Rockin The Night Away Iowa Citys Hottest Music Venues You Dont Want To Miss

Welcome to the home of Hawkeyes and great music – Iowa City. Whether you’re a fan of live entertainment or you’re an up-and-coming musician looking to showcase your talent, Iowa City has something to offer. In this article, we will explore some of Iowa City’s top music venues that will make any music lover’s heart skip a beat.

By reading this article, you can expect to know the best places to catch live music in Iowa City. We know how challenging it can be to find a good venue that offers quality performances at a reasonable price. That’s why we’ve done the legwork for you and put together a list of the most impressive music venues around. After reading this article, you will have a much better idea of where to go for a fun night out listening to some great music.

From legendary clubs that have been around for years to relatively new venues that have quickly become the talk of the town, this article will provide you with all the information you need to know about Iowa City’s music scene. You’ll learn about the atmosphere of each venue, the type of music played, and what sets them apart from the rest. So, sit back and get ready to discover the rich and diverse music culture that Iowa City has to offer.

The Englert Theatre: A Historic Music Venue in Iowa City

The Englert Theatre has a rich history in the music and cultural scene of Iowa City. It opened in 1912 as the Mabel Tainter Memorial Theater and was later renamed to the Englert Theatre in honor of the Englert family who owned and operated the theatre for many years. Today, it is a cornerstone of the vibrant downtown Iowa City community and a favorite destination among music enthusiasts.

The Venue

The Englert Theatre is a 730-seat venue that has hosted many of the biggest names in entertainment throughout the years. It is a non-profit organization that is dedicated to showcasing the best in music, theatre, dance, and spoken-word performances. The theatre’s mission is to engage, educate, and inspire through the arts, making it a unique and special destination for both performers and audiences alike.

The History

As previously mentioned, the Englert Theatre has a long and storied history in the Iowa City community. Over the years, it has undergone numerous renovations and restorations while maintaining its classic, early 20th-century design. In 2004, a major campaign was launched to restore the theatre to its original glory, which included updates to the seating, stage, and sound system, as well as the addition of a rooftop terrace. Today, the Englert Theatre is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is regarded as a cultural treasure in the Iowa City community.

The Events

The Englert Theatre hosts a wide range of events, including live music performances, film screenings, comedy shows, theatre productions, and more. Its events calendar is always full of exciting and diverse offerings, making it a great destination for any type of entertainment enthusiast. Some of the most notable acts that have performed at the Englert Theatre include David Sedaris, Wilco, Ani DiFranco, and many more.

The Pros and Cons

To help illustrate the pros and cons of the Englert Theatre as a music venue in Iowa City, see the table below:

Pros Cons
– Historic venue with a unique atmosphere
– Large seating capacity for bigger shows
– Wide range of events and performances
– Limited parking options in downtown location
– Expensive ticket prices for some shows
– Limited food and drink options on-site

The Verdict

Overall, the Englert Theatre is an amazing music venue in Iowa City that has something for everyone. Its rich history, unique atmosphere, and diverse events calendar make it a must-visit destination for both locals and visitors. While the limited parking and higher ticket prices may be a deterrent for some, the Englert Theatre’s strong reputation and loyal following more than make up for any drawbacks.

The History of Live Music in Iowa City

Musicians and audiences have been coming together in Iowa City for over a century to revel in the magic of live music. The city has a rich history of music, and its vibrant concert scene can be attributed to several factors. This section delves into the history of live music in Iowa City, highlighting key moments that shaped the scene to what it is today.

Early Music Scene (1900 – 1950)

Live music has been a part of Iowa City’s culture since the early 1900s. In those days, most musical performances took place in theaters and performance halls. The Bowersock Opera House, established in 1868, was an essential music hub in the early years. In the 1920s, the Englert Theatre and Iowa Theater came into the scene, providing more venues for musical performances.

During this period, music was primarily a social activity, and most events were held in private homes or social clubs. Jazz music was becoming increasingly popular, and it wasn’t uncommon for a local speakeasy to have a band playing live music. In 1926, the University of Iowa established the School of Music, which attracted nationally recognized artists and musicians to the city.

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Rising Popularity (1950 – 1980)

The 1950s saw an increase in music venues, with bars and nightclubs being the popular spots. It was during this era that rock and roll music started gaining popularity. Legendary rock and roll musicians like Chuck Berry and Buddy Holly graced the stages of the Iowa City’s many live music venues.

In the 1970s, Iowa City became a central place for the punk rock scene in the Midwest. CBGB’s owner, Hilly Kristal, frequently stopped by – later reflecting that it “was like that club was transplanted to Iowa City.” Venues like Gabe’s and Union Bar, both of which are still around, established themselves as landmarks of the city’s live music scene during the 1970s and 1980s. It was also in the 1970s that concerts began to take place at the University of Iowa’s Hancher Auditorium, which helped bring bigger-name acts to Iowa City.

Proliferation of Genres (1980 – present)

As the popular music genres diversified in the 1980s, many of Iowa City’s establishments adapted to the shift. As a result, the town started hosting events that catered to every musical preference. From country-western and blues to bluegrass and indie rock – the city had it all. Thanks to the thriving university music scene, Iowa City has always been a major center for live music in the Midwest, and it continues to host major music events each year.

One of the notable events that Iowa City hosts is the Mission Creek Festival, which brings together indie rock bands, literary panels, film screenings, and visual arts. The festival has been running since 2006 and has garnered a loyal following, with attendees coming from across the region.

Another longtime venue is the Yacht Club, which has hosted several now-famous bands on their way to stardom such as Green Day, Phish, and Dave Matthews Band. The Englert Theatre, which underwent significant renovations in the 2000s, has become a leading live music venue in Iowa City, hosting local and national acts alike.


The rich history of live music in Iowa City shows the significant impact music had and continues to have on the town. From pioneering jazz performances to welcoming rock and roll acts to hosting innovative indie festivals, the city has come a long way since its early days. Through an impressive history of venues and events, Iowa City’s live music scene is a testament to its vitality and cultural identity.

Pros Cons
Wide variety of genres Regional location limits headliners
Strong university music scene Bars and clubs may not be suited for all ages to attend
History of famous bands playing in Iowa City Noise Ordinance limits late night concerts
Concerts at indoor and outdoor venues Outdoor venues subject to weather limitations
  • Early musical performances occured mainly in theaters and performance halls
  • Speakeasies in the early 1900s had live jazz music performances
  • The University of Iowa School of Music invited nationally recognized artists and musicians in the 1920s
  • In the 1950s, bars and nightclubs became more popular music venues
  • The punk rock scene flourished in Iowa City in the 1970s
  • Genres diversified in the 1980s and the music scene adapted
  • Major music events such as Mission Creek Festival has been coming to Iowa City since 2006

Iowa City’s Hidden Musical Gems

Music is an inseparable part of Iowa City’s identity, with various venues catering to different genres of music. While some venues are well-known, others are hidden gems that are waiting to be discovered by music enthusiasts. In this article, we will explore three of Iowa City’s hidden musical gems.

The Yacht Club

The Yacht Club is one of Iowa City’s hidden musical gems. Located on 13 S Linn St, this venue is popular among locals and students alike. It has a lively atmosphere that is perfect for a night out with friends or to attend a gig.

  • The Venue

The venue is famous for its intimate setting, which allows the audience to get up close and personal with the artists. With a maximum capacity of 300 people, The Yacht Club organizes gigs by local and national musicians, ranging from indie rock to electronic music.

  • The History

The Yacht Club has a rich history that dates back to the 1940s. Originally, it was a bar where students and faculty from the University of Iowa would gather to socialize. Over the years, The Yacht Club has evolved into an iconic music venue in Iowa City.

Pros Cons
Excellent sound system Small space can be crowded
Intimate setting allows for an up-close experience with artists Not suitable for large-scale events
Diverse range of music genres Limited seating


Gabe’s is another hidden musical gem located on 330 E Washington St. Known for its alternative and metal music, it has been a favorite among the local music community for over 20 years.

  • The Venue

Gabe’s has a capacity of 300 people with a general admission area in front of the stage and limited seating areas at the back. The venue is known for its excellent sound system, which creates a perfect atmosphere for live music.

  • The History

Gabe’s opened its doors in 1995 and has since then hosted over 5,000 gigs. It has become an iconic venue for underground music, with a diverse range of artists performing from local bands to famous national bands.

Pros Cons
Excellent sound system Small space can be crowded
Diverse range of alternative and metal music genres Not suitable for large-scale events
Up-close and personal experience with artists Limited seating

The Mill

The Mill is one of Iowa City’s unique hidden musical gems located on 120 E. Burlington St. It has been a part of Iowa City’s music scene for over 50 years and combines a bar and restaurant with live music performances.

  • The Venue

The Mill has a capacity of 210 people, and it is an ideal place to catch live gigs while enjoying food and drinks. The venue has a cozy atmosphere with a stage located in the center of the room, providing an intimate experience for concertgoers.

  • The History

The Mill has a colorful history dating back to the 1960s when it used to be a European-style cafe. Over the years, it has been a breeding ground for up-and-coming musicians, with many famous artists like Greg Brown, Bo Ramsey, and Dave Zollo playing their first gigs here.

Pros Cons
Live music and a varied menu of food and drinks Small space can be crowded
Intimate setting allows for an up-close experience with artists Not suitable for large-scale events
Diverse range of genres from folk to rock and roll Limited seating

In conclusion, Iowa City has hidden musical gems that provide a unique experience for music enthusiasts. The Yacht Club, Gabe’s, and The Mill are some of the best-kept secrets that offer live music, a great atmosphere, and a history that adds to the charm of these venues. Each venue has its unique features that cater to different tastes, and exploring them can be a fun and unforgettable experience.

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4. Best Venues for Live Music

When it comes to live music, Iowa City has a great selection of venues catering to different types of music genres. Whether you’re in the mood for indie rock or jazz, Iowa City’s music scene does not disappoint. In this section, we’ll be listing down the best venues for live music in Iowa City along with their unique features, pros, and cons.

1. The Englert Theatre

The Englert Theatre, located on the Pedestrian Mall in the heart of Iowa City, was built in 1912 and has since then functioned as a cinema hall, a church, and a performance venue. It’s now known for hosting some of the best live music shows in Iowa City. Some of the popular artists who have performed at The Englert include Elvis Costello, Sufjan Stevens, and Andrew Bird.


  • Historic charm and impressive acoustics
  • Intimate setting for a more personal experience with the performers
  • Wide variety of seating options from balcony seats to general admission standing room


  • Ticket prices can be high for certain shows
  • No food or drinks allowed inside the theatre

2. Gabe’s

Gabe’s, formerly known as Gabe’s Oasis, is a legendary music venue in Iowa City known for its welcoming atmosphere and eclectic mix of music genres. Gabe’s has been a popular spot for local bands and touring acts alike for the past couple of decades.


  • Casual and laid-back vibe
  • Reasonable ticket prices
  • Large stage and spacious dance floor


  • No designated seating area
  • The venue can get overcrowded during popular shows
  • Sound quality can vary depending on the band’s sound technician

3. The Mill

The Mill is a historic restaurant and music venue located in Iowa City’s downtown district. Although it’s known for its delicious food and craft beers, The Mill also hosts some of the best live music shows in town. The Mill has been a popular spot for local musicians and touring bands for over 50 years.


  • Great sound and lighting system
  • Cozy and intimate atmosphere
  • Multiple seating options from booths to tables to standing room


  • Limited space and seating
  • Food service can be slow during busy shows

4. Blue Moose Tap House

Blue Moose Tap House is another popular music venue located in Iowa City’s Northside neighborhood. It’s known for hosting a variety of music genres from EDM to hip hop to rock. In addition to live music shows, Blue Moose also hosts weekly karaoke nights and Trivia Tuesdays.


  • Spacious dance floor and stage
  • Wide variety of drink options including craft beers and signature cocktails
  • Comfortable seating options with booths and tables


  • Ticket prices can be high for certain shows
  • The venue can get overcrowded during popular shows
  • Sound quality can vary depending on the band’s sound technician
Venue Location Pros Cons
The Englert Theatre Pedestrian Mall Historic charm and impressive acoustics Ticket prices can be high for certain shows
Gabe’s Downtown district Casual and laid-back vibe No designated seating area
The Mill Downtown district Great sound and lighting system Limited space and seating
Blue Moose Tap House Northside neighborhood Spacious dance floor and a wide variety of drink options Ticket prices can be high for certain shows and the venue can get overcrowded

In conclusion, Iowa City has no shortage of great music venues. Each of the venues listed above has its unique features and caters to different audiences. Whether you’re in the mood for a historic theatre experience or a casual night out at a bar venue, you’ll definitely find something that suits your taste in Iowa City.

5. Emerging Trends in Iowa City’s Music Scene

The music industry is constantly evolving, influenced by technological advancements, changing consumer preferences, and economic factors. Iowa City’s music venues are not immune to these trends, and some venues are embracing innovative approaches to stay ahead of the curve.

1. Diversity in Music Programming

One notable trend in Iowa City’s music scene is the increasing diversity in music programming. Instead of relying solely on traditional genres such as rock and country, venues are booking a wider range of acts that reflect the city’s diverse populace. As a result, Iowa City is becoming a hub for world music, jazz, hip-hop, electronic, and other alternative music genres.

For example, The Mill, a popular music venue in Iowa City, has diversified its music lineup to include a range of genres from bluegrass to punk rock. Similarly, the Englert Theatre, a historic venue in downtown Iowa City, has hosted a variety of high-profile acts, such as Patti Smith, Bon Iver, and David Byrne, in recent years.

The increasing diversity in music programming has not only attracted new audiences but also provided opportunities for local and emerging artists to showcase their talents. This trend is expected to continue in the future, as more venues recognize the importance of catering to diverse musical tastes.

2. Live Streaming and Virtual Events

Another trend in Iowa City’s music scene is the use of live streaming and virtual events. With the advent of advanced technology, many venues have started streaming live concerts on their websites and social media platforms. This not only allows music fans to access live performances from the comfort of their homes but also expands the reach of the venues beyond their physical capacity.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, many music venues in Iowa City have turned to virtual events as a means of keeping the music scene alive. For example, the Iowa City UNESCO City of Literature Virtual Downtown Lit Crawl featured live performances by local musicians and poets, which were streamed online for audiences across the world.

The use of live streaming and virtual events has not only provided new revenue streams for venues but also allowed them to reach new audiences and maintain relationships with existing ones. This trend is expected to continue in the future, as venues recognize the potential of technology to connect with music fans.

3. Collaborations and Partnerships

Collaborations and partnerships between music venues, artists, and organizations are also on the rise in Iowa City’s music scene. Venues are partnering with local artists and cultural organizations to create unique music events that showcase diverse talents and foster community engagement.

For example, the Iowa City Jazz Festival, an annual event held in downtown Iowa City, is a collaboration between the Iowa City Jazz Festival Organization and the City of Iowa City. The festival features performances by world-renowned jazz musicians and provides opportunities for local acts to share the stage.

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Similarly, nonprofit organizations such as the Iowa City Music Auxiliary and the Iowa City UNESCO City of Literature have partnered with music venues to organize events that celebrate the intersection of music and literature, including book readings with live musical performances.

Collaborations and partnerships not only create opportunities for venues and artists to expand their reach but also foster a sense of community among music fans. This trend is expected to grow in the future, as more organizations recognize the benefits of working together to promote cultural experiences.

4. Hybrid Events

Hybrid events, which combine physical and virtual components, are becoming increasingly popular in Iowa City’s music scene. Many venues are organizing events that feature both live performances and virtual elements, such as online ticket sales, social media sharing, and live streaming.

For example, Mission Creek Festival, an annual music and arts festival held in Iowa City, has embraced hybrid events by offering both in-person and virtual experiences. The 2021 festival featured a mix of outdoor concerts and virtual events, which allowed audiences to engage with the festival from anywhere in the world.

Hybrid events not only provide new revenue streams for venues but also allow them to reach audiences beyond their physical capacity. This trend is expected to continue in the future, as more venues recognize the potential of hybrid events to provide unique and valuable experiences for audiences.

5. Sustainable Practices

Finally, many music venues in Iowa City are adopting sustainable practices as a means of reducing their environmental impact. Venues are implementing measures such as reducing waste, conserving energy, and supporting local and sustainable food sources to promote sustainability and community resilience.

For example, The Englert Theatre has implemented eco-friendly practices such as composting food waste, using drought-resistant landscaping, and promoting public transportation options for events. Similarly, The Mill has reduced its plastic waste by implementing reusable cups and recycling programs.

Sustainable practices not only align with the values of many patrons but also reduce operational costs for venues. This trend is expected to continue in the future, as more venues recognize the importance of environmental stewardship and community responsibility.

Overall, the emerging trends in Iowa City’s music scene reflect a commitment to innovation, diversity, and sustainability. These trends are not only providing new opportunities for venues and artists but also contributing to the city’s thriving cultural landscape.

FAQs about Iowa City Music Venues

What music venues are in Iowa City?

There are several reputable music venues in Iowa City, including The Englert Theatre, Gabe’s, Yacht Club, and the Blue Moose Tap House.

What kind of music can I expect to hear at Iowa City music venues?

You can expect to hear a variety of music types, including rock, indie, hip hop, country, and more.

How much do tickets typically cost for music shows in Iowa City?

The cost of tickets varies depending on the venue and the artist performing, but typically range from $10 to $35.

Can I purchase tickets online for Iowa City music venues?

Yes, most music venues in Iowa City offer online ticket purchasing through their websites or through Ticketmaster.

What is the age requirement to enter Iowa City music venues?

The age requirement varies depending on the venue and the event. Some venues may allow all ages while others are 21 and over only.

What food and drink options are available at Iowa City music venues?

Most Iowa City music venues offer a variety of food and drink options, including a selection of beers, wines, and cocktails, as well as snack foods such as popcorn, chips, and pretzels.

Do Iowa City music venues have seating or is it standing room only?

This depends on the venue and the event. Some venues offer both seated and standing options while others are strictly standing room only.

Can I bring my own food and drinks into Iowa City music venues?

No, outside food and drinks are generally not allowed into Iowa City music venues.

What is the parking situation like at Iowa City music venues?

Parking can be difficult in downtown Iowa City, but most music venues have nearby parking ramps or street parking options available.

Are Iowa City music venues wheelchair accessible?

Yes, most Iowa City music venues are wheelchair accessible and offer accessible seating options.


In conclusion, Iowa City has a variety of great music venues to check out, each offering its own unique atmosphere and style of music. Whether you’re looking for a standing room only show at Gabe’s or a more relaxed evening at The Englert Theatre, there’s something to suit every taste. Don’t forget to check out the food and drink options available at the venues as well. Before you head out to the show, make sure to check the venue’s website for online ticket options and specific information about age restrictions, parking, and accessibility. Thank you for reading and be sure to check out our other articles for more interesting reads.