Emertainment Monthly's Guide To The Best Venues In Boston

Anna Marketti ’17 / Emertainment Monthly Staff Writer

Us Bostonians are lucky enough to have a plethora of music venues in and around the city. With that said, all venues are most definitely not created equal – some shine bright as amazing places to see your favorite artists, while other venues leave a lot to be desired. Luckily, we’re here to give you a guide to some of Boston’s most popular venues and a description of what makes each one special.

10) The Royale, 279 Tremont St

Located in the heart of Boston, The Royale is very easily accessible, especially for Emerson students, given its location right down the street from campus. The Royale often hosts mid-sized acts of all genres, ranging from The Head And The Heart, to Lord Huron, to Sleigh Bells, to Switchfoot. Tickets are generally well priced, falling somewhere around $25. Stepping inside The Royale, it doesn’t seem very promising at first, but once you climb the stairs, you enter a grand ballroom of sorts with a tall stage and plenty of dancing space. But, despite the abundance of space, you’ll still be stepped on and prodded in the side. The Royale lands at number ten due to the lack of friendliness experienced there. The bouncers checking tickets and IDs merely grunt at you and wave you through. The stage is so high up, even if you’re in the front, it can be straining to even see their faces. The sound is also weird- in such a big room, it’s difficult to control the acoustics and manage the levels in a nice sounding way. Even your favorite band can end up sounding off.

9) Orpheum Theatre, 1 Hamilton PL

Another venue close to Emerson, the Orpheum is a beautiful old theater – one of the oldest in Boston. The Orpheum hosts mid-range to big ticket names, such as MGMT, Lorde, and Cage The Elephant. Tickets are on the pricier side, often starting in the $30 range. Once you step inside the Orpheum, you feel like you’ve stepped back in time. Ornate decoration and gold leafing coat the ceiling, framing a giant proscenium stage facing rows and rows of blue velvet seats. That’s part of the reason the Orpheum ranks so low, though. The giant pillars holding up the beautiful ceiling block the view for some audience members, and if you’re sitting all the way stage right or left, good luck seeing over the speakers. While it’s a beautiful venue, it’s not the best due to the various obstructions to your view that are present.

8) Great Scott, 1222 Commonwealth Ave

Venturing a little further away, Great Scott calls Allston its home. Smaller name acts usually play here, such as Jacco Gardner and Caught A Ghost, with perfectly priced tickets in the $10 range. Great Scott is very small and therefore very intimate. No matter how early or late you arrive to the show, you’re going to end up a few feet from the tiny stage tucked away in the corner of the bar. This makes the sound quality a little fuzzy, particularly because they use whatever speakers they can squeeze up on stage with the band. A downside to being so small is that you all have to cram together by the stage, leaving the bar area open for its patrons. While this allows you to get up close and personal, it can be a bit uncomfortable. On the bright side, the venue’s capacity is set at an intimate 240 people, with most shows averaging less than 100 people in the crowd. So if you’re venturing to see a small time band, Great Scott is the place to go – you just might lose a little bit of your hearing.

7) TD Garden, 100 Legends Way


If you can see a band on Fuse or hear them on the radio, then they’ll most likely be playing here. (Not to generalize – of course there are great bands that have a large following who don’t play at TD Garden.) But TD Garden is the host of big name acts, such as Macklemore, Lady Gaga, and Kanye West. This means tickets are going to be rather expensive, usually starting around $50. The arena itself is just that – an arena. It’s huge. With a GA floor in addition to in-the-round seats, there is a wide range of options when it comes to choosing where to stand. Of course, with that comes a wide range of views- the closer to the stage, the better, obviously. Which, of course, can make TD Garden a bit overwhelming for those used to smaller shows. It can also make going a bit daunting, given the long lines and large, consuming crowds. The sound is pristine, though, echoing clearly to each corner of the Bruins’ home.  However, getting in and out can be a nightmare, leaving you with the potential of getting caught in a mob of people.

6) Agganis Arena, 925 Commonwealth Ave

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Slightly smaller than the Garden, Agganis Arena calls Boston University its home. Hosting higher mid-range to big name acts, like Arctic Monkeys and The Flaming Lips, tickets usually price out around $30 to $40. The great thing about Agganis is its two GA floor sections. There’s still arena-style seating surrounding that, but the floor is divided into two sections, offering a slightly better experience than cramming everyone together in one massive space. The reason Agganis ranks higher than the Garden is becuase there’s more of a sense of unity within the crowd. No matter where you are in the arena, everyone seems to be enjoying themselves equally. The benefits of having such high ceilings makes fantastic light shows very possible. The arena also has great acoustics, allowing those at the back to hear exactly what those at the front are hearing, which is always a major plus in such a large venue. Getting in and out is also fairly easy and fast, another positive factor in such a large place.

5) House Of Blues Boston, 15 Landsdowne St

Most Houses of Blues venues across the nation are similarly built; once you’ve been to one, you’ve been to them all. That being said, the House of Blues in Boston is a beautifully constructed venue. With three levels, including a GA floor and two standing-room balconies with optional seating sections, it’s set up so no matter how far back or high up you are, you have a pretty nice view of the stage. The House of Blues usually hosts mid-range acts, though can sometimes have bigger names, such as Childish Gambino, Kate Nash, and Capital Cities. Tickets here are unpredictable, as they can be as low as $20 or shoot as high as $50, depending on the act. Each level is small, but the entire building is tall, allowing the sound to travel in all directions, and for a not-too-cramped experience. This also means that, if you’re on the first level, shows are very intimate, putting you close to the stage. Security can be kind of rude, which is a downer. But water is always free at the bar!

 4) Paradise Rock Club, 967 Commonwealth Ave


Right across the street from Agganis, Paradise is a very unique venue. Hosting small name to mid-range acts, like Twenty One Pilots, The Mowgli’s, and Walk The Moon, Paradise gives concert goers a very intimate experience. Tickets stay low, usually around $20. The venue itself is long and thin, which can be slightly awkward for audience members far off on the sides, but it also puts everyone right up by the stage. There’s also a second level, just as long and thin, that props you up to look down on the stage. Thanks to this rather unique layout, nobody is ever more than six rows back from the stage. The downside to this, however, is that it can make getting out of the crowd at the end of the night a slight pain. It’s also quite loud no matter where you are, due to your proximity to the stage, which can be a blessing as well as a curse. But the overall experience is such a wonderful one.

3) Middle East Upstairs/Downstairs, 472-480 Massachusetts Ave


The Middle East is an especially unique venue, with two separate parts- upstairs and downstairs. Middle East upstairs shows tend to be smaller name acts,  often featuring local bands, and tickets rarely eclipse the $10 mark. Downstairs shows are slightly bigger names, like Mac Demarco and Margot And The Nuclear So And Sos, with tickets being a little more expensive at $20. Both parts of the venue are the perfect size for their respective acts, with the proper proportions of stage and crowd space. The upstairs in particular has that “friend’s garage” feel that makes you feel at home. The sound quality can be spotty at times, and lighting is almost nonexistent, but that allows you to focus more on the performers themselves.

2) Brighton Music Hall, 158 Brighton Ave


Brighton Music Hall is an exceptionally quaint venue. The stage is offset to one side, which is bad news for audience members on stage left, but is otherwise just big enough in proportion to the crowd. The floor goes back pretty far, and is wide enough to accommodate decently sized crowds. Hosting mid-range acts like Max Bemis, The Paper Kites, and Albert Hammond, Jr., tickets almost always fall between the $10 to $20 range. The stage is at the perfect height for crowd members of any size to be able to see clearly. The size of the room also allows for sound to travel with minimal amplification, which is a nice change from stacks of speakers blaring in the faces of those in front. Equipped with a small side room perfect for merch tables, it never feels too crowded.

1) The Sinclair, 52 Church St

The Sinclair is one of the most beautiful venues in Boston. (Well, Cambridge technically.)  Hosting bands of all levels of popularity, from Phosphorescent to Jon Hopkins, tickets are always decently priced with a starting point around $20. The inside and outside of the venue are both equally visually appealing, with beautiful floors and décor. The floor space goes back deep, with an upper level hanging slightly over it. The stage is set far back, and is on the smaller side, but perfectly frames anyone performing on it. Just being inside is an experience in itself – it’s like an entirely different world.


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