clock menu more-arrow no yes
Exterior of a bar, with the name Great Scott written on the awning. The photo is black and white.
Allston, rock city
Great Scott/Facebook

Visit These Boston Bars and Restaurants for Cheap Live Music

From jazz to punk to mariachi, the city offers something for every musical taste

View as Map
Allston, rock city
| Great Scott/Facebook

Drinking is great, but drinking while listening to live music is better. Boston may not be Nashville or New Orleans or New York City, but it’s still got plenty of bars, restaurants, and clubs hosting live music several nights a week.

Whether you’re looking to sip on a fancy gin drink while seated at a dimly lit jazz club or hoping to bounce the night away to some jagged, frenetic grime beat while ripping through can after can of cheap domestic lager, Boston’s live music scene can accommodate you.

Here are some of the best spots for live music Boston and its surrounding suburbs have to offer. (Note: This map focuses on smaller venues that offer music for free or relatively cheap cover charges. Larger venues with ticketed shows are not included.)

Read More
Note: Restaurants on this map are listed geographically.

1. The Burren

Copy Link
247 Elm St
Somerville, MA 02144
(617) 776-6896
Visit Website

Head to the Burren for a Guinness, and you’re bound to hear anything from swing jazz to traditional Irish music. The music in the front room is free, while the music in the back room is ticketed. It’s rare that there’s not live music playing in one of the two rooms. On the other side of the river? The Burren team opened another venue, the Bebop, near Berklee in mid-2017.

The Burren
The Burren is one of the area’s great Irish pubs
The Burren/Facebook

2. Toad

Copy Link
1912 Massachusetts Ave
Cambridge, MA 02140
(617) 497-4950
Visit Website

Toad is an intimate venue with an impossibly small stage. It’s a good spot to see rock and Americana bands. There’s music every night of the week (and a small menu of burgers, too, “until it’s logistically impossible,”) and there’s never a cover.

toad cambridge
There’s never a cover at Toad
Toad/Facebook

3. Lizard Lounge

Copy Link
1667 Massachusetts Ave
Cambridge, MA 02138
(617) 547-0759
Visit Website

The musical stylings that can be heard in the Lizard Lounge are all over the map. Hip hop? Check. Jazz. Yup. Jam bands? You got it. Balkan folk music? Why, yes. Also, order the tots.

Lizard Lounge tater tots
The tots are never a mistake at Lizard Lounge
Rachel Leah Blumenthal/Eater

4. Bull McCabe's

Copy Link
366 Somerville Ave
Somerville, MA 02143
(617) 440-6045
Visit Website

Bull McCabe’s is, thank the heavens, still open and still putting on live music shows. This is more than just a bar to go to to listen to Irish music on St. Patrick’s Day — but by all means go there on St. Patrick’s Day because the corned beef sandwich is the truth.

bull mccabe’s
One of the best spots for live music in all of Greater Boston
Bull McCabe’s/Facebook

5. El Potro Mexican Bar & Grill

Copy Link
61 Union Square
Somerville, MA 02143
(617) 666-4200
Visit Website

The food and the margaritas are worth a trip to Union Square, but the best part about El Potro is the mariachi band.

el potro
El Potro’s Mariachi band
El Potro/Facebook

6. Beat Brasserie

Copy Link
13 Brattle St
Cambridge, MA 02138
(617) 499-0001
Visit Website

Hear jazz, blues, rock, soul, reggae, and everything in between at this Harvard brasserie (formerly known as the Beat Hotel), which is the brainchild of the folks behind the Beehive in the South End. Go with a cocktail here. The list is constantly changing according to seasonal ingredients.

Beat Hotel
Beat Hotel
Meg Jones Wall/Eater

7. The Plough and Stars

Copy Link
912 Massachusetts Ave
Cambridge, MA 02139
(617) 576-0032
Visit Website

There’s live music seven nights a week at this Irish pub, including a weekly Wednesday night blues jam, and the food is solid.

Plough and Stars
A Central Square legend
Plough and Stars/Facebook

8. The Cantab Lounge

Copy Link
738 Massachusetts Ave
Cambridge, MA 02139
(617) 354-2685
Visit Website

Stay upstairs at the Cantab and check out the bluegrass scene on Tuesdays and the funk on Thursdays.

A band with saxophone, trumpet, bass, guitar, and more plays in a small, casual bar. A couple dances in front of them.
The Chicken Slacks plays on Thursdays at the Cantab
Cantab/Facebook

9. The Middle East Restaurant and Nightclub

Copy Link
472-480 Massachusetts Ave
Cambridge, MA 02139
(617) 864-3278
Visit Website

Events in the Middle East Downstairs venue can get expensive, but music lovers can catch shows on the Corner, in Zuzu, and Upstairs on the cheap. Tallboys are also cheap. Order the hummus and some grape leaves.

The Middle East
The Middle East
Vivian C./Yelp

10. Middlesex Lounge

Copy Link
315 Massachusetts Ave
Cambridge, MA 02139
(617) 868-6739
Visit Website

To the haters who think electronic music and DJ music aren’t live music: Get over yourselves; they are. Middlesex is one of the best spots in Greater Boston to catch a DJ set, and it has also been known to host punk shows. Get there before 9 p.m. to avoid a $10 cover.

middlesex lounge
One of Greater Boston’s best spots for electronic music
Middlesex/Facebook

11. O'Briens Pub

Copy Link
3 Harvard Ave
Allston, MA 02134
(617) 782-6245
Visit Website

O’Brien’s is one of the last good venues for punk and metal in the city. (The Cambridge Elks Lodge — AKA the Hardcore Stadium — didn’t qualify for this list because it’s not regularly hosting shows. But it’s definitely worth catching a show there if moshing and getting punched in the face is your thing.) The beer is cheap, and the cover is usually less than $10. And there are so many sad boys screaming about being sad.

o’brien’s allston
O’Brien’s
O’Brien’s/Facebook

12. Lucky's Lounge

Copy Link
355 Congress St
Boston, MA 02210
(617) 357-5825
Visit Website

Lucky’s was cool before people started thinking Fort Point was cool. There’s no cover, and there’s live music every night of the week.

lucky’s lounge fort point
Cool before its time
Lucky’s Lounge/Official Site

13. Great Scott

Copy Link
1222 Commonwealth Avenue
Allston, MA 02134
(617) 566-9014
Visit Website

Like O’Brien’s, Great Scott is holding down the punk rock fort in Boston. Covers rarely rise higher than $12 (it happens when legends like Kim Gordon play here, but hardly ever otherwise), and the High Lifes are $4.

Exterior of a bar, with the name Great Scott written on the awning. The photo is black and white.
A good spot for punk rock in Allston
Great Scott/Facebook

14. The Beehive

Copy Link
541 Tremont St
Boston, MA 02116
(617) 423-0069
Visit Website

Few better spots for jazz and blues in Boston. The drinks at the Beehive are also exceptional, and the decor conjures jazz clubs from the first half of the 20th century.

The Beehive
Intimate and chic
The Beehive/Facebook

15. Wally's Cafe Jazz Club

Copy Link
427 Massachusetts Ave
Boston, MA 02118
(617) 424-1408
Visit Website

It’s hard to say anything about Wally’s that hasn’t been said before. It’s been in operation since 1947, and it’s hosted the likes of Charlie Parker and Billie Holiday. Today, students from Berklee College of Music ply their trade on the historic stage. It’s Boston’s most iconic and most important live music venue.

Wally’s Cafe
The bar is simple; the jazz is less so
Wally’s Cafe/Facebook

16. Darryl's Corner Bar & Kitchen

Copy Link
604 Columbus Ave
Boston, MA 02118
(617) 536-1100
Visit Website

Owned by Darryl Settles — who also founded the Beantown Jazz Festival in 2001 (now run by Berklee College of Music) — this South End favorite is the spot for soul food and live jazz.

Darryl’s Corner Bar & Kitchen
Get the shrimp and grits
Darryl’s Corner Bar & Kitchen/Facebook

17. Slade’s Bar & Grill

Copy Link
958 Tremont St
Boston, MA 02120
(617) 442-4600
Visit Website

Slade’s was sold to an investment group in 2015 (which included, among others, the aforementioned Darryl Settles), but all that changed were some improvements to the space’s interiors. Catch live music, DJ sets, or comedy on most nights.

Slade’s Bar & Grill
A good spot for soul food and various forms of live music and comedy
Google Maps

18. Capo

Copy Link
443 W Broadway
South Boston, MA 02127
(617) 993-8080
Visit Website

Catch the Sinatra show in Capo’s downstairs Supper Club every Sunday night (yes, this is real), or head there on Thursday, Friday, or Saturday for rotating musical acts.

Capo’s Supper Club
Capo’s Supper Club
Capo/Facebook

19. The Haven

Copy Link
2 Perkins St
Jamaica Plain, MA 02130
(617) 524-2836
Visit Website

Eat some haggis, drink some Belhaven (and some Scotch), and listen to some bagpipes at the Haven. Over a decade ago, pre-Haven, owner Jason Waddleton was the music booker at Matt Murphy’s, turning it into a hotspot for jazz and more. At the Haven, he hosts regular open mic nights and also brings in Scottish music, folk, Americana, and more.

The Haven
The Haven
Rachel Leah Blumenthal/Eater

1. The Burren

247 Elm St, Somerville, MA 02144
The Burren
The Burren is one of the area’s great Irish pubs
The Burren/Facebook

Head to the Burren for a Guinness, and you’re bound to hear anything from swing jazz to traditional Irish music. The music in the front room is free, while the music in the back room is ticketed. It’s rare that there’s not live music playing in one of the two rooms. On the other side of the river? The Burren team opened another venue, the Bebop, near Berklee in mid-2017.

247 Elm St
Somerville, MA 02144

2. Toad

1912 Massachusetts Ave, Cambridge, MA 02140
toad cambridge
There’s never a cover at Toad
Toad/Facebook

Toad is an intimate venue with an impossibly small stage. It’s a good spot to see rock and Americana bands. There’s music every night of the week (and a small menu of burgers, too, “until it’s logistically impossible,”) and there’s never a cover.

1912 Massachusetts Ave
Cambridge, MA 02140

3. Lizard Lounge

1667 Massachusetts Ave, Cambridge, MA 02138
Lizard Lounge tater tots
The tots are never a mistake at Lizard Lounge
Rachel Leah Blumenthal/Eater

The musical stylings that can be heard in the Lizard Lounge are all over the map. Hip hop? Check. Jazz. Yup. Jam bands? You got it. Balkan folk music? Why, yes. Also, order the tots.

1667 Massachusetts Ave
Cambridge, MA 02138

4. Bull McCabe's

366 Somerville Ave, Somerville, MA 02143
bull mccabe’s
One of the best spots for live music in all of Greater Boston
Bull McCabe’s/Facebook

Bull McCabe’s is, thank the heavens, still open and still putting on live music shows. This is more than just a bar to go to to listen to Irish music on St. Patrick’s Day — but by all means go there on St. Patrick’s Day because the corned beef sandwich is the truth.

366 Somerville Ave
Somerville, MA 02143

5. El Potro Mexican Bar & Grill

61 Union Square, Somerville, MA 02143
el potro
El Potro’s Mariachi band
El Potro/Facebook

The food and the margaritas are worth a trip to Union Square, but the best part about El Potro is the mariachi band.

61 Union Square
Somerville, MA 02143

6. Beat Brasserie

13 Brattle St, Cambridge, MA 02138
Beat Hotel
Beat Hotel
Meg Jones Wall/Eater

Hear jazz, blues, rock, soul, reggae, and everything in between at this Harvard brasserie (formerly known as the Beat Hotel), which is the brainchild of the folks behind the Beehive in the South End. Go with a cocktail here. The list is constantly changing according to seasonal ingredients.

13 Brattle St
Cambridge, MA 02138

7. The Plough and Stars

912 Massachusetts Ave, Cambridge, MA 02139
Plough and Stars
A Central Square legend
Plough and Stars/Facebook

There’s live music seven nights a week at this Irish pub, including a weekly Wednesday night blues jam, and the food is solid.

912 Massachusetts Ave
Cambridge, MA 02139

8. The Cantab Lounge

738 Massachusetts Ave, Cambridge, MA 02139
A band with saxophone, trumpet, bass, guitar, and more plays in a small, casual bar. A couple dances in front of them.
The Chicken Slacks plays on Thursdays at the Cantab
Cantab/Facebook

Stay upstairs at the Cantab and check out the bluegrass scene on Tuesdays and the funk on Thursdays.

738 Massachusetts Ave
Cambridge, MA 02139

9. The Middle East Restaurant and Nightclub

472-480 Massachusetts Ave, Cambridge, MA 02139
The Middle East
The Middle East
Vivian C./Yelp

Events in the Middle East Downstairs venue can get expensive, but music lovers can catch shows on the Corner, in Zuzu, and Upstairs on the cheap. Tallboys are also cheap. Order the hummus and some grape leaves.

472-480 Massachusetts Ave
Cambridge, MA 02139

10. Middlesex Lounge

315 Massachusetts Ave, Cambridge, MA 02139
middlesex lounge
One of Greater Boston’s best spots for electronic music
Middlesex/Facebook

To the haters who think electronic music and DJ music aren’t live music: Get over yourselves; they are. Middlesex is one of the best spots in Greater Boston to catch a DJ set, and it has also been known to host punk shows. Get there before 9 p.m. to avoid a $10 cover.

315 Massachusetts Ave
Cambridge, MA 02139

11. O'Briens Pub

3 Harvard Ave, Allston, MA 02134
o’brien’s allston
O’Brien’s
O’Brien’s/Facebook

O’Brien’s is one of the last good venues for punk and metal in the city. (The Cambridge Elks Lodge — AKA the Hardcore Stadium — didn’t qualify for this list because it’s not regularly hosting shows. But it’s definitely worth catching a show there if moshing and getting punched in the face is your thing.) The beer is cheap, and the cover is usually less than $10. And there are so many sad boys screaming about being sad.

3 Harvard Ave
Allston, MA 02134

12. Lucky's Lounge

355 Congress St, Boston, MA 02210
lucky’s lounge fort point
Cool before its time
Lucky’s Lounge/Official Site

Lucky’s was cool before people started thinking Fort Point was cool. There’s no cover, and there’s live music every night of the week.

355 Congress St
Boston, MA 02210

13. Great Scott

1222 Commonwealth Avenue, Allston, MA 02134
Exterior of a bar, with the name Great Scott written on the awning. The photo is black and white.
A good spot for punk rock in Allston
Great Scott/Facebook

Like O’Brien’s, Great Scott is holding down the punk rock fort in Boston. Covers rarely rise higher than $12 (it happens when legends like Kim Gordon play here, but hardly ever otherwise), and the High Lifes are $4.

1222 Commonwealth Avenue
Allston, MA 02134

14. The Beehive

541 Tremont St, Boston, MA 02116
The Beehive
Intimate and chic
The Beehive/Facebook

Few better spots for jazz and blues in Boston. The drinks at the Beehive are also exceptional, and the decor conjures jazz clubs from the first half of the 20th century.

541 Tremont St
Boston, MA 02116

15. Wally's Cafe Jazz Club

427 Massachusetts Ave, Boston, MA 02118
Wally’s Cafe
The bar is simple; the jazz is less so
Wally’s Cafe/Facebook

It’s hard to say anything about Wally’s that hasn’t been said before. It’s been in operation since 1947, and it’s hosted the likes of Charlie Parker and Billie Holiday. Today, students from Berklee College of Music ply their trade on the historic stage. It’s Boston’s most iconic and most important live music venue.

427 Massachusetts Ave
Boston, MA 02118

Related Maps

16. Darryl's Corner Bar & Kitchen

604 Columbus Ave, Boston, MA 02118
Darryl’s Corner Bar & Kitchen
Get the shrimp and grits
Darryl’s Corner Bar & Kitchen/Facebook

Owned by Darryl Settles — who also founded the Beantown Jazz Festival in 2001 (now run by Berklee College of Music) — this South End favorite is the spot for soul food and live jazz.

604 Columbus Ave
Boston, MA 02118

17. Slade’s Bar & Grill

958 Tremont St, Boston, MA 02120
Slade’s Bar & Grill
A good spot for soul food and various forms of live music and comedy
Google Maps

Slade’s was sold to an investment group in 2015 (which included, among others, the aforementioned Darryl Settles), but all that changed were some improvements to the space’s interiors. Catch live music, DJ sets, or comedy on most nights.

958 Tremont St
Boston, MA 02120

18. Capo

443 W Broadway, South Boston, MA 02127
Capo’s Supper Club
Capo’s Supper Club
Capo/Facebook

Catch the Sinatra show in Capo’s downstairs Supper Club every Sunday night (yes, this is real), or head there on Thursday, Friday, or Saturday for rotating musical acts.

443 W Broadway
South Boston, MA 02127

19. The Haven

2 Perkins St, Jamaica Plain, MA 02130
The Haven
The Haven
Rachel Leah Blumenthal/Eater

Eat some haggis, drink some Belhaven (and some Scotch), and listen to some bagpipes at the Haven. Over a decade ago, pre-Haven, owner Jason Waddleton was the music booker at Matt Murphy’s, turning it into a hotspot for jazz and more. At the Haven, he hosts regular open mic nights and also brings in Scottish music, folk, Americana, and more.

2 Perkins St
Jamaica Plain, MA 02130

Related Maps