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Best Places for Live Music in Cambridge, MA

Here are the best places for live music in Cambridge, MA

By Kari Kynard Ridge on August 14, 2015

Band plays at The Middle East in Cambridge, MA
Cambridge / Courtesy of Matt DiGirolamo under a CC 4.0 license.

A walk through Cambridge, Mass., offers a blend of the historic and the cutting-edge, of top universities and restaurants serving international cuisine, and of many bookstores and street musicians.

While perhaps best known as the home of Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge – just 5 miles from Boston center – is also recognized as the place where many popular musicians had their beginnings. Bands including Aerosmith, Bob Dylan, Joan Baez and the Pixies all played Cambridge music halls on their cusps of making it big. The city’s many music venues continue to nurture musical talent.

See where Cambridge ranked on our list of the Top 10 Best College Towns

Check out our list below for the Best Places for Live Music in Cambridge.

Club Passim

Back in the day, this legendary Harvard Square club gave musicians such as Bob Dylan and Joan Baez their starts. Club Passim has been around since 1958 and now serves as a music venue and nonprofit arts organization featuring music, poetry and art shows seven nights a week, with more than 400 performances each year. Genres include bluegrass, Celtic, pop/rock and world music at this cozy venue that encourages interaction between audiences and performers.

Ryles Jazz Club

With two floors of entertainment, this Inman Square jazz club hosts major national performers such as Arturo Sandoval, Nestor Torres and McCoy Tyner, as well as emerging local talent. Ryles is home to the nationally acclaimed Ryles Jazz Orchestra and a popular Sunday Jazz Brunch. The second floor of the business is a dance hall that features everything from “hot” salsa to ballroom dancing and swing, complete with instructors to show you the moves.

Plough and Stars

This tiny venue is the kind of place where you can meet friends, grab a meal, choose from a variety of beers on tap and watch the city’s up-and-coming musicians in an intimate setting. Located on a corner between Harvard and Central squares, the Plough and Stars Irish pub and restaurant has been around since 1969, offering live music nearly every night. Come here often enough and you may find that this is the place where everyone knows your name.

The Sinclair

Although The Sinclair is a newer kid on the block, this “gastropub” and music venue is hosting its share of big names. Dinosaur Jr., The Replacements, Slayer, Chance the Rapper, Kasey Chambers and The Dead Milkmen have all headlined here. There isn’t a bad seat at this Church Street club, which features a large stage, a dance floor and a second floor mezzanine. It’s known to fans of folk, indie rock and alterna-pop music, and its upscale restaurant is popular.

The Middle East

With two floors of entertainment, The Middle East Restaurant and Nightclub on Massachusetts Avenue features three live music performance rooms, two family-style restaurants with full-service bars and ZuZu, an upscale restaurant. In the downstairs basement hall you can find large bands, pop music and dance parties. Upstairs the atmosphere is more relaxed, with emerging local bands in a variety of genres playing on a stage layered with Persian rugs.

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