Missoula has no shortage of music lovers. Every night there is music playing somewhere, whether it’s on the streets, at a bar or in a basement. Here are a few venues that make the music scene in MisSOULa, stand out:
The Wilma is a Missoula landmark that has been around for almost 100 years. The owners of the Top Hat recently bought the venue and made renovations. Originally, the theatre was a vaudeville house in the 1920s and then became a place for movies. Now, the Wilma hosts the annual Big Sky Film Documentary Festival and dozens of headliner concerts, including Macklemore, Techn9ne and Trampled by Turtles. Beyond movies and music, the Wilma hosts events such as Socotra EDM dance party and “Tell Us Something,” a live storytelling event.
This hidden gem resides on South Reserve Street. Every Wednesday is open-mic night, where musicians are welcome to sign up and play whatever they’d like. The music continues until every musician has a chance to perform. Another cool thing about this location is that it has great art and even a space to browse and buy books. Enjoying the music is free, but I’d recommend accompanying the experience with a coffee or a great Panini and a cup of soup.
Good news, students: You don’t have to travel too far to listen to music at this location. It’s on campus directly south of the Music Building. The Dennison Theatre hosts a range of music from a jazz festival, to Irish music and in-between.
Insider Tip: The atmosphere of the theater has an Art Deco stylemaking it a standout in the community.
This one is better suited for the summer, but as weather continues to heat up more events will happen at the lovely Caras Park. Pretty much any time there is a Missoula event there, there’s live music whether it’s during “Out to Lunch,” a performance from the Missoula Symphony Association, or a street performer at the Clark Fork Market there’s a chance to enjoy FREE music.
But what if you are looking for a place to shake your booty? Missoula definitely has plenty to offer the inner club kid in all of us! Please bear in mind that the following recommendations are for those 21 and over.
As far as a great dancefloor and a fun crowd, The Badlander on the weekends is a clear favorite. The staff is friendly, the music is great and the floor gets packed, but the space is so big that there is plenty of room to get some fresh air when needed. Thursday – Saturday are all great nights to dance.
This club has a truly “underground” feel, which is helped by the fact that it is actually underground. Monk’s features a wide array of genre options for those looking to dance, and the club lighting is easily the most enjoyable, especially for a good old fashioned dance off. Monk’s also has 18+ nights so that more people can get in on the action!
The Wilma again, you ask? Absolutely! The Wilma hosts some of the best shows by EDM and other electronic music artists in the region. It’s the only place to get a truly “big room” nightclub experience in Missoula on a regular basis. Past shows have included Above&Beyond, Odesza and Morgan Page. Plus, there is something really special about sharing the experience with 2500 of your closest friends.
Stockman’s is that place that, even though you don’t always like to ‘fess up to it, you’ve been there and you’ve loved it. If what you need are flashing lights and bumping beats, you need look no further. The music ranges from good to … interesting, but really, who cares? When you want to put your hands in the air like you just don’t care, it’s all about that bass.
Lastly, a few words from a fellow Missoula musician and UM Master of Business Administration student, Alyssa Hands:
“Most of my playing in Missoula has been busking – or street performing. By playing on Higgins I have entered a community I never knew existed. It’s strange, friendly and welcoming. Other musicians will come over to collaborate, and once, a clarinetist friend of mine surprised me by sitting in. It’s an amazing experience to put myself out there and be received with such friendliness and joy.
There are so many artists out in Missoula on a sunny day that even the Farmers’ Market has asked musicians to “check-in,” and it’s first-come-first-served so many are turned away! When the high season of the summer comes, it can be difficult to secure a location downtown when there are three musicians to a block.
On one occasion, I recall that that some musicians were from out of town and I thought there might be a rivalry between the locations until I realized that other musicians will rest a few songs to let a new voice be heard. There is a sense of community in that, we are all doing the same thing, sharing the same gift, and it should be treated as such.
As any supply and demand scenario that’s high on the supply side, most gigs for developing artists in Missoula are unpaid. It would be great if the local venues would invite and support the local musicians more to foster the local sounds. It seems that many talented musicians end up moving away to a scene that is more supportive.”
This list is, by no means, exhaustive. Where are your favorite places to catch some great music? Share in the comments!