Indianapolis Music Scene
Lauren Wells | March 16, 2014
As jazz musicians passed through Indiana during the late 1910s and 1920s, they brought their music with them, making the genre one of the most popular mainstays in Indiana’s music history. During the 1970s, punk rock flourished in Indiana, with bands like The Gizmos and the Zero Boys influencing the local scene. Michael Jackson, Janet Jackson, John Hiatt, and John Mellencamp churned out hits during the 70s, influencing the pop and rock genres while making pop culture history. Pop punk band the Ataris also hails from Indiana. As the 2000s neared, the punk scene branched off into a more hardcore sound, with bands like Gwen Stacy and the Continuance and Haste the Day emerging. From jazz to hardcore punk, Indiana is a jack-of-all-trades music hub.
The Old National Centre is a performance complex formerly known as the Murat Theatre. Built in 1909, the building is a historical Indianapolis landmark that hosts over 300 events per year. The Old National Centre has a 2,600-seat theatre, a 1,800-seat concert hall and banquet room, a 600-seat multi-purpose room, and a Grand Lobby area. Expect high ceilings, hand-sculpted murals, impressive Victorian décor, and an overwhelming sense of elegance from this venue. As far as the talent is concerned, you can expect to see acts like Young the Giant, Bob Weir and Ratdog, Christina Perri, Grouplove, We the Kings, Tegan and Sara, Juicy J, Neutral Milk Hotel, Jerry Seinfeld, and Mike Epps.
For more of a country music experience, head to Eight Seconds Saloon for line dancing (you newbies can even take a lesson here!), live music, and country DJs. Acts like Frankie Ballard, Trick Pony, Craig Morgan, Phil Vassar, Jeff Bates, Josh Gracin, Jason Michael Carroll, and David Allan Coe make pit stops at the saloon. Put on your cowboy boots, and get ready for a night of country classics.
Located in Broad Ripple, the Vogue Nightclub is known for putting on great concerts and hosting memorable dance-oriented parties. If you’re a wallflower, the Vogue is not for you. The Vogue has been voted “Best Live Music Venue,” “Best Mid-Week Dance Club,” and “#1 Best Nightclub,” via the Nuvo Newsweekly Reader Poll, and has received many other accolades of the same nature. Originally opened as a movie theatre in 1938, the Vogue has transformed itself into a popular entertainment venue (during the 70s, the venue was an X rated movie theater!). With a rich history of talent, the Vogue has featured past performers such as Johnny Cash, The Ramones, Willie Nelson, Warren Zevon, The White Stripes, The Flaming Lips, Cheap Trick, The Red Hot Chili Peppers, Rusted Root, Govt Mule, John Mayer, Kings of Leon, Dave Matthews Band, and many more. So whether you want a classic live music gig or a night of clubbing, the Vogue has you covered.
Bankers Life Fieldhouse, an indoor arena in downtown Indianapolis, is home to the NBA’s Indiana Pacers and the WNBA’s Indiana Fever. Hosting sporting events and concerts, Bankers Life Fieldhouse was opened in 1999 originally as the Conseco Fieldhouse. Metallica, Taylor Swift, Bob Seger, Britney Spears, George Strait, Elton John, Billy Joel, Lady Gaga, Disney on Ice, Cirque du Soleil, World Wrestling Entertainment— you name it and Bankers Life Fieldhouse has more than likely hosted it.
Hosting names like Arctic Monkeys, the Allman Brothers Band, Ben Folds, the Roots, O.A.R., Indigo Girls, Huey Lewis and the News, Guster, Matisyahu, and Rufus Wainwright, the Lawn at White River State Park has become a must-see outdoor concert series in Indianapolis. Bring a picnic, the family, and your love for music down to the White River State Park to enjoy the sights and sounds of downtown Indianapolis.
Clowes Memorial Hall at Butler University hosts a wide variety of performing arts events and educational outreach programs. From Colbie Caillat and Kenny Loggins to the Blue Man Group and The Nutcracker, Clowes hosts music, dance, theatre, spoken word, and family-friendly events year-round. Opened in 1963, the venue has a capacity of 2,096 and continues to keep Indianapolis natives busy with hundreds of events per year.
Home to the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra, the Hilbert Circle Theatre was built in 1916 and was named a historical landmark in 1980. With a vast history, the Hilbert Circle Theatre was the site of the first movie with sound to ever be shown in Indianapolis and has even featured 1940s big band jazz groups like the Glenn Miller Orchestra. Renovations in 1984 and 2013 have kept the Hilbert Circle Theatre’s aesthetic intact while providing some more modern accommodations. The 1,660-seat theatre has impressively crisp acoustics to accommodate the orchestra as well as other performers. Meetings, seminars, receptions, and private/public events are also held at the theater in addition to the regularly scheduled performing arts shows.
The Madame Walker Theatre Centre, also known as the Walker Theatre, was named after Madam C.J. Walker, an American entrepreneur and philanthropist as well as the first self-made female millionaire in the U.S. Opened in 1927 and located in the Indiana Avenue Cultural District, the 935-capacity Walker Theatre was deemed a National Historic Landmark in 1991. This African-Art Deco building features stunning décor, lavish adornments, and a full set of professional lighting and sound equipment. Each performing arts season at the Walker Theatre is jam-packed with entertainment; initiatives such as Jazz on the Avenue, Steppin’ on the Avenue, Laughin’ on the Avenue, and the Main Stage Series ensure that you’ll always get a taste of some local, national, and international talent. Celebrating jazz, dance, comedy, theatre, and music, these programs promote community involvement for Indianapolis natives and tourists alike. In addition, the theatre hosts cross-cultural education initiatives for the youth and adults of Indianapolis. Their “Youth-in-Arts” program has been going strong since 1987 by encouraging underprivileged youth to explore and produce art. For video screenings, community events, award ceremonies, auditions, rehearsals, lectures, concerts, plays, and pageants, check out the Walker Theatre.
A non-profit theatre and former church in downtown Indianapolis, the Phoenix Theatre was founded in 1983. Primarily used for edgy contemporary plays and Broadway hits, the Phoenix Theatre isn’t scared to be provocative. With intimate stages and an informal vibe, the theatre has featured musicals like Spring Awakening, Avenue Q, and Altar Boyz.
The Klipsch Music Center is a 24,000-capacity outdoor venue in Noblesville, Indiana. Owned by Live Nation, the venue is the largest outdoor music venue in the state. Past events include Ozzfest, Projekt Revolution, Foreigner, the Vans Warped Tour, Pearl Jam, Roger Waters, Stevie Nicks, and Brooks & Dunn, among many others. Enjoy the sunset and some star-studded acts!
Located in the Athenaeum Building of downtown Indianapolis, the Rathskelleris a beer garden that also doubles for a great live music venue. For some of the best local bands, check out a show at the Rathskeller while you sip on a pint of German beer. From acoustic sets to blues and Polka, any given night could teach you a little something about the diverse music scene in Indy.
With a colorful name, the Slippery Noodle Inn offers an award-winning concert-going experience. A spot for celebrities like Jimmy Fallon, Will Forte, Tim Tebow, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Dave Matthews, Danica Patrick, Brett Favre, Patrick Dempsey, Spike Lee, and Harry Connick, Jr., among many others, the Slippery Noodle brings character and charm to Indianapolis. Past performers have included Edgar Winter, Savoy Brown, Jim Schwall, James Cotton, Ronnie Earl, and the Nighthawks. The venue was founded in 1850 as the Tremont House, and has had a tumultuous past: the space was once a way station for the Underground Railroad, a bordello, and a haven for gangs during the Prohibition. Rest assured, the Slippery Noodle is simply a bar and concert venue now, but pieces of its past still remain (ask the owners to show you the bullets still embedded in the wall from Prohibition-era gang target practice!). The bars in the venue are over 100 years old and the sign painted on the building’s north side dates back to the 1850’s. If you’re looking for a rare, historical piece of Indianapolis history or you simply want to watch for celebrities, the Slippery Noodle Inn is the place for you.
The Midwest Music Summit is held every year in Indianapolis, showcasing Midwest musicians and hosting music industry seminars. Founded in 2001, the Midwest Music Summit has since grown in size and features acts like Silversun Pickups, Margot & the Nuclear So and So’s, Mickey Avalon, Wheatus and is a great place to network if you’re interested in a music career.
Beginning in 1999, the annual Indy Jazz Fest celebrates Indianapolis’ strong history of jazz music. B.B. King, Isaac Hayes, Chaka Khan, Sonny Rollins, Chris Isaak, Bela Fleck and the Flecktones, Al Green, Ray Charles, and George Benson have performed at past Indy Jazz Fests.
Every Labor Day weekend, Warm Fest hosts five stages of musicians like Mayer Hawthorne, RJD2, Big Head Todd and the Monsters, Michael Franti and Spearhead, and Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr.
Wheelhouse Electronic Music Festival is held in September at the Vogue and features EDM acts like Wolfgang Gartner, The Crystal Method, FIGURE, Araabmuzik, Salva, the Dub Knight, Shy Guy Says, and X5IGHT.