BY JEREMY SHERE
Even in the age of digital, always-on-demand music, there’s still nothing quite like seeing a band doing its thing live on stage. In Bloomington, one of the best places to catch an act is still the venerable Bluebird Nightclub, near the corner of 7th Street and Walnut.
“There’s a certain energy you feel at the Bird,” says Dave Kubiak, who’s owned the club since 2004. “The stage is in the corner and there are different elevations from which you can watch the show. You can be right up close to the stage, eye-to-eye with the performer, or further back getting a broader view.”
Named after an ice cream shop in Washington, Indiana, the Bluebird first opened in 1973 as a bar and deli. A year later, original owner John Ross opened the back room as a music venue, and throughout the ’70s the club featured mainly regional and national jazz groups. By the early ’80s the club began adding rock, funk, reggae, and other acts to its roster.
Over the years, Kubiak says, the Bluebird has hosted many famous artists early in their careers, including Steve Earle, Lucinda Williams, Damian Marley, Kings of Leon, and John Mayer, to name a few. Kubiak also makes a point of reserving slots for local and regional acts.
“If there’s a band from Bloomington or a college kid at IU with a band, we like to give them a chance to open for bigger acts,” Kubiak says. “It’s a nice opportunity for promising local musicians.”
For Kubiak, one of the Bluebird’s strongest selling points is its eclectic, all-inclusive atmosphere. On any given night you can see an alternative country act, a bluegrass band, an up-and-coming indie singer/songwriter, novelty bands like Here Come the Mummies (guys dressed like mummies playing music), and sing karaoke.
“I think of the Bird as a sort of melting pot where anyone can go and have a good time,” Kubiak says. “Whether you’re a college kid, or in your forties or fifties, or a retiree, people of all ages can come and just enjoy the music.”