Trying to decide what kind of live music experience you want on any given night is more than just considering what kind of act you’ll be hearing on the stage. But let’s at least start with that to see which venue is right for you.
1) What best describes the type of music you want to hear?
A) An act that a lot of people have heard of, whether it’s because they’re making a big buzz or because they made a big buzz a few years ago and can still command a crowd
B) Blues or jazz
C) I wanna rock, but there needs to be at least one act on the bill who I’ve never heard of
E) How about some traditional Irish music? Can I hear that anywhere in Cambridge or Somerville?
F) A poet or a person with an acoustic guitar, speaking to my soul.
If you answered A) then you probably want to look at the calendar at The Sinclair or the Middle East Downstairs. The Middle East is also one of the best venues in the area to check out live hip-hop, with the Leedz Edutainment series.
If you answered B) you should check out who’s playing at Ryles Jazz Club or Regattabar.
If you answered C) then you would probably feel at home at T.T. the Bear’s, The Middle East Upstairs, The Lilypad, P.A.’s Lounge or the Plough and Stars.
If you answered D) check out the Middlesex Lounge or the Phoenix Landing.
If you answered E) you can hear traditional Irish music at The Burren in Davis Square every night of the week. On the first and third Monday of every month the establishment even features Irish step-dancing. Additionally, The Druid plays host to Irish Sessions every Tuesday at 9 p.m. and every Saturday at 4 p.m.
If you answered F) then you need to get to Club Passim or to the Cantab Lounge on Wednesday nights for their renowned poetry slams.
2) Which of the following national acts would you want to see in April?
A) Benjamin Booker
C) Halsey and Young Rising Sons
D) Jesse Malin
If you answered A) you hopefully already have tickets to see Booker at The Sinclair on Saturday, April 4, because the show has been sold out for several months!
If you answered B) go see NRBQ at Johnny D’s on Thursday, April 3.
If you answered C) then you need to check out this double-bill as part of The American Youth Tour at the Middle East Downstairs on Friday, April 3. Hopefully you already have tickets to this one too, because it’s also sold out. When the Middle East hosts a pop show, tickets go fast!
If you answered D) then you may be checking out the D-Generation singer on Thursday, April 9 at one of the area’s newest clubs, Thunder Road. Malin is one of the first acts booked at this club, which, as of press time wasn’t even open yet! Also on the Thunder Road concert calendar is Pete Francis of Dispatch, playing on Saturday, April 25.
3) Which of the following local acts would you be most interested in seeing?
A) Duke Robillard
B) Will Dailey
C) Which local act? I want to see them all! Or at least all of the ones competing in the Rock ‘N’ Roll Rumble!
D) Actually, I like to see a local band play a residency, and do a different set each week for a month.
If you answered A) then you can check out the co-founder of Roomful of Blues on Saturday, April 18 at Regattabar.
If you answered B) you can see Will Dailey play two shows at Club Passim on Friday, April 3.
If you answered C) you can see this time-honored tradition of 24 bands slugging it out in nine nights at T.T. the Bear’s, beginning on Sunday, April 12.
If you answered D) then you should check out Toad, where there’s never a cover, the Lizard Lounge or Atwood’s Tavern.
4) When I’m at a show, I like to …
A) Stand elbow-to-elbow and look up at a stage.
B) Sit at a table and let the music wash over me.
C) Lurk anonymously in the shadows.
If you answered A) then you’ll be right at home at the Middle East, P.A.’s, T.T. the Bear’s or the Lilypad.
If you answered B) places like Regattabar, Cuisine en Locale, Johnny D’s and the Beat Hotel are all set up so you can sit at a table and hear live music while eating and/or drinking. Check the venues’ calendars for details on weekend brunches!
If you answered C) we wonder why you like to lurk so much. Then we will suggest The Sinclair, which is the biggest venue on this list and is laid out in a horseshoe-shape with very dark edges around the perimeter, good for hooking up, or like you initially committed to, lurking. Weirdo!
If you answered D) we suggest the Middlesex or the Phoenix Landing for their aforementioned DJ nights, but you also need to check out the R&B and rock acts at the Cantab and Noche Latina Tuesdays at Ryles.
5) Which of the following statements describes how you feel about eating at the venue where you’re going to see music?
A) I want something all-inclusive! I’m on a blind date and I don’t want to have to come up with a place to eat and a different place to go to afterwards.
B) I’d like to grab a quick bite between acts. It doesn’t have to be amazing, but if it tastes good, I won’t complain.
C) Food? Ha! I’m going to drink my dinner and watch a band!
If you answered A) then our first suggestions are The Sinclair, Cuisine En Locale and Beat Hotel all of which seem to put as much (if not more, in the case of the latter two) emphasis on keeping your tongue happy as keeping your ears happy.
If you answered B) the Middle East restaurant has a menu largely inspired by the Middle East (duh!) as the owners are from Lebanon. The kitchen at Zuzu, which is connected to the venue, also serves lunch and dinner. Other venues with an above average kitchen include Atwood’s and Johnny D’s. Places like The Burren, the Cantab and the Plough & Stars serve tasty enough bar food. We don’t recommend you order food at the Regattabar if it’s a crowded show. You’re sharing a table with strangers, and it’s tight quarters there!
If you answered C) try T.T. the Bear’s or PA’s Lounge. Club Passim is currently renovating their kitchen, but that isn’t really the place where you tie one on and rock out.
877 Cambridge St., Cambridge
13 Brattle St., Cambridge
247 Elm St., Somerville
The Cantab Lounge
738 Mass. Ave., Cambridge
47 Palmer St., Cambridge
Cuisine en Locale
156 Highland Ave., Somerville
1357 Cambridge St., Cambridge
17 Holland St., Somerville
1353 Cambridge St., Cambridge
The Lizard Lounge
1667 Mass. Ave., Cambridge
The Middle East
472-480 Mass. Ave., Cambridge
315 Mass. Ave., Cambridge
345 Somerville Ave., Somerville
512 Mass. Ave., Cambridge
The Plough & Stars
912 Mass. Ave., Cambridge
One Bennett St., Cambridge
212 Hampshire St., Cambridge
52 Church St., Cambridge
381 Somerville Ave., Somerville
1912 Mass. Ave., Cambridge
T.T. the Bear’s Place
10 Brookline St., Cambridge