Sure, you could hit up the Apollo Theater in Harlem, buzz down to The Merriweather Post Pavilion in Maryland and wait in line to see Graceland as a means of revving up your Rock N’ Roll roots. Or, if you’re looking to avoid the tourist traps of summer, maybe it’s time to check out some of these lesser known locations of musical mecca. Here, we’ve scrapped together a list of some of the best, hole-in-the-wall places every music lover should visit.
Number One: Paul’s Boutique, Manhattan NY. Also the title of the Beastie Boys’ second studio album, Paul’s Boutique, on the Lower East Side, isn’t actually a real place. Go to the intersection of Ludlow and Rivington and you won’t find that square, pink, neon sign featured on the cover of the album by the same name. The sign, “Paul’s Boutique” was actually hung over a “Lee’s Sportswear” sign, by the band, in homage to a Brooklyn shop. Lee’s Sportswear is no longer a thing today, but the street corner remains as a good spot to hang fictitious signage.
Number Two: The Saint, Asbury Park, NJ. Asbury Park’s boardwalk in New Jersey is a relative hotspot in the east coast music scene. The numerous clubs along the Park have been known to play host to musicians such Patti Smith, The Clash, and Fury of Five. And while most people hit up The Stone Pony – and really, if you’re here, you might as well – we recommend you also take in The Saint.
The earlier site of The Asbury Park Music Awards, The Saint functions as both bar, venue and recording spot. Even when The Stone Pony was under threat of closing down in the 90s, The Saint stood strong, and is considered to be Rock N’ Roll equivalent of “Cheers.”
Number Three: The Blue Bird Café, Nashville, TN. Since the start of ABCs Nashville, The Blue Bird Café has garnered national attention as the epicenter of the TV Show’s Rayna James and Deacon Claybourne’s whirlwind love-affair. However, the small, hole in the wall café is also a hub for songwriters, especially of the country variety. It’s the location where Garth Brooks was discovered, having landed one of the Café’s coveted Writer’s Night, performance slots, and since then, numerous country acts and songwriters have walked through the Blue Bird’s doors and come out with a record deal.
Number Four: St. Mary’s Episcopal Church, Athens, GA. It’s the location of REM’s first concert, which took place on April 5th, 1980. The performance wasn’t anything special, just a gig for a friend’s birthday party. Today, all that remains of the church is a crumbling, red-painted steeple. REM fans have been petitioning to have the building’s remains marked as a landmark, but so far nothing has come of their endeavors.
Number Five: Chess Records, Chicago, IL. 2120 South Michigan Avenue is, in fact, the exact address of the now disestablished recording studio, Chess Records. The song was recorded by The Rolling Stone at Chess for their album, Five by Five. Admittedly, Chess had several recording locations in the Chicago area, but 2101 is the most famous. Other notable artists who belted into the Chess recording mic include Howlin’ Wolf, The Beach Boys, and Muddy Waters.
Number Six: Theresa’s Stockbridge Café, Stockbridge, MA. Most music aficionados know this café by a very different name: Alice’s Restaurant. And yes, it is that Alice’s Restaurant. This small, yellow-walled café is the place where Arlo Guthrie based his anti-war classic, “Alice’s Restaurant Massacree.” Alice herself still lives there, where she owns an art studio and gallery.
Number Seven: Amoeba Records, Los Angeles, CA. The world’s last great record store, Amoeba is huge. A warehouse location overwhelmingly stocked with vinyl and compact disks, and while no big-names have performed here, every artist you could possibly want to listen to is, certainly, in stock.
Number Eight: Folsom Prison, Represa, CA. Listen to the blues, but don’t stop, just drive on by. It’s better to be on the outside of this one rather than the inside.
Number Nine: 924 Gilman Street, Berkeley, CA. A non-profit club located in West Berkley, the “Gilman,” as it’s known by its fans, was founded as a means for budding musicians to play and interact with fans outside of the music business’ more mainstream ideals of promotions and ticket sales. Touting the principals of no drinking, no fighting, no drugs, no racism, the club witnessed the birth of bands such as Green Day, Bad Religion, and Rancid.
Number Ten: North Aberdeen Bridge, Aberdeen, WA. While there are numerous spots in the Pacific Northwest that can claim the fame of Nirvana, the North Aberdeen Bridge is probably the most unassuming location. Cobain claimed to have lived under the bridge while he was homeless, and while these accounts have been largely disputed, the bridge is still a notable spot for Nirvana fans. Referenced in Nirvana’s “Something in the Way,” it’s theorized that Cobain spent a fair amount of time sitting underneath the bridge, along the Wishkah river.