Explore Boston

Our Guide to Navigating Boston's Music Scene

Follow this music-inspired itinerary to Boston's historic haunts, record shops, live shows, and more.

With bands like Aerosmith, The Pixies and The Cars written into its history, Boston knows how to rock and roll. No matter what artists or genres tickle your fancy, you can follow this music-inspired itinerary to historic haunts, record shops, live shows, and more. 

12 pm: Burgers & Beer for Breakfast

Since mornings are best for sleeping in, let’s start the day around noon at the Hard Rock Café on Clinton Street for a tasty burger and beer, surrounded by lots of rock memorabilia. A special Boston-themed room features 70-plus pieces, including electric guitars from Aerosmith’s Joe Perry and Brad Whitford, and a busted-up acoustic from Dropkick Murphys’ Tim Brennan. There are also stage costumes a la Steven Tyler and (one-time Bostonian) Donna Summer. 22-24 Clinton St., Boston, 617.424.7625

The Hard Rock Cafe Boston
The bar at Hard Rock Cafe Boston (Courtesy Hard Rock Cafe)

1:30 pm: A Little Light Music

After lunch, head over to New England Conservatory on Huntington Avenue. NEC has an ever-shifting roster of free afternoon concerts and events, as well as frequent “master classes” where guest musicians give lectures and play music. 290 Huntington Ave., 617.585.1260

Just up the road, the Museum of Fine Arts occasionally hosts afternoon music programs, too, such as the show with jazz saxophonist Lee Konitz on March 15. 465 Huntington Ave., Boston, 617.267.9300

3 pm: Shake it Old-school

Now, if you’re old-school and don’t acquire your home music library solely through downloads—or if you just like to amass pop culture paraphernalia—you’re in for a treat: Log some serious shopping time at Newbury Comics’ flagship store on Newbury Street. The top (and local!) indie chain in the country, Newbury Comics ventures deep into the CD and vinyl world. And, the shelves are stocked with thousands of topical tchotchkes. 332 Newbury St., Boston, 617.236.4930

There is a modicum of used record shops these days, but Boston still has great pickings at Nuggets in Kenmore Square. Local music historians should note that it’s not far from the location of former fabled punk rock dive, the Rat. 486 Commonwealth Ave., Boston, 617.536.0679

Then head up Commonwealth Avenue to Allston for cellar-spot Store 54, where a splendid collection of vintage rock clothes, CDs and vinyl in bins amid a musty vibe awaits. 16 Harvard Ave., Boston, 617.987.0067

5:30 pm: Drink to a Legend

As late afternoon beckons, cross the Charles River into Cambridge for a drink in Central Square at rock ’n’ roll institution the Middle East-ZuZu restaurant-bar complex. Coupled with its aptly named Upstairs and Downstairs concert rooms, the Middle East has been the nexus of Boston-area club rock for more than two decades. 472-480 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, 617.846.3278

7:30 pm: Dinner & a Show

Head to Harvard Square for an eclectic dinner at Beat Brasserie where the psychedelic basement eatery features a spacious stage and various big band jazz and funk acts beginning anytime from 6:30-8 pm depending on the day. Chef Rebecca Newell’s menu serves incredible food with alternately French, Thai, Mexican and/or Italian influences. 13 Brattle St., Cambridge, 617.499.0001

Beat Brasserie in Harvard Square
Catch dinner and a show at Beat Brasserie in Harvard Square

9 pm: Hit the Clubs

Time to catch a live show. In this city there are plenty of choices and staggered set times, so the motivated fan could conceivably catch several sets at different spots, depending on the night. 

House of Blues is a local kingpin, and if you’re in town over Saint Patrick’s Day catch Boston punk rockers Dropkick Murphys for their annual Irish holiday stand. 15 Lansdowne St., Boston, 888.693.2583

Over near B.U., the renovated Paradise is the city’s longest-running rock club (it was U2’s first Boston show ever, back in 1979). 967 Commonwealth Ave., Boston, 617.562.8800

In the Theater District live music and dance venue, Royale, is the place to be. 279 Tremont St., Boston, 617.338.7679

Great Scott is a smaller but stellar club in Allston that features up-and-comers. 1222 Commonwealth Ave., Boston, 617.566.9014

If jazz is your thing, head to Scullers for prime players on the national scene. 400 Soldiers Field Road, Boston, 617.562.4111

Or, the venerable, tiny Wally’s Café, established in 1947 where you can catch local acts from Berklee and around, every night of the year. 427 Massachusetts Ave., Boston, 617.424.1408

For acoustic music, stay in Harvard Square and head over to cozy Club Passim (Joan Baez was a regular on stage here in the early 1960s). Our coolest new rock club, The Sinclair, sits just around the corner featuring versatile artists booked by club owner the Bowery Presents. 52 Church St., Cambridge, 617.547.5200


Map of Boston's Music Scene

EDITOR'S NOTE: T.T. Bear's is now closed