Photos That Capture the Heyday of New York City’s Most Iconic Music Venues


Dave Van Ronk was an icon of Greenwich Village coffeehouse folk culture in New York during the 1960s, eventually winning him the nickname, “Mayor of MacDougal Street.” The spirit of the scene was resurrected for Joel and Ethan Coen’s film Inside Llewyn Davis, which hit theaters this weekend. The movie inspired us to take a walk down memory lane and revisit some of New York City’s finest music venues, choosing a few photos that capture the spirit of their heyday. For the completists: we haven’t forgotten your favorites (if the pics didn’t cut it, we didn’t post it). Feel free to wax nostalgic about the nightspots you haunted, below.

Max’s Kansas City

Paul Morrissey, Andy Warhol, Janis Joplin, and Tim Buckley holding court at Max’s Kansas City — a home for the art crowd — in 1968.

Photo © GODLIS


The Ramones played their earliest shows at CBGB. “They were all wearing these black leather jackets. And they counted off this song. And they started playing different songs, and it was just this wall of noise… They looked so striking. These guys were not hippies. This was something completely new,” music journalist Legs McNeil said of the group’s first show there. In 1977, they returned to the stage (pictured) — as did a number of now famous punk bands who first got their start there.

Electric Circus

The experimental, psychedelic nightclub hosted bands (popularly, The Velvet Underground) between 1967 and 1971. “Like Woodstock, if you remembered much of what happened at the E.C. you weren’t really there.” The club was recently referenced on an episode of Mad Men.

Fillmore East

Jimi Hendrix, Frank Zappa, and John Lennon were just a few of the notable acts who shared the stage with Jim Morrison (pictured, in 1968) at the iconic rock music venue.

Coney Island High

It was short-lived, but Coney Island High became a 1990’s hotspot for punk bands. Sublime played their first New York City show there and as the club’s rep grew, larger acts like Iggy Pop and The Misfits graced the stage.

Photo credit: Josh Cheuse


Madonna’s career blossomed at Danceteria, also a hangout for New Order, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Keith Haring, and Run-DMC.

Mudd Club

Linda Stein, who helped launch The Ramones’ career, is pictured (top) at the Mudd Club with Joey Ramone, David Bowie, and Dee Dee Ramone after a Ramones show in 1979. Then up-and-coming artists like Lou Reed, Klaus Nomi, and Jean-Michel Basquiat became regulars at the no wave and new wave venue.

Photo credit: Peter Cunningham

Photo credit: Peter Cunningham

Bottom Line

Greenwich Village club the Bottom Line hosted an eclectic group of performers during the 1970s and ‘80s. “It’s been essentially my living room. I was very comfortable on that stage. I never really had to think before I walked out; it came naturally to me,” New York Dolls singer David Johansen said of the club when it closed in 2004.

Photo credit: Pennie Smith

The Palladium

The massive concert hall made music history on several occasions — like the time The Clash’s Paul Simonon smashed his guitar on stage in 1979 (below) and the photo became the band’s famous cover image for their London Calling LP.

Photo credit: Tina Paul

The Limelight

The Limelight was club kid central where the likes of Disco Bloodbath author James St. James, whose book was adapted for the film Party Monster, and designer Richie Rich loved to hang out (both pictured).

Studio 54

Everyone from Tennessee Williams and Betty Ford, to Dolly Parton and Grace Jones rubbed elbows at Studio 54. Diana Ross stormed the DJ booth while Bianca Jagger made a grand entrance on a white horse. Anything seemed possible, and you weren’t someone unless you were there.

Paradise Garage

Paradise Garage (1977-1988) was a Manhattan nightclub for Gay men and their allies. It is remembered as a mythic utopia for people whose spirituality is grounded in the performance of communal Gay male folk’s dance, an iconic space in the history of underground dance music, and the professional residency of the legendary DJ, Larry Levan.”


DJs like Sasha, Paul van Dyk, Danny Tenaglia, and John Digweed ruled Twilo, which helped popularize international house/trance in American clubs.


The “Rock Capitol of Brooklyn” was a mecca for hard rock/heavy metal acts during the late 1980s and early ‘90s. Faith No More, Murphy’s Law, Life of Agony (pictured), and other well-known bands played alongside underground groups from across the country.

Photo credit: Catherine McGann


Tunnel was one of several venues shut down by mayor Rudy Giuliani’s “quality of life” campaign, but it was a favorite spot for club kids, celebrities, and DJs in the ‘90s. Tunnel even nabbed a spot in Bret Easton Ellis’ novel American Psycho.