Rock and Roll in Indianapolis

1. Where to Stay

Villa Inn Restaurant and SpaPhoto: Courtesy of the Villa Inn

To stay close to the scene, book a room at the stone-trimmed Villa Inn Restaurant and Spa (from $550 for a two-night stay) in the Herron-Morton neighborhood, no more than a five-minute drive from many of Indy’s best music spots. Stanza 1 (“stanza” being Italian for “room”) is the nicest room, with a two-person Jacuzzi tub and an antique carved four-poster bed. But if you want to practice your guitar, ask for Stanzas 5 or 6 in the private carriage house.

With its dainty afternoon high tea, the Canterbury Hotel (from $189) in downtown’s Wholesale District seems more inclined to host lacey church ladies than leather-clad musicians. But the 1928 boutique hotel has hosted touring bands like Guns n’ Roses and Green Day in its 99 rose-hued rooms. To bunk down like the rock stars, request one of the spacious duplexes on the eleventh and twelfth floors.

The Stone Soup Inn (from $85) in Old Northside is also a stone’s throw from the city’s music venues. The nine high-ceilinged rooms are a steal for their size and amenities—many even have Jacuzzi tubs and fireplaces.

2. Where to Eat

Petite ChouPhoto: Courtesy of Patachou

Joe Strummer types love the Broad Ripple Brew Pub for its seasonally changing microbrew menu. But there’s also English-style fish-and-chips and decadent Scotch eggs, as well as a very un-publike selection of vegetarian dishes, like garden sloppy Joes, black-bean burgers, and portabella sandwiches.

Work off a hangover at the organic-minded Petite Chou, which opened last May in Broad Ripple. The place has become become an instant breakfast hit, thanks to big, fluffy omelettes made with free-range eggs and a chocolate-ganache crêpe that’s worthy of a tribute album.

Score the culinary equivalent of a backstage pass by reserving a seat at the “Kitchen Table” at the chic, seasonally minded Oakleys Bistro. From this elevated perch, you can watch CIA-trained Steven Oakley as he adds contemporary twists to local ingredients, like in his juicy pork tenderloin with peach bourbon glaze.

3. What to Do

Radio RadioPhoto: Courtesy of Chris Haskett

Good, live, local music is as easily found in Naptown (short for IndiaNAPolis) as cornfields are in the rest of Indiana. Catch a burgeoning local band or rising out-of-towners like Neko Case or Tokyo Police Club at Birdy’s Bar & Grill on the border of Broad Ripple and Glendale. It’s one of the best small venues in the city, and as added bonus, it doubles as a bartending school (read heavy pour). Another small club, Radio Radio, is owned by a Brit transplant with deep ties to the local music scene (he plays bass in hard-core/punk band the Zero Boys). Also in Fountain Square, the nonprofit Big Car Gallery stages painting, sculpture, and photography exhibitions, spoken-word jams, and, of course, lots of live local music. Before you leave town, guzzle some namesake brews in the PBR lounge at the Melody Inn, which sits proudly in a working-class commercial strip in Butler-Tarkington. The club opened as a piano bar in 1935, but now it hosts Punk Rock Night every Saturday.

4. Insider’s Tip

Luna MusicPhoto: Courtesy of Duncan Alney

To sample the wealth of Indy’s music scene, check out the latest staff picks from LUNA Music, a pair of maverick music stores (one downtown, one in midtown) that started out in 1994. Both locations’ clerks have the expertise of Jon Cusack’s High Fidelity sidekicks, minus the smug attitudes. The LUNAshost frequent in-store performances of local and national acts like Pete Yorn and, just this week, Bloc Party, so it’s well worth checking their Website to see what’s coming up.

5. An Oddball Day

The Monon TrailPhoto: Courtesy of Indy Parks and Recreation Greenways Division

Indy’s a big-box, chain-store kind of town. But an independent spirit survives in the charming, eclectic neighborhood of Broad Ripple. Kick off a day in the district by picking up some sticky, home-baked cinnamon buns at Taste Café & Marketplace on the corner of College Avenue and 52nd Street. Walk west to pick up the Monon Trail, an old railroad track turned fifteen-mile pedestrian walkway that runs through the entire city. Veer off at 65th Street to get to Rusted Moon Outfitters, where you can rent a $40-a-day kayak to paddle up and down the White River, just three blocks north. End your wanderings with happy hour at the perfectly divey Alley Cat Lounge (6267 Carrollton Ave.; 317-257-4036) off Broad Ripple Avenue. Or, walk back down to 52nd Street for a good, basic burger at the Red Key Tavern (5170 College Ave.; 317-283-4601). Abide by the house rules—No swearing! No hats on gentlemen! No feet on the bar!—and you can listen to a WWII-era hit parade on the ancient juke.

6. Related Links

Indy’s dueling free weeklies, NUVO and Intake, supply all the necessary info on concerts, restaurants, bars, and more.

Written by local musicians and critics, the not-for-profit Indianapolis Music posts well-informed reviews, podcasts, and MP3s.

Peruse local music writer and gig booker Nora Spitznogle’s Queen Bee Music blog for concert reviews and ticket updates.

Rock and Roll in Indianapolis