Dim The Lights | NYC’s Bygone Music Venues


On any given night within New York’s incalculable array of musical venues, you can find pretty much every act imaginable. From whisper quiet jazz quartets, to over-distorted art rockers, to spoken word slam poets backed by garbage can percussionists, the nightly roster of musical acts can be as diverse as the city itself.

Regardless of your melodic tastes, there’s bound to be a show each night that you’ll find at the very least amusing, but honestly the venues themselves all fall a bit flat. Music clubs in New York used to have as much (if not far more) character as the bands that played in them, but nowadays, these venues just sort of blend together. Whether big or small they all just feel boring, if not altogether sterile. So let’s reset the record and raise a glass, or at least raise the volume to New York’s rowdy, raucous, rough-around-the-edges clubs of yore.

Cotton Club

The Cotton Club

Opened: 1923

Closed: 1940

Location: 644 Lenox Avenue

Famous Performers: Cab Calloway, Duke Ellington, Louis Armstrong, Count Basie, Fats Waller, Avon Long, Aida Ward, The Dandridge Sisters, Billie Holiday, Lena Horne, Earl “Snakehips” Tucker

Fact: Despite being located in Harlem, and showcasing many black performers, The Cotton Club actually had a strict “whites only” policy.


Savoy Ballroom

Opened: 1926

Closed: 1958

Location: 596 Lenox Avenue

Famous Performers: Chick Webb, Ella Fitzgerald, Fess Williams, Teddy Hill, Dizzy Gillespie, Charlie Parker, Art Blakey, Thelonious Monk

Fact: Back when dance fads were popular, The Flying Charleston, The Lindy Hop, The Stomp, The Big Apple, and The Jitterbug Jive were all invented at the Savoy Ballroom.

HalfNote copy

Half Note

Opened: 1957

Closed: 1972

Location: 289 Hudson Street

Famous Performers: Budd Johnson, Buddy Tate, Al Cohn, Zoot Sims, John Coltrane, Charles Mingus, Wes Montgomery, Herbie Mann, Cannonball Adderley, Anita O’Day, Billie Holiday, Judy Garland

Fact: Owner Mike Canterino was one of the first promoters to book integrated acts, also allowing them to play as long as they wanted, breaking the normal forty on/twenty off pattern.

Gaslight copy

The Gaslight Cafe

Opened: 1958

Closed: 1971

Location: 116 MacDougal Street

Famous Performers: Bill Cosby, Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen, Richie Havens, Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton, Link Wray, Bonnie Raitt

Fact: The club started out as a performance space for Beat poets including Allen Ginsberg.

Palladium copy

The Palladium

Opened: 1960’s

Closed: 1997

Location: 126 East 14th Street

Famous Performers: Rolling Stones, Blue Oyster Cult, KISS, Fugazi, The Clash, The Boomtown Rats, Graham Parker & The Rumour, U2, Roxy Music, John Cale, Ramones, Patti Smith, Judas Priest, Iron Maiden, Def Leppard, Ozzy Osbourne, Lil’ Kim, P. Diddy.

Fact: Today the club, much like many places downtown, is an NYU dorm.


Max’s Kansas City

Opened: 1965

Closed: 1981

Location: 213 Park Avenue South

Famous Performers: The Velvet Undergound, David Bowie, Iggy Pop, Lou Reed, Alice Cooper, The New York Dolls, Patti Smith, Tom Waits, Talking Heads, Sid Vicious, Television, Bad Brains, Beastie Boys.

Fact: In his first New York City show, Bob Marley opened for Bruce Springsteen at Max’s in 1973, kick-starting his success on a global scale.

FillmoreEast copy

Filmore East

Opened: 1968

Closed: 1971

Location: 105 Second Avenue

Famous Performers: The Allman Brothers Band, Grateful Dead, Miles Davis, Joe Cocker, Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young, Derek & The Dominoes, King Crimson, Jefferson Airplane, Jimi Hendrix, Frank Zappa, Johnny Winter

Fact: Through 1971 bands were booked on weekends to play two shows a night, one at 8 and one at 11.

DBGB copy


Opened: 1973

Closed: 2006

Location: 315 Bowery

Famous Performers: Ramones, Misfits, Television, Patti Smith Group, The Dictators, The Cramps, The B-52’s, Blondie, Joan Jett & the Blackhearts, Talking Heads.

Fact: Despite their importance to Punk in New York, CBGB actually stands for “Country, Blue Grass, Blues.”

BottomLine copy

The Bottom Line

Opened: 1974

Closed: 2004

Location: 15 West 4th Street

Famous Performers: Bruce Springsteen, Lou Reed, Eric Clapton, Linda Ronstadt, The Police, Prince, Daryl Hall & John Oates, Van Morrison, Neil Young, Barry Manilow, Laura Nyro, Loudon Wainwright III, New York Dolls, Dolly Parton, Ramones, Miles Davis, Peter Gabriel, Tom Waits, Melvin Van Peebles, Billy Joel, Patti Smith, Cheech & Chong, The Violent Femmes

Fact: Much like The Palladium, The Bottom Line now houses NYU classrooms.

Hurrah copy


Opened: 1976

Closed: 1980

Location: 36 West 62nd Street

Famous Performers: Suicide, Johnny Thunders, Mission of Burma, The Slits, The Feelies, David Bowie, Sid Vicious

Fact: After Ian Curtis committed suicide, the members of Joy Division regrouped at Hurrah to form New Order in 1980.



Opened: 1978

Closed: 2004

Location: 1546 62nd Street Brooklyn

Famous Performers: Metallica, Kiss, Blue Öyster Cult, Megadeth, Guns N’ Roses, The Ramones, Slayer, Poison, Anthrax, Quiet Riot, Motörhead, Cheap Trick, Jane’s Addiction, Soundgarden, Faith No More, Cro-Mags, Iron Maiden, Hatebreed

Fact: Known as the “Rock Capitol of Brooklyn”

Danceteria copy


Opened: 1979

Closed: 1986

Location: 30 West 21st Street

Famous Performers: Madonna, New Order, Duran Duran, Billy Idol, The Smiths, Squeeze, Cyndi Lauper, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Keith Haring, Run-DMC, Depeche Mode, Butthole Surfers, The B-52’s, RuPaul, Berlin, Sonic Youth, Swans, Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, The Cult, Karen Finley, Violent Femmes, Soft Cell, The Jesus and Mary Chain, the Beastie Boys, LL Cool J, Rob Zombie

Fact: Owner John Argento founded a Danceteria outpost in the Hamptons in 1984, becoming the first major club promoter to do so.

Ritz copy

The Ritz

Opened: 1980

Closed: Early 1990’s

Location: 119 East 11th Street

Famous Performers: U2, Guns & Roses, Depeche Mode, Ozzy Osbourne, Run-DMC, Duran Duran, Sting, Iggy Pop, Danzig, Bo Diddley

Fact: MTV debuted at The Ritz in the 80’s.


Comments on “Dim The Lights | NYC’s Bygone Music Venues

    Andrew Scharf on October 16, 2014 10:27 AM:

    Gosh, seeing these photos brings back a lot of memories. NYC is a lot poorer with their loss. Somehow the beat will go on. The question is inevitably where considering the price of real estate.

    Richard Press on October 16, 2014 10:48 AM:

    How about The Saints Go Marching In Dixieland Clubs? Jimmy Ryan’s, Nick’s, Eddie Condon’s, Central Plaza Casino, Stuyvescent Casino, Basin Street East.

    cameron on October 16, 2014 4:12 PM:

    And of course this list could go on for ages . . .

    The Ritz didn’t close in the early 90s, it moved uptown to the former Studio 54 space (on 54th St. naturally) and kept going for quite a while. The old Ritz space in the East Village is still a venue, going by its original name Webster Hall.

    While the Danceteria club closed in the mid 80s as indicated above, it was sporadically a working venue for music after that. I recall seeing Smashing Pumpkins there in ’91 soon after their first album came out.

    Alan on October 16, 2014 5:13 PM:

    you left out the Lone Star!

    Ted Harrington on October 16, 2014 9:27 PM:

    Lots of great memories.

    Ted Harrington on October 16, 2014 9:28 PM:

    Yes! I saw James Brown at the Lone Star!
    On Mushrooms.

    Michael on October 24, 2014 4:50 AM:

    I miss Tramps. I think it was on 21st near Fifth. I saw a ton of shows there in the mid-nineties. And you could add Roseland to the list of dead venues now. Sad.

    Lawrence on October 26, 2014 12:51 PM:

    The Wetlands. Sin-é.

    Warsk on October 27, 2014 10:59 AM:

    Limelight, The Bank, Marquee, Coney Island High, The Spiral, The Academy.

    Andrew Krucko on October 28, 2014 10:20 PM:

    Danceteria was my hangout in the ’80s

Comments are closed.