Best Live Music Venues in New Jersey
New Jersey is the birthplace of so many legends of American music. Frank Sinatra made Hoboken famous. Guitarist Les Paul lived in Mahwah. As a kid, Count Basie played piano for silent movies screening in his hometown of Red Bank. Classic girl group The Shirelles perfected their style in the halls of their Passaic high school. Jon Bon Jovi's upbringing in Perth Amboy inspired some of those '80s hits. And of course, Bruce Springsteen put Asbury Park on the map.
Yup, the Garden State takes its music seriously. So if your ears are hungry for great live tunes, these ten venues are sure to satisfy.
1. The Stone Pony, Asbury Park
It's probably the most iconic music place in the state. Southside Johnny and Bruce are indelibly associated with this tiny joint; but acts like Snoop Dogg have also performed there. On any given weekend, you'll find a mix of unknown and well-known acts.
2. The Saint, Asbury Park
It's small, but makes up for size in the amount of crowd energy you'll experience. The club is big on promoting indie bands, and offers them a great opportunity to gin up some buzz for New York and Philadelphia clubs.
3. Brighton Bar, Long Branch
Small, loud and with tons of attitude. During the heyday of punk, it was considered "the CBGB's of the south." It still hosts edgy new underground bands - right before they go "above ground" and become better known.
4. The Count Basie Theater, Red Bank
This 20's-era theater was updated and re-named for the Jersey jazz master. It attracts a wide swath of acts, has great sound and plenty of affordable seating. And a great bar!
5. PNC Bank Arts Center, Holmdel
Head down "the Parkway" to this major venue. Many major acts make this a stop. And even if you only get seats on the lawn, it's designed for amazing sound quality. There are also giant monitors, so you won't miss any of the action on stage.
6. Tierney's Tavern, Montclair
This two-story Irish bar is a true neighborhood joint in a college town. But it regularly hosts blues, rock, folk and jazz acts upstairs. Both locals and the musicians who play there give it a "thumbs up."
7. Wellmont Theater, Montclair
It's a less-crazy alternative to New York City, and attracts big name acts like Huey Lewis and Olivia Newton-John. Fans appreciate the fact that it's not huge, so you're guaranteed great views from any seat.
8. Joe's Mill Hill Saloon, Trenton
It's something of a local landmark, keeping the spirit of live music alive in the state's capital. It's primarily known for blues and jazz, but the "basement" is a hot spot for punk music.
9. Bergen PAC, Englewood
This former vintage movie theater (1926) has been remade into an intimate setting which hosts a variety of performers. On the current calendar, violinist Joshua Bell, folk legend Gordon Lightfoot and funk group Tower of Power.
10. NJPAC, Newark
This world-class venue opened in 1997, becoming one of the largest performing arts centers in America. There are numerous halls and auditoriums within the center, hosting some of the top artists in the world.