February 8, 2010 12:18 PM   Subscribe

NYC Travel filter: Please tell me where to find out about any of the following: (1) live music of the broadly indie rock variety, (2) unpretentious dance nights, and (3) karaoke.

A pack of Canadians in their late 20s are heading to New York for 5 nights (Feb. 18th - 23rd, Thurs.-Tues.), and we're trying to plan some things to do in the evenings. We're staying in the LES and West Village but willing to go wherever.

For music: I'm aware of the Village Voice site, but if it's anything like the weeklies in Toronto, then there might be a better source for listings (like Stillepost in these parts). Are there any comprehensive calendars or message boards that I should be checking out instead of/in addition to the Voice?

For dance nights: we're not into the velvet rope scene, but it'd be nice to hit up some kind of retro theme nights like the ones we go to at bars in Toronto and Vancouver (e.g. at the Boat, Gladstone, Teranga, Biltmore). Up here, finding out about these involves a combo of word-of-mouth and already being a member of the relevant Facebook group. Absent those channels, how would I find out about such things in NYC?

As for karaoke recommendations: are there any reasonably popular nights where it's nonetheless possible to sing without waiting for three hours...or any karaoke boxes with decent English selections that won't be booked up way in advance?

posted by Beardman to Travel & Transportation around New York, NY (23 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Time Out NY and NY Magazine have what you're looking for.

If jazz and classical is in the cards, the New Yorker will also be helpful.
posted by dfriedman at 12:20 PM on February 8, 2010

Try the L Magazine (free!) for downtown, more off-beat listings.
posted by The Whelk at 12:21 PM on February 8, 2010

Are there any comprehensive calendars or message boards that I should be checking out instead of/in addition to the Voice?

Oh My Rockness

posted by ludwig_van at 12:21 PM on February 8, 2010

And Pollstar.
posted by Ashley801 at 12:25 PM on February 8, 2010

Try the illnamed Brooklynvegan for rock shows. (Illnamed because it is not specifically for vegans. Maybe it is run by a vegan.)
posted by chesty_a_arthur at 12:28 PM on February 8, 2010

karaoke: think about whether you want to sing with strangers at the bar, or in a private room. private rooms are better for a group, especially if you're going on a weekend, when the bridge & tunnel crowd flood in. you can always call a place a few hours in advance and make a room reservation, so you don't have to wait for turns to sing among drunk, mike-hogging strangers.

my favorite places: karaoke one seven (west 17th, in chelsea), karaoke duet 35 (east 35th, koreatown). if you're in the east village, either of the sing sing karaoke joints are great (st mark's or avenue a) but they're slightly more expensive and also more crowded.
posted by lia at 12:34 PM on February 8, 2010

Going.com has about 14 bajillion listings, which is a little overwhelming but is sometimes nice if the magazines don't give you anything good for a certain night.
posted by shownomercy at 12:43 PM on February 8, 2010

When you get there, buy a Time Out magazine (anywhere periodicals are sold) and look at the music section.
posted by Jaltcoh at 12:45 PM on February 8, 2010

Seconding karaoke duet in Koreatown. They have a really good selection of English language songs including current pop songs. There are a couple of other places on that same block, too, if duet has a wait, but I've never had a problem getting a room there.
posted by albrecht at 12:48 PM on February 8, 2010

Firstly, I second OhMyRockness, which is pretty darn comprehensive, and BrooklynVegan, which has more in the way of editorial content. Looking over that weekend's offerings, my personal recommendation for a good show to go to would be the Crystal Stilts at the Music Hall of Williamsburg on Sat. 2/20, 'cause if you're going to visit NYC, you might as well go and see a band from NYC. Also, Music Hall of Williamsburg is a great mid-sized venue, and you're right in the heart of Williamsburg for pre- and post-show carousing.

As for a dance night, although I'm generally not wild about the venue itself, I would recommend Mondo at Don Hill's. The atmosphere there is less about "the scene" and more about dancing to good DJ's spinning good music. That's happening on Friday the 19th.

No, for karaoke -- if you're interested in renting out a room, I don't have much advice. But if you're looking for a fun little karaoke bar, it's Winnie's in Chinatown that you want. It's basically a narrow dive bar with a karaoke machine at the far end. The beers are cheap, they have some really good dumplings, and it's rarely so crowded that you can't get a few songs in. The song selection isn't the best -- there's not a ton of current stuff, and nothing remotely indie, but it's got all the classics, and besides, sometimes it's good to be forced to sing something out of your comfort zone.

Anyway, that would pretty much be my thursday, friday, and saturday night (in reverse order) if I weren't going to be out of town that weekend. Hope you guys enjoy your visit.
posted by patnasty at 2:00 PM on February 8, 2010

Royal Oak in Williamsburg, Brooklyn has excellent, unpretentious dance parties pretty much all weekend long. DJ's play throwback '90s songs, current indie dance music, and hip hop. Try their bramble drink - it's got superpowers. The Pyramid Club on Avenue A in the East Village is also a super fun time. Saturday night is '80s night. It's cheap, no dress code, and lots of fun.

I also recommend Second on Second karaoke bar in the East Village. Less crowded than Sing Sing with better song selection and I believe the private rooms are quite cheap on weekdays.
posted by blackcatcuriouser at 2:16 PM on February 8, 2010

I second the vote for OhMyRockness. Also, this Web Guide is a narrated guide to Web sites to help you find just about anything in NYC, including nightlife.
posted by MarkMoran at 2:20 PM on February 8, 2010

If you're gay-friendly, or at least okay with parties that are, pick up a copy of NeXT magazine, or look at it online (www.nextmagazine.net) - they have weekly club/bar night listings, and for many of them there's a fair amount of overlap between "young gay manhattanite" and "indie scene."

Also, and no offense to PatNasty, I vote no on Winnie's for karaoke. Here's their schtick - they charge you a dollar to submit a song to sing. Then they run through the slips in order. This means that a) they're effectively charging you to get into the karaoke queue, such that the best way to sing more than one song a night is to put in five or six slips as soon as you get there; b) since everyone else is doing the same thing too, it's still no guarantee for you, and, naturally, c) profit. I GUARANTEE, and I'll bet donuts to dollars on this, that at the end of the night they've collected more dollar bills than they've played songs, by a wide margin.

I'm sure for them it's a lovely business plan, but it's not one I feel comfortable subsidizing.
posted by Pickman's Next Top Model at 2:26 PM on February 8, 2010

Oooh, also, if you wanna get in the mood for karaoke in K-town (that is, the Korean stretch of West 32nd street in Manhattan) you might consider renting and watching the local crime thriller "West 32nd Street," about korean gangsters in manhattan. A little city flavor, and then you can show up a few days later and see the shooting locations. That's always fun.
posted by Pickman's Next Top Model at 2:28 PM on February 8, 2010

My awesome step-son's awesome band is playing at The Upper East Side Music Festival on 2/20. You can stream their music for free from links on their site to see if that's the type of act you're interested in seeing.

/shameless plug

(Mods, feel free to delete this if obvious whoring is verboten.)
posted by Maisie at 3:03 PM on February 8, 2010

I'll reiterate the nods to OhMyRockness for show listings and Brooklynvegan for general music goings on.

Mondo at Don Hills is a fun Friday night. if you're into 80s/Synthpop/Britpop also check out Pyramid on 7th and Ave A on Saturdays. Don Hills also has a goth night on Saturdays.

For karaoke I often go to Planet Rose, but I admit I've only been on weekdays. The times I've gone, however, have been great: decent sized crowd but not too big to get your songs in, a huge music selection, pretty fun scene (divey) and close to other places in the area.
posted by sub-culture at 3:37 PM on February 8, 2010

No offense taken, PNTM.

I don't think of Winnie's $1-per-song policy as quite the racket you do, though. It's more of a combination deposit so that people don't put in too many slips at once, and a tip for the poor girl whose job it is to handle all the slips and man their vintage 80's karaoke machines where you have to put in a new CD or laserdisc (yes, I said laserdisc) for each song.

Besides, their mark-ups on drinks aren't nearly as outrageous as your typical karaoke bar, and there's no drink minimum or cover, so at the end of the night, you've probably spent less.

And even if that weren't the case, $1 a song is still a premium I'd gladly pay ten times over for a karaoke joint that isn't overrun by the Jersey Shore casting rejects that ruin every other one I've been to in Manhattan.
posted by patnasty at 4:23 PM on February 8, 2010

Duet 35 seems to be the place to go for karaoke. Then walk down the block for some hectic, stressful bibimbap.
posted by thejoshu at 5:23 PM on February 8, 2010

We got some helpful recommendations on karaoke in this recent question I posted. I think Karaoke One 7 is nicer than Duet, but both have good song selections (One 7 has a lot of musical theater songs, if you are into that).
posted by Conrad Cornelius o'Donald o'Dell at 6:53 PM on February 8, 2010

I recommend coming to Brooklyn. Union Hall in Park Slope has Karaoke on Friday and Saturday nights (as well as an amazing comedy show on Sunday) and the Bell House always has amazing indie rock shows.
posted by Unred at 8:04 PM on February 8, 2010

Rumor has it Union Hall also has indoor bocce and it would please me to no end if you come back with tales of a bocce and karaoke night.
posted by Felicity Rilke at 9:57 PM on February 8, 2010

Response by poster: Bocce balls: better than tomatoes.

Thanks for the recommendations, everyone!
posted by Beardman at 5:37 AM on February 9, 2010

It does have bocce!!! If you look closely you can find my trophy.....and perhaps my team taking down all the contenders.
posted by Unred at 6:29 AM on February 9, 2010

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