Jim is an Indy native, born and raised in Irvington. He’s the Board Chair of Musical Family Tree, an online music resource and non-profit dedicated to supporting Indiana’s artists and growing their audiences. Jim has also been playing music in Indiana for decades in bands like Jim Fix, Maravich, the Stand, Vonnegut Hardware, and more. During the day, Jim works as a Project Manager in Economic Development at the Veridus Group.
Explore the best live music venues in the Indianapolis region.
From Nashville to New Orleans, many cities are known for their music. But where does Indianapolis fit in? What’s our music niche? And the burning question: Is Indianapolis a music city?
If you ask me, every city is a music city if you know where to look—but the Indy region has a diverse and vibrant music scene that makes us stand out from the pack! With bumping clubs, historic venues, and cool new stages, Indy has something for everyone.
Our local hip-hop scene is ready to explode. Indy is home to a legendary jazz and R&B scene, and we have a long-standing, nationally renowned punk rock community. Basically, you name it, we have it—from roots rock to metal music!
I’ve been a musician in Indianapolis for my whole life. I played punk rock in clubs as a teenager. And now, I’ve graduated… to playing in bigger punk rock clubs as an adult!
In the past few years, I’ve also been the Board Chair of Musical Family Tree, a non-profit dedicated to helping Indiana artists and their audiences. We curate and host music experiences and serve as a financial partner for music efforts in the city. MFT also features a music-themed blog and an archive with tens of thousands of songs by Indiana artists.
So, I know a thing or two about our local artists and all the best places to catch a concert! Whether you’re looking for a casual open mic night or a world-famous concert tour, the Indy region has the music venue you’ve been waiting for.
Indy has enormous venues for big-time musicians and shows.
National concert tours always plan a stop or two in Indiana, bringing famous bands right to our neighborhood. Indy has lots of sports arenas like Gainbridge Fieldhouse, Lucas Oil Stadium, and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway that transform into impressive music venues. And over the years, these places have welcomed some of the biggest stars in the world, like The Rolling Stones, Guns N’ Roses, Kanye West, Elton John, and many more.
Just north of Indianapolis, you can catch a concert at Ruoff Music Center, the largest outdoor venue in the region. Ruoff has gone by a few different names over the years, from Deer Creek to Klipsch. But since it first opened in 1989, it’s been one of the top performing outdoor venues in the nation! Their lineup typically includes classic groups like Chicago and Hall & Oates as well as modern favorites like Maroon 5.
While you’re in the area, you can also visit The Palladium concert hall in Carmel. The Palladium is a community-focused venue that features both local performers and famous musicians like Yo-Yo Ma. They’re also home to the Carmel Symphony Orchestra, which offers family-friendly concerts throughout the year!
Catch a live concert in downtown Indianapolis.
You can also find major music venues right in the heart of downtown Indianapolis. One of our most famous venues is the Old National Centre, a beautiful historic landmark located on Mass Ave. The venue includes The Murat Theatre—a popular stage for events like Broadway shows—as well as a 2,000-seat concert hall called the Egyptian Room. The Egyptian Room is an especially unforgettable venue with Egyptian-inspired decor and hand-carved murals.
Meanwhile, the Amphitheater at White River State Park is like a little sister to Ruoff Music Center. This outdoor venue only seats about 6,000, but its smaller size is balanced with a prime downtown location. Concertgoers can easily walk, bike, or ride the bus over to the amphitheater lawn for a show under the stars. The Amphitheater is also newly renovated with new seating, a permanent stage, and updated amenities. So, you can enjoy a relaxed, intimate concert experience with a great view of downtown!
And finally, the Hilbert Circle Theatre sits right on the iconic Monument Circle. This historic theatre has been around for over 100 years, and it’s the home of the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra. Their stage is specially designed to complement the orchestra’s live performances, so it’s easily the best place in town for classical music.
Our local music venues are some of the hottest spots in Indy.
Indy’s venues are certainly worth the price of admission. But you don’t need a big concert tour to enjoy live music in Indianapolis! Our smaller venues have events happening almost every night, and any music fan in the city should check them out ASAP.
One of Indy’s premier rooms is The Hi-Fi. Down in Fountain Square, Hi-Fi features some of the hottest names in music on a nightly basis. With amazing sound and top-notch acts, they’re quickly gaining national recognition as one of the best venues in the country. And during the pandemic, owner Josh Baker kept the music alive by moving their shows outdoors to the Hi-Fi Annex!
If you’re looking for the hottest nightlife venue in Indy, The Vogue is the place to be. The Vogue is located right in the heart of Broad Ripple, and it’s one of the city’s top destinations for live music. The venue originally opened as a movie theater, but they reopened as a nightclub back in the 70s. Since then, they’ve hosted dance nights, local performers, and national touring acts. From the Ramones to Snoop Dogg, chances are that one of your favorite artists has already graced their stage!
The Mousetrap Bar & Grill is also a popular local music bar—and one of the city’s oldest watering holes. They’re the go-to spot for jam bands, focusing on up-and-coming groups from all over the country. For the nightclub dancers out there, Chispas Discotheque features Latin music from around the world. And Black Circle Brewing is a great spot for a drink and a show. Their brewery books some of the best metal and punk performers in the city and also offers hit hip-hop nights!
Indianapolis was a historic jazz capital in the United States.
In the 1900s, Indianapolis was famous for its hopping jazz scene on Indiana Avenue. This street was a booming African American neighborhood and a hub for Black culture in the city. Their jazz clubs attracted people from all over the country and gave us some of the greatest musicians in history. Famous names like Wes Montgomery, J.J. Johnson, Freddie Hubbard, and David Baker all came from Indy and shaped our unique jazz culture.
Now, the Madam Walker Legacy Center is the last surviving building from Indiana Avenue’s golden age. Built back in 1927, the Center was once the headquarters for Madam C.J. Walker Hair Care and Beauty Products. Now, it’s home to a non-profit dedicated to preserving Walker’s legacy.
Madam C.J. Walker was America’s first self-made female millionaire and an influential Black entrepreneur. In her honor, the Center promotes social justice, supports entrepreneurship, and provides cultural education—including live music performances! The Center is the crown jewel of Indiana Avenue, and they recently remodeled and restored the iconic building.
But our jazz scene isn’t a thing of the past. Indiana Avenue still remains one of Indianapolis’ main cultural districts. And you can catch world-class jazz performances from both local and national artists all over the city!
Indy’s local jazz scene is still thriving today.
A true testament to our jazz history is the Slippery Noodle Inn. The Slippery Noodle is Indiana’s oldest continually operating bar, still in its original building from 1850. They’ve hosted famous musicians like Luther Allen and served celebrities like Jimmy Fallon and Spike Lee. So, if you’re looking for dinner, live blues, and a venue with multiple stages, dis is it!
Just north of downtown, the Jazz Kitchen is a true modern jazz club, voted one of the Top 100 in the world. It’s a great place for dinner and a drink while listening to a smoking set at the same time. Owner David Allee brings some of the biggest names in the world to his club while still making space for our local talent.
Down on Mass Ave, The Chatterbox is another beloved local jazz club and dive bar. This legendary hole in the wall has been the place for cozy, night-long jam sessions for decades. And if you follow Mass Ave down to 34th Street, you’ll find The Point Night Club. The Point serves up delicious soul food along with live blues, jazz, and other music genres.
The Point and AJ’s Lounge are two of the most popular Black-owned clubs in Indianapolis. AJ’s is a family-owned and operated bar known for their live music on the weekends. AJ’s even has ties back to Indiana Avenue! They operated a block away from the Avenue for decades and only recently relocated to their new location downtown.
Check out Indy’s hidden gems for an unforgettable night out.
Some of the best venues and performers in the Indianapolis region are hidden in plain sight. You just need to know where to look! So, let me show you a few of my favorite places for live music in Indy.
Just north of downtown Indianapolis, the Melody Inn is another historic, long-running spot for live music. They’ve hosted concerts since 1935, and now, the current owners have turned The Melody Inn into Indy’s home for punk rock. For over 20 years, every Saturday night at The Mel has been Punk Rock Night, showcasing local and touring acts. But you can find a lot more than punk rock here! Check out their rotating weekly schedule of artists from all genres, including Hillbilly Happy Hour on Fridays. Just don’t forget to try the award-winning Melody Inn Jukebox while you’re there!
In Fountain Square, Radio Radio is a combination bar and venue that’s featured bands like The Whigs, Local H, and Jawbreaker. The Irving Theater has hosted live music and entertainment for over a century in the historic Irvington neighborhood. And Duke’s Indy is the region’s premier honky-tonk bar, with a fantastic atmosphere and even better fried chicken!
I also enjoy catching a concert at the State Street Pub, a funky rock ‘n roll joint. They’re a relative newcomer to our music scene, but they host a great, eclectic collection of local artists each weekend. This is the place for cutting-edge up-and-comers—and they serve an underrated burger, too!
We have concerts and venues for music lovers of all ages.
All-ages venues are important part of the music world, offering a place for people under 21 to gather and perform. These places can be few and far between, but they’re where most bands (and fans) cut their teeth. Luckily, Indy has plenty of great places for you to get your start!
In my opinion, The Hoosier Dome is Indy’s premier all-ages venue. It’s booked almost every weekend with anything and everything from indie rock to hip-hop to screamo. If you want to go where the cool kids are, then this is your spot!
But the granddaddy of all-ages venues is The Emerson. This theater has been open off-and-on since 1928, and every Friday and Saturday night is reserved for original local acts. Over the years, The Emerson has welcomed up-and-comers and big names like The Get Up Kids, The Misfits, and NOFX. They even hosted the Jonas Brothers and the Black Eyed Peas early on in their careers!
Another fun place is Square Cat Vinyl, which originally opened as “just” a coffee shop, record store, and all-ages venue. Now, they’ve remodeled and opened whole bar space as well! I highly recommend stopping by to grab a drink, browse their records, and catch a show on their built-in stage.
But honestly, the best venue for starter bands is probably someone’s basement. Seriously! In Indy, basement shows are legendary, hosted at houses with names like the Halloween House, The Sitcom, the Secret Location, and the 1411. Just ask around! We also have a great living room scene with series like the Little Flower House Concerts and more.
Indy’s music scene offers unique, live experiences unlike anywhere else.
All in all, Indianapolis truly is a music city. We may not have a specific niche like some places. But in Indy, you can experience music in your own way—whatever the genre! Wherever you go, our live concerts have a powerful energy that connects you with our community.
And as long as this list is, I’ve only mentioned a few of the music venues scattered across the Indy region. There’s also the White Rabbit Cabaret with classic burlesque shows. The Rhythm! Discovery Center is a percussion museum where visitors of all ages can play some beats. And Healer offers an immersive, all-ages art experience with installations from local artists. (If you’ve heard of Meow Wolf but don’t want to drive out West, then this is the place for you.)
Indy also hosts lots of amazing music festivals throughout the year. Our local musicians always get excited for annual events like Indy Jazz Fest and Chreece—Indy’s hip-hop festival. And many neighborhoods host their own fairs each year, like the Broad Ripple Arts Fest and the Garfield Park Art & Music Festival.
Basically, whatever your musical taste, Indy has a cool venue to match. So, don’t hesitate to check them out for yourself! You’ll find good tunes, good vibes, and good people ready to welcome you to town.