Central CT may not be the hotbed of live music one expects from Austin, Memphis, or New Orleans. But given the size of the city, it turns out that downtown New Haven has more than 6 times the number of bars per capita than the national average and more than 5 times the number of restaurants per capita
Lucky for those of us that live around here, this translates to many options for live music, ranging from smooth jazz to open mic amateurs to headliners like the Decemberists and Doobie Brothers.
“I have a passion for music and… a passion for hearing music every night coming out of every bar and restaurant [in New Haven]” says Glen Greenberg, owner of the Owl Shop— fine tobacconists, cigar lounge, and bar that also hosts live music multiple nights a week—“and I have pushed for that in our community”. Greenberg is a prominent member of the New Haven music scene: one of the directors of Jazz Haven and a board member of CTYP to boot. Besides his own place, the Owl Shop, he also recommends Café Nine, Pacific Standard Tavern, as well as the open mic nights at Stella Blues.
www.owlshopcigars.com, www.cafenine.com, www.pacificstandardtavern.com, www.stellabluesbar.com
Jazz Haven is an all-volunteer, nonprofit organization that “supports the culture of jazz in greater New Haven through unique collaborations with artists, organizations, schools and other groups”. What started as a series of jazz performances at the Artspace festival back in 1996 has now blossomed into a week-long summer “Jazz Fest” including live performances on the New Haven Green and free concerts all week in numerous venues all over town. Greenberg points out that acts are not only in the summer however: the Jazz Haven calendar posts live jazz in the greater New Haven area all year long.
The most well known venue in New Haven is of course, Toad’s Place, with “deep roots in the local music [community]”, says Greenberg. This year marks 40 years for Toad’s where such greats as Bob Dylan, the Rolling Stones, and Snoop Dogg have played at the height of their career, and others such as Macklemore, Iggy Azalea, and U2 played before they became mainstream household names. www.toadsplace.com
Relatively new on the scene but not to be outdone, the College Street Music Hall (CSMH) only just opened in May 2015 on the site of the old Palace Theatre as a “multi-capacity theater with state-of-the-art production facilities”, and has already hosted the Psychedelic Furs and the Beach Boys and has such headliners on the September calendar as the Doobie Brothers. From their website: “During its heyday the Palace showcased artists including B.B. King, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Blues Traveler, Primus, Phish, The Spin Doctors, Lyle Lovett, Sonic Youth, Bob Dylan, Peter Paul and Mary, Lou Reed, The Black Crowes, Meat Loaf, George Clinton & The P-Funk All-Stars, Tori Amos, Peter Frampton, Fleetwood Mac, They Might Be Giants, Dave Matthews Band, Sheryl Crow, Counting Crows, Run-DMC, Ani DiFranco, Widespread Panic, Fiona Apple, Bob Weir & Ratdog, The Monkees, Robin Williams, Backstreet Boys, ‘N Sync, Melissa Etheridge, Bela Fleck & The Flecktones, and more.” CSMH is well on their way to achieving their mission to “attract major live touring artists… [to] Connecticut”.
When asked where to go outside of downtown New Haven, Greenberg recommends Hamden’s The Space, a venue “run by musicians for musicians” that hosts local craft beer, local artwork and local musicians for rehearsal or performance, and Infinity Music Hall and Bistro, with locations in Norwalk and Hartford, offering a gourmet bistro and intimate music and entertainment experience.
And last but not least, when asked what the undiscovered gem in this area is, Greenberg recommends the Fairfield Theater Company (FTC). The FTC mission is a nonprofit center for arts and culture and supports the presentation of concerts, plays, films, visual arts, and arts education. They “seek to appeal to the most diverse audience possible, as often as we possibly can… to strengthen our community and nurture, enrich, and enlighten the lives of those we touch… to make our world a better place one great performance at a time”. The NY Times says that FTC has “turned this swath of suburbia into an unlikely arts incubator”.
Greenberg’s last word of advice? Buy tickets for FTC in advance! “FTC shows really do sell out in advance, while in New Haven most venues are free or you can just show up a few minutes before a show, except for CSMH and Toad’s”.
My advice? Just go. Go tonight. With such a wide variety, and venues from downtown New Haven to Hartford to Norwalk, there’s bound to be something near you that you enjoy. Take a fellow CTYPer with you.