s Best Folk Music Venues