For decades, Boston has been known as one of the nation’s best music city’s. From its thriving DIY scene, to the talent which flows out of Berklee College of Music, and to some of the most historically great venues around Beantown has all you can want musically. As a musician, this was obviously a huge factor in selecting Boston as my new home for four years. Living in Allston, about a mile away from BU’s Central Campus, has allowed me to become ingrained with its thriving music culture in its local bars and sweaty basements. For many, the Allston DIY lifestyle is not for them, in fact, many BU students simply want to see a concert or two every semester from some of their favorite artists. Luckily, Boston has some of the coolest spots to see live music which go above and beyond the DIY ethos of Allston Rat City.
5. House of Blues
Located right across the street from Fenway Park, the House of Blues Boston provides your standard General Admission experience. The venue is perfectly situated for those East Campus folk who don’t feel like dropping gobs of money on transportation. The House of Blues hosts some bigger names then the rest of the venues on this list—the types of artists that are right between playing TD Garden and the Royale. I have seen some excellent shows here as the sound and ambience is consistently on point.
4. Brighton Music Hall
Brighton Music Hall is a smaller, unimposing venue right down Brighton Ave. in Allston. With this being said, it’s probably the largest venue in Rat City you can go to outside of Paradise Rock Club (not a fan). Although I have only seen one show here, BMH holds a tremendous amount of real estate in my heart because it was where I saw my first concert as a BU student, in fact, it was the first show I attended in Boston, period. My memory is a little fuzzy on what the space looks like, but the sound was fantastic and plenty of local talent rolls through. This is the perfect place to go if you are looking to see an act that you have never seen before.
3. The Middle East
Amid some sexual assault allegations on one the Middle East’s promoters, I have not been to this venue in a very long time. If it weren’t for said allegations, the Cambridge restaurant and nightclub would probably occupy the #1 spot on this list. Fortunately, I believe the assailant has been removed from the venue and I have seen more and more artists that I have liked reappearing on bills there. The Middle East may be known for its great Middle Eastern fair, but it also serves as a fantastic venue by night. Three rooms designated for shows occupy the building: the Upstairs, the Downstairs, and Sonia, a newer space which is really what makes this venue so great. The Middle East Upstairs is a much tighter knit venue, but holds some pretty solid smaller acts, while Downstairs holds larger shows equivalent to that of the Sinclair. Sonia is a middle ground between the two and has the best sound and layout for some really killer shows!
Most know the Royale as a nightclub, but the space actually holds some of the best shows that I have been to in Boston. I have seen a number of acts at this downtown location and it never ceases to amaze me how well the venue runs its shows. The sound and lights have been perfect at every show I’ve seen at the Royale. The venue always hosts great acts, too. I’m always finding myself clicking the “Interested” button on Facebook events held at the Royale. If there is any venue that hosts mid-sized to bordering on the larger side acts, the Royale is above and beyond the best. My only gripe is that the middle of the GA section is raised due the fact that its main room is often used as a clubbing space.
Finally, we have reached #1, and yes it is The Sinclair. The Sinclair is a mid-size to smaller size venue which hosts acts of all kinds. It is located right in Harvard Square, which makes it a little difficult to get to, but the venue itself is incredibly ideal. I have only seen great shows here with fantastic crowds. The lighting and sound are on par with the Royale, but the smaller size is much comfier without feeling too small. Similarly to Brighton Music Hall, plenty of local acts play here. It’s another space perfect for seeing artists that you may have never seen before, while also hosting plenty of household names.