1. Paradise Rock Club – Boston, MA
Capacity: 933 people
Paradise is by far my favorite venue out of all the venues I’ve been to. It is the perfect size, not too small but still small enough that there is a great view of the stage from no matter where you are in the room. This is aided by the fact that there is a small balcony along the sides and back wall of the venue that are accessible by stairs on either side of the stage. There is no special ticket needed to access the balcony. Instead it is first come first served, just like the floor. The entire venue is standing room only. It is the easiest venue to get into, and the staff have always been extremely quick and polite during security. Since there is only one entrance and only two security guards checking bags and scanning tickets, the stream of people entering the venue is relatively slow and steady, so there is no need to rush inside to grab a good spot. Although it may not seem like there is good parking when you drive by the venue, just down the street there is access to the Boston University athletic parking garage, which usually costs only ten dollars to park for the whole night (or day, if you like to wait in line outside like me). There is also rarely a line very far in advance for shows at this venue. In addition, next door to the venue there is a pizza place that is relatively inexpensive and very good, so you can eat while you wait in line for the show! They also let you use the bathroom without making a purchase.
2. The Palladium Upstairs – Worcester, MA
Capacity: 500 people
The Palladium is known by most people to be a relatively large venue, but the key is to see a show in the upstairs room, which is much smaller. It is standing room only, and the room is a simple rectangle with the stage at the far end with stairs in the back that lead up to a wide mezzanine that lines the right wall. Again, anyone can access the mezzanine with a regular ticket. When you enter the building, you walk up a short flight of stairs and through the doors before turning right and coming face to face with the stage. There is no barrier at shows here and the stage is only about two feet high, so it’s very easy to get up close to the performers. Parking at this venue is extremely convenient, as it has its own parking lot directly behind the building at a pretty low cost (usually ten dollars). The line goes down the hill along the sidewalk until the doors open and people wrap around to the front of the building. Bands often park their tour busses along the sidewalk, so there are lots of chances to spot band members before the show! There are a few restaurants within moderate walking distance as well, including a Subway. Since it’s right off of the highway, it’s also an easy drive to get there.
3. Blue Hills Bank Pavilion – Boston, MA
Capacity: 5,200 people
If you’re going to a concert here in the spring or fall, make sure to bring a sweatshirt! The Blue Hills Bank Pavilion is the only outdoor venue on my list. It is a beautiful venue, with most of the seating covered by a giant fabric tent. It’s the best of both worlds for outdoor concerts because you can experience the breeze off of the water while also being protected from the rain. There is a standard Boston parking garage just down the street. Waiting in line for this venue is a little tricky, as there is a big open area of sidewalk directly in front of the venue and it is not always clear where the line starts. Occasionally, the line turns into a clump, and because it’s Boston, it’s not as easy to line up down the sidewalk over the bridge due to the foot traffic. There are also organization issues when security checks and ticket scanning begin. Often, they open multiple gates at once after the crowd has formed a single line, so people lose their spots in line as those from behind come up to the front of other lines. It can also be unclear which lines check bags and which do not. However, once you get in and the show starts, it’s a great experience. There are projection screens set up on either side of the stage for those who have seats farther away from the stage, but even the seats in the back are not so far away that you would need to use binoculars. Overall, the experience is definitely worth the trouble beforehand.
4. House of Blues – Boston, MA
Capacity: 2,500 people
The House of Blues is a classic Boston concert venue. There is no parking on the street if there is a Red Sox game the same day, and there are few parking garages near the venue, never mind an inexpensive one. However, if you arrive early to a show on a day when there is no baseball game, there is a good chance you can grab a spot on the side of the road. The line begins at the doors and goes up the street, past the House of Blues restaurant. This is problematic because many people go to just the restaurant, so the line is constantly having to part to allow people to move through. The perk of the restaurant being next to the line is that they let anyone in line for the show use the bathrooms for free! Often times, there is more than one line at the House of Blues due to VIP packages, early entries, meet and greets, etc. This can be confusing, but generally, if the ticket includes early entry, the line for special tickets will form going down the street towards the box office. After getting inside, all levels of the venue are great spots to watch the show. The uppermost level has seats and stools to sit on, while the rest of the venue is standing room only. The floor is very deep and so it can get hard to see the stage once you get about 15 rows back from the stage. However, the view from anywhere on the mezzanines is incredible.
5. DCU Center – Worcester, MA
Capacity: 14,800 people
This venue is incredibly easy to get to, usually a combination of assigned and general admission and seats and standing room depending on how the artist decides to set it up. It’s also right off of the highway, so it’s very easy to drive to and there is a parking garage very close to the arena, but it is like a maze trying to walk out of it. As it is a much larger venue than the others I listed, it’s a lot harder to get close to the stage. In my experience, there is usually a B stage towards the back of the arena, which is nice for those who have seats at the back of the venue and are farthest from the stage for most of the show. I have never waited in line prior to doors opening at a show here, so I am unsure of where the line forms. Inside, walking around the arena can become confusing because of its size and the number of people it holds. However, there are usually ushers to help direct you to your seat once you find the right area. There are two large projection screens up high on either side of the stage, as well as multiple smaller ones across the top of the stage that are utilized depending on the artist. Although it is larger and less personal than other venues I’ve been to, the seats around the outside of the arena are staggered in height (as arena seating typically is) so your vision is rarely blocked by those sitting or standing in the rows in front of you. However, the floor is very crowded and extends deep to the back of the venue at a single level, so vision is limited at the back of the floor. Overall, I’ve had great experiences at this venue, even as a lover of tiny concert spaces!
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