As Astoria and Long Island City become more popular neighborhoods, there's increasing demand to see live music close to home. Slowly but surely, there's more and more live music being performed in western Queens. These days one can find a variety of musical styles around town — rock, jazz, folk, classical. Here's a selection of places that feature live music.
Since opening in 2006 on Ditmars Blvd, Waltz-Astoria has presented a wide array of live music in myriad styles. There, you can hear jazz music and classical music, as well as folk and singer-songwriters. In fact, Waltz produces a singer-songwriter competition called The Ultimate Singer-Songwriter Contest, reminiscent of American Idol (but without any mean judges). The joint is packed on these nights.
Waltz also hosts performances of new classical music from the Lost Dog New Music Ensemble, Astoria Music Society's new music arm, and Random Access Music, a collective of local composers. On the other end of the spectrum, Waltz also hosts kid sing-a-longs during the week, as well as Little Waltzers, "a concert series featuring favorite local bands that are unique, kid-friendly, and great for the growing families in Astoria."
Most (grown-up) shows cost nothing except a $10 drink minimum (there's a nice selection of beer, wine, and excellent sangria) unless specified.
Located at the north end of Vernon Blvd's hopping commercial area, LIC Bar presents live music on Sunday, Monday, Wednesday, and Friday evenings, usually starting around 7 p.m. Local bands and singer-songwriters can be heard throughout the week. This 100-year-old bar is a great spot to hear music in a comfortable old-world bar setting.
On Monday evenings, LIC Bar offers a food buffet (2 drink minimum) to go along with the music at 7 p.m. In the summertime, Sundays mean BBQ and free music in their terrific back patio.
Just down the street from LIC Bar, Dominies Hoek is another bar and pub that serves drinks and food and has live music on the weekends. A variety of musical styles can be heard here, from blues to Brazilian guitar strumming. Live music also can be heard some Wednesday nights as well. No cover, most of the time.
The Astor Room
This supper club located in the old commissary at the Kaufman Astoria Studios, The Astor Room started presenting live music in 2011. On Fridays, Astor has up-and-coming musicians from Song Circle performing 9:00 to 11:00 pm — the perfect accompaniment for a late night meal to usher in the weekend.
The Astor Room also turns into a tiki lounge called the Lono Lounge on Tuesdays at 7:00 pm. The live music goes from 8:00 to 10:00 pm and you can expect exotica music and the like from the Fisherman's Tiki Trio. Classic fruity drinks and the tiki oriented food is available.
During the rest of the week, live music in the form of contemporary jazz and classics are heard during the weekday evenings. None of the Astor Room's musical offerings require a cover charge.
The Queens Kickshaw
The Queens Kickshaw, Astoria's favorite spot for fancy grilled cheese sandwiches, has started to present some live music, and actively searches for local bands to host. The food is excellent and the craft beer offerings are incomparable for the neighborhood. Combined with live music, it's just the tops.
Historians should keep an eye on this place for more live music in the future.
Shillelagh and The Quays
Two Astoria bars, Shillelagh and The Quays (pronounced "the keys"), go well together when it comes to talking about live music in Astoria. Why? Well, they're both in the same part of town — on 30th Ave in the 40s, just a couple of blocks from each other. They present similar kinds of music — local rock bands and sometimes punk. They are also favorite locations for shows put on by Astoria Music & Arts, a local organization that promotes local music.
They also both pour a good pint of Guinness, as all good Irish pubs should. As for The Quays in the particular, Shane MacGowan and The Pogues once performed there.
Hell Gate Social
On Thursdays, live music in the form of open mic nights can be heard at Hell Gate Social. Usually known for having great DJs spinning on the weekends, Hell Gate Social sometimes has surprise bands and live music during the holidays. And there are Rock Band nights when you make the live-ish music (at least if you're singing).
Frank Sinatra School of the Arts
On the classical front, you can find the Astoria Symphony performing throughout the year at the Frank Sinatra School of the Arts. This is its new home and it's a beautiful one. It has access to a very nice concert stage (I can attest to this, as I've played on it myself). The Symphony plays there several times during their season, playing both classics and new compositions.
The students at the school perform throughout the school year, too, so you can catch young artists all year long!