The center of Boston’s  rock scene is actually in Central Square in Cambridge . The legendary Middle East Restaurant & Nightclub (472–480 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, 617/864-3278, www.mideastclub.com ) is a complex of three rooms with different styles. Larger bands play in the grungy basement downstairs, while local acts and indie bands play the cozier upstairs. Belly dancers and the occasional singer-songwriter take the stage in the Middle Eastern restaurant upstairs. Word to the wise: skip the food.
Named 30 years ago for a pet hamster, TT The Bear’s Place (10 Brookline Ave., Cambridge, 617/492-2327, www.ttthebears.com ) is the hangout of choice for the city’s own rock stars, groupies, and wannabes. Bookings tend heavily toward the local, but also include touring bands on their way up. Several rooms allow rockers to talk or shoot pool until their friend’s band takes the stage.
U2 made their first legendary U.S. performances at Paradise Rock Club (967–969 Commonwealth Ave., 617/562-8800, www.thedise.com ), a mid-sized club with good views from several tiers of balconies (each with its own bar). Next door, the Paradise Lounge is a smaller space decked out with modern art that stages everything from acoustic performances to erotic poetry.
Outside of Harvard Square , the Lizard Lounge (1667 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, 617/547-0759, www.lizardloungeclub.com ) is the place to go for esoteric rock, neo-burlesque, or poetry readings in its small basement.
The cream of the jazz and Latin crop come to the Regattabar (1 Bennett St., Cambridge, 617/395-7757, www.regattabarjazz.com ), a 225-capacity room in Harvard Square . Tables are arranged around a stage floor in a simple space with no distractions from the music—which in the past has included the likes of Branford Marsalis and Joshua Redman.
Booked by legendary jazz club promoter Fred Taylor, Scullers Jazz Club (Doubletree Guest Suites, 400 Soldiers Field Rd., 617/562-4111, www.scullersjazz.com ) is impressive both for the quality of its talent and the expansiveness of its view of the Charles River. The 200-capacity room has hosted everyone from Lou Rawls to Chris Botti.
The South End’s  Wally’s (427 Massachusetts Ave., 617/424-1408, www.wallyscafe.com ) hosts jazz the way it was meant to be played, in a closet-sized room that heats up both on and off stage. It is one of the few places in Boston  that brings people of all backgrounds together to worship at the altar of syncopation. Don’t expect big names—just talented performers.
The Can-Tab Lounge (738 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, 617/354-2685, www.cantab-lounge.com ) is a joint in the classic sense of the word, where R&B and blues acts alternate nights with multi-ethnic poetry slams. Crooner and minor legend Little Joe Cook performs on weekends here, as he has for the past 25 years.
The intimate Club Passim (47 Palmer St., Cambridge, 617/492-7679, www.clubpassim.org ) has a history many times its small size. Many great names have gotten their start in this Harvard Square  folk institution, including Joan Baez, Suzanne Vega, and Shawn Colvin. Now, it has a talented group of regular performers who have developed a singer-songwriter style known as the “Boston Sound” for its catchy harmonies and erudite lyrics.
Every Memorial Day and Labor Day weekend, it stages a three-day marathon of music. No alcohol is served, but good vegetarian cuisine is.