Late night music in a small venue has always appealed to me. The intimate atmosphere and energy that moves through the crowd when a solo artist or group is deep into their set is electrifying. This led me to look for music spots around the city and one I had long heard about was Bill’s Place on 133rd street in Harlem. When I had family come into town one weekend I made my move and got us tickets.
Performances only happen on Friday and Saturday nights with seatings at 8pm and 10pm. I chose the later without question (and fully knowing my family had driven 8 hours that day to come visit me….I know how to throw a welcoming party.) When they arrived, we actually walked to the Met, spent a 1.5 hours doing the ‘quick Seth tour’ where you only look at my favorite pieces and then headed over to Bill’s Place. Related: the Met is open until 9pm on Friday’s and in my opinion is the best time to go because you will have whole wings to yourself to experience without the large crowds found during the day. [If you want to go during the day, Museum Hack also does a great tour.]
Bill’s Place is just that, an apartment in Central Harlem. We arrived for our 10pm seating but the band was still finishing the previous set so we waited outside the front door in the hallway and double door to the building. Literally jammed together in pure NYC fashion with other patrons (and soon to become new friends) and I couldn’t have been happier.
Once the previous group was let out (and wriggled past us to get out the door) we filtered our way in. For those familiar with New York railroad apartments, it looks very similar. A long front to back of building space with a small stage and tables and chairs packed in. The 4 person band was comprised on a saxophone player, pianist, bass player and drummer. The music began and I knew this was exactly what I was looking for. The show was a mixture of jazz and let out around midnight. If you are interested in attending, be sure to book tickets online in advance. You can bring your own alcohol (they don’t have a bar) and it can get a little hot in there so a jacket you can take off would be good.
Bill’s Place gets my highest recommendation to show visiting family a great NYC experience, perfect for a second or third date or for those who want to just get lost in the music.