Rockwood Music Hall consists of three performance spaces along Allen Street on the Lower East Side. Seven nights a week all three stages are lit up with talent. Stage 1 is a small bar space with a corner stage. It's the most casual of the stages with acts taking only about 30 to 45 minutes on stage starting around 6:00 PM. It hosts a lot of solo acts and acoustic sets. It's much more like a bar with live music. Stage 2 and 3 are more formal and have cocktail tables set up in front of the stages. Like Stage 1, there's no cover for each act which run around 45 minutes. The sound is great and the tables come right up to edge of the stage. The last and largest space is Stage 3, which is more like a cabaret space. There's often a cover for the sets here but the talent goes up a notch. Each set on the smaller stages passes the hat, so you will have to chip in to see all the music. Drinks are also standard Manhattan upmarket prices with beers coming in around 8 bucks. So while it's not like you get to see everything for free, but it's still an affordable night out.
Finally, the talent is really awesome here. On the night I went, the music went from a lively country set, to a hybrid Indian-Jazz set, and then back to a female-led rock n' roll group. Everyone was polished and skilled. But the best thing is if the music isn't catching you, just mosey over to a different stage or pop out for a snack and then back for a later set. It's a nice way to catch some local talent without having to worry about paying for band you end up not liking. So head downtown and enjoy and swap the big Broadway stages for something smaller and more relaxed.