Complete Concert Guide

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Bwog’s resident concert expert Justin Goncalves answers all your questions about the best venues, where to go when you’ve had it up to here with indie rock, and that elusive Brooklynite Todd P.

Do you like music? I like music. Do you know what the best thing about living in New York while someone else pays the rent? Spending all that extra cheese on concerts. 

Before I hook all you freshies up with the best places to go for concert listings and reviews, let me tell you all a little story. Just two years ago, I was in your shoes (red Converse high-tops, anyone?). Sure, I might’ve spent my first week at Columbia in a serious delirium, but, once playing beer-pong at Pike gets old (one time is enough, believe you me), you’ve gotta branch out. People really throw around this phrase too much, but, in all honesty, New York is the mecca for all things music. Whether you want to catch JT share the bill with Good Charlotte (which I did, and it was doooope), sing along to some great Hank Williams and Johnny Cash tunes with Alex Battles, or see Clipse melt your face off with their rhymes of fury, you can do it all. First semester, I spent all money and at least one night a week seeing a concert. One weekend, and I’m still not so sure why I thought this would be a good idea, I saw four consecutive nights of live music. And, to be honest, I can only remember seeing Animal Collective on Thursday and Ted Leo on Sunday. So, the most important advice I can give you is to pace yourself. 

Now I’ll answer your questions:

“Where can I find the coolest, hippest concerts around?” 

Well, if you belong to this Facebook group (I think we all have to thank Lucy for that find), than you’ve probably got a pretty firm grasp on ohmyrockness’ listing system. While they specialize in straight-up indie rock, they take care of some of your hip-hop/metal/experimental concerns. Be careful, their band profiles/general taste in music blows. You’ve been warned. 

“What’s the best venue to see my favorite band play?” 

Assuming your favorite band isn’t the Rolling Stones, the Bowery Ballroom is always a good experience (except when they don’t let you in to see Sufjan Stevens because you’re one month shy of your eighteenth birthday and the show is 18+). I also really like the Knitting Factory. Both of these venues run on the smaller side (Bowery’s capacity is 600; the Knitting Factory is like seeing a show in your basement). The bigger venues are fine for what they are.  

“Who’s Todd P? I hear he’s this awesome indie God or something…” 

Todd P, aka Todd Patrick, is the supreme overlord for all things DIY in Brooklyn. His shows are cheap and all-ages. Every time I’ve gone, it’s like I’ve landed in some movie where everyone to wear horn-rims, v-necks, and ball-choking jeans, which is kinda cool, I guess. 

“But I don’t like indie rock, I listen to sophisticated Jazz.” 

All the better! I, personally, can’t afford to get into a lot of the jazz venues in Manhattan, but there are some good ones, depending on your taste. If you’re into more straight ahead jazz (bebop, hard bop, etc.), than the Village Vanguard is where you want to go. Their scheduling can be a bit eclectic, so make sure you either a) go with an open mind or b) check out the group pre-departure. If you’re not up for the trek, you might want to stop by Smoke. Last time I heard, they’re pretty strict with the 21+ policy (welcome to New York!). Catching two-hour sets at the Vanguard or Smoke will usually cost you around $30. And, last but not least, with Tonic’s recent closing, the Stone has become the unequivocal home for the avant-garde. With certified genius John Zorn serving as artistic director and $5 student admission, this long trek to the Lower East Side is certainly worth it.

“What’s good with the on-campus music scene?” 

Funny you should ask. Miller Theatre is the place for new and early music – think Frank Zappa and Gregorian chants. WKCR  and WBAR, the official Columbia and Barnard radio stations, respectively, do some things here and there. Word on the street is WBAR has got a pretty great line-up of shows for the fall semester. Like Miller Theatre, WKCR’s influence goes well beyond the campus. There’s also an NSOP concert in the fall and a Bachannal concert in the spring, both curated by Columbia Concerts. (Full disclosure: I work for both WKCR and Columbia Concerts.) 

That’s all I’ve got, kiddos. Another good place to look is Time Out New York. They’ve got the best listing of events (music and otherwise) in the city. I can answer your questions in the comments section too.

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  1. Do you like

    American music?

    I like all kinds of music.

    But do you like American Music best? Baby.

  2. basic grammar

    the author of this piece seriously needs to learn the difference between then and than.


  3. What  

    What about if I want to see SLAM!?

  4. what exactly

    did this piece tell freshmen that they couldn't figure out in two weeks on their own?

    also, seeing a show at the knitting factory is only like seeing a show in your basement if you've never been to a show in a basement before.

    • stinjuice

      i'm always impressed by the intimacy of the knitting factory. yes, i've been to basement shows, but, yeah, maybe i embellished a bit.

      and, armin, is the stone really in danger of closing? first i've heard...

      and, number 4, i can't really tell if you're serious or not, but no matter. i know nothing about slam, but apparently louderARTS does. check it:

  5. Armin Rosen

    The Stone is fucking awesome. Please go there so that it doesn't close...

    • Anonymous

      it is so true that the stone kicks serious ass. i am still crushed that tonic shut down, tho' they are still putting on shows at a different venue that i have inconveniently forgotten. my (platonic?) love affair with zorn's music is a beautiful and deadly thing.

      and the knit is such a cool place to be. i still haven't gotten over my gosh-gee-whiz feelings about it.

      i know this ruins my hip credentials, but what's wrong with being earnestly excited about things?

  6. smoke  

    smoke has a sweet B-3 organ...they do 'b3 grooves and soul jazz' tues/wed. in my experience, those shows are sweet.

  7. froshies should  

    do student tickets at carnegie hall and lincoln center for world-class stuff and look for juilliard/manhattan school recitals for high-quality free music.

  8. hairs  

    finally, more music features from stinju! a.battles, though... i don't know...

  9. sigh...

    justin is so dreamy. i love it when he posts...

    justin's secret admirer

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