Tired of the same venues? Us too.
Sometimes you need a break from the regular backdrop, even if they’re dishing up some of the best shows in Boston. Say hello to seven hidden and not-so-hidden spots in the city that deserve to have you standing in their audience. Then, when you go back to the usual venues like House of Blues or the Sinclair, they will be just as exciting as you remembered they were (though the pesky poles in the Paradise will never, ever go away).
WHAT: Coolidge Corner Theatre
WHERE: 290 Harvard St., Brookline
WHY GO: Once every blue moon, Coolidge lets a band take over the main screening room instead of showing a big flick on screen. It’s more surreal than Luis Buñuel. Because really, nothing beats seeing a band from the comfort of 1930s velvet seats, a bucket of popcorn in hand, while a smoke machine fills the room with theatrical clouds.
PAST PERFORMERS: Sunn O))), Ted Leo, Will Oldham
WHAT: Waterworks Museum
WHERE: 2450 Beacon St., Chestnut Hill
WHY GO: The first metro water system in the United States also hosts secret electronic, classical, and experimental shows. It doesn’t often throw shows, so set a reminder to check the calendar each month. It’s real-life steampunk hidden away in the quiet throws of Brookline.
PAST PERFORMERS: Mark Fell, Robert Aiki Aubrey Lowe (Lichens), Lawrence English
WHERE: 11 Garden St., Cambridge
WHY GO: There ain’t no saint like a free-wheelin’ folk fella. While we aren’t suggesting you switch religions, we do urge you to stake out a spot in a pew for the fantastic live sets that take place here. You’ll exit the church with a clean conscience and happy ears.
PAST PERFORMERS: Mark Kozelek, Ben Sollee, Mother Falcon
WHERE: 100 Northern Ave., Boston
WHY GO: The only thing more modern than the ICA’s art is the bands it books. It’s easy to forget about its lineups since the building is off the beaten path, but the museum’s booking agent draws in everyone from experimental rock and provocative electronica to platinum pop, all of which are worth venturing over the water for.
PAST PERFORMERS: Lucius, How to Dress Well, Son Lux
WHERE: 541 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge
WHY GO: If you need to get your creative juices flowing, swing by any show at this art gallery. The range of rising local acts that play here amplify their sounds off bizarre paintings and flashing sculptures. It’s the type of environment that transports you to another planet.
PAST PERFORMERS: Pile, Anjimile, Mega Bog
WHAT: Museum of Fine Arts
WHERE: 465 Huntington Ave., Boston
WHY GO: Stadium-like seating and gorgeous artwork make the Museum of Fine Arts’ shows something of a wonder. Look back at its catalogue to see a list of giants who played here when they were still young, like Joanna Newsom and the Books, and accept the fact that half of the audience was (and always will be) graying folks with membership cards.
PAST PERFORMERS: Angel Olsen, Spoon, The Mountain Goats
WHAT: Charlie’s Kitchen
WHERE: 10 Eliot St., Cambridge
WHY GO: Like we need to give you another reason to go here. Throw back a draft beer and bring your burger to the front row while small touring acts and local giants rip through rock and folk alike. Bonus: You can watch the audience as well as the band, thanks to the giant mirror wall behind the “stage.”
PAST PERFORMERS: Guerilla Toss, Lushes, Kal Marks