The Best Manhattan and Brooklyn Music Venues of 2020

by delarue

Every year since 2007, this blog and its predecessor would salute a venue from both Manhattan and Brooklyn as the best in its respective borough. The premise was to give props to clubs and spaces that might be flying a little under the radar but deserved to be better known.

In the beginning, there was no shortage of venues to choose from. As the years went by, gentrification took its ugly toll. In Manhattan, especially, trying to come up with a new pick every year became more and more of a challenge. In 2020, with the lockdowners hell-bent on destroying the arts around the world, the only commercial spaces in New York where musicians were allowed to perform for pay after March 16 were restaurants. In an edict that will go down in infamy, dictator Andrew Cuomo’s State Liquor Authority prohibited any kind of music that wasn’t “incidental.” Consider: the SLA were given the right to determine who can and who can’t be booked to perform. It’s as if we’re living in North Korea, or the old Soviet Union.

But New York musicians and devotees of the arts weren’t about to be stopped by a fascist regime. In private homes and back gardens, on lawns and in parks, on streetcorners and under monuments, in cemeteries, vacated classrooms and the backs of empty trucks, church basements, disused gyms and shuttered retail backrooms, you gathered to keep music alive: unafraid, unmuzzled and undeterred.

When the lockdown has been overthrown and the history is written, you will be remembered forever as heroes. You kept your musical chops up to speed, but even more importantly, you gave people hope at a time when there didn’t seem to be any. For that reason, the Best Manhattan Venue and Best Brooklyn Venue this year is your place. You earned it.