With thousands of transplant college students flooding Boston every year, as well as a ton of tourists, it can be hard to tell where they end and the locals begin—unless you talk to every single one of them looking for an accent, but that could take a while.
To save you some time—and keep you out of Fenway—we’ve compiled a list of music venues full of local flare, Boston pride, great bands, and even better vibes.
1. The Sinclair
This Cambridge music venue (pictured at top) only opened a couple of years ago, but has quickly become one of the best in the area. Their diverse calendar features everything from folk and indie to brass and emo. The attached gastropub features a unique menu that is way more sophisticated than you’d ever expect at a rock club. Do note, parking is terrible in this neighborhood. Do yourself a favor and take the T or call a cab, which also allows you to order more than a couple of the club’s next-level cocktails.
2. Great Scott
Photo by Ryan Sztuka
Allston is a Boston neighborhood with more rats than people, and Great Scott has the perfect dirty charm to match. With a narrow, small space and a bar running up the side, it’s impossible not to see and feel every beat of the music playing. Half the time it feels like you are on the stage yourself.
3. The Middle East
Photo by Ilya Mirman
The front of Middle East is full service high-quality restaurant, but if you walk to the back, you’ll find four different areas for music acts to take over (Upstairs, Downstairs, Zuzu, and Corner). The best space is Downstairs, which was an abandoned bowling alley before Middle East transformed it into a 550-capacity room. This local favorite has been named the city’s best rock club, best hip-hop club, best live venue, and more, but you’ll have to visit to find out why.
4. Brighton Music Hall
Photo by Ryan Sztuka
In one of the more hipster neighborhoods of Boston, the former Harper’s Ferry features everything from rock bands to singer-songwriters. This comfortable standing room only venue is located within a stone’s throw from the city’s best restaurants, making it perfect for a post-meal show.
5. The Wilbur
Photo courtesy of The Wilbur
Lots of the clubs on this list have the occasional comedy night, but The Wilbur is an A-list comedy theatre with the occasional music act. Built in 1915, this venue is worth it for the historical value alone, and while they do feature bands, the best thing to catch here is the stand-up. Whether you get your laughs from podcasters like Marc Maron or the dad-friendly Jim Gaffigan, you can’t go wrong at this place. Bonus points: the venue is located in the theater district and is a short walk to Boston Common, the Boston Public Gardens, and Chinatown.
Daryl Sztuka is a writer, record collector, comic book reader, and caffeine drinker living outside Boston.