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We want to take you behind the scenes, to give you insider information you won't find anywhere else. This is where we pull Bloomington's hip happenings together with recommendations from our team, first-hand accounts from project producers, and guest blogs by local gurus.  The Backstage Blog helps you stay in front of it all.

Friday, August 13, 2021

Where to Hear Live Music in Bloomington

Categories: Live Music

Bloomington is known for many things, one of which being its vibrant music scene. On any given night of any given week, you're likely to find a live show happening at one of B-Town's famed music venues, many bars & breweries, and even a handful of local restaurants. If you're coming to town and you want to know where you can hear live music during your stay, these are the places to know.


Famed Music Venues

The Back Door

Two drag performers at The Back Door
Photo by Vex Beaverhausen

The Back Door is Bloomington's only queer bar, located in the heart of downtown. The bar frequently hosts drag, burlesque, and cabaret shows, as well as live music, dance parties, and karaoke, offering a fabulously fun time for anyone who walks through its doors. They also recently added an outdoor patio to the back of the bar, where live shows take place when weather allows it. If you're looking for one of Bloomington's most unique and fun experiences, seeing a show at The Back Door is a must.
 

The Bishop

A man signing and playing guitar at The Bishop
Photo by @reiaileen on Instagram

The Bishop is a live music venue and bar, located two blocks south of The Square. They pride themselves on never charging a cover to get in, only the cost for tickets on the night of a show. While The Bishop is known for hosting indie artists and bands, you'll also find dance parties led by local DJs, karaoke, stand-up comedy, pop-up shops in partnership with other local businesses, and more.

Its usually a strictly 21+ venue, but The Bishop also hosts 18+ shows every once in awhile, giving the under 21 crowd a chance to enjoy live music at a local establishment they aren't able to frequent. Check their calendar in advance of your trip if you're traveling with young adults ages 18-20.
 

Blockhouse Bar

A band performing at Blockhouse Bar
Photo by Let's Pretend Records

Blockhouse Bar is one of Bloomington's favorite underground bars and live music venues. Located beneath The Back Door, Blockhouse hosts weekly events including Honky Tonk Tuesday and Jazz Night on Wednesdays, as well as frequent weekend shows with various indie artists. Pop in before Tonk Tuesday begins for the weekly open mic night at 6:00 pm, and check their calendar for monthly karaoke events.
 

The Bluebird

Rock Radio performing at The Bluebird

The Bluebird is Bloomington's premier music venue — some even consider it a musical institution and sacred stage. The legendary venue is strictly 21+, located just one block north of The Square. They book iconic artists such as Jimmy Eat World and Blues Traveler, cover bands including Hairbangers Ball and Back to Mac, and local artists like Hank Ruff and Fat Pockets. You haven't truly experienced B-Town's live music scene before seeing a show at The Bird.
 

Buskirk-Chumley Theater

A woman playing electric guitar at the Buskirk-Chumley Theater
Photo by MidWay Music Festival

Originally built in 1922 as a silent-movie house, the Buskirk-Chumley Theater (fondly nick-named the Bus-Chum) has since been beautifully restored and now serves as a venue for musical performances, local festivals, theater & dance productions, film screenings, and stand-up comedy. As far as music goes, Bloomington's own John Mellencamp has performed at the iconic venue, in addition to Five for Fighting, Matt Kearney, Iron & Wine, and many more. You'll find everything from local acts to worldwide touring concerts at this B-Town venue.
 


Restaurants & Bars with Live Music

Bear’s Place

Two musicians performing at Bear's Place
Photo by Window Love Records

Although they may be better known for their iconic alcoholic beverage, the Hairy Bear, Bear’s Place hosts a weekly Jazz Fables show every Thursday in which IU Jacobs School of Music students and faculty play jazz tunes for the bar's patrons. Karaoke fans will also be thrilled to find out the dive bar hosts weekly karaoke nights in the back room, deemed "the Bear Cave". If you're looking for a cozy bar that serves great drinks and delicious pub food with live music as an added bonus, Bear's Place is the spot to be at on a Thursday.
 

C3

Two men playing music at C3
Photo by C3

C3 is one of Bloomington's best fine dining establishments, and to elevate the experience even further, they host live music by local classical and jazz artists every Thursday evening. If you're looking for the perfect treat-yourself outing or romantic date night idea, swing by the quaint restaurant to enjoy a gourmet dinner, handcrafted cocktail, and relaxing live music.
 

Orbit Room

A band playing at the Orbit Room
Photo by Orbit Room

The Orbit Room, local-favorite dive bar, is another underground bar that features live music several nights a week, as well as a pinball arcade, out-of-the-box gourmet hotdogs, and a great selection of craft beers. The bar hosts musicians of a variety of genres multiple nights each week, and they have a karaoke night every Tuesday.
 

Port Hole Bar & Grill

A band performing at the Port Hole Bar & Grill
Photo by Josh Dodds

The Port Hole Bar & Grill on the shores of Lake Lemon hosts live music performances every Friday and Saturday. Performers are largely blues and rock bands, so if that's your jam, head to neighboring Monroe County town, Unionville, for the best catfish in the area and a great night of tunes.
 

Switchyard Brewing Co.

A band performing at Switchyard Brewing Co.
Photo by Switchyard Brewing Co.

Switchyard Brewing Co., a popular Bloomington brewery, hosts live music events several times each month. Performances span multiple genres, including blues, acoustic rock, jazz, and more. In addition to live music, the brewery boasts original, tasty craft beers and their own pizza kitchen. If nightlife isn't your speed, check out Switchyard's Over Easy Sunday acoustic sets for a laid-back afternoon activity.
 

The Tap

A man playing music at The Tap
Photo by Amy Makota

A local brewery known for their impressive selection of beers and famous fries, The Tap also hosts live music performances every week. You can expect to find both local and regional acts on their stage above the bar, usually on Fridays and Saturdays.


The Village Pub

A band playing at The Village Pub
Photo by Tommy Dugan

The Village Pub is a local 21+ gastropub that offers gourmet pub plates and live music every night of the week — you can always expect to hear live tunes during your stay in B-Town at this eatery. If you're looking for a higher-end yet still casual and relaxed bar experience with the added bonus of live music, The Village Pub is the place for you.
 

 

Alyssa Davis

Alyssa Davis

Alyssa is the Digital Content Coordinator at Visit Bloomington. She's a proud Indiana University alumna, mom to four cats, and Formula 1 enthusiast. When she isn't at work, you can find Alyssa checking out the newest restaurants in the area with her husband, curled up at home with a great book, or planning her next trip to a destination near or far.

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