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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

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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.)

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Note: Restaurants on this map are listed geographically.
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The Burren

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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

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

Lizard Lounge

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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

Bull McCabe's

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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

El Potro Mexican Bar & Grill

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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

Beat Brasserie

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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

The Plough and Stars

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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

The Cantab Lounge

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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

The Middle East Restaurant and Nightclub

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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

Middlesex Lounge

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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

O'Briens Pub

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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

Lucky's Lounge

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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

Great Scott

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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

The Beehive

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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

Wally's Cafe Jazz Club

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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

Darryl's Corner Bar & Kitchen

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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

Slade’s Bar & Grill

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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

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

The Haven

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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.

Interior view of bar seating in a tavern, featuring lots of wood and Scottish-themed decor.
The Haven
Rachel Leah Blumenthal/Eater

The Burren

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.

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

Toad

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.

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

Lizard Lounge

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.

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

Bull McCabe's

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.

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

El Potro Mexican Bar & Grill

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.

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

Beat Brasserie

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.

Beat Hotel
Beat Hotel
Meg Jones Wall/Eater

The Plough and Stars

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.

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

The Cantab Lounge

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.

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

The Middle East Restaurant and Nightclub

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.

The Middle East
The Middle East
Vivian C./Yelp

Middlesex Lounge